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Sydney Restaurant Recommendations


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#1 Hasmi

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Posted 15 April 2002 - 06:56 AM

Hi All,

Having stumbled upon this section for the first time. I thought what better way is there to ask the 'experts' where the best places to eat are in Sydney and Cairns.

It will be my first visit there.
Going in May for my HoneyMoon ...ahhhh  :biggrin:

5 days or so in each location.

Need some really nice places. Do not mind paying the price as long as it is decent grub (by that I mean not parsley on a plate!)

Any suggestions would be so very appreciated.
Bye for now...
H

#2 Heather

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Posted 15 April 2002 - 05:39 PM

Hi! Thanks for visiting our Australia board.

I'm afraid I've yet to have a particularly memorable meal in Cairns. Port Douglas, a small resort town a short drive north of Cairns, is your best bet for good food in Far North Queensland. Lots of simply prepared local seafood and tropical produce, served in some glorious locations. The key is sticking to simple fare, where flavours are left to speak for themselves. There are no culinary geniuses up here, but there are a few very good cooks.

I recommend On the Inlet - a casual place, built over the water, with a beautiful view. It is a fish shop, takeaway and restaurant all rolled into one. Options include fish and chips to go, or a simple seafood meal in the restaurant. The dining room is indoor-outdoor - open on all sides, but undercover. Great place for a leisurely meal, and for kicking back for a whole afternoon, watching the sealife in the water below, and the boats coming in. On the Inlet used to serve sunset specials - buckets of freshly boiled prawns, for instance, for a very low price. I would imagine they still do. Great tropical, beachy holiday atmosphere. Relaxing. Excellent food, if you stick with the simple stuff - prawn buckets, natural oysters, fish and chips, seafood platters. I've heard from reliable sources that On the Inlet also does a mean fish curry, now.

For something fancier - but not too full-on - try Sassi Cucina. I've not eaten there; only at its previous incarnation, Sassi Island Point, which was enjoyable. Same proprietor-chef. Simple, Italian-ish food. Open lunch and dinner, breakfast on Sundays. Here's their website, which will give you an indication of menu and location (water views). On the site, there are a couple of quite recent reviews sourced from Australian newspapers. Here's the address:

http://www.sassi.com.au

A Port Douglas restaurant, dinner only, that gets a lot of press is Nautilus (where Bill and Hil dined during their '96 Aussie tour). It is a romantic setting - outdoors, amid tropical foliage, lit entirely by candlelight. No music, only the sound of frogs and beetles. I've seen it, but not eaten there, on account of having heard and read that the food is ordinary, a bit passe and a let-down in such a magical setting. I've also heard people say their meal at Nautilus was their favourite ever, although these are people who would serve macaroni cheese at a dinner-party.

Other Far North Queensland food experiences to look out for as you travel around:

The home-made ice-cream guy at Kuranda Markets. He makes his ice-creams from local tropical fruits, some of them quite unusual.

Yum Yums - the local fruiterer at Mossman - sells many of the tropical fruits grown at farms in the area.

If you're really into food, you may want to take a tour of a local tropical fruit farm. If this sounds interesting, I can source details for you. There's a cut-out article somewhere in my file.


OK, now Sydney. You could eat out here lunch and dinner for at least a week, and continue to be blown away by the quality of the food.

Book now for a meal at Tetsuya's. Australia's greatest-ever chef. Multiple small courses. Amazing!

Some people rate Rockpool right up there with Tetsuya's, so you may want to book a meal there, too - ASAP.

A personal favourite is Sailors Thai Canteen, Australia's best Thai restaurant. It's in The Rocks, a central historic precinct that you would likely visit anyway. Communal table, no reservation required (or taken, for that matter). So devoted to authenticity that coconut milk is prepared from scratch, and the owner contracts farmers in Far North Queensland to grow suitable tropical produce. Open kitchen, modern fit-out, harbour glimpses, friendly staff, speedy service. There are reviews on both my site (www.hgworld.com) and co-moderator Roger's (www.foodtourist.com).

A protege of Sailors Thai's owner has opened Longrain, a funky Thai restaurant in Surry Hills. Hip crowd, sort of tapas-bar concept. Brilliant food. If you think it might survive the trip home, buy a jar of their chilli jam to go.

Consider having breakfast or lunch at Balmoral, at either Watermark or Bathers Pavilion. Balmoral is a sheltered harbour beach shaded by massive old fig trees. A foreshore reserve stretches the length of the beach, with Bathers Pavilion at one end, and Watermark at the other. Both afford mesmerising views of the beach and harbour. Being on the reserved, moneyed "north shore", the restaurants are classy but not flashy, and the food beautifully done and modern but not ground-breaking.

With most tourists heading to a more famous harbourside eatery at Watsons Bay, Balmoral is peaceful and it'll likely be just you and the locals. Both restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. I suggest eating breakfast and/or lunch at Balmoral because, during winter, it gets too dark too early to enjoy the water views over dinner. I've always thought a great thing to do, for visitors to Sydney, would be to take a water taxi from the city to Balmoral on a particularly fine day. Enjoy breakfast at either Watermark or Bathers, linger over your meal, loaf around on the beach or under the foreshore figs for a while, and enjoy lunch at the eatery at the other end of the beach. Just a thought!

bills - a cafe in inner-city Darlinghurst - is famous for its breakfasts. Scrambled eggs deemed "world's best" by the New York Times. I've always had terrific food there, although a new eGullet user seems to have had a bad bills experience. Whether you eat at bills or not, take home a copy of cook Bill Granger's "Sydney Food" cookbook - available at most Aussie bookstores. It's a great Sydney souvenir.

Yum cha/dim sum (lunch) in Chinatown might be a goer, especially if you're in Sydney over a weekend. Weekend yum cha has become as much a tradition outside the Chinese community as it is within, in Sydney. Kam Fook, a mega Chinatown yum cha palace, is excellent. You may have to queue up to 45 minutes, but all the better to meet the locals. If you happen to be vegetarian or vegan, you might want to try Bodhi, a vegan buddhist yum cha place in a CBD harbourside park. Al fresco dining areas have water views. Captain Phillip Park, perhaps? I'll find the address, if you'd like it. Veggie heaven, but scary as all hell to meat-lovers.

I'm sure others will have myriad Sydney suggestions. Go with recommendations, and be wary of taking a punt on harbourside eateries. Often, the food is wretched and the bill enormous.

#3 andrew_j_craig

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Posted 25 April 2002 - 06:39 PM

Heather's Sydney suggestions are excellent.  To them I would add only a couple:

- For premium seafood (at premium but warranted prices) with Harbour views, I would suggest "Pier" at Rose Bay. Excellent service and wine list.  To be preferred to Catalina's which is a stone's throw away

- For wonderfully priced, very smart French bistro food for which you might easily expect to pay 50% more, I would suggest "Becasse" in Surry Hills

- Also in Surry Hills, only 5 mins from the city centre, is an excellent "modern Chinese" called Billy Kwongs.  Very very good.

- For the best in "modern Australian" (without erring into misconceived "Pacific rim fusion") I would add "Celsius" at the Radisson Hotel in the City - very very good degustation menu for $A110 ($US60)

#4 Heather

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Posted 28 April 2002 - 04:18 PM

Hi Hasmi

The ANA hotel is in the Rocks district, and many rooms have excellent harbour views, encompassing the bridge and Opera House. Very handy to Sailors Thai and Rockpool.

On the hotel's top floor, there's a Japanese restaurant, Unkai, which also offers excellent views. Quality of the sushi is variable enough that I'm not inclined to recommend eating dinner at the restaurant.

However, if you're planning to eat breakfast at the hotel, I do suggest avoiding the downstairs buffet (average) and enjoying a Japanese-style breakfast on the hotel's top floor, with the Japanese guests. I haven't stayed at the ANA for a year, but I assume they're still serving Japanese breakfasts on the upper floor.

Regards, Heather

BTW, I second Andrew's recommendation re Pier. Eaten there only once, but it was a memorable meal.

#5 Roger McShane

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Posted 29 April 2002 - 04:18 AM

I support Heather's comments about Unkai. One of the best views in Sydney, but the three meals we had there last year were all disappointing.
Roger McShane
Foodtourist.com

#6 Niall

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Posted 02 May 2002 - 07:13 PM

I hope this sin't too late to be of use, but I would certainly recommend everything thats gone before; except to say that for honeymooners; Watermark would have to take preference over Bathers for Brekkie in Balmoral; fewer kids, and an excellent list of Champagnes.

Other of my fav goodies are The Boathouse on Blackwattle bay; a fantastic fish place that does an excellent snapper pie, Yum Cha at Kam Fook in Market City in Chinatown; just get there before 10:30.

Avoid the Summit like the Plague. There are far too many good restaurants in Sydney to waste time at a truly disgusting Revolving one.. I've heard too many people who come to Sydney as tourists saying they want to go there..

If you get stuck while in Sydney, pop into a bookshop and have a read of the SMH Good Food guide; it's usually a pretty good indicator.
'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#7 Roger McShane

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Posted 04 May 2002 - 03:41 AM

Yum Cha at Kam Fook in Market City in Chinatown; just get there before 10:30.

It looks like we are all in agreement. But, just a word of warning. I also love the yum cha at the Kam Fook. It is rare outside Hong Kong to find a place that can seat 1000 where there is a queue and where the food is very, very good. But!! They do not take credit cards here. You have to pay cash!
Roger McShane
Foodtourist.com

#8 Niall

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Posted 02 September 2002 - 05:46 PM

It's that time of year again;

Three hats: Claudes, MG, quay, Rockpool, tetsuyas
Others: SMH website

Quay got restaurant of the year; I'll have to put it on the goto list for this year. It was good to see Becasse make the 1 hats.

I've had a quick look at the Age website, but can't find much menbtion of the melbourne awards.
'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#9 Rosie

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Posted 02 September 2002 - 07:22 PM

Thanks for the posting. I'll be in Sydney next May and I think I will be staying at the Sheraton. How easy is it to get to these places and how far in advance would I need to make reservations?
Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"
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#10 Roger McShane

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Posted 03 September 2002 - 04:42 AM

Hi Rosie
I was pleased to see that Quay got a 'promotion' this year. It derserves it. I have had some wonderful food there this year. The old favourites such as Rockpool, Tetsuya's, Claudes and MG Garage also deserve their awards.
You can ewalk to most of them from the Sheraton and Claudes and MG are a fifteen minute taxi ride.
You can get in to most of them easily except Tetsuya's. You should book ahead.
Good to see Aqua Luna, Becasse, Sailors Thai, Tabou etc all doing well.
Melbourne results are more problematic. Ondine did well but I had a very average meal there. Ezard at Adelphi also gets accolades but I just don't understand the food!
Flower Drum is good as always. Look also for Bamboo House, Cafe di Stasio, Becco, Chez Phat, Sud and France Soir.
Roger McShane
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#11 Niall

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Posted 03 September 2002 - 04:16 PM

I second most of what Roger says except that Claudes and Balzac are now the two with waiting lists; tetsuyas can still be problematic, but much easier than before; I've heard of people getting Friday bookings on the wednesday before.

Theres probably only 3 or 4 places that are more than 25 minutes from either Sheraton.
'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#12 Heather

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Posted 11 September 2002 - 02:05 AM

Hi Rosie

The Blue Mountains is a fantastic day trip out of Sydney. If you've not seen much of Sydney before, you might want to do just the one day trip out of town and spend the rest of your time seeing Sydney itself.

Balmoral Beach, a sheltered harbour beach, is beautiful. A couple of excellent restaurants there serving breakfast, lunch, dinner. Bathers Pavillion at one end of the beach; Watermark at the other. A waterfront promenade, much of it shaded by old fig trees, connects the two restaurants. You could take a water taxi there from the city, or a 10-minute cab ride.

Cliff-top walk between Bondi and Bronte beaches. Despite it's icon status, Bondi is really not that special anymore. However, the walk between Bondi and Bronte is spectacular. Bondi is maybe a 15-minute cab ride from the city.

Sydney's botanic gardens are right on the harbour near the Opera House. Views galore.

A harbour cruise is an option, but beware the mass-market ones with canned commentary and near-inedible buffet lunches. Bad, bad, bad. You're better to take a water taxi somewhere, or a commuter ferry ride. Round trip from Circular Quay to Kirribili affords excellent view of Harbour Bridge and Opera House and takes only about a half hour, so is time effective.

Another mass-market experience to be avoided is dining at the top of Centrepoint Tower. Revolving restaurant. Bad, bad, bad.

Just a few ideas for you. Feel free to PM me for other non-food-related suggestions re touring itinerary.

Kind regards
Heather

#13 Niall

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Posted 11 September 2002 - 11:02 PM

Balmoral Beach, a sheltered harbour beach, is beautiful. A couple of excellent restaurants there serving breakfast, lunch, dinner. Bathers Pavillion at one end of the beach; Watermark at the other. A waterfront promenade, much of it shaded by old fig trees, connects the two restaurants. You could take a water taxi there from the city, or a 10-minute cab ride.

Cliff-top walk between Bondi and Bronte beaches. Despite it's icon status, Bondi is really not that special anymore. However, the walk between Bondi and Bronte is spectacular. Bondi is maybe a 15-minute cab ride from the city.
A harbour cruise is an option, but beware the mass-market ones with canned commentary and near-inedible buffet lunches. Bad, bad, bad. You're better to take a water taxi somewhere, or a commuter ferry ride. Round trip from Circular Quay to Kirribili affords excellent view of Harbour Bridge and Opera House and takes only about a half hour, so is time effective.

... or combine ferry on the harbour and the beach.. get the ferry to Manly at about 5:30pm; about 30 mins trip; then walk down to the beach (3 mins), turn right and around the path down to Shelly beach (max 15 mins), and eat dinner at Le Kiosk; it's not the best seafood in Sydney, but it is very good and the location is amazing. Then get back to the ferry wharf and take the jetcat back to the city and see the lights.

Ferry times can be had at wwww.sydneyferries.nsw.gov.au (pdf file linked)

Also: Map of Manly

The ferry comes in at Manly Wharf, if you walk straight up the Corso you hit the beach.
'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#14 Millikan

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 01:39 PM

My husband and I will be in Sydney for 2.5 weeks in late December (1 year anniversary and holiday vacation!). We are looking for a restaurant for our anniversary dinner - any suggestions? We're looking for romantic, semi-quiet, but really more focused on great food (any kind, just as long as its great!)

Thanks in advance, can't wait to visit your friendly country!!!

And, any suggestions on what we should do while there?

#15 andrew_j_craig

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 11:32 PM

In 2.5 weeks, you'll have a good chance to sample the range of cuisines that Sydney does well. Here are my suggestions:

French (lightened for the warm climate): Quay, Celsius, Claude's, Becasse, Guillaume at Benelong, Bistro Moncur

Thai/Modern Asian (often a blend of Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines): Sailor's Thai (the most authentic Thai), Longrain, Billy Kwong, Rockpool (latter 3 are modern Asian/Australian)

Italian: Lucio's, Otto (the latter more for location than food)

Seafood: Pier, Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay

In its own category: Tetsuya's (plead with your hotel's concierge for a reservation)

All of these restaurants are described on http://sydney.cityse...tion/food_wine/.

As for things to do, anything involving the beach and water are the best things at this time of year. These visitor guide are quite useful - http://sydney.cityse.../visitor-guide/, http://www.tripadvis...outh_Wales.html, and http://www.discovers....com.au/things/

#16 andrew_j_craig

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 11:38 PM

I should have added that any of those would be suitable for an anniversary dinner except Billy Kwong's and Bistro Moncur which are more casual. Depending on your budget, I would choose Tetsuya's, Quay or Lucio's for the "romantic" element.

You should consider contacting the restaurants in advance as many close for a week or so over Christmas/New Year's.

#17 cabrales

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Posted 06 December 2002 - 09:04 AM

There's no question in my mind -- if your budget permits, Tetsuya for the cuisine. (Note for members from other regions -- the cuisine is thankfully better than Mju versions)

However, given the wonderful seafood available in Australia, I wonder if there might be a seafood specialist with a romantic ambiance. :hmmm:

#18 Roger McShane

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 01:28 PM

I think Andrew's summary is a very good one - I agree with all of his suggestions.
My inclination would be the Quay. It is perfectly located with the Sydney Harbour Bridge looming above and the Opera House immediately in front. The food is thoughtful, modern and perfectly executed without being overly fussy.
Tetsuya's is of course a very very good restaurant and well worth a visit if you can get in (we have had reports that it is a bit easier to get a booking on the day).
Roger McShane
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#19 Niall

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Posted 08 December 2002 - 10:27 PM

And of course Quay was this years Sydney Morning Herald restaurant of the year. If you have difficulty getting a booking there try Guillaume at Bennelong. It's in the small "sail" on the opera house and is very good.

All of the other recommendations made so far are great... but just a couple of places to avoid are Cafe Sydney, the Summit and the restaurants in Centrepoint tower.
'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#20 episyd

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 07:44 PM

Excellent list of restaurants given and would only add Bathers Pavillon on Balmoral beach - not a surf beach but one inside Sydney harbour.

Things to do: ferry ride to Manly walk along the corso to Manly beach and have a surf - much prettier than Bondi though I am sure you will have to pop down and have a look at it - make sure you take the cliff walk from the south end of bondi Beach to Tamarama or Coogee Beach - one of the great walks in Sydney.

Walk/promenade along the quay to the Opera House and the Botanical gardens just after dusk - beautiful soft light on the shells of the Opera House - I think there is even an open air movie theatre running during late december/early January in the gardens right on Sydney harbour.

catch a bus to watsons' Bay (just inside South Head), have a beer at the local pub on the harbour and then buy some takeaway fish and chips, sit in the park and watch the yachts and ferries plying the harbour - absolutely stunning.

Normally I'd say that ypou must take a day trip to the Blue Mountains - however because of the drought there is every possibility that there may be a bush fire raging up there - it's al;so pretty hot up there in mid summer.

Walk to the top of the harbour bridge and make sure you are on or next to the harbour close to the quay or the harbour bridge to see the fireworks display on new year's eve.

There's heaps more to do - or not to do - just sunbake and surf at the numerous beaches and think of everyone back home freezing!!

Cheers

Paul from syd

#21 Millikan

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 04:31 PM

Just a quick report back - my husband and I did end up dining at Quay for our anniversary. It was absolutely wonderful - thanks SO MUCH for such a great recommendation.

I never thought I'd say this, but the view really took a back seat to the wonderful food, wine and service. I had a sashimi tuna appetizer that I swear melted in my mouth and my veal was wonderful. Likewise, my husband's food was perfect. We never felt rushed (I think, a more common problem in America - we never really felt rushed our whole time in Australia) and the service was just that great mix of attentive but not intrusive. It was expensive, but for the level of food and service we received, we would have spent twice that much over here!

As a side note, you Sydneysiders live in a beautiful and wonderful city! We had a great time wherever we went (Manly, Bondi (ooh, the fish and chips), watsons bay, bridgeclimb, kings cross, and good Ol' Wahroonga - where family friends live). Living in Seattle, I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by water, but Sydney just puts our views to shame! Thanks again for all your suggestions!

#22 eatingwitheddie

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 04:57 AM

Enjoyed reading your report as we will be in Australia in May. Quay is on my list. How far in advance did you make reservations?

Also, we wanted to take a day trip to the Blue Mountains. Which tour company would you recommend? How far are the Blue Mountains from Sydney?

Simply put Tetsuya is one of the greatest chefs in the world. Having extensively eaten at 3-star Michelin restaurants regularly for 30 years there are few if any chefs on his level - especially since he is essentially self-taught and his food is so specific to him. Maybe Gagnaire is is the same category. If I were you and had the opportunity (and funds) I would go there more than once. Go out of your way and don't miss it even at the expense of missing some of the other really good places. I doubt if any other restaurant in Australia is really in this category. Book now! By the way his cuisine is essentially seafood based.

Also Mr Wakuda himself frequently dines (like every night) at Century, a large Cantonese seafood specialist in Sydney's Chinatown. It is a great place to go and sample the local shellfish: Giant Australian King Crabs, delicious Mud Crabs, Oysters, Jabbies, Bugs, Live Abalone, Live Australian Lobster. I had the pleasure of going there with him and it was indeed memorable. Bring a group if possible as the giant king crabs which are spectacular are also quite large and expensive. Do it though if you crave shellfish like I do.

#23 Wilfrid

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 03:15 PM

I have a couple of questions, the context of which is that I haven't visited Sydney in a few years.

Generally, I'm familiar with Rockpool and I've got the message about Tetsuya. Where else is especially good right now? What do you think is the essential Sydney dining experience outside of the two I mentioned?

More specifically, one thing I have enjoyed in previous visits is exploring cuisine which reflects unusual indigenous ingredients, not to mention unusual indigenous game. I know my quandong from my bunya nut, for example. An endearing little place called Riberries in Darlinghurst used to offer such a menu, as did the more touristy (but still, I thought, good) Wolfie's on the quay. Either of those places still around? Or is there anywhere better for that kind of eating?

I did check the other Sydney threads on the forum here, of course. Thanks for any help, which will be rewarded by my thoughtful and penetrating reports, if I manage to make it there and back. :rolleyes:

#24 Niall

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 10:11 PM

For Chinese seafod, try East Ocean and Golden Century in Chinatown, or Yings on the Lower North Shore. Or if you have self catering accomodation, head down to the fish markets and pick up a couple of live mud crabs. I had a very feisty one for Christmas dinner; He was still active after over an hour in the freezer!

As for what else is good; see the anniversary vacation in Sydney thread. Add Buon Riccordo to the Italian list; I was there just before Christmas and the food was fantastic. All of those lists could just keep going. When you touch down grab a copy of the Good Food Guide.
'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#25 Niall

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Posted 15 January 2003 - 03:25 PM

Lillipilli on King does some good bush tucker type stuff. They have also opened a more touristy version of lillipilli in the centre of Sydney. Apparently a lillipilly and riberry are the same thing. I ate at lillipilli on king about two years and I enjoyed it (but can't remember what I had). I haven't eaten at the rocks one.

I've had a look at my restaurant guides and the phone books, and can't find any mention of riberries though.
'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#26 tony h

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Posted 15 January 2003 - 04:13 PM

In addition to Rockpool, I enjoyed Salt & Banc. There were a few others but I cant remeber their names offhand.

Melbourne was, however, better for food.

#27 Wilfrid

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Posted 16 January 2003 - 01:22 PM

Oh yes, Lillipilli on King hits the spot. Possum!!! I am thinking of e-mailing them and enquiring about a tasting menu. :biggrin:

Edited by Wilfrid, 16 January 2003 - 01:23 PM.


#28 Wilfrid

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 06:35 PM

A typical first day in Sydney, strolling rapturously under the Opera House, my blue eyes shining honey sweet with love. This place brings back many memories, happy and bitter sweet. Last time I was here was before the Olympics, and there are certainly some changes. Some high rise buildings sprung up along the quay, overshadowing the little oyster shack, some hotels vanished, others changed their names. Most of the cute little neighborhood bistros I remember seem to have slipped off the coil or changed their names. L'Aubbergade in Surry Hills, Riberries in Woolamaloo, where are you now?

Also, to my disappointment, the fresh shrimp and lobster rolls on sale around the ferry terminal seem to have been largely displaced by pizzas and cheese 'n' bacon croissants.

My first evening, launched by corny old Australian powerpop - "How can you see looking through those tears, don't you know you're worth your weight in gold" - took me to Sydney's oldest pub, the Fortune of War, thankfully unchanged. Waist-high tiles, a picture on the wall of the bar fight scene from "A Town Called Alice", filmed right there. Schooners of VB. I eschewed the hot, floppy pies which are a sort of scrawled signature dish, and wandered down to the Campbell warehouses, a string of tourist-popular restaurant conversions. I remembered good kangaroo filet and shrimp with lemon myrtle at Wolfie's Grill. It's still there, but the menu's less interesting, and they were disinclined to give up an outside table to a single-top.

So back to Kable's in the Four Seasons. A hotel dining room, with all that means, but a highly rated menu - dishes from the lingua franca of upscale dining, with a focus on local ingredients - haute Australian, I'm going to call this style. Refreshing amuse, a demi tasse of pink watermelon and champagne soup with mango, a dollop cream and some fresh mint. First rate. A Sydney rock lobster raviolo with a crustacean (crab? bay bug?) reduction; savory and earthy. Venison braised in Shiraz - a quite exemplary daube, which only needed a little extra salt. Five Australian cheeses, served a little too cold; and I'm afraid Queensland cheddar is absolutely disgusting; the rest were fine.

I developed a wine program from the glasses available. First a Yalumba viognier, then - also from Yalumba - a shiraz/viognier; what's that all about? But it was fruity, chocolatey. Then a straight shiraz - Basket Neck I think? Feel free to correct me.

A little overcast this morning, but warm enough for bikinis on Manly Beach, and I am about to eat some crisp and greasy fish 'n' chips. Quay tonight, Sydney Morning Post's restaurant of the year.

#29 Niall

Niall
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Posted 02 February 2003 - 05:58 PM

I was going to get the names of all the cheeses, but they actually weren't that great.  There are some good cheeses down here, and I'll note them when I come across them.  Actually, the washed rind cheese wasn't bad; I'll get the name.

If you can you should get to the GPO Cheese room in the city; its downstairs in 1 Martin place; they should have a good selection, although I haven't been there since 4 months ago.

And I agree with you about wolfies; it's gone downhill a lot in the last few years. If you feel up for some pub grub, you should visit The Lord Nelson in the rocks; the food there is pretty good, and they make their own beers; I'm quite fond of the Old Admiral, a nice ale.

Edited by Niall, 02 February 2003 - 05:59 PM.

'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'
- Frank Zappa

#30 Wilfrid

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Posted 07 February 2003 - 01:40 AM

"If you smiled, the walls would fall down on all the people in this pick up joint," I told myself, as I toyed with a ginger martini while enjoying the bay views from the top of the Grand Ana Hotel above the rocks. Relieved to be keeping the "real Australia", with its funnel-web spiders, sloppy meat pies and elderly men in shorts at arms length, I was on my way to dinner at Quay, Sydney Morning Herald's restaurant of the year.

Quay is on one floor of a fairly ugly modern building on Circular Quay, which does afford the advantage of harbour and opera house views. The evening I dined there, a mild storm was sweeping in, pushing black clouds over the bay in suitably dramatic fashion. With widely spaced tables, Quay does give most, maybe all, tables a fair portion of the scenic vista. The furniture took after the building, metallic and tubular, but otherwise this had the atmosphere of a serious, luxury restaurant.

I found ingredients as good as one could wish, cooked with precision, but assembled into dishes the syntax of which bewildered me. After a forgettable shot of soup, I was looking forward to the first course, a signature dish of crisp pork belly with scallops. The scallops were first rate, bursting with sweetness; the two rectangles of pork belly were suitably rich and toffee-like, garnished with some Chinese mushrooms. I tried putting the scallops and meat in my mouth together, but could taste only the succulent pork. I tried eating meat and scallop alternately, but they didn't seem to want to make friends. It was a little like two good but contrasting dishes served on the same plate.

I may have ordered badly - I hear the fish entrees are good - but I was tempted by the special roast squab. With laquered skin and delicate flesh, this was a distinctly Chinese-style bird. The scallops showed up again as a garnish, this time in the company of black-lipped abalone. Abalone is chewy little customer I've never seen the point of, but my complaint here was that again, nothing united the individual components. A thin, soy-based broth poured around by the waiter didn't help.

Service was good and generous. I drank a 95 vintage Moet as an aperitif; the sommelier recommended I continue drinking it with the pork, and freely topped up my glass. I also drank a memorable young Shiraz, Jacob's Ladder (?), which had desirable vegetal barnyard notes instead of the usual sweet, chocolatey fruitiness. Overall a disappointing meal.

Pausing only to kiss myself in four places, (okay, and do a day's work) I moved on to a degustation at Tetsuya, last year's Sydney M.H. restaurant of the year, and the most talked-about table in town. A rambling cottage behind eery electronic gates, almost concealed off Kent Street, has been refurbished in ersatz Japanese style. Furnished with modern sculptures, and more tubular furniture, there were at least two dining rooms and some busy private rooms too. Note - as I said on another thread - I had no difficulty getting a reservation, and some tables were empty.

The staff move smoothly into the no choice ten course menu - in fact, it's even more complex than that since some courses consist of several small dishes. I took the wine pairings - all young wines, and good rather than astounding. $275 Australian per head, including tip and everything (about $178 US, which is a little less than such a meal would cost in New York).

I will spare you the details. The cooking was careful, imaginative, and rich in luxury ingredients, but none of the dishes really caught fire (figuratively speaking). Tetsuya-san was in his whites, happily being photographed with satisfied customers.

Highlights included:

- a pair of shot glasses containing caviar over dried, crumbled eggs and asparagus puree (eggs, humor) and a refreshing orange and beetroot jelly respectively;

- a quartet of small tastes: marron (a local crustacean) with generous, pungent black truffle shavings; a skinny roll of New Zealand venison carpaccio stuffed with foie gras; raw kingfish with blood orange (clash!); and a chilled sip of very purely flavored tomato broth. This was one course, note.

- lime-infused Tasmanian scallop with soft slices of foie gras mi cuit; this was a hit.

And so it went on. An earthy lobster raviolo, very like the one I ate at Kable's a few days before; a skimpy strip of Wagyu beef (now raised in Australia), overwhelmed by some fresh flat mint stuffing; a dangerously young baby chicken - okay chick - poached then tanned under a salamadner, and served on a pedestal of braised daikon; cheeses - mainly French; a blood peach sorbet, showing the essential flavor of the fruit; an old fashioned and nicely wobbly floating island on a creme anglais.

My dining companion, not yet licensed to eat at such a staggering altitude, was begging for mercy. I was suitably impressed with the chef's skill, but I wasn't laughing, or crying, or shouting his name to the blue summer sky.

Tim Pak Poy, on the other hand... when I think about him I touch myself. This guy, cooking at a long-established little bistro in Woolaharra, named Claude's sent me to heaven. Everyone, this should be your first reservation when you come to Sydney, and maybe your second one too. Buzz to enter the small dining room behind the discreet wooden door. The decor is white, with a big distressed mirror which remidned me of London's The Lindsay House. They do run to a carpet, however, as well as more of that metallic furniture; I am forced to concldue that people here like it.

Two choices only, a three course dinner or five course tasting, sharing several of the same dishes. About twenty five covers (I'm told there's a small room upstairs), but the place was only half full on a Thursday night. Service was uncharacteristically reserved and reticent by local standards, but polished. Another marathon dinner with wine pairings for me, please.

Knowing the chef's reputation for adventure, I was worried by the amuse: ocean trout roe in little pastry cornets dusted with icing sugar. The eggs, which looked like salmon roe, burst on the tongue with a dramatic, forceful pop - but I wasn't looking for a humorous, gimmicky dinner. Another false start with the little cup of smoked salmon consomme. I lifted it by the handle, tasted the warm cream floating on the soup, took a sip, and scalded my tongue. Ridiculously hot. But as the pain subsided, the meal took off.

- soft shell crab over peppered lentils, with buckheat noodles, sweet green tomatoes, fresh mint and what appeared to be flower petals. The petals had been treated somehow - maybe smoked? - and added exotic flavors to the beautiful balance of the dish (this is now sounding like Iron Chef, I know. Bear with me).

- in one bowl, a glazed filet of Murray River cod (thanks to Balic for the correction), a single cherry, cucumber salad with dill, scattered with tiny white flower blossoms; in another bowl, a "sugared" oyster, shreds of abalone, a chilled tomato en gelee, garnished with dry seaweed.

May I never eat again if this was not one of the finest dishes (or pairs of dishes) I have ever eaten in my life. The sweetest, freshest cod, the deepest flavored oyster, the range of textures and temperatures. Pass the hankies.

- Quail "sausage" (looked like whole boned quail to me, legless of course), served on a hot char-grilled slice of melon. Yes, hot and sweet and thirst-quenching melon. And a champagne sauce; an old fashioned-cream thickened, but delicate and tasty, champagne sauce.

Wagyu beef. A generous slice this time, with ox heart tomato, chunky slices of oyster mushroom, and a porcini jus. For the first time, I really saw the point of Wagyu beef; not only is it well-marbled, but the fat has almost the flavor and consistency or well-cooked bone marrow; double unctuous. The restaurant presented large, whole Perigord truffles, with an aromatic impact I have never found in New York or London (why?), and shaved them very generously over the beef at a putative (no weighing) $6 Australian per gram.

More truffles? How about black truffle ice cream served over a fresh roast fig. I asked for a gallon to take away, but my server smiled and moved on. Then an upright almond souffle, filled with fresh, diced peach and cream. Petits fours.

I want to tidy up my wine notes for this dinner, and maybe Tetsuya, before posting further. You must pity me now as I pick myself up and head for dinner doubtless cooked by mere mortals. Onward, but surely not upward.

I think I have just eaten the best meal of 2003.

Edited by Wilfrid, 07 February 2003 - 04:25 PM.