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Sydney - 13 Days

Hi wife and I will be visiting Sydney for 13 days in late May. We are staying at the Swissotel in the CBD and will be her first time in Australia (I lived in Sydney for 3 months). Wanted some feedback on this preliminary itinerary so any thoughts are welcome.

Dinners:
- Sixpenny (degustation)
- Sepia (degustation)
- Longrain - which location?
- Porteño
- Billy Kwong - banquet menu better for two people?
- Ms G's - how crazy do the waits get?
- Lucio Pizza - worthy of a meal considering we're from New York/Brooklyn and have some very good Neopolitan style pizzas?
- Fix St James - need a solo meal while wife is away for a hen's party in Hunter Valley
- Cafe Paci - former cdc of Marque, has anyone been?
- Sagra - good review by Pat Nurse in Gourmetraveller

Lunch:
- Quay - booked but specified request for table by window and was told a tables had a "good view." Tempted to reply specify seating in the Tower?
- Mamak
- Din Tai Fung - know its a chain but IMO one of the better ones especially for their XLB
- Mr Crackles - popular with the bloggers, anyone been?
- NaruOne - strictly for their fried chicken
- Rockpool Bar & Grill - want to try the D Blackmore Wagyu burger vs our Black Label at Minetta Tavern
- Spice I Am - best location?
- Moon Park - ex-Claude's take on Modern Korean looks interesting
- Four in Hand vs 4Fourteen for a solo meal
- Gumshara Ramen - good or nothing special compared to Ippudo?

Cafés:
- FourateFive
- Devon Cafe
- Paramount Coffee Project
- Three Williams
- Reuben Hills
- Kepos St Kitchen
- Excesior Jones

Cocktails:
- Eau de Vie - $20 cocktails worth it?

Thanks in advance and I appreciate all of your help.

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  1. Not really my regular stomping ground, but would back Sepia and Sixpenny. Quay view all depends on whether there is a cruise ship outside your window. Rockpool - stick to the burger in the bar with a glass of burgundy

    Spice I Am, Surry Hills. Also lots of other excellent thai in Sydney. Personally, never that impressed by Billy Kwong.

    Campos for coffee!

    5 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Nice to see you on this board Mr. Gimlet.

      - Thanks for the advice regarding Quay, forgot all about the cruise ships making the view rather moot

      - I think the main draw for us about Billy Kwong is Kylie's use of Australian products incorporated with Chinese technique. Seeing how my wife is of Chinese (Cantonese) ancestry, we're curious about her food as well as her use of insects as alternative protein sources. However, we do appreciate your feedback and you may well be right about her food not being that great.

      1. re: TheDegustationAsian

        I just feel Billy Kwong is a bit past its prime and living off past glories. It's still the kind of place where staff tell you that 'our food is designed for sharing', like you've been living under a rock for the past decade and have never seen a chopstick. Melbourne has its own variants of Asian food for whiteys as well, so I am not picking on Sydney here. Spice Temple is very good regional Chinese cooking (thing Bar Shu etc in London) but there are some pretty average items on the menu as well (yes, Perry, your hot and numbing duck for a start)

        Longrain is another past its prime kind of place. It has never been that good a thai - I think jihba is confusing it with Darling Street Thai, which was one of the best thai restaurants outside Thailand - and is more the kind of cocktails + small plates concept places that popped up a few years ago.

        If you want to go to Movida, you go to the one in Melbourne. It's a nice evening out, but I didn't recommend as you regularly go to Spain.

        Pilu is a really good suggestion

        1. re: mr_gimlet

          Thanks for the input.

          - Re Billy Kwong we aren't looking for authentic Chinese as we eat our fair share in the States and our vacations to Hong Kong but more for the use of Australian ingredients (salt bush, wallaby etc.). Still, I see your point and will adjust expectations.

          - We don't regularly visit Spain but recently spent a few weeks travelling Madrid, San Sebastián and Barcelona. I've seen the menus at Movida but haven't been particularly impressed. With no disrespect, I wonder if this is more hype associated from the Porteño boys connection. Btw, I've also been pretty unimpressed with Australia's recent foray into Mexican food (half of which seems more tex-mex inspired) as well as American BBQ/sandwich concepts (corn beef/brisket/pastrami) as we have plenty here.

      2. re: mr_gimlet

        Overseas Passenger Terminal is the cruise port that would block the view at Quay.

        http://www.sydneyports.com.au/port_op...

        While there are tables on the windows that have "better" views (unobstructed), the tables away from the window are raised so that you're looking over people who are at the window.

        1. re: BeanTownGolfer

          Thanks for the link, seems like we may be without a cruise ship during our lunch.

          Btw, recognize your avatar from your blog which I read (restaurant posts, not golf).

      3. A good mix of places overall, I think. Some comments on your choices and a few suggestions below.

        Among the high-end places, your choices (Quay and Sepia) are arguably Sydney's two best restaurants now. At Quay, it is true that all tables have a good view (some better, of course, but all good) --- I wouldn't give up a meal at Quay because the view from the table wasn't a bit better. That said, no harm in making it clear that you are from overseas and the view would mean a lot to you.
        At these two places, I would go for the degustation menu (although possible not to have it in Sepia, depending on the day you go).

        On the mid-range places (mid-range, at least in cost --- in which, as examples, I'm including Sixpenny, Longrain, Porteno, Billy Kwong, Fix St James, Cafe Paci ...), I'm a bit less confident about your choices. Among the ones you mention, I would certainly keep Sixpenny, an excellent restaurant working with local produce and with a real neighbourhood feel. Also Cafe Paci, a highly innovative restaurant, as long as you understand that it is a "pop-up" restaurant with a warehouse space. Including the bar side of Rockpool Bar & Grill in mid-price, seems like a fine idea to compare the burger with the one in Minetta Tavern!

        In addition, among mid-range places, I would vote for Spice Temple for (trans-)Chinese --- a very Sydney restaurant, of which I don't know an equal (or even a substitute) in NY. [If you go, you must have the steamed eggplant and also the tea-smoked duck breast as two of the small cold dishes; then maybe beef in fire water or three-shot chicken ...]

        Another Chinese restaurant --- Mr Wong --- although not unique to Sydney (Hong Kong has places somewhat like this), is very good and likely to interest you because it is high-quality Cantonese food, less common in NY. [If you go, you must have dim sum to start and then a half portion (enough for two) of the roasted duck (not the Peking duck, just the roasted duck).

        I think Longrain, unfortunately, is not what it used to be (the best Thai restaurant in a city outside Bangkok). Sydney's best Thai are now casual places --- like Spice I Am that you mention --- certainly the very informal 90 Wentworth Ave location is the one to go to; Chat Thai, House Thai, Home Thai are some others. Should try some Thai --- the best Thai in Sydney is better than that in NY.

        As this is your wife's first trip, I would have chosen a couple of iconic Sydney places with great views. My favourite is Pilu at Freshwater, a superb Sardinian restaurant (go for the 7-course degustation for a long Sunday lunch); Iceberg in Bondi is quite reliable.

        I would also recommend Movida, a Spanish tapas place --- reserve well in advance if you want a table, the walk-in bar is good and has the full menu.

        If you two are into small bars, an astonishing number has cropped up with a change in licensing laws. Would suggest Love Tilly Divine (very close to Cafe Paci) as a wine bar, but there are many, many others.

        Enough for one post!

        9 Replies
        1. re: jihba

          Hi jihba, thanks for your response.

          - Re Quay I'll take your advice and inform the restaurant that we're traveling from NYC and a table with a good view would mean a lot. I should note that we already booked well in advance for lunch and had no intention of dropping it. Gilmore seems to be a master of texture and I'm very interested in his food.

          - Have you heard of Sepia offering an extended degustation? We were already planning on requesting the Japanese Stones as an additional dessert. Given his perigee, Chef Benn seems to be pushing the Japanese-French idea he learned at Tetsuya's and made it more modern.

          - I'm well aware that Cafe Paci is a pop-up and not a permanent restaurant. This and the fact that Paci is cooking a different type of food intrigues me even more. Being from Brooklyn we were big fans of Frej a new Nordic pop up that later transformed into the Michelin starred restaurant Aska.

          Although we are quite set on staying in the bar for the burger, how good is the Blackmore Wagyu steaks? From a raw ingredient standpoint we've travelled to Kobe Japan and have eaten very good beef across Europe. We actually prefer intense dry-aged beef to the fattier Wagyu. On a similar note, how good is Moran's Family Lamb served at Chiswick and Aria? We'd be more inclined to visit Chiswick as it's more casual but was wondering if you had any thoughts.

          - As I mentioned above my wife is from a Cantonese family and I'm Korean-American and we live in Brooklyn Chinatown. NYC has three distinct Chinatowns and recently opened a Hakkasan in Midtown. Anyways, no disrespect to Mr. Wong and Dan Hong but we'd be more interested in a place like Spice Temple than fancy Cantonese. Just to be fair we are also visiting Melbourne after and have no plans to visit Flower & Drum or Lau's Family Kitchen.

          - I will definitely take your advice re Thai. While several regional Thai restaurants have opened in NYC I have no doubt Sydney offers better options and I will check out the suggestions you provided

          - I think Pilu and Icebergs would both be great but we wanted to limit ourselves to three degustations per city (Attica, Vue de Monde and Brae in Melbourne) and I thought I could kill two birds with one stone in Quay.

          - I purposely avoided tapas restaurants since we just returned from a two week trip across Spain in Oct and ate our weight in tapas/pintxos

          - Do you have other good mid-priced restaurant suggestions? We were thinking about doing the Friday 3-course prix fixe lunch at Marque. Sagra was well received casual Italian

          - Will look into Love Tilly Divine, thanks again for the feedback

          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

            The view at Quay isn't that fantastic compared to, say, Aria. I think we saw some harbour and the bridge from our table in the tower. You do pay for views in Sydney, so be aware if you are looking for other places.

            Pilu, Icebergs etc - just go a la carte. Everywhere in Australia these days offers dego, but very few specialise in it.

            I'd also suggest you look at Bistrode and Arras. Both underrated, to me, restaurants.

            1. re: mr_gimlet

              Interesting. What other Australian restaurants would you consider specializing in degustations? There seems to be a movement in the US with more (serious) restaurants going degustation only...

              - Would you consider Bistrode better than say Four in Hand or 4Fourteen?

            2. re: TheDegustationAsian

              Sorry, away for a few days ...

              Now that I know a bit more about your backgrounds, would change some of my suggestions.

              No compelling reason to go to Mr Wong for someone who frequents Fook Lam Moon etc in HK.

              I would still go to Spice Temple. In may ways, it is an Australian take on (trans-)Chinese food, by a great chef (Neil Perry) with a deep and encyclopaedic understanding of Asian food. There are touches that are clearly inauthentic (such as Jalapeno peppers) but they generally make sense.

              Talking of Neil Perry, you may want to look at his high-end Rockpool, newly relocated. (Haven't been there, can't comment first-hand).

              Similarly if you have just been to Spain, no reason to go to Movida.

              Every degustation we've had at Sepia has always included the Japanese stones at the end --- not aware of an extended version, but I'm sure any restaurant would be happy to supplement their degustation on request (at a price of course).

              I must say burger is not my thing: so, haven't had either the Rockpool or the Minetta burger. But really enjoy comparisons like that --- and assumed you are a burger aficionado; if so, should be fun.

              Somewhat of an aside: To the more general point about the quality of Sydney produce in an international comparison (taking off your query about the quality of Wagyu). I think the quality of produce is orders of magnitude better than in NYC. [Spent 4 years in the city's backyard; spend about a month a year now, in West Village, with full cooking facilities and do cook quite a few meals.] The quality of seafood (broadly defined), lamb and beef I think is comparable to France and Italy; but poultry, pork, vegetables and fruits are nowhere near as good as in France or Italy. We --- and others we know who care a lot about food --- go to one butcher for lamb, another for beef, a third for poultry, a fishmonger (our local one is fantastic) or the fish market for fish, a cheesemonger for cheese, a fruit and vegetable shop ...(no, not different ones for different kinds, except for Asian shops for Asian-style vegetables!) I try hard each year in NYC, without success, to find places of comparable quality.

              Given your interest in food, I think it may make sense to make a point to visit a few produce places. Since you spent 3 months in Sydney, you no doubt know the fish market (the second largest in the world, after Tsukiji in Tokyo) --- may be of interest to your wife? This may sound strange, but the butcher shop Victor Churchill in Woollahra is well worth a stop, almost like a candy shop! (That's where we buy our Blackmore Wagyu sirlion as well as intense dry-aged beef.) Although you obviously won't want to buy meat to cook, you can perhaps try a little oxtail pie. The (primarily Italian) cheese shop Formaggi Ocello in Surry Hills is excellent and here you can try a selection of cheeses, with wines to match if you like.

              As mr gimlet says, you need not have a degustation at any of the places you are going to (except at Sixpenny, and at Sepia on weekends), if that's what you want. I would still go for it at some of these places --- because I like small amounts of many things rather than a large amount of a few things, but that's a matter of preference.

              Sagra is a great neighbourhood place; the problem, though, is that the menu is a bit too small, especially, the two secondi! If you are after a good casual Italian, I would recommend Vini. Any day is good, but each Tuesday, they do a 4-course $50 dinner representing a region of Italy that's usually interesting. (Across from it is a wine bar owned by them, called 121 BC (after the great Roman vintage!), that's very good for a glass of wine and a bite.) Another casual place owned by them that I think is very good is Berta (more Mediterranean than purely Italian).

              The two best Italian restaurants (we are talking mid-range+) in Sydney now in my opinion are Pilu at Freshwater (that I've mentioned) and Ormeggio at the Spit. The two old guards of Italian food in Sydney, somewhat old-fashioned but still very good, are Buon Ricordo and Lucio's (the space at Lucio's a showcase of superb Australian art, as great artists had adopted it).

              I have done dinner at Marque many times but never the lunch. I imagine it will be in the same style. For the price, worthwhile.

              At mid-price range, I think the Japanese places are well worth exploring. Unlike NYC, where by law all raw fish must have been previously frozen, almost all sashimi and sushi you will get in Sydney is totally fresh. Would recommend Ume in Surry Hills, Hana-Jurin in Crows Nest; if you don't mind a place that's bound to come across as weird (the locals have deserted it for reasons I don't understand; so, any fellow diner will likely be businessmen from Japan), the very best is Yoshii.

              I'm almost as interested in wine as I'm in food. If you are into wine at all, it is useful to know vintages to look for and to avoid. 2010 and (especially) 2012 have been superb vintages, almost uniformly; 2011 has been one of the worst in living memory (except in Margaret River). On many restaurant wine lists now, you will find 2012 Rieslings from Clare Valley; they are superb. (These are dry Rieslings.)

              @mr gimlet

              Darley (not Darling) Street Thai, under David Thomson, I believe was the best Thai *restaurant* anywhere, including Bangkok. This is before Thomson was poached by the King of Thailand! I regard Thomson's Nahm as the best restaurant in Bangkok. (This is *not* to say that's the best food in Bangkok, which is in little street shacks, where most of the locals eat.)

              IMO, Longrain, in its first couple of years, still with quite a few staff trained by Thomson, *was* the best restaurant outside Bangkok.

              1. re: jihba

                Wow, thanks for the detailed reply, very appreciated.

                - We will probably book a meal at Spice Temple. Melbourne hounds were a bit down on Dainty Sichuan and we were looking for something to complement our meal at Billy Kwong. Aside from what's already been recommended, any other ST suggestions?

                - I've been very interested in Rockpool but will probably pass as we are limiting the amount of high end meals this trip. But Phil Wood's food does look fantastic and the new menu format is very intriguing.

                - Will skip Movida, as we can visit the Melbourne location if we absolutely crave tapas.

                - Planning on degustations at Quay, Sixpenny and Sepia as well as the prix fixe menus at Cafe Paci and Marque for the Friday Lunch. Have done multiple extended or supplemented degustations at similar restaurants, especially if we are very interested in a chef's cuisine.

                - We're by no means burger aficionados but are interested in one with so much hype. Between Minetta's and Shake Shake we like all types but ultimately (like all food) it comes down to subjective taste and preference.

                - Regarding AUS produce I would totally agree that you have superior product (hope I don't infer otherwise). I've also spent half a year living/working in Japan and felt similarly. That said a few specific questions re AUS product:

                I know Blackmore Wagyu is all the well known but Australian's want grass fed and/or dry aged beef?

                I plead total ignorance but I thought NZ lamb was more popular, at least it is on our menus (though I was served Colorado lamb at Otto e Mezzo in HK). That's why I asked about Moran's lamb as it was featured on Bourdain.

                Does AUS have a poultry equivalent to France's poulet Bressé?

                Does AUS have a breed similar Mangolista, or is Kurabuto/Iberico the best I can hope for?

                How is Biota? Is it analogous to Blue Hill Stone Barns? That is one of our favorite restaurants as are other ingredient-driven places.

                I visited SYD fish market once but aside from cheap oysters I was largely unimpressed as much of the seafood (prepared) was pre-fried or covered in thick Mornay sauce. I marvel at your oysters and was wondering if I should look out for other AUS specific seafood such as NZ scampi, WA maron, Morton Bay Bugs, etc. I suppose Flying Fish is SYD's best seafood restaurant? We prefer our seafood simply prepared but the best quality like Elkano in Spain over say Le Bernardin in New York.

                - I've read AUS cannot import unpasteurized cheese. If this is correct then it will never compare to Europe, no offense, we have the same problem here! That said, are there any special AUS cheeses I should know about?

                - I might pass on Italian as we plan on visiting Lucio here and DOC/Cafe di Stasio in MEL. But I'll still look at Vini and Berta.

                - Will also probably skip Japanese in AUS. Haven't seen/read anything that's very convincing. I'm not sure what you've read but NYC has some excellent Japanese food. Between multiple sushi places (Masa), kaiseki (Kyo Ya), yakitori (Tori Shin) and even shojin (Kajitsu) cuisine, outside of Japan we have plenty. On a similar note, why does Australia love salmon? Especially in Japanese food it's not a highly regarded fish. I know it's not Europe but what fish types should I seek out in the same vein as wild Turbot or Sole? Whiting, Travola, Blue Eye seem to be popular discounting ocean trout, barramundi and kingfish?

                - We hope to learn and taste plenty of AUS wine on this trip. Outside of Shiraz and some Rieslings most restaurants don't feature that much if your wines. Also, we tend to stick to old world wines (need to change) so any additional wine info is welcome.

                1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                  Australia loves salmon, and salmon trout, because we farm really good stuff in Tasmania and that means it is inexpensive and really good. Blue eye is my favourite firm white fish.

                  Cheese - ah, my passion - lots of good stuff, I am a big fan of Bruny Island, and La Luna for goat. Maybe try and fit in a meal somewhere with a good cheeseboard? Or in Melbourne go to Richmond Hill or Spring Street Grocer.

                  Oysters - Cumulus when you are in Melbourne.

                  There is also a Spice Temple in Melbourne and it is open 7/7, so don't know which city would best fit your schedule.

                  Meat - we are still maturing in terms of sourcing a lot of produce. Provenance is the big trend over the past few years, and really top restaurants have their own gardens (Brae, Quay). Lamb has traditionally been merino, local not NZ, but now we are seeing a lot of eating breeds like Dorper. In general, we are resurrecting old English breeds like tamworth and berkshire pigs rather than having local equivalents. We tend to prefer grass fed to grain fed, as we like texture and flavour; but tastes are adjusting to the stronger flavoured meats that result from pasture grown. Grain fed often equals mass production, though, again, there are exceptions.

                  1. re: mr_gimlet

                    Spice Temple looks good, if not a bit pricey, but is expected from a Neil Perry restaurant. Looks like we will visit the SYD location as we have more meals to play with there.

                    Any idea if Cumulus or other restaurants regularly carry angasi oysters which are similar to the Belon from France? Not a huge deal as both my wife and I enjoy oysters in general but thought I'd ask as they aren't commonly found in the USA.

                    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                      Biota is definitely worth getting to if you can get out to Bowral.

                      Cumulus normally have 6-8 varieties of oyster on the menu, including angasi. They also have a fantastic local wine list - Curly Flat Pinot is a must try Victorian wine.

                2. re: jihba

                  Not to get my Japanese food nerd on too much. It's an absolute myth that fish for sushi/sashimi is better fresh. Most (if not all) tuna that passes through Tsukiji is frozen and then can be aged for a number of weeks.

            3. I love your list, and I'm jealous you can manage this many meals during your trip. I don't have a lot to add over what others have already shared. Was recently at Ms. G's with a group and we all had the banquet, and I thought it was just OK. Not a good rhythm, and timing was a bit off, staff kind of throwing dishes onto the table in a hurry. Not much wait on the weeknight we were there. Given your details about living in NYC and frequenting the various chinatowns, I'm not sure this would have much to offer you. I love Billy Kwong, but I admit it's been a while since I've been there, and I've always gone with the daily specials as opposed to degustation. What I love about it is the simplicity of the dishes and respect for ingredients. The kind of cooking that appears effortless, but comes from knowing how to handle each element.

              Porteno is solid. Spice I Am original location on Wentworth St is the best, though you are on stools and it can feel rushed with a long queue of people waiting for your table. The Darlo location is more refined and comfortable.
              Fix is lovely, and would suit a solo diner fine, as the tables are small and close together and the staff friendly and talkative.

              Mr. Crackles is the bomb, though I've only ever ordered the classic roll. Be warned that there is very minimal seating. It's really just a takeout joint. You may wish to walk back up Oxford to Hyde Park and eat there if the weather is nice.

              Haven't been to Eau de Vie, but if you're looking for fabulously concocted drinks, you might also consider Bulletin Place, a hidden bar (no sign, next to TapaVino) upstairs at Bulletin Place near Circular Quay.

              1. I'll add a few experiences to some others now that I have time.

                Dinners:
                Porteno - Worth it, for sure. But you'll need to go early (a bit before opening to be sure you're in for the first seating). I've been stuck at the second seating and some of the dishes were gone by then. My preference is also for the lamb over the pork.
                Cafe Paci - Had lunch there on Friday for the first time. They do a short lunch menu, but also said you could order the fully dinner menu as well. I liked it, something different in the area. I'm still looking to get back for dinner to see what they do there.
                Lucio Pizza - My favourite here is the Lucio. Half calzone/half pizza.

                Lunch:
                Rockpool Bar & Grill - The burger is only available in the bar area (you can get the fully restaurant menu in the bar). Personally, it's not my favourite burger. I've always felt like it's been on the sweet side.
                Moon Park - Definitely go.
                Gumshara - Excellent. Makes Ippudo taste like thinned out broth. The noodles at Gumshara are a bit thicker, more texture too them.
                DTF - Go to the World Square location. Larger menu than the spot in Westfield and the Star.

                Cafes:
                Bourke St Bakery - Looks like a few on your list are in the area. You should definitely stop off here for a Pork & Fennel Sausage roll.

                Cocktails:
                The average price for a cocktail in Sydney now (at least the small bars), is around the $16-$18 dollar mark. Not a huge jump up to $20 and Eau de Vie won't be the only place you see charging $20.

                3 Replies
                1. re: BeanTownGolfer

                  BTG what is your favorite burger? I chose and think we'll try the burger at Rockpool B&G to compare to the black label at Minetta which is my favorite expensive burger in NYC. Despite the stereotype of Americans eating burgers I also wanted to try Chur Burger in SYD (although the one at Mary's in Newtown looks good) as well as Huxtaburger in Melbourne.

                  I'm thinking about swapping Longrain for Spice I Am and perhaps Chat Thai since it specializes in Issan food.

                  I also think we might bump Moon Park to dinner since I'm continuing to read/hear good things about them and want full disposal of the menu.

                  Was also thinking about trying Marque for the Friday lunch special.

                  Had Bourke St Bakery and Black Star Pastry on the list but failed to mention them. Both seem good and popular.

                  Despite being recommended Mr. Wong by multiple hounds we've been reluctant simply because it seems high quality Canto which we eat plenty of during our visits to Hong Kong. This combined with the fact that my wife is from a Cantonese family who owns a restaurant and the difficulty of eating a cuisine that encourages family style dining with only two people makes it something we don't routinely seek out. However, in your opinion is Mr. Wong's food up to the levels as the best Canto restaurants in HK a la Fook Lam Moon, Man Wah, etc? If it is we'll consider it, otherwise we'll probably leave it off our list.

                  In terms of pizza, do people like Lucio or Pizza Mario better?

                  Assuming you've been to both, is 4Fourteen better for a solo meal or Four in Hand's bar?

                  1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                    For the burger, I would say that you're here, go for it. I prefer the griddle style patties, so Mary's and Huxtaburger are my go to spots when I want a burger. I haven't tried Chur yet, but I believe the one on Manly Warf just opened. Will likely stop this weekend if the weather's nice.

                    The bar menu at Four in Hand is different than the more fine dining restaurant. You're probably better off at 4fourteen for a solo lunch. The menu will have a bit more to choose from.

                    I prefer Lucio's over Pizza Mario. Primarily for the half/half pizza.

                    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                      Pizza - Rosso Pomedoro in White Bay !

                  2. Also thoughts on Bentley, especially since moving into their current location. Highly considering for a solo meal over say a Gastro Park.

                    1. A few thoughts from me on an ambitious, well-curated list.

                      I would nix Lucio Pizzeria if you are coming from NY. To me, their crust is a weak point. It lacks the slight char and complex, yeasty flavors that accompany great Neapolitan pies I have had elsewhere, and doesn't measure up to the likes of Motorino or Keste.

                      I thought Ms. G's was also just "OK", based on one visit. Their food is flavorful, but the ingredient combinations don't always make much sense. Their menu changes regularly, though, so your experience may differ.

                      I like Spice Temple, and was just there on Friday to try their Chinese New Year's banquet. I would agree that some dishes are better than others. The fish drowned in heaven-facing chillies is a commendable rendition of that classic Sichuan dish. The three shot chicken is tasty, but a bit gimmicky (it's finished tableside for theatrical effect).

                      I would agree that Restaurant ARRAs is underrated. Bistrode’s not bad but has more in common with other modern Australian restaurants.

                      I don't eat beef and thus cannot comment on the Rockpool burger. But I have been to Rockpool Bar & Grill several times and have found the food, with a few exceptions, to be fairly average and, in some cases, rather bad. The quality is inconsistent, and very poor value for money. Try the burger if you wish, but I would avoid eating a full meal there.

                      Mamak will likely be a bit of a disappointment if you have traveled through Singapore or Malaysia. The food really is not bad, but the waits can be unbearable. The roti canai is pretty much the only thing I would go back for. I found the curries and the nasi lemak not worth the wait or the price.

                      The DTF here is not bad, but does not live up to the standards of the DTF in Taipei (though this admittedly is true of all the DTF I have been to outside Taiwan). Still, I have not found any other XLB in Australia that match DTF's standards for quality, so if you are craving it, DTF is probably the place to go. I am willing to bet that there are places in NY that can do it at least as well as the DTF in Sydney (perhaps in Flushing), and for a better price.

                      Thai food in Sydney remains its principal selling point gastronomically, in my opinion, due to a significant Thai immigrant population and the availability of hard-to-source ingredients. I agree that the Spice I Am in Surry Hills is better than the one in Darlinghurst, and is slightly cheaper to boot. Longrain is good, but be prepared to pay a significant premium for dishes that may feature higher-end ingredients (like cuttlefish, spanner crab, etc.) but ultimately don’t taste altogether different or better from what you can get elsewhere for cheaper. House can be inconsistent, but Isaan cuisine is more unusual and might be worth a visit (I would note you can find this at Somtum Der and Zabb Elee now in NY). My go-to for Thai is Chat Thai. They have a few different locations, including in the Westfield Sydney (try the yum hua plee, or banana blossom salad); go to the Thai Town location for desserts (tub tim krob and khanom krok (lunch only)!).

                      Sydney, like New York, is going through a bit of a ramen craze. Gumshara is worth a try if you like your tonkotsu broth to be thick like the BP oil spill, but more than one person I know who has tried it has found the pork fat levels overwhelming on the palate. I personally like Menya Mappen more than either Gumshara or Ippudo. Ramen Ikkyu in Chinatown makes a good paitan broth with both chicken and pork bones, somewhere between Gumshara and Menya, but the chashu has been inconsistent on my visits.

                      Yes, do try the strawberry watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry. The price might be dear ($7, I think), but is still worth it in my opinion. The lamb shank red wine pie is also recommended. Get the lamb and harissa sausage roll and a ginger brulee tart at Bourke Street Bakery.

                      Your café list is good. FourateFive is very busy on weekends. Their food is good, but not exceptional. I’m not sure I understand the hype. I had a creamed corn there that was good, and a decent poached chicken salad. Single Origin Roasters coffee is competent. I actually like Mad Spuds Café, next door, more, but as the name suggests, you should be a fan of the potato before adding it to your list.

                      Devon Café is a regular of mine, run by ex-Guillaume chefs. Their menu has a Southeast Asia bent, which is a nice change of pace from what you usually see. Simon runs their coffee program, which features a rotating lineup of some of Australia’s best roasters, including Coffee Alchemy and Proud Mary in Collingswood, Melbourne. The banana nutella muffins have wonderful tops.

                      Three Williams makes a very good cup of Single Origin Roasters coffee. Their narnies (Aussie ingredients stuffed into what they call naan bread, but really is not as it is not made in a tandoor) are tasty, but not as filling as I would like for the price. It’s in a bit of an odd location, far away from everything else.

                      Despite its name, Paramount Coffee Project serves a rather mediocre coffee (having had it three separate times, I do not understand how this is possible). The food outshines their coffee, to be honest. Some of the dishes are deceiving – the philly cheesesteak is NOT anything like the real deal – but their food generally is pretty good. Service can be very dysfunctional. Once, I had a waitress apologize on behalf of another waitress who “doesn’t really like working here and doesn’t know what she’s doing” – yeah.

                      I like Kepos Street Kitchen, but it can get quite busy on weekends. It’s a bit pricey, and the portion sizes are smaller than you might expect. Their Mediterranean items are a highlight. Reuben Hills, too, draws quite the crowd, and the food can be quite rich. Get there early if you plan to go. Personally, I like Robocog Café on Riley Street, which is run by a bunch of Thais but offers pretty classic Aussie breakfast fare, done well. Their breakfast burritos are tasty.

                      I would agree that you should steer clear of Mexican. It will invariably disappoint. I would also agree about Movida Sydney; it’s not bad, but I think it will pale in comparison to your experiences in Spain.

                      Finally, if you are a fan of coffee at all, I would suggest you try Gumption, in the Strand. They are a newly opened outpost of my favorite coffee roaster in Australia, Coffee Alchemy out in Marrickville. It is really, really good, and consistent as well.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pchang

                        Thanks pchang very insightful feedback.

                        - Looks like we might skip Lucio Pizza after all. Crusts have looked too blonde for our tastes and your feedback with knowledge of Kesté and Motorino provide excellent reference points. We will get our pizza fix at D.O.C. in Melbourne
                        - Ms. G's is one of our Sunday choices which may prove useful considering the popularity/waits at this restaurant. Menu looks interesting and reminds me of a less ambitious Momofuku Ssam Bar in a tongue-in-cheek way
                        - We plan on dining exclusively at the bar area for Rockpool B & G. Burger, chips or onion rings and perhaps a pavlova for dessert. Not too interested in their other food
                        - Haven't travelled to Malaysia or Singapore (yet), but was interested in the roti which they do fresh. Good to know about their other food and will order accordingly
                        - I've only visited the DTF locations in Hong Kong and Seoul. Both were above average, especially for a chain. My wife hasn't been before but is curious, we like XLB and if you crave some on your next visit to NYC I highly recommend Nan Xiang Xao Long Bao in Flushing which is our go-to spot
                        - Have now moved Chat Thai and Spice I Am (SH location) into dinner spots and dropped Longrain. Have been to Zaab Elee but not Somtum Der, also Pok Pok is doing Isaan style Thai food here in NYC/Brooklyn
                        - Thanks for the ramen info. My wife and I much prefer the chicken paitan broth at Ramen Totto to the rich tonkotsu of Ippudo here in NYC so we will probably try Ramen Ikkyu instead of Gumshara
                        - Will probably keep FourateFive and Devon Cafe, and could hit up Mary's in Newtown for Sunday lunch for their burger and fried chicken. The Med-menu at Kepos St Kitchen is interesting but Redfern seems like a haul especially for breakfast/brunch
                        - Thanks for the heads up on Gumption after looking at beanhunter's Sydney list and running it against our hotel's location we are nearby: Vella Nero, Klink, Pablo & Rusty's, Workshop Espresso and Mecca Espresso. Any suggestions for those?
                        - In addition to Bourke St Bakery and Black Star Pastry want to try Flour and Stone's panna cotta lamington and fine apple tart

                        1. re: pchang

                          Great post, pchang. Some really good pointers here.

                        2. Thanks again to everyone their comments. They've been pretty helpful and based on them and our schedule our revised itinerary looks like this:

                          Dinner:
                          - Sepia
                          - Porteño
                          - Billy Kwong
                          - Ms. G's
                          - Moon Park
                          - Chat Thai (Thai Town)
                          - Spice I Am (Surry Hills)
                          - Nomad
                          - Fix St James (solo meal)
                          - Cafe Paci (solo meal)

                          Lunch:
                          - Quay
                          - Sixpenny
                          - Mamak
                          - Fish Place
                          - Rockpool B & G (Bar Area)
                          - Spice Temple
                          - Din Tai Fung
                          - Mr. Crackles
                          - Marque (Fri Prix Fixe)
                          - Ramen Ikkyu (solo meal)

                          Cafés/Bakeries:
                          - FourateFive
                          - Devon Cafe
                          - Bourke St Bakery
                          - Black Star Pastry
                          - Flour and Stone

                          Dessert:
                          - Gelato Messina
                          - N2 Extreme Gelato

                          Drinks:
                          - Eau de Vie
                          - Love Tilly Devine
                          - Bulletin Place

                          Questions:
                          - bit of a loaded question but what are some of your favorite fish and chip spots? Fish Place seems to offer a good beer battered and smoked option despite not being on the water
                          - For those that have been to both Nomad over Ester? Nomad's approach to food seems very in line with our tastes
                          - Thinking maybe Three Blue Ducks if we visit Bondi?
                          - Good CBD coffee options?

                          Thanks again and keep the comments coming.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                            Mecca on the list you gave. Also Single Origin if you end up passing through or wandering down that end of the city. I'd still recommend visiting Campos in Newtown.

                            Both N2 and Messina have Melbourne outposts if it doesn't fit.

                            Chat Thai gets extremely busy on an evening, and you can't book. They run a manual list at the front - you need to push through and sign up - and it can be anything from five minutes to an hour's wait, but normally about twenty. There are a few interesting grocery shops but not a lot else to fill your time round there, there is a pub but it's pretty average. Don't assume that getting there early will help - it's very common for people to eat Asian early. I'd probably try for around 630 but others might have better insight.

                            1. re: mr_gimlet

                              Thanks. Will most likely visit Campos in Newtown after Black Star Pastry. The caffeine will probably be good after the strawberry watermelon cake and a pie.

                              So I was thinking of trying Chat Thai late night for supper as their website says they are open until 2 AM. While we won't be visiting at 2, we wanted a good late dinner option since we will be having a degustation at Quay for lunch. Also, their website mentions they take bookings during on weekdays. Our Quay booking is for Wed so I'm thinking this might be useful?

                            2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                              There's certainly a "dude food with a twist" element to Dan Hong's culinary approach that was going to lead me to draw the same comparison to David Chang, but you beat me to it. As an aside, David Chang himself has opened up Momofuku Seibo, the only Momofuku outpost outside of North America, in the Star casino. $185 tasting menu for dinner, $110 at lunch. It’s probably not something people from NY would (or should) consider, but I have heard good things.

                              I like Fish Place, but have only tried the smoked salmon. Somewhat curiously, Fish Face, a longstanding Darlinghurst institution with a very similar sounding name (but, to my knowledge, with no relation) has just undergone a makeover. It’s now Fish & Chips by Fish Face – how perfect is that? Perhaps try both Fish Place and Fish Face to see which has the better Fish Taste!

                              I have not made it to either Nomad or Ester, but I have heard great things about Nomad from friends, and it’s on my list. If I make it there, I’ll report back.

                              On the coffee question: I generally take my coffees with milk, so bearing that in mind …

                              Vella Nero is my go-to when I’m looking for a reliable, slightly more affordable cup of coffee in the CBD. They roast in-house. Smooth, but without much complexity.

                              Klink is well regarded. I have been there only once, and liked it. Perhaps a bit milky, but I try not to judge based on a single visit.

                              Workshop Espresso always has a healthy queue, perhaps because of its high-traffic location next to the Hilton on George Street. I have had their coffee a number of times, and have been disappointed each time. They use Toby’s Estate beans, which I have found I don’t much like. So there’s a reason, but I keep going back, misled by the crowds into thinking I might have missed something on my prior visits.

                              Mecca also has a loyal following, with locations in Ultimo, on King and in Circular Quay. I have had one or two good coffees made in cafes using Mecca beans, but generally have been disappointed by the actual coffees served up in their branded stores. Too milky for my taste, and disappointing incorporation of air in the cappuccinos. I think their quality may be compromised when they are crushed by high turnover, so it could be a consistency issue.

                              I have only been to Pablo & Rusty’s twice. The first time was shortly after they had just opened, and that was a disappointment. The second time was much better, so maybe they worked out the kinks. A plus is they are open on Saturdays, and serve hot food items.

                              I would agree with Mr. Gimlet that Campos in Newtown is worth a visit. So many cafes use Campos beans, though, that I would steer clear of just randomly trying a café’s coffee simply because it advertises that it sells Campos. One option may be to make a single trip to Newtown and cross both BSP and Campos off the list. I also like Cow & the Moon gelato (Messina has crazier flavors but I find the quality of product to be lower), just nearby.

                              Other coffee cafes worth trying in the CBD: Cabrito Coffee Traders (the scene can be quite entertaining) and Utopia (the care they use in making each cup is evident).

                              1. re: pchang

                                So Gumption looks pretty great. Even better with their connection to Coffee Alchemy and the fact that it's about a minute walk from our hotel and open on the weekends!

                                Yeah we're well aware of David Chang's Momo Seibo in Sydney and while we're fans of Mr. Chang's food and have read nice things about Chef Greeno we have no interest in visiting during this trip. We've had dinner and lunch at Ko (lunch is actually the longer/more expensive meal here) and like Ssam and Noodle. Interestingly, I find his ramen awful, not bad, but awful as the Benton's ham he uses for his "bacon dashi" is over smoked and way too salty. Also I find the desserts at Milk Bar so cloyingly sweet they actually make my teeth hurt.

                                Has anyone visited fish mongers for their fish and chips? It may seem an odd request but outside A Salt and Battery I haven't had a proper fish and chips in the US.

                              2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                Mr Crackles is delicious! The Crackles Classic is definitely the way to go if you're getting a roll (in my humble opinion). It's got very limited seating though (as in, a bench along the wall with some stools) so you may want to take your lunch away and go for a stroll down towards Hyde Park. Just an idea!

                                1. re: monbakes_downunder

                                  Thanks for the info regarding seating. Weather pending, we were planning on ordering two rolls and share a box of crackling (how can one visit and not indulge) take away and eating nearby. Coincidentally, I used to live nearby so it will be nice to revisit.

                                2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                  Great list, but some thoughts:

                                  Sepia is probably the best degustation in Sydney, especially if you are into Japanese flavours.

                                  Porteno is a lot of fun - make sure you get the suckling pig, brussel sprouts (seriously) and try asking for the sweetbreads (often not on the menu) if you are into that sort of thing.

                                  Ms G's reminds me of Momofuku Ssam Bar as you suggested but I actually prefer it (although I have only eaten at Ssam Bar once before).

                                  Chat Thai/Spice I am are good choices for thai food but can get very loud/cramped so keep this in mind.

                                  Nomad is worth a try - the food probably won't blow your mind but it is still good, is in a really nice space and has an interesting (Australian only) wine list.

                                  Fix st James is a regular destination but again the food is good but not exceptional (more like a weeknight place you go when too lazy to cook). The wine list and wine service makes it worth checking out.

                                  We went to Cafe Paci for the first time a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Very different to most menu's in Sydney right now, but ask for a wine pairing because this was a highlight and really lifted the meal (matches including plum wine, some unconvential wines and dark beer with dessert).

                                  Quay for me had too many dishes that tended to be on the sweet side, but maybe it was just the degustation menu that day. Still it is a Sydney icon and you get the great views etc.

                                  Sixpenny I felt was kinda average - seemed like they were trying a bit too hard to be different at the expense of flavour. I went not long after it opened though so maybe they have hit their straps since then.

                                  With Rockpool bar and grill I would suggest trying the wagyu burger as well as the grass fed burger (get them to cut in half and share). I actually prefer the grass fed burger. I have had the black label burger at Minetta and think the Rockpool burger stacks up pretty well.

                                  For fish and chips try The Fish Shop at Potts Point.

                                  For good CBD coffee try The Fine Food store in The Rocks (they serve Campos coffee). This is one of the few decent places that is open on weekends.

                                  1. re: amateur85

                                    Thanks for the comments. Seems like the itinerary is really coming together but opinions are always welcome.

                                    Sepia - Tuesday dinner reservations made. Anyone know if the degustation menu served in weekdays is different from the one served on weekends? Website seemed to indicate this and I'd prefer to avoid a "conservative" menu. Another concern relates to wine pairings. Read another hound was given trouble from the sommelier after requesting wines from AUS/New Zealand (which I plan on doing). Hopefully a restaurant of this caliber can come to some sort of compromise.

                                    Porteño - we both like offal and sweetbreads so we will definitely ask about their availability. Tempted to order half suckling pig-half lamb but would I be missing much is we passed on their beef? Only ask due to the restaurant's Argentinean theme. Also, besides helping pass wait times, is Gardel's Bar worth visiting or would I be better off going to Eau de Vie for a nightcap?

                                    Ms G's - despite some signature items which always seem to remain, the menu appears to have a fair amount of turnover. Not sure when you visited Ssam Bar but it's changed quite a bit with a focus now on rotisserie duck and just this week the return of ssam wraps. IMO it hasn't been the same since Tien Ho left the Momofuku group.

                                    Chat Thai - appreciate the heads up about the cramped heretic pace. As long as the food is good we won't mind. We are quite used to eating in all types of environments including mall food courts and sharing communal tables at many Chinese/Korean restaurants.

                                    Nomad - Sasi's CV looks so good (Rockpool, Dinner, Husk) and the restaurant's vegetable forward - house made ethos with a heavy emphasis on fermentation and charcuterie is extremely appealing to me, hope the place keeps improving.

                                    Fix St James - originally intended as one of two solo dinners (Cafe Paci being the other) I'm now considering swapping this meal with a solo go at Oscillate Wildly. Apparent value aside, this seems like another up-and-coming restaurant in Sydney. Would be very interested in comparing this to Sixpenny and would be very interested in anyone's experiences here.

                                    Cafe Paci - solo dinner reservation made. Thanks for the advice to go with the wine pairings. I'm thinking of contacting them to see if they'd let me supplement (for a fee of course) one of his beer-blood-rye waffles which look fantastic.

                                    Quay - not much to say here other than I've read Gilmore say they are removing their signature eight texture chocolate cake. I'll be contacting them to see if I could supplement this onto our degustation.

                                    Rockpool B&G - thanks for the advice, seems like an excellent idea for comparisons sake. I actually recommend this to burger fans on their first visit to Minetta Tavern.

                                    Fish Shop - seems like a stupid question but how are their fish and chips? I've actually read more about tier burger than fish. Between Mary's, Rockpool and possibly Chur Burger I'm not going to do another.

                                    Finally, saw a nice review on Rockpool proper. Anyone been to since the move to Bridge St? Love the idea of canapés followed by a choice and am quite interested in Chef Wood's food but not sure I can justify another expensive degustation...

                                    Finally, anyone familiar with TOYS? Incredible concept, wished young chefs in NYC ha something similar. Their members as well as alumni are some heavy hitters in the industry.

                                    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                      Ref Sepia: I always understood the degustation was the same, the difference is that during the week they also do a ALC which they don't do at the weekend. I think the web site wording is meant to means all the degustations change over the weeks.

                                      I also read the comments about trouble another hound had - my guess is that their was a bit of a Aussie/Texan culture clash - but I can see if a sommelier had put a carefully
                                      structured matching wine menu together they may struggle to turn it on its head in an instant (and they would be loath to open a whole new set of bottles for one table). You may not get a matching wine set that is local but I bet the sommelier will have lots of great local options.

                                      At Sepia I usually had the lamb and Pork and Sweetbreads - they are not really that famed for their beef but its probably good. They do run out of the better dishes as they need to be cooked for so long so order them as soon as you are seated (and whilst the bar is good better to get going on the food as early as you can). They used to have a superb selection of Malbecs which they were very proud of.

                                      MrG's is far from my favourite place, but I have not been since he first opened, and I found it a bit gimmicky and far too on trend. I also found the TOYS thing to be a bit hyped. They did have some great chefs (the team at Duke for example) but a few of the others had tons of attitude that wasn't reflected on the plate....is it still going?

                                      Chat Thai - isn't that bad for space, Spice I Am is tighter. But it can be a bit of a scrabble to get a table. You need to queue. Is it still BYO - if it is its wise to take a bottle or two as it wasn't licensed (or at least Haymarket wasn't).

                                      Fix: I disagree that the food isn't that good. Its not high ed but I thought it great for a wine bar. But you do go for the quality of the wine by the glass and treat the food as a bonus. Oscillate Wildly isn't new is it - I thought it had been around forever...?

                                      Great advice on Rockpool B&G burgers - I to think the Wagyu one is a bit over rated. And whilst I haven't tried Rockpool proper since it moved a colleague was their recently and raved about it.

                                      I have not been to Fish Shop but Strode is a great chef (liked Bistro CBD a lot) and I bet his F&C is very good. Fish & Chips by Fish Face in Darlinghurst may be a good alternative if you want Fish or even their new one Fish Face Dining in Double Bat which is really brand new.

                                      1. re: PhilD

                                        Hi PhilD

                                        Thanks for the clarification re Sepia's menu. We were planning to go with the degustation regardless. Re wine, we'll probably ask the som to match a few courses with some local wines. I'm not hellbent on trying to force my agenda on anyone, let alone a somm's carefully curated wine program so I'm confident we can come to some sort of compromise.

                                        I'm both interested as well as a bit leery of Ms. G's menu for the reasons you described but still plan on visiting. Seems like TOYS hasn't done a function in 2013 so their status is unknown to me, though I still like the concept.

                                        It appears from their website that Chat Thai accepts bookings which is very appealing to me. Unsure if Spice is still BYO, wine list and cocktails may mean no?

                                        I didn't mean any disrespect to the food at Fix, but I've read about some connection between the chefs at Sixpenny and Oscillate Wildly. Also, I was interested to know people's opinion of OW since Karl Firla took over.

                                        Each new review of Rockpool on George looks better and better...

                                        Thanks for the endorsement of Fish Shop and chef Strode and the Fish and Chips by Fish Face rec.

                                3. Just a heads up. Rockpool B&G in Sydney had a pretty extensive fire in the kitchen this week. It's currently closed and no timeframe on when it will reopen. Not sure when your trip is, but that might throw a wrench in that plan if your trip is in the near future.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: BeanTownGolfer

                                    Thanks, my trip is in mid May. I actually read the news via twitter but can always visit the Melbourne location if the Sydney location hasn't reopened.

                                    1. re: BeanTownGolfer

                                      Rockpool open now :
                                      http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/...

                                    2. Hi!
                                      Thought I would provide another opinion on some of the places mentioned.
                                      -Longrain - overrated, overpriced. I would eat at chat thai 100% over longrain, any day.
                                      -porteno - one of my favourites - stick to the basics, dont order entrees (generally dissapointing) - its all about the grilled meat.
                                      -Billy Kwong, as others have said, a bit hit and miss. I've tried their roast duck a few times and sometimes it is phenomenal, sometimes its bad. I think in general the duck is good at lunch, but by dinnertime it has been sitting there all day so it has dried out. A lot of the cooked dishes are average. Would not recommend the dim sum (definately overpriced, nowhere near the quality of good dim sum in Hong kong)
                                      -Quay is awesome - if you read the cookbook, you can understand why it costs so much. Views are amazing.
                                      -Mamak - overrated. Dont expect too much (especially if you're used to good quality authentic roti from Malaysia)
                                      -DTF - I dont mind it actually. I always get the spicy noodles with wonton (vegetarian), which is always consistently good.
                                      -rockppool bar and grill - my favourite steak place. LOVE the pavlova dessert as well. Try to not get seated in the spare room out back (cant remember what they call it) if you want to be able to enjoy the atmosphere. (back room is good if you just want a very quiet intimate night though)
                                      -Excelsior Jones - not worth the trip out - I would only go if it was on my way to somewhere and I was hungry.

                                      Other suggestions:
                                      -if you like gelato - theres a new place called 'anita' in centralpark (near central station) which I think is decent. I'm not into overly rich/sweet ice cream, so the style of gelato here suits me well. (prefer it to messina)
                                      -Yoshii for lunch - I've never been but have always heard it is good...
                                      -Tetsuyas - I know its an oldie, and I havent been for AGES, but I would consider it a sydney 'institution' and perhaps a good introduction to the beginnings of fine dining in Sydney?
                                      -Flying Fish - definitely recommended. Went last week and it was superb (had live spanner crab curry, patagonian toothfish)
                                      -I also think that Jeremy strode is a great chef - loved bistrode when it was open. Would recommend you try bistrode CBD (if you want well-cooked 'british' food, not so much if you're into very technical/inventive food)
                                      -Ive tried matt moran's restaurant whose name I have forgotten (the one in the eastern suburbs in the small park) - I think the restaurant would be really nice to have a long lunch in. Food is great(not blow-your-mind superb, as its not particularly inventive etc)

                                      Thats all I can think of right now.

                                      Definitely book ahead!! Really hard to get last minute bookings these days...

                                      Have fun!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: EmmyAus

                                        Chiswick ....Matt Moran's restaurant in the park

                                        1. re: EmmyAus

                                          Love Quay and Rockpool too!
                                          Haven't been to Tetsuya's since 2004 when it made top places in the world to dine, which was exquisite and better than French Laundry, which Tet's was giddy like a school girl when I told him.
                                          I still crave the prep on the Oceanic Trout that is probably the best thing I have ever eaten.

                                        2. Recently returned from Sydney and wanted to give a trip report. Thanks again for all of the advice from fellow Hounds.

                                          Our first meal of the trip was Friday lunch at Marque. A weekly changing 3-courses for $55 plus $5/pp for water seemed like a welcome escape from airplane food. Champagne poured, we began with an amuse of Smoked Walnut Butter, Braised Radicchio and an Egg Yolk Film. Nice mix of bold flavors and contrasting textures. Liked how the creamy egg yolk tempered the bitterness of the radicchio. Entree was strands of Cuttlefish with Lemon Butter and a Witlof Kimchi. A puddle of Squid Ink gave the plate a color contrast. IMO a dish more about technique than flavor. Main was a thick slab of Rangers Valley Beef Tri-Tip with Carrots and Barley. Most likely cooked sous vide (due to texture and appearance) the flavor of the beef was excellent, especially with a vadouvan spiced carrot purée. Dessert was a take on a Custard Apple with a Vanilla Custard, Caramel and an Apple Snow. A refreshing dessert after the rich main, the granita tasted like apple which was fine with the vanilla custard. Chef Best was away in France and during the meal we befriended a couple that happened to be regulars. Not on the menu but offered once we asked was the restaurant's signature Sauternes Custard. Rich and deeply complex, this was an excellent send off.

                                          Afternoon Flat White from Workshop Espresso on George St.

                                          Wife left for the weekend for a hen's party in the Hunter Valley which meant a solo dinner at Chat Thai. Arrived to a crowd waiting for a table but managed to get a seat at a communal table in under ten minutes. Ordered way too much food starting with Fresh Spring Roll which was unfortunately overpowered by a cloyingly sweet tamarind sauce. Much better was an untraditional but good Softshell Crab Yellow Curry. The Chicken Larb asked to be prepared "spicy" was excellent. Balanced and appropriately spiced, I finished this with all my remaining sticky rice. Washed down with Thai Milk Tea.

                                          Finished day one with a trip to N2 Gelato Extreme. Ordered a special named Tease Ma Malt with Malted Chocolate Gelato with Honeycomb, a crushed Cornflake Chocolate Top, a Malted Whipped Cream and a syringe filled with Chocolate Ganache. This was what was expected, tasting like a giant malteaser or whopper.

                                          Will try and do at least another recap a day so I appreciate your patience.

                                          27 Replies
                                          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                            Day two began with a flat white from Gumption in the Strand Arcade. Gumption uses Alchemy beans and throughout my trip they consistently pulled my favorite coffees.

                                            Breakfast was at a quick walk to Four and Stone. Picked up a slice of their Fine Apple Tart which was good and a Panna Cotta Lamington. Having limited experiences eating these Australian treats I wasn't sure what to expect. The first thing that struck me was how large they are. The innards were quite moist (expected from soaking the cake in panna cotta) while the raspberry(?) preserves helped cut through the richness.

                                            Feeling a full on sugar buzz I took the bus to Kepos St. Kitchen for lunch. There was quite a crowd but being a party of one, I was immediately led to a table. Ordered the Tunisian Style Yellowfin Tuna salad. The fish was nicely seared on the outside and rare in the middle but fish aside, felt the salad was a bit underseasoned as a whole. Surprising considering the salad was dressed with a harissa vinaigrette. Nice cafe with an interesting menu but probably ordered wrong. Skipped the churros due to all the sugar I had before but they looked good.

                                            Dinner was a solo reservation at Cafe Paci. Housed in the former Cafe Pacifico site, ex-Marque chef de cuisine Pasi Patanen went solo operating his "pop-up" for what was originally a year (though I saw they have slightly extended this). I had emailed the restaurant to inquire about supplementing the $85 prix fixe menu with a blood waffle and was told it would be no problem. I was greeted and led to my table and after confirming the menu and beverage pairings was presented with a series of snacks. First a Rye Taco with Rice, Egg Butter and Sour Onions, an homage to the Mexican themed Cafe Pacifico. A poached Quail Egg rolled in Wakame and Cavolo Nero, "Chips and Dip" fried Brussels Sprout Leaves with an Oyster Emulsion, "Salt and Vinegar Chip" a fried Barramundi Skin cracklings with Vinegar and a Pear Sandwich with Miminolette Cheese. Snacks were playful and ranged from good (taco, chips & dip) to okay (quail egg, pear).

                                            Next, I was presented with the Beer, Blood and Rye Waffle. Served with Lingdenberry Preserves and Lard this was very good. Also given was an "Easter Egg" which was a warmed Yolk topped with Salted White Chocolate Mousse and Porcini Powder. This was even better. First course was Mud Crab with Pomelo, Dill and Vadovan. Excellent, sweet WA crab meat with segments of bitter pomelo and the hint of spice from the curry. Next was a rich dish with shredded Duck, Smoked Kohlrabi and Cider Vinegar Cream. Cured duck breast was grated over the dish which felt a bit too rich. More acid from the kohlrabi or cream would've helped with the duck. Cabbage, Anchovy, Parsley and Parmesan followed and I was told was inspired by the chef's love of pesto. I wasn't inspired by the comp but thought the dish was very good and imaginative. Shredded cabbage loosely resembling pasta was deglazed with anchovy juice giving an umami punch to the dish but the unmentioned toasted breadcrumbs lent a great textural contrast. The final savory course was the much talked about "Photato." Potato sliced on a Japanese mandoline mimicked rice noodles with a thin slice of Rangers Valley +9 Wagyu hiding it. Grilled on one side, the beef picked up a wonderful charcoal aroma while staying rare. Rounding out the dish was fried garlic chips, watercress and some shaved horseradish from Tasmania. The "broth" coming in the form of a rich Demi glaze the potato had been soaked in this was as playful as it was tasty. Two cheeses were offered. I opted for the composed option, a Monte Veronese di Malga with Onions poached in Pear Juice and topped with Black Pepper and Puffed Wheat. An interesting combination, I preferred the classic choice which I was able to sample from the neighboring table after striking up a conversation. A Carrot Sorbet hidden inside a Yogurt Mousse and Liqorice Biscuit was the first of two desserts. I'm not too put off by vegetal components in desserts and I enjoyed it. Next was a Rye Ice Cream with Apple Jelly and shards of White Birch and Cocoa Malt Crips. This was also unconventional but good. Nice way to incorporate texture using the shards. Petits fours included Fairy Floss rolled in a Brown Butter Popcorn Powder and a Pork Crackling covered in Chocolate and Candied Fennel Seeds. I also want to mention the bread service. Each table was presented with a round boule of Rye and Potato Flour Bread that was glazed with Molasses and served with house churned butter. Arriving hot, this was a very good bread paying respect to chef's Finish heritage. Beverage pairings ranged from a Australian Micro Brew to an Australian Fortified Wine (Port). Service was excellent and I enjoyed a chat with Chef Petanen. His food was unique and delicious and I wish him success in whatever form this restaurant evolves into next.

                                            1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                              Thanks for the updates. Looking forward to the rest of them.

                                              1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                Day three began with a bus ride to Bourke St Bakery in Surry Hills for a flat white (tasted a little burnt), a Ginger Brûlée and Lemon Curd Tart. Both pastries were very good, with a slight nod to the brûlée tart being my favorite of the two.

                                                Breakfast proper was up the block at FourateFive. Walking up on Sunday morning meant the place was packed but I was immediately seated at a communal table towards the kitchen. Service was polite but frazzled due to the place being packed. My Moroccan Style Baked Eggs arrived piping hot but without the advertised almonds which I had completely forgotten about until my neighbor's order arrived with them. The eggs were slightly overlooked with the yolk a bit too set and the triangle of butter served with the toasted sourdough was ice cold as in straight from the fridge cold. Small complaints but not unnoticed especially when paying Sydney cafe prices.

                                                Afternoon flat white from Gumption mainly because I liked my first coffee there but also because coffee options in the CBD on a Sunday afternoon are limited.

                                                Wife arrived back earlier than expected so we took to train to Kings Cross for a late dinner at Ms. G's. Started off with one of their sealed cocktails, Good Morning Vietnam, which I found way too sweet. Grilled Corn with Parmesan and Lime was not good. Reminiscent of a inferior version of Mexican elotes, the concept was good but the corn was dry and not sweet. A bit on the expensive side, I fully admit this was my fault for ordering this but it seems like one of the restaurant's signature items. Also pricey but good were the mini Bahn Mi's. We ordered one each of the Pork Belly and Chicken Katsu. They were out of the potatoes so we chose to split a Prawn Toast. Probably the best item of the evening the toast was perfectly executed with the refreshing herbs and yuzu aioli combining with the sweet prawn mince. The Bangkok Fried Chicken was a bit underwhelming considering the only Thai reference was a small bowl of fish sauce as a condiment. Much better was the Jow's Sweet and Sour Lamb Ribs. We really liked the sweet and sour sauce-gamey meat combo and thought the portion was pretty generous. Dessert was IMO an unmitigated disaster as we couldn't leave without trying the infamous Stoner's Delight 2.0. Fully accepting any blame as we ordered it after having read the description we thought it was way too heavy and sweet. A few components were fine in isolation but tasted rathered muddled taken as a whole. Where I find Tosi's desserts much too sweet at Momofuku Milk Bar, I cannot blame her for her technique and flavor intensity whereas this seemed an all out indulgent assault. Understand this is very popular with many folks but it wasn't to our liking. As for service I have to say this was the first Sydney restaurant where I was very disappointed. We chose a later meal on Sunday to avoid too much of a scene. We were seated at a two top on the first floor near the entrance which was fine except a) the table was probably the smalles I've encountered and b) was near cigarette smoke as the front doors were open due to the warmer than usual weather. When asked if the kitchen could course out our order the server told is they couldn't. When we explained that the table was very small and the inherent issue of hot food going cold when served at the same time he said he'd see what the kitchen could do. This complaint may come off as petty but I routinely ask this at similar "small plate" restaurants in NYC and I've never been refused. I'd also have much more sympathy for the kitchen if we made such a request during a prime time when the staff may be in the weeds but this was a fairly calm time. Service took a 180 degree turn for the better when our server was replaced with a woman whom we found out was helping cover a shift for a friend and worked at Est. Service aside, the food and menu at Ms. G's seemed like dude food in need of editing. I'm sure Chef Hong and Merivale is making $ here and I'm in the minority but I feel after eating there (admittedly only once) that any comparison to David Chang is unwarranted as I find the food across his restaurants to be much more balanced and well thought out.

                                                1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                  I last ate at MsG's about four years ago and your description ties in with my experience. I was underwhelmed and at the time felt I got little for my money. I also thought his previous place (Lotus) on the same spot wasn't the superstar everyone said it was.

                                                  I had thought I was the only one so glad to hear your thoughts coincide. I am back in Sydney now and your write-ups are useful to update my knowledge.

                                                  1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                    Day four meant an early train ride to the Blue Mountains. Breakfast consisted of takeaway flat whites from Workshop Espresso and Bacon and Egg Rolls with Chili Jam. The food was good albeit a bit fancier (brioche rolls) than our bacon, egg and cheeses from the corner bodegas or delis. Crazy as it sounds but we missed the square of melty processed cheese on our inferior versions.

                                                    Arrived back to Sydney starving and a bit later than expected but booked it Chinatown and eventually found Ramen Ikkyu with a help of some locals. Ordered Ikkyu Miso made with a Paitan Broth (pork and chicken bones) and a Chef's Special with Black Garlic and Chili Oil. Originally wanting to visit Gumshara and Ikkyu for a direct comparison we arrived between 3-5 PM when Gumshara begins a new batch of their famously thick tonkutsu soup. Oh well, I actually prefer Paitan to tonkutsu soups (Totto Ramen vs Ippudo here in NYC). The miso had a bit more body than the special which was listed as a soy base and was nice and rich. Noodles were straight white variety and were a bit overcooked to my preference (I prefer my noodles cooked hard) but was otherwise fine. The earthy black garlic oil was a welcome addition to the chef's special but lacked any spice from the advertised chili. To be fair I've never found Japanese foods advertised as containing chili to be actually that spicy, so my expectations were appropriate IMO. Overall good, but fairly standard ramen as far as I'm concerned. I'm no ramen fiend and I don't claim NYC to be anything of a ramen mecca but have spent some time living/working in Tokyo and enjoy ramen in most of NYC's more celebrated establishments. Felt it was a shame we didn't make it back to Gumshara and we passed on our free kaidama (extra serving of noodles) since we had an upcoming reservation at...

                                                    Nomad. Chef Nathan Sasi had quite the resume and has been accumulating accolaids and critical praise. We had reserved two seats at the chef's counter and sat directly in front of the chef de partie and pastry station. Chef Sasi was working the pass and the restaurant was pretty packed at 8 PM even on a Monday evening. After an unprompted explanation of the menu (serious pet peeve) we asked our standard questions: how many dishes are recommended for a party of two and if the kitchen could course out our order. We ordered a series of dishes and the first to arrive was a bowl of Fried Chickpeas with Falafal Spice. Love this snack served at a few restaurants in NYC but found these far too dry. Next was Goat's Cheese Churros with Truffled Honey. These were delicious. Fried bread with a nice tang from the goat cheese smoothed out by the earthy and sweet honey, we understood why these were being pushed so hard by the servers. A plate of House Made Charcuterie arrived next and contained: Mortadella, Chorizo, Juniper Cured Kangaroo, Prosciutto Cotto, Prosciutto and Loungza. While we were impressed Nomad was making the effort to do everything in house, we were less impressed with the results. Not all was bad but I felt a few house made pickles or mustard would've helped cut through some of the richness. Better was the Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait with Radish, Iranian Plum and Grilled Sourdough. We're big fans of foie and chicken liver mousse and this was a commendable version. Silky smooth you picked up the subtle funk of the foie and livers with the acid (radish) and sweetness (plum) as you slathered it over the charred sourdough. The Nomad Jersey Milk Haloumi with BBQ'd Zucchini, Pinenuts and Raisins was our favorite dish. Wanting to see how the kitchen handled vegetables this dish was stellar. Nice mix of favors and textures, I just hope others don't pass over the vegetarian options. Last savory was the BBQ'd Octopus with Kipfler Potatoes and Preserved Lemon. While nothing was wrong with this dish execution wise, we've had better versions elsewhere. Seated in front of the pastry chef we saw plating for most of the offerings and chose to split a Daintree Estate 6 Layer Chocolate Cake with Iranian Apricot and Crème Fraîche. Not usually attracted to chocolate desserts this was rich and indulgent in all the right ways. A combination of dark and milk chocolates and the unsweetened creme fraiche tempered the sweetness while the apricot preserves lent some acidity. This was vaguely a much cheaper rendition of Gilmore's now off-menu chocolate cake we had two days later. Unfortunately, service issues persisted at Nomad as we encountered the most unknowledgeable server of the trip. No idea what the charcuterie selection consisted of, unable to answer questions as to how dishes were prepped (where the scallops served crudo style aka raw or cooked) and even drew a blank when asked about Chef Sasi, I can only hope he was new or training. Fortunately, the pastry chef and chef de partie were both very helpful and great to chat with. The BTG selection was quite large and had a number of Australian varietals we were able to sample and the kitchen is beautiful. While there were inconsistencies throughout our meal there were also some bright spots. With continued growth and menu evolution I could see Nomad becoming a fixture in the Surry Hills dining scene.

                                                    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                      Day five began with a Flat White from Klink. Another very well made coffee and had quite a queue for takeaway orders. I chose to stay in and enjoyed the seating throughout the first floor.

                                                      We grabbed a quick lunch from Malay-Chinese Takeaway. Probably not the "best" or most "authentic" Malaysian in Sydney but we were craving laksa and planned on visiting Mamak later in the trip. Ordered a Beef Laksa and a Chicken and King Prawn Laksa. Arrived early after reading about the restaurant's popularity with the lunch crowd. Broth was good if a bit more seasoned than the laksas we eat in NYC. Noodles were a single variety and a tad al dente. Proteins were obviously prepped ahead and added per order but were fine. Overall, a good cheapish (~ $10) lunch that fulfilled our laksa craving but wasn't anything special. I do understand it's popularity and wish we had something similar nearby my office.

                                                      Wife wen shopping and returned with an afternoon snack from Ladurée. We have two outposts in NYC but still enjoyed these. Sadly we failed to visit a Zumbo location but without a Pierre Herme which I consider the gold standard we didn't make this a priority.

                                                      Dinner was at Porteño. Arriving 15 minutes early to hopefully avoid too lengthy a wait, we were the third couple outside. We were seated at a two top almost directly in front of the open BBQ pits. Despite reports of poor service we found this to be either untrue or lucked out with our server. We ordered some Pan de Casa with an addictive pork pate and good Argentinean Olive Oil as well as an entree of Flores de Zapilliotes which were fried zucchini flowers stuffed with housemade feta and provolone cheese. Served over an excellent romesco sauce they were topped with pickled eggplant and some briny olives. Next, we were given housemade Chimichurri sauce that we applied liberally with the Entraña - charcoal grilled Wagyu skirt steak and a half-and-half order of the wood fired roast pig and lamb. The beef was luscious as expected from Wagyu beef but benefitted from the Chimichurri. The pork and lamb was a nice mix of different cuts from the animal and some cracklings for good measure. To round out the meal we shared the Repollitos de Brusela Frito or fried Brussels sprouts with lentils, mint and assertive vinaigrette. This was a fantastic version of a popular dish made even better from the vinaigrette. Service as previously mentioned was excellent. After chatting our server told us her sister (cook) was travelling to NYC for a month on holiday and asked for a few suggestions which we happily provided. Upon mentioning that we were lunching the following day at Quay our server told us that her partner was a sous chef there and told us she'd ask him to make sure a request we had made would be honored.

                                                      Needing a walk from all the meat we had just consumed we found our way to Gelato Messina for dessert. We ordered two specials: So Wrong It's Right and Pavlova. The pavlova was the favorite of the two and consisted of vanilla bean gelato with raspberry, passionfruit and baked meringue. The so wrong it's right (cream cheese gelato, white chocolate and potato chips with salted caramel) sounded eerily over the top as the Stoner's Delight but somehow managed to taste balanced. Really good gelato, obviously popular for good reason.

                                                      1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                        Day six began with a rather disappointing breakfast at Paramount Coffee Project. Flat whites were fine but otherwise unmemorable and the layout if the cafe a bit awkward as we were told shared space with a bar downstairs and a retail clothing shop upstairs. Wife ordered the Crab "Po Boy" with House Slaw and Ranch Sauce on a Milk Bun. Not sure if the owners were being cheeky with the name or have ever had a proper Po boy from New Orleans but this would hardly qualify. Mini rant over, the sandwich was tasty but the ranch sauce being redundant as the slaw was mayo based. My Coca Cola Ox Cheek Waffle with Corn and Tomato Salsa, Horseradish Mayo and Coriander sounded potentially interesting but ultimately failed. I'm all for sweet and savory combinations (chicken and waffles) but the Ox cheeks were far too sweet without enough bite from the horseradish to balance the dish. Sides were equally as bad. Onion rings were greasy, far too blonde and underseasoned and hush puppies were a downright embarrassment to the original being dense and again, underseasoned. Now to be fair, I chose the restaurant knowing it served "southern American" cuisine but on the other hand, I don't quite understand Australia's fascination with regional American cuisine,
                                                        Especially when many have little to no reference to the original versions. Perhaps this is the latest fad, or maybe this is the cafés attempt at distinguishing itself in a competitive market. Regardless, I hope it improves, especially on the things it does have control over such as proper seasoning.

                                                        Lunch was at Quay. Little needs to be said about Peter Gilmore (and Fink's) three hatted flagship we made our booking four months out preferring it to dinner as we've to enjoy leisurely lunches from our travels to Europe.

                                                        The degustation began with an amuse of Rosehip, Beetroot and Goat's Curd. Fine, this tasted like a fancier beet and goat cheese salad.

                                                        First course was Saltwater Poached Quail, Takun Pickles, Fermented Shiitake, Salted Egg Yolk, Smoked Parsnips and Kailan Blossom. A medley of textures, we were afraid the dish contained too many components. Fortunately, we found the dish to have wonderful balance.

                                                        Next was a Quay signature, Congee of Northern Australian Mud Crab, Fresh Heart of Palm and an Egg Yolk Emulsion. Easily the most expensive congee we had ever eaten, this had a incredible depth of flavor from the stock/base used to cook the rice. The portion of sweet crab meat was generous for a tasting portion but the unlisted ginger really helped unify the dish.

                                                        Third was listed as XO Sea. An obvious nod to the pantry staple in Cantonese Cuisine we were floored by the umami-laden broth. Perfectly cooked scallops, octopus, baby clams, cuttlefish and prawns sat in a crimson pool of broth made from Jamon Iberico. Having grown up with Chinese parents my wife said these were two shining examples of fusion gone right.

                                                        Black Pudding, Walnut Floss, Brioche Cream, Green Walnuts and raw Mushrooms was another study in textures. Not to be forgotten was the silky ultra-refined version of black pudding.

                                                        Roasted Snapper with Native Coastal Greens, Hatsuka Radish and Smoked Oyster Crackling was slightly underwhelming. Nitpicking, the snapper was a tad overcooked to my liking and I wished that the kitchen could've found a way to incorporate the intense flavor from the crackling into a sauce or emulsion as the fish was a bit bland on its own.

                                                        The Roasted Grass Fed Pure Angus with Mushroom, Grains, Miso and Eggplant was better than expected. Usually not a fan of beef (unless dry aged) the miso, eggplant and mushroom really helped accent the natural flavor of the meat.

                                                        The insanely popular and much photographed Snow Egg was our first foray into sweets. Custard Apple being the variation during our visit this was as much a technical masterpiece as it was beautiful. Fortunately, it tasted as good as it looked, with a strong Apple flavor and proper texture for the granita.

                                                        Initially disappointed as we saw our server with the on menu dessert of Chocolate, Almonds, Muscatel and Oloroso Caramel instead of the requested off menu Eight Texture Chocolate Cake, we were surprised by the kitchen when another server brought one out for our table midway through the course. Both were delicious, albeit for different reasons as the original being more complex and the cake being more indulgent and having a dramatic table side presentation.

                                                        Coffee, tea and petits fours were served as we enjoyed the view (no cruise ship). Staff chatted with us until we left (last table left) and were both knowledgeable and professional.

                                                        Quay often gets both fairy and unfairly judged based on its location and price. However, we enjoyed the restaurant immensely. The menu was well composed and almost flawlessly executed with very intense flavors and pristine ingredient quality. Service was very good and the view didn't hurt. Chef Gilmore was in the restaurant but not in the kitchen but did sign our menu.

                                                        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                          Day Seven began with a revisit to Bourke St Bakery. My initial visit was solo and my wife wanted to try some things. Brisket and Mushroom Pie and a Pork and Fennel Sausage Rolls were two iconic foods prepared with superior ingredients. Another Ginger Brûlée and Lemon Curd Tart and an Almond Croissant for takeaway. Wife was very impressed with everything and the hype around this cafe seems justified.

                                                          Took the ferry to Manly and grabbed an al fresco lunch of fish and chips at Fishmongers. Beer Battered Flathead with Hand Cut Chips and Tarter Sauce. No complaints about the quality of fish or the chips. Seemed a bit on the fancier spectrum as far as fish and chips go, but very enjoyable while people watching near the beach.

                                                          Afternoon Flat White from Pablo and Rusty's in the CBD. Nice layout with plenty of space and a very smooth coffee

                                                          Dinner was at Neil Perry's flagship Rockpool. Moved from George to Bridge St, I've heard reports of the food being tired. However, a recent bump in good press about Chef Wood's menu promoted me making a booking. I will disclose upfront that we were most likely known to the restaurant and as such received a comped dish, however, we paid the full menu price. Whether you choose to view this as an objective report is your decision.

                                                          The interior of the restaurant is dark, as in, without the tiny table lamps pitch black, but otherwise nice. Menu begins with a series of canapés followed by your choice of one, two or three courses. First morsel of food was Tempura Prawn Head with a dipping sauce of Daikon and Soy. Delicious, but the sauce was unnecessary.

                                                          Next was the other half of the prawn, Charcoal Grilled Prawn on a Shiso Leaf and a dab of Nam Prik. Shiso and prawn were fine, wished that the nam prik was spicier.

                                                          Chicken Wing in Egg Batter with Kombu Butter was also excellent. Lollipoped for our convienence the wing was bathed with a wonderful kombu butter.

                                                          Charcoal Braised Oxtail with Chicken Parfait, Chili and Rice Roll was fine but not memorable.

                                                          Chirashi Zushi of Tuna, Kingfish and Squid with Cucumber Gelee and Kimchi was better. A miniature version of this restaurant classic, fish quality was good (not great) but enhanced by the kimchi and refreshing cucumber.

                                                          Spanner Crab and Scallop Mousse and Steamed Bun was reminiscent of a luxury prawn toast, very good.

                                                          Sea Urchin with Leeks and Fermented Tofu was a disappointment. The sea urchin was again, good but not great quality and the fermented tofu was way too salty. Very disappointing since this was the one course we anticipated the most.

                                                          We were given a canapé sized portion of the Skipjack Tuna with Miso Mash, Braised Cavolo Nero, Wasabi and Trout Roe. The bonito and roe were excellent quality, very impressive.

                                                          Bread service consisted if a round loaf of Housemade Honey and Spelt Bread served with butter and Fresh Ricotta with Tomato and Olive Oil. Bread was served warm and had a pleasant sweetness. Only complaint was that the exterior wasn't quite crusty enough.

                                                          First courses were: Rich and Noble Red Braised Duck Congee with Almond Tofu, Star Anise, Peanuts and Chinese Fried Bread. My wife and I thought this was excellent. Compared to the congee served at Quay, this version had much bolder flavors and seemed a bit more authentic with the inclusion of peanuts and fried bread since my mother-in-law uses peanuts in her congee. My course was Sterling Caviar with Soft Poached Egg, Crispy Potato and Allemande Sauce. This was pure unadulterated luxury. Caviar, runny egg, crunchy potato and the rich sauce was everything I imagined.

                                                          The next dishes were also complimentary. Laurel Smoked Eight Treasure Quail in Sichuan Broth arrive under a dome of smoke and unveiled table side. The dish being an haute version of Classic Chinese dish usually served with duck was good but a bit too rich. The Roasted South Australian Lamb with Job's Tears, Shiitake, Chili Condiment and Black Tea was also good but was a bit overseasoned.

                                                          Second courses were: Braised Beef Cheek Sukiyaki with Winter Melon, Gem Lettuce and Tendon was recommended by our server. We found the lettuce a bit unnecessary but found the tendon one of the best versions we've ever had. The Pigeon Zheng Shui Dan with Prawn Stuffed Eggplant and Strange Flavor Dressing was also very good. The pigeon had a nice gamey flavor and was perfectly cooked.

                                                          Pre-Dessert was a Yogurt Sorbet with Vanilla, White Pepper, Pomelo and Thyme Honey Granola. Tasted like a gourmet version of yogurt and granola but fine.

                                                          For dessert we shared the Vacherian of Pandan Custard with Coconut Parfait, Jasmine Sorbet and Lime Granita and the Sweet Potato Braised in Soy Caramel with Lemon Curd, Miso Ice Cream, Sesame and Candied Shiso. We were split as to our favorites as I preferred the Vacherian and my wife preferring the sweet potato. I found the Vacherian refreshing and she thought the sweet potato reminded her if the roast sweet potatoes sold as street food in Asia.

                                                          Finally, two small slices of Rockpool's famous Date Tart were given to us as petits fours.

                                                          Not being Australian I have little reference to Perry's food or the numerous incarnations of Rockpool throughout the years. However, with the food chef Wood is producing, coupled with the change of location the Rockpool I visited was very impressive. Service was excellent, engaging when asked questions but otherwise leaving us alone to enjoy the meal and each other. I hope those that haven't visited Rockpool in awhile will be tempted to revisit and see what seemed to us, a rejuvenated restaurant.

                                                          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                            Really good to hear - I liked the old one and am eager to try the new location. Great reports thanks.

                                                            1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                              Day eight was relatively light due to the wedding that evening.

                                                              Visited Vella Nero for Flat White in the morning. Coffee was smooth and good. Just avoided the rush as quite a crowd had formed as I was finishing up.

                                                              Took the train to central and walked to Devon Cafe. Chatted with the extremely talkative but pleasant server who informed me tht the menu was turning over the following week. Had the Chick N Chips which consisted off a Housemade chicken sausage, crispy wings, smoked potato purée and a fried egg. Everything was very good and exhibited some technical skill (boned out confit wings that had been crisped up, smoked potato purée with a heavily reduced jus). Server brought the chef out for a brief chat and his fine dining experience was evident in his food. Not a cheap meal by any means but not out of line compared to other cafés in Sydney.

                                                              Had a three hour break after between the ceremony and the reception so I found my way to Mr. Crackles for a classic roll. Slow Roasted Five Spice Pork Belly with Crispy Crackling and Vietnamese Salad (pickled veg?), I thought this would be similar to a Vietnamese Bahn Mi. The bread was nothing like a classic bahn mi but pleasant enough. The salad helped cut through the richness if the pork belly. I was asked if I wanted chili (yes) and I found quality and ratio of meat to be fine. A good, and filling sandwich for its price but seemed a bit of a Chinese roast pig-Bahn mi mash up. Good location, this place must do amazing business with all the nearby bars.

                                                              1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                Still a bit tired from the wedding we grabbed take away Flat Whites from nearby Gumption.

                                                                Took the train to the sleepy suburb of Stanmore for a lunch at Sixpenny. Easily one of the trips most anticipated meals, Sixpenny and Brae were the two most mentioned restaurants from industry folk we talked to in NYC/Brooklyn. Chef Puskas was not in the kitchen, however, chef Parry was and oversaw our meal. Sebastian Crowther had recently left the restaurant but new somm Dan Sharp did a commendable job with the pairings. Throughout the course of the meal the restaurant was busy but never packed and service was friendly and efficient.

                                                                The meal started with a series of snacks. First, a bowl of Salt and Vinegar Chips. Next, Pickled Yucan with Rose Germanium Syrup and dusted with Rose Powder. The yucan, a South American root vegetable was crunchy and tasted like an exotic pickle. A warm Cheese and Tomato Gougéres filled with Tomato Chutney and topped with Parmesan Cheese was excellent. Also very good was a Jerulslem Artichoke Scallop with Sunflower Seed Salt. Finally, we were given Charred Treviso with a Dandelion Sauce and Cured Egg Yolk. It had a nice charred flavor with the egg yolk mellowing the treviso's bitterness.

                                                                First course was Pumpkin Poached in Verjus with Chestnuts and Sour Cream. Welcomed the sweetness from the pumpkin juxtaposed with the sour cream and chestnut for texture.

                                                                Western Australian Mud Crab with Silky Macadamia and Chamomile was visually stunning. Having had a remarkably similar combination of crab and macadamia at Mugaritz (where Parry had previously worked) we thought this version tasted better.

                                                                Potatoes Roasted in Fresh Mustard with Lemon-Thyme and Spinach sounded a bit pedestrian but tasted anything but. In fact, this was one of the highlights from the meal and much better than the potato course we would have several days later at Attica. A liberal application of brown butter bathed the potatoes until they reached an optimal texture, still maintaining a little bite before giving way to the creamy interiors. The sharpness from the mustard seeds helped preserve balance.

                                                                The fish course was Lightly Steamed Murray Cod with Nettles and Toasted Rye. The nettles had been puréed into a sauce that had a vegetal quality. The rye had been mixed with butter and applied like a paste of sorts over a perfectly cooked piece of cod.

                                                                Malted Veal with Cabbage and Fermented Anchovy concluded the savory portion of the meal with a bang. While I wasn't enamoured with the texture of the veal due to it being cooked sous vide (mushy), the fermented anchovy infused malt glazed over the meat packed a savory punch, preventing this course from being ordinary.

                                                                A Pumpkin and Yogurt Ice Crème Sandwhich was a fun transition to desserts without being too sweet.

                                                                Sweet Rice Custard with Marscarpone Ice Cream and Lime Jelly was very good. The jolt of acidity from the lime jelly played nicely against the rice custard and ice cream.

                                                                Final dessert was Poached Prunes with Plum, Jasmine and Chocolate Sauce poured tableside from a cook.

                                                                We ended with coffee, tea and petits fours in the form of their "cookie jar."

                                                                Before leaving Chef Parry took us out back to the restaurant's small garden and we chatted over the future of the restaurant and the Sydney dining culture.

                                                                Like many young-modern restaurants here in the US, talented technique-driven chefs are striking out on their own and creating their culinary identity. Puskas and Parry are not only excelling (a stellar review filled a few weeks ago reinforcing this fact) but are doing things on their own terms. Talking with chef Parry left the impression that they are trying to be different (not using Wagyu as a final savory) but not stand out, but rather to raise the bar across the Sydney fine dining scene. Modernist plating aside, the ability to tap into their own garden and the movement away from protein-laden tastings that weighs (no pun intended) the diner down are welcome additions IMO. While Sixpenny didn't serve the best food of our trip, it seems to be improving steadily and wasn't far behind, but was easily our favorite meal in Sydney.

                                                                Late dinner was at Din Tai Fung. For some reason we thought the restaurant closed at 7:30 so we're relived to see numerous people waiting for their table. We kept our order relatively simple but arriving later into service they were understandably out of a few items we wanted to order. Cucumber Salad in a Vinaigrette Dressing wasn't the best value (maybe half a small cucumber?) but was tasty enough. To supplement our general lack of vegetables we devoured our order of Water Spinach with Garlic. DTF's version was fine but lacked the "wok hai" we look for in many stir fried dishes. Two orders of XLB. One with Pork and the other with Pork and Crab. Good versions with thin skins and a nice soup base, served with the usual ginger and black vinegar condiments. We shared a Braised Beef Noodle Soup, surprisingly better than expected, and Taiwanese Fried Rice with a Crumbled Chicken Filet, also better than expected. A solid if not spectacular meal, it satisfied our craving for Chinese food.

                                                                1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                  Day 10 was a Sunday and Sundays can prove a bit tricky when travelling with many restaurants closed. My wife and I joined the newlyweds for brunch at Three Williams. We were running a little late but the staff agreed to seat them without us, miraculous considering it's popularity. Unfortunately for me, our friends expressed that they weren't too hungry. So I immediately scrapped ordering a side of their fries or the fish croquettes. Instead we started with coffee, which didn't arrive until after our meal...speaking of food my wife ordered the Crunchy Brioche French Toast with fruit and yogurt and I had The Merchant a fancy bacon and egg roll with slaw and ranch dressing on a brioche roll. Food was fine as was coffee (when actually received it) but neither of us were too impressed.

                                                                  We visited the zoo and had a late lunch at the Surry Hills location of Spice I Am. Eating late meant no wait and we were famished. The Pad Prik King with Crispy Pork Belly was very good. Asked to be prepared spicy we thought this was a superior version of this dish. The Basil Crispy Chicken was good albeit a bit safer. Again, a nice amount of heat permeated throughout the hunks of chicken and abundant amount of Basil leaves. The Green Mango Salad with Fried Soft Shell Crab was pretty similar to the versions back in the US but was still a tasty dish. The acidity from the lime juice was bold and appreciated. We also shared the Mussaman Curry which was the best rendition we've had. Far too often the versions in New York (Ayada, Sripraphai) are too sweet with an overdose of coconut milk. This version tasted far more balanced and was excellent with sticky rice. I was happy to have eaten at both Chat Thai as well as Spice I Am. Both offered some very good food and ultimately superior Thai food I routinely find in the US.

                                                                  Until this point I had neglected Italian food. It's not a slight to the Italian food in Sydney but more a reflection of New York having many good Italian restaurants. However, I was craving Italian and we had a booking at Osteria di Russo & Russo. A bit off the beaten track for tourists, we found our way to the quaint restaurant. After a brief chat with our server we chose the $65 six course meal with the request for a particular pasta and cheese.

                                                                  We were given slices of pretty ordinary Rye-Sourdough bread served with Italian Olive Oil.

                                                                  First course was the Capesante - Hervey Bay Scallops with Aglio Bianco, Grapes, Apples, Witlof and Cauliflower. The scallops were sliced thin and served crudo style. Perhaps a few too many elements but the apple made sense and the others didn't detract from dish.

                                                                  Lingua - Chargrilled Veal Tongue with Banga Cauda, House Truffles Dwarf Peaches, Pickles and Smoked Salt was next. Not sure if I liked the sweet peaches with the savory banga cauda but the peaches and grilled tongi was nice.

                                                                  Our pasta course was Fregola with Prawns, Squid Ink, Mussel Butter, Bottarga, Chili and Basil. We specifically requested this dish to be included in our meal and we weren't disappointed. Particularly impressive about the dish was the deep seafood flavor it exhibited but between the prawns (perfectly cooked), mussel butter (great idea), squid ink and bottarga I wasn't too surprised.

                                                                  Our main was the Maiale - Pork Cheeks with Jerusalem Artichoke, Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms, Prunes, Spelt and Hazelnuts. Earthy, savory and satisfying especially on an autumn evening, this was a nice secondi.

                                                                  We were given an option between a classic or composed cheese course. We chose a composed and were presented with a Monte Veronese Panna Cotta with Quince Paste, Pine Nut Brittle, Vinocotto and Pane Carasan. We really enjoyed the chef's composed cheese course, especially the addition of the pine nut brittle.

                                                                  Dessert was Castagna - Chestnuts with Valrhona Chocolate, Coffee, Marsala, Currants and Cumquats. Again, an unnecessarily complicated dessert but we enjoyed the use of Valrhona chocolate. Overall, we thought Osteria R&R was a good restaurant with a talented chef with potential to improve. While we respected the thought behind the dishes we felt much of the food was counterintuitive to the philosophy behind most Italian food, simplicity and use of the best possible ingredients. Hopefully, with time and feedback the chef and restaurant will continue to evolve it's cuisine.

                                                                  1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                    Day 11 began with the usual Flat White, this time from Mecca Espresso.

                                                                    Took the train to Newtown to visit Black Star Pastry. Line was manageable when we arrived (Monday morning) but quickly grew after we ordered. Definitely caught a bit of attitude from the woman working the counter but didn't let her rolling eyes bother us. The Lamb Shank and Red Wine Pie was delicious minus the large bone that caught me off guard. Not sure if this was normal but seemed like an oversight on their end...Sausage Roll with tomato sauce was better than average but IMO not quite as good as the version from Bourke Street Bakery. Finally, no trip here would be complete without a slice of the famous Strawberry-Watermelon Cake. Overall, quite pleased with the flavor. Liked the rose flavored filling and the fruit kept the cake moist and surprisingly light. If I had one critique (besides it's price) I thought the cake itself reminded me of the cakes found in many Cantonese bakeries. Perhaps it was the combination of fruit and cottony texture of the cake but that was the comparison that immediately came to mind.

                                                                    Lunch was at the bar area at Rockpool Bar & Grill. Ordered both the Blackmore Full Blood Burger and the Greenham Grass Fed Burger to compare. Both were cooked medium rare (would've thought the Wagyu would be cooked medium) and both preferred the grass fed burger. The Wagyu burger was a bit fattier as one would expect but it was the more prominent flavor of the grass fed burger that we preferred. IMO we prefer the Black Label Burger from Minetta Tavern with its dry aged flavor and texture to both of these burgers. Another complaint was that the pickle was very assertive which is okay, but when paying premium for a burger I want to taste the beef, not a pickle. Hand Cut Chips were fine, a bit too chunky for our tastes and the Onion Rings were good. To finish we split a slice of Catherine's Passionfruit Pavlova. For what it's worth, this was the best pavlova I've ever had and despite being filled from the burgers we had no problem cleaning the plate.

                                                                    Once again we found ourselves in Surry Hills for dinner at Billy Kwong. Had an 8 PM reservation and was seated at a snug two top near the front window. Backless stools were fine with me but might not go over so well with others. Seating was also tight, as in NYC tight. Again, fine with us but this was the first Sydney restaurant we observed this lack of space. Being only two of us, we only ordered four dishes. We began with a reoccurring special, Wok Fried Rice Noodles with Braised Beef Brisket and Fermented Black Beans. Slightly reminiscent to the popular dim sum steamed rice noodles this had added texture from being fried in the wok. A good starter. Next was Homestyle Fried Biodynamic Eggs with Organic Tamari and House XO Sauce. eaten with a gigantic serving of steamed Jasmine Rice, this was delicious. The yolks were still runny and the heat from the xo sauce made for an excellent egg prep. Finished with Kylie's signature Crisp Skin Pasture-Fed Duck with Native Quongdong and Organic Plums. This was about as good of non-Peking style Chinese duck prep as we've had. Loved the fruit and spices against the crispy skin and moist meat. Finished with a pot of Jasmine Tea and a side of Steamed Organic Chinese Greens with Organic Tamari for good measure. Service was okay but very hurried and the restaurant was packed. We appreciated the server apologizing for the slow service and was told the former Prime Minister was eating a few tables away.

                                                                    Walked down the street for dessert at Gelato Messina. We stuck to classic flavors and ordered a scoop of Coffee and and Dulche de Leche. Both were very good as we ate our order in the park across the street.

                                                                    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                      Day 12 began with a morning Bridge Climb which took longer than I remembered. We grabbed coffees and croissants from a bakery who's name escapes me. We enjoyed beautiful weather but were running really late for a planned lunch at Mamak. We snuck inside just before they literally turned the sign around and locked the doors. Service was prompt but pleasant despite being the last table for lunch service. Started with the obligatory Roti Canai. Served with two curries and a dab of sambal this was an excellent version compared to the versions at most Malaysian restaurants in NYC. Fluffy and crispy, it's obvious why the rotis are the restaurant's signature dishes. We samples both the Chicken and Beef Satay served with a Peanut Sauce. The smokey flavor from being chargrilled was nice but we thought these to be fairly average to the satay we eat back home. We split a few pieces if Ayam Goreng and an order of the Mee Goreng. Again, both dishes were fine but nothing special. Actually, we were a little disappointed by the lack of "wok hai" in the Mee Goreng. Amazed that they allowed us to order the Roti Bom (20 minutes as per instructions) it was worth every cent and then some. Having no dessert roti back home, this was billed as the richest and decedent of the dessert selections. Extra thick and buttery this roti was just amazing. Especially great was the layer of caramelized sugar, which almost mimicked a Kouign Amann and other laminated pastries. Served "a la mode" this was about as indulgent as one can imagine but just fantastic.

                                                                      Dinner was at Sepia which I can only describe as a disappointment. Having read comments about their somewhat rigid pairings, we decided to go by the glass route which was okay, but the front of the house was severely understaffed which resulted in several courses where we had empty glasses. Chef Benn and his wife were not in the restaurant as it was his birthday but the repeated use of several ingredients, odd flavor profiles and heavy reliance in Japanese products left is rather unimpressed.

                                                                      Amuses were: Cornet of Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Horseradish Crème Fraîche and Dehydrated Heirloom Cherry Tomato with Tomato "Nectar," Tomato Dust and Micro Basil. Both were good, the cornet perhaps being a slight homage to Thomas Keller's Salmon Cornets. However, the tomato amuse seemed more like the kitchen wanting to show off it's technical skill than focusing on flavor. I had to wonder why not serve a better tomato like Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns or if focusing on technique - concentrate flavor like Ferran and Albert Adria?

                                                                      I hadn't yet eaten oysters on this trip and ordered a few NSW Premium Rock Oysters with Lime and Rice Vinaigrette. Good, but not as briny as some Atlantic varieties. Furthermore, like at many Australian restaurants, many serve oysters "dressed" which for someone like me who prefers the natural flavors, tend to be muddled with such preps.

                                                                      First courses were: Sashimi of Yellowfin Tuna with Jamon Iberico Cream, Hatsuka Radish, Apple, Wasabi and Pork Crackling an Scarlett Prawns with Heirloom Tomato, White Cucumber, Crème Fraîche, Tempura Batter and Matcha Tea Oil. The sashimi was one of my favorite courses of the night. I liked the prawn course more conceptually than how it was executed. Aside from the first of several repeated ingredients, I would've preferred more bitterness from the matcha oil.

                                                                      Second courses were: House Made Chèvre with Rhubarb, Beetroot, Rye and Native Violets and "Scallop Sushi" with Nori rolled Scallops, Avocado Cream, Pickled Ginger and Puffed Sushi Rice. The chèvre course was a beautiful but IMO an upscale version of beet and goat cheese salad. The rye crumbs did provide good texture. The scallop sushi course was my favorite of the meal. Inventive, technique-driven but most importantly delicious, I wish the rest of the meal was of the same caliber.

                                                                      Third course was "Sashimi" of Bonito with Flavors of Roasted Chicken, Umeboshi, Upland Cress, Green Tea and Nori. A dish with clashing flavor profiles (IMO), I was confused why chef chose to incorporate the rich chicken cream to an already bold flavored fish (bonito). Perhaps this was a case of one too many components (I liked the umeboshi) but the green tea and nori combined to form a mess of a dish.

                                                                      Scampi grilled over charcoal with Sudachi, Myoga, Lemon Aspen, Salanova, Fried Battered Kombu and Mitsuba. Fried kombu felt like its sole purpose was to provide texture and not as much for its flavor the scampi was small but fine. However, compared to the langoustines in Spain or France these scampi just lacked flavor and were minuscule. I thought Benn was backed by on of Sydney's top seafood wholesalers. If so, these were an embarrassment, as I've had superior versions (admittedly from New Zealand) at restaurants in the US (Per Se off the top of my head).

                                                                      Seared David Blackmore Wagyu Beef with Nameko Mushrooms, Roasted Red Onion Jus, Oba Leaf, Fried Potato, Kombu Crumb and Citrus Soy and Roasted Corn Fed Chicken with Charcoal Grilled Scampi, Pine Mushrooms, Heart of Palm and Nasturtium were our next courses. We both preferred the chicken between the two. My main gripe aside from the repeated inclusion of a crispy kombu element was how thinly the beef was cut as to almost deprive us from fully enjoying the quality of the Blackmore beef. Maybe it was done to counter the richness of the Wagyu, but I was not impressed. The chicken was better but still confused by the inclusion of the scampi.

                                                                      Final savory was Seared Mandagery Creek Venison with Sansho Pepper, Caramelized Jerusalem Artichoke, Pumpkin and Raspberry. The venison was very good, pleasantly gamey and cooked rare. The pairing of game and fruit such as raspberry in this dish was stellar, however, I couldn't help but think it clashed with the sansho pepper.

                                                                      We supplemented cheese and were served Pyengana Cheddar with Plum Wine and Apple Pectin, Sheep Yogurt and Pear Cream. A fine composed cheese course. Another highlight of the meal.

                                                                      First dessert was Pear and Sheep Yogurt Sorbet with Ginger Spice Crumb and Fennel Snow. A fine dessert but the back to back pear and sheep yogurt combo was a bit monotonous.

                                                                      Autumn Chocolate Forest with too many components to list looked better than it tasted. So many components (chocolate, almond, hazelnut, lavender, shiso, green tea, licorice, fennel) made for one muddled bite after another. Disappointing.

                                                                      I had emailed earlier in the week and requested the off menu but signature Japanese Stones. These looked amazing and were a technical standout. Better yet they tasted better than the faux stones we were served at Mugaritz. Flavors were Passionfruit, Pear and 72% Soft Chocolate.

                                                                      Petits fours were two pieces of chocolate and mint fondant.

                                                                      As few additional observations. Front of the house was very understaffed which resulted in empty water (we drink sparkling) and wine glasses and odd timing from the kitchen as to firing of various courses.

                                                                      The restrooms are located outside of the restaurant (okay, I've been to plenty of hotel restaurants with similar facilities) but the men's restroom was particularly small which led to a queue towards the end of my meal.

                                                                      Bread service (Japanese Steamed Milk Rolls) were excellent and served warm. Very similar to a bread we ate at Azurmendi in Spain.

                                                                      Overall: there is no doubt that Chef Benn is a very technical chef. His use of technique and precision is evident in his food as well as his plating. Additionally, his knowledge of Japanese flavor products is impressive in a country that lacks world caliber Japanese cuisine. However, the repeated use of ingredients throughout the meal was a bit shocking and uninspiring. Also, IMO his dependence on Japanese ingredients led to some interesting flavor profiles, many of which we were less than impressed with. We are not Japanese nor claim to be experts in Japanese food but I've lived in Tokyo before and am familiar with most of the ingredients we encountered so I find it less likely of this being a case of one who is unfamiliar with particular flavors. Again, I have no doubt but to think I'm in the minority and chalk our experience up to an off night when the chef wasn't in the house (known to happen to the best chefs Passard etc.) but I'm only reporting our experience which we ultimately found poor, especially from a restaurant of this reputation and price point. I can only hope our experience was an outlier.

                                                                      1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                        Last official day in Sydney meant breakfast and a quick snack before having to catch an afternoon flight to Melbourne.

                                                                        Having been told the menu was changing I decided to revisit Devon Cafe. Flat Whites ordered we were greeted by the same server I met during my first visit who happily went over the new menu with us. We split both dishes: Little Lost Bread was a Peanut Butter and Jelly Brioche French Toast with Banana, Nutella and Peanut Butter Ice Cream and the much hyped Breakfast with the Sakuma's with Miso Grilled King Salmon, Smoked Eel Croquette, 63 Degree Egg, Radish Salad and Kewpie Mayonnaise. The French toast was more a dessert than brunch. Between the toast, ice cream and Nutella the dish was way too sweet. We understood the concept and the dish seemed very popular but for our tastes it was overkill. A side of Bacon was generous and gave an Elvis like feel to the dish. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the Sakuma dish. The salmon was cooked well, a tad over for my preference, but far from being dry. The egg had been cooked sous vide with a fudge-like yolk consistency. The croquette lacked too much flavor but lent texture and the salad provided some acidity and balanced the rich dish.

                                                                        Stopped by Flour and Stone before hailing a taxi for the airport. Ended up eating the Panna Cotta Lamington and Chocolate and Salted-Caramel Tart in the airport and were impressed with both.

                                                                        Overall, a great trip to Sydney. Wife really enjoyed herself and was impressed with the city. Having not been back in over seven years my trip was both nostalgic but fascinating to see how much has changed. Food wise, we had some disappointments (Sepia), some surprises (Rockpool) across a wide range of experiences. While Quay was our favorite overall meal, our experiences at Sixpenny and Cafe Paci were more similar to the restaurants we frequent back home. If interested about reading my trip reports I'll continue to writing in my Melbourne thread.

                                                                        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                          Great reports - just returned (home) to Sydney so this is really good info.

                                                                          Disappointing about Sepia as it was our favourite from four years back.

                                                                          Keen to hear about Melbourne as you did such a great job in Sydney with good and interesting choices.

                                                                          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                            Many Australians have a late brunch and like really, really sweet stuff - so its probably a reflection on Australian brunch rather than the cafe. There'll always be something like that on a brunch menu, at my local it's pancakes with blueberry jam and cream and maple syrup

                                                              2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                Glad you enjoyed Quay..

                                                            2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                              I tried Nomad recently and also thought it was a bit mixed. We could only get a early table, and are told its a two hour slot. We also asked if the kitchen would course out the order and were told they would, if not we would have ordered dishes sequentially.

                                                              However, we received the first two dishes very quickly, then almost instantly the third, so half the food in the first ten minutes of the meal. We had to ask them to slow down. It was also slightly irritating to not be told the order of bread (at $2.50 a slice) was superfluous as the pate came with lots of toast.

                                                              We also noticed the attempt to speed us up by refilling our wine glasses every time a waiter walked past which makes you drink faster....at the rate they did it the glass would have overflowed if we hadn't. A real pet peeve of mine if a glass that is three quarters full. We tried to slow them down but they kept doing it so wore us down!

                                                              So the food. The bread was good, but I thought the black salt butter lacked flavour. Our chickpea dish was good, moist chickpeas with a good crust, but after a while they are one dimensional and could do with a dip. The foie gras and chicken liver parfait didn't taste much of foie gras but it was still pretty good with good accompaniments including great toast. Arabic beef tartare was serviceable, it's one of those mix yourself dishes, and I never get this as I want a chef to balance the dish for me. There mix has some North African twists and no egg, the lack of the egg seems to detract enormously from the dish as it doesn't bind and the texture is wrong. It's served with handmade crisps which are far too salty.....the traditional frites would have been far better.

                                                              BBQ carrots with almond dukkah and labna is very good, although the white carrots are bland compared to the orange ones. The best dish is the smoked pork empanadas with Harissa, the filling is great and the pastry texture perfect. I could eat these all day but at $15 for two I may need to hold myself back. We finish with Nomad Jersey Milk Haloumi, the cheese is a little too subtle for me, as I prefer more bit. The dressing is good although a little oily.

                                                              The wine list is very good, we have a couple of glasses of white a Arneis from Thick as Thieves and a bottle of GSM from Head Red. I hadn't tried an Arneis before and it was good. The bill for two was just over $200 which I felt was a bit much for the amount of food and complexity of the cooking - especially as we stayed away from the higher end of the menu and didn't have any fish or meat main courses. Sydney has got really expensive over the years and is far worse value than London or Paris these days. It's a decent restaurant but good value - I am not certain - charging for bread is a pet irritant of mine. I wonder if Australia is due a correction on restaurant pricing much like happened in a London a few years ago.

                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                Charging for bread is my preferred test for a hateful restaurant, one that sullenly tolerates your presence to pay their operating costs.

                                                                I have been waiting for a correction for a while now. I think it will take an economic shock though; restaurants face high rents, staff costs which are inflexible, and a fickle dining public that doesn't honour reservations. That said, they can also harbour the avaricious and mean-spirited who shouldn't be in hospitality.

                                                                Latest chicken little article in today's SMAge is the introduction on PIN-only card machines ('PIN only law may end tips')

                                                                1. re: mr_gimlet

                                                                  Plus the 1.75% charge for using a credit card and the high charge for sparking filtered waterer from a tap (which is often free in European restaurants) it starts to irritate.

                                                                  Add the the high price of each dish and the fact it is sharing plates (so you over order) and it starts to become very expensive for what it is.

                                                                  But it was rammed with two sittings on Saturday so the money is there.

                                                                  I was reflecting on the price of restaurant wine and the large number of BYO places this weekend. When I got to Aus wine was about $14 for a decent red, equivalent now is probably $28. In those days the bottom of the list was in the late teens, now it seems to be in the early 50's. It seems the mark-ups have really crept up.

                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                    The markup has moved disproportionately to wine. Food prices haven't changed a lot in five years. I remember Ampersand in Sydney had a fifty dollar dessert.

                                                                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                                                                      Hope any/all of my comments relating to price doesn't come off as uninformed. I was and still am aware of prices in Sydney restaurants but hopefully framed those comments in the context of comparative value.

                                                                      1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                                                        For me, you just prompted a broader discussion about Sydney (and Australian) prices - no offence taken.

                                                                    2. re: PhilD

                                                                      Seeing how a number if NYC restaurants are now charging for bread I don't mind so long as it's good. Otherwise I wish the restaurant did away with it altogether and pass the savings along to the customers.

                                                                      Re credit card transaction fee, I feel this outrageous. Quay in particular is an expensive restaurant which is assume few pay with cash and benefit directly from this practice. I hope this does not spread to NYC.

                                                                    3. re: mr_gimlet

                                                                      Just read the Age article. Usual pro-tipping nonsense written by someone who probably used to be a server. Skimmed the comments and a high percentage were anti-tipping.

                                                                    4. re: PhilD

                                                                      One thing I may for forgotten to mention about Nomad was that despite knowing the restaurant's two turn table policy, were not informed that we could order as we go and incorrectly assumed we didn't have to order at once. Most small plate restaurants in NYC require taking your complete order which is yet another annoying practice.

                                                            3. Thanks for following up with all the reports. Really must try Cafe Paci.

                                                              1. Good coffee guide in todays SMH for the CBD - http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/...

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                  Thanks for posting that PhilD. Lots of decent places opened recently in the city. One of my favourites is Ground Central at the Quay...open weekends too which makes it a godsend for us bus drivers.