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March 2014 Sydney Trip Recap

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Just returned from 2.5 weeks in Australia, visiting Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. Since I get a lot of ideas on where to eat from these boards, I thought I'd provide feedback on what I ate for others who might be planning a trip.

Here's my report on Sydney. Keep in mind that my plans were hampered a bit by nearly daily rain during my six days there. :( My recaps will include so known places and a few Asian places.

LOVED
** Six Penny -- This restaurant in Stanmore neighborhood is pretty hard to find, and I think they planned it that way because everyone dining there came specifically to eat there, no walk-ins. I went for a Saturday lunch, and the service is top-notch, like any Michelin-starred restaurant, and the tasting menu (or degustation, which seems to be the preferred term in Australia) was delightful and filling. I thought all the dishes were creative and beautifully plated, and each one is brought to the table by the kitchen crew, including once from the main chef, which I thought was a nice touch. I think my favorite was a pork cheeks pastrami and a kingfish crudo.
** Shancheng Hotpot King -- A friend took me to get Sichuan food in this place in Chinatown/Haymarket. While most people do the hot pot, we just ordered a few dishes. Do not get the pig's ears because right now they don't seem to be doing it well, but everything else was great, from the fu chi fei pian (beef and tripe) to the pickled cucumbers. We had soup noodles as well that was a big bowl and well done.
** Black Star Pastry -- Definitely go for the strawberry-watermelon cake (so beautiful and so tasty) but their meat pies are also really good, nice flakey shell and delicious filling. Not much seating so you end up sitting on crate boxes outside, but still worth it.
** 10 William St. -- While I really thought the food was nicely done, this is a very pricey spot. You end up paying a lot for the portion sizes, which seems to lean on the small side because this really is considered a wine bar, where you just have a drink and a few small bites and then go somewhere else for dinner. Still, very nice pasta dishes and crudos like the interesting scallop and mangosteen I ordered.

GOOD
** Sonoma Bakery Cafe in Bondi -- It rained at the beach, but the bright spot was when I went to this casual cafe and ordered an salmon crostini that was this huge plate of food on toasted bread (they're known for their fresh bread). The ingredients were bright and of highest quality.
** Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam -- Inside the Regent Place business tower in CBD (near Cross City Tunnel), this Malaysian fast-casual spot was a nice lunch spot. I enjoyed trying my first sedap and curry chicken, and fell in love with my order of frothy tarick tea.
** Ester-- In the up-and-coming Chippendale area, this place was really happening with a lot of regulars and friendly bar staff. The food is very close to the local, sustainable preparations done here in the San Francisco Bay Area, so felt very comfortable eating here. Heavy on vegetables, so good if you're not a meat eater. Loved the pickled mussels and whole cauliflower, and even the honey duck had amazing skin.

DON'T BOTHER
** Golden Century Seafood -- In a panic while strolling Chinatown I came here for dinner based on recommendations I read in a chef's travel food book. The food is definitely fresh here but extremely extremely expensive. They do a lot of non-Asian clientele and many of the dishes are banquet size, so wasn't great for me as a solo diner. I had read about a specialty of green-lip abalone steamboat with noodles but couldn't find it on the menu, and anyway it probably would have been outrageously pricey as all the fresh seafood seem to be. Still, I had a decent seafood tofu casserole with fresh gailan for dinner.

You can see a few of my photos and in-depth reports on some of these places on my blog. If you're reading this in the future, just click on the "travel" label to get all my travel reports from Australia.

http://focussnapeat.com

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  1. funnily enough most the of the Asian celebrity chefs in this town ....including David Chang when he's visiting - love Golden Century ...although being open very late helps. The pipis in xo are especially well reviewed

    9 Replies
    1. re: grapsta

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the "open late" comment. There are a few chefs favourites (BBQ King in Goulburn St is another) in Sydney but few are great - the reason chefs like them is they are the only places still serving when they clock off.

      1. re: PhilD

        Bbq King is rubbish these days ...although the duck might be ok.

        1. re: grapsta

          I actually didn't think it was that great 15 years ago - although the duck was the exception - but it is open late....!

      2. re: grapsta

        Yes, I saw that about David Chang and Golden Century. And I learned about Golden Century from that "Where Do Chefs Eat" book. I wonder if chefs going there get "special treatment" where they get a lot of off-menu items, so makes it seem more worthwhile to them? On another note, I wish I had more pipis while I was in Australia! :(

        1. re: singleguychef

          I think you were right in your first post - that their 'good' dishes are generally for more than one and include seafood, which is expensive

        2. re: grapsta

          any better recommendations for cantonese in syndey? and more specifically, any particular dishes, other than the frequently recommended pipis in XO?

          1. re: psychoandy

            It would be good to know - during my last sojourn in Sydney I thought even the much lauded Cantonese food was average at best.

            Anyone know how Mr Wong is stacking up lots of awards and positive reviews - and I see Dan Hong (Mr Wong's chef) is going to open in Hong Kong (a place called Ho Lee Fook - apparently means good fortune for your mouth....mmmmh!).

            1. re: PhilD

              A bit like the UK, it was good by 1990 standards. To me, it just doesn't stack up any more.

              [Cynicism on] Dan Hong wins awards because he is an ubercool tattooed hipster who is in magazines a lot and cooks brussel sprouts (hipster vegetable of the year)

              1. re: mr_gimlet

                Well I was less than impressed by MsG's when I tried it - and was a little cynical about TOYS after a few meals in their lauded restaurants. Agree about the tats and hipster image thing....after all cooking is the new rock and roll.

                However, I do love brussels sprouts....we are seeing them on Pizza here in HK...!