Travelling Food Diary: Bauhaus, Vancouver

I’ve had many tasting menus (and matching wines), often reflecting the location of the restaurant: Copenhagen, Sydney, Buenos Aires… but I’ve never had a German-inspired contemporary menu.

And to highlight Riesling wine was a good bonus. They offer a 4 course option, a 6 course option, and this special tasting menu (and you can order a la carte).

The salmon on a sort of gazpacho was delicious.

Their version of a wiener schnitzel with potato salad tasted simply like a very good version of the dish, in a modern serving.

The sable fish was a highlight, on top of a bed of couscous. Interesting flavours and garnishes.

The riesling was sweeter than the dry Australian varieties that I’m used to, but matched with savoury dishes worked in unexpected ways (though our favourite was the driest, matched with the sablefish).

And what a pretty lemon dessert!

A very nice experience with the most excellent of company. Living in Australia, I forget the attentive style of North American service, water glasses filled every few minutes, and the waiter checking in after each course. Friendly and efficient and the descriptions of the wine were particularly good.

Thanks T & K! What a privilege to hang out with you over a special meal in my old hometown.

Bauhaus Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Travelling Food Diary: Stage Wine Bar, Victoria, BC

I have to write Victoria, BC since if I say Victoria in Australia, people think of the state of Victoria. I don’t think most Australians know what the BC stands for but writing Victoria, Canada looks a bit weird.

In any case, this is likely to be the only food blog from Victoria, as I’m just passing through on my way to a school reunion, so what luck to have my one nice dinner at the charming Stage Wine Bar. A nice selection of reasonably priced, mostly BC wines (though I started with a swig of Tio Pepe, a favourite dry Spanish sherry before moving onto a BC Chardonnay).

Pre-theatre, we just ordered four dishes, and it was enough. A fresh green salad, a charcuterie plate of pork belly with some pickled vegetables, the very delicious daily special of BC mussels (so tiny compared to the huge ones I’m used to from Australia and New Zealand, but very very tasty) and the highlight: sablefish, a favourite which I just can’t find in Australia.

The dishes all had a nice combo of taste and texture; not simple dishes but not overly fussy, and beautifully presented. Nice service too. About $90 for the two of us, a glass of wine each (and a sherry) and enough dishes to feel nicely filled.

Stage Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Bistro Rex, Potts Point

This place has got a major buzz about it, whenever I’ve walked by. Sometimes I get this suspicious feeling with shiny, new, popular places like this.

Is it hype? Will it deliver? We popped in for a pre-theatre dinner, and I was happy to discover that yup, this place delivers.

It’s traditional French food with a twist, and we couldn’t fault any of the dishes. Delicious chicken liver paté. A double-cooked cheese soufflé.

The celeriac salad was really interesting and refreshing. A long-cooked lamb shoulder was delicious, with some al dente lentils on the side. Cauliflower gratin, also delicious. The dishes are a nice size to split between two, even the ones indicated as main dishes.

I also had a tasty cocktail, and the service was friendly and efficient. There’s some clever design of the place too, so that the sound is absorbed by the ceiling.

With the hard surfaces, it could otherwise be too noisy. So, serving up French bistro realness with a shiny contemporary Sydney edge: fabuleux.

Bistro Rex Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: El Loco at the Excelsior, Surry Hills

Way back when, in the mists of time, when El Loco opened up at the Excelsior, it was cause for a serious buzz. Merivale was making its mark, and could be counted on to do something interesting. It was before the current wave of Mexican places were open, so seemed like one of the few places serving up interesting tacos with soft tortillas. The drinks were good. They did an amazing hot dog with finely grated cheese. I think it might have opened originally as a pop-up, to see how well it would do, and then just settled into place. Well done, fellows. El Loco seems to have morphed from hot, new bar restaurant to dependable, neighbourhood bar grub.

It’s still around, years later. I had a lunch with some journalism students from Macleay College, talking about blogging, and we had tacos, nachos, and some corn chips and dips. They knew the place already, so I assume it’s popular with the students.

The nachos and corn chips and dips were nothing spectacular but the taco was as good as I remembered it, and I’m sure would have been even better with a Mexican beer or a Margarita.

It was too long between visits. I should be coming back here again sooner… and see if those hot dogs are still as good as they once were.

El loco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: The Sparrow’s Mill, CBD

With the additional name, ICG (Incredible Chicken Good), the Sparrow’s Mill is an inviting little place on Liverpool Street bustling with people and colourful. I popped in for a Monday lunch after buying lightbulbs at the only hardware store in the CBD. They do have various lunch specials but none of them had their speciality chicken… so I opted for a half an order of chicken (suitable for one, the menu indicates) which comes with some pickles.

That’s the problem with most Asian restaurants: it’s way more fun to come with more people so you can try different dishes. But oh well. I went for their Incredible Gangjung chicken (there are almost a dozen to choose from). I’m not sure I could make out the cinnamon that was mentioned, but it had a complex sticky sweetness to it, yet also a lot of crunch. The bits of green chili weren’t too hot.

I think I prefer the other Korean Fried Chicken with the dry, crispy batter but this was good… And it was a little too much for one person for lunch, but sometimes, you gotta be brave.

The Sparrow's Mill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Maya Vegetarian, Surry Hills

  If Homer Simpson was South Indian, instead of doughuts and saying ‘D’oh!’, would he have craved dosa and said ‘D’oh… sa’. These are the type of questions that keep me up at night.

A really good dosa is a thing of wonder though: crisp and hot and thin enough that you should be able to eat it but making it look so big you think you can’t.

My lunch date was nice enough to come to Cleveland Street as I thought it would rain and I didn’t want to cycle to Kammadhenu in Newtown, which we know has pretty good dosas.

But these were delicious. I got mine with masala cheese, and it came flat and triangular. My friend’s dosa was wrapped in a cylinder in the traditional way. Perfectly delicious.

We ordered the daily special to go with it, and eggplant curry which was divine. No space for desserts, though Maya Vegetarian doubles as their empire’s sweet outlet.

Oh, delicious mango lassi. Really. And I take that back about the dosa’s size being an illusion. This was huge. And almost too much to eat for lunch.

Cheap, easy, quick and very, very delicious: recommended.

Maya Vegetarian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Fonzarelli’s, Surry Hills

Happy Days. Who knew that Australians watched it too? As a Canadian kid, it was as foreign as… well, Australia, to see a depiction of 50s Americana. I was never a huge fan: I found Ralph and Potsie annoying, didn’t understand why the Fonz was cool or funny, and god: Joanie and Chachki, let’s not get started. Of course, I saw myself as Richie, square and earnest but mostly I watched it because I watched anything that was on TV that was vaguely appropriate, after school and in the early hours of the evening.

So, it was with more curiosity than excitement to find that there was a Happy Days-themed restaurant in my neighbourhood, Fonzarelli’s. Friends had planned on trying the local Japanese resto, which turns out to be a Sushi train, of sorts, so we went here instead. It’s odd. It used to be high-end dining: the Foveaux. So, now, it’s trying, valiantly, to update the idea of an American diner, in a cavernous two-levelled mostly brick converted warehouse space.

The food, themed with the names of Happy Days characters, is modern diner Americana. It was pretty tasty, though I thought the portions small and expensive. We had a watermelon salad which was nice, some school prawns, some spicy meatballs, popcorn chicken, potato chunks… the ribs were actually pretty great. We couldn’t quite figure out the vibe. The young, cashed-up residents of Surry Hills: are they old enough to have seen Happy Days? And then, even not, is it a fun place to have weekend drinks, or is it weirdly daggy? For their sake, I hope it’s got some cachet… as I worry that it might not be the right idea, feel and vibe to survive the tough Surry Hills market and rental prices.

Fonzarelli's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Brick Lane, Darlinghurst

There seems to be a moment happening in Sydney cuisine with some fresh, modern takes on Indian cuisine. Bring it on, I say.

Nestled into a strip of restaurants on Stanley Street, Brick Lane has a cosy atmosphere. We ordered a selection between the two of us of ‘snacks’, ‘lighter bites’ and a ‘bigger eats’ and it’s one of those restaurants, and one of those tables, that my iPhone just couldn’t get good photos of the food.

I remembered a review that said to try the King Prawn Curry Leaf. Yup. If you come here, you should do the same. You take out the grilled prawn piece yourself, and wrap it up in spiced basmati rice and coconut curry in a betel leaf. Really, really delicious. And I love interactive food.

The 12-Hour Beef Short Rib was a great combo of an Indian curry and the slow-cooked meats popular in a lot of restaurants these days. Calamari Bhaji was also a highlight.  

I really was impressed. Interesting, tasty food. Some familiar flavours but with innovative presentation. Great service. We split a nice bottle of wine. We even got to use an entertainment book coupon… and I left my scarf there by accident and they nicely kept it for me until I could pick it up again. I’ll be back.

Brick Lane Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Five Points Burgers, North Sydney

A number of years ago, I used to go the restaurant Tomislav, a stone’s throw from the Coke sign in Kings Cross. I loved it. I remember it being inventive and high-end, with sensational service, and reasonable cost. The delicious food and something about the attitude and approach excited me. So, I was sad when it disappeared. It took a while but I finally heard that Tomislav had resurfaced, as a consulting chef for a casual burger place in North Sydney. He was only there for a few months, but his name was enough to make sure I clocked this place to try sometime. It took me yonks to finally manage to get up there… it’s only open for lunch on weekdays.

It’s a simple menu. There are shakes. There are fries. And there are burgers. My lunch pal and I both couldn’t resist “The Bronx”,  a grilled beef pattie, double cheese, pickles, bacon, tomato sauce, aioli, onion jam, mustard and iceberg lettuce.

And though I tried to resist, we ended up getting shakes too. Mine, salted caramel, was thick but not too thick and very rich, and quite sweet. Delicious, and a manageable size.

And the burger: something so common, but how do a few stick out? Because this one does. It’s salty, it’s meaty, the chargrill bits and perfectly crisp bacon contrast with the super soft milk bun. The lettuce, the sauces: perfect alchemy.

Five Points, by the way, was a small neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan, crime-ridden and poor, in the 1800’s. It doesn’t look like it was more than a few blocks wide and long, where Chinatown and Little Italy are nowadays.

I’m curious how long this burger craze will last in Sydney. Is it the beginning? Or we in the midst? It feels like sliders are starting to slide off the menu, but the many prominent burger places – Chur Burger, Mary’s, Bare Grill and others – seem to be going strong. I guess Shake Shack and Five Guys aren’t disappearing from American cities… so perhaps this is the new burger landscape in Oz.

Five Points Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: East Sydney Hotel, Woolloomooloo

So, jackfruit. Also known as breadfruit. I have seen these, in Chinatown, and during travels. How can you miss them? It looks like a huge spiky dried up watermelon (or perhaps my descriptive powers are failing me). In any case, apparently, if you cook it long enough, it tastes like pulled pork. Believe it or not.

So, why talk about jackfruit? Well, the East Sydney Hotel, a regular sort of classic Aussie pub, hidden away on a corner in Woolloomooloo, is specialising in vegan food. This confuses me, as it doesn’t necessarily seem like the place that would do this. I’d stick this on the corner next to Suzie Q’s vegetarian butcher in Newtown, or possibly stretching into Marrickville. But here it is, and I hope it’s doing well. It was a Saturday night that we went and was neither quiet nor heaving. We sat in the bar area and didn’t peek around the corner into the restaurant.

It’s pub food so we didn’t have our expectations high… yet the jackfruit curry was really very delicious. It’s also hard to go wrong with tempura onion and though my pal thought the snake beans were tough (they are tough!), I liked the presentation (check how visual that is, the long beans wrapped around the edge of the dish), and the almond tomato sauce that it came with. It was better-than-average pub fare to me, and it was vegan. Good for them (and good for the planet).

Service was friendly enough in a very laidback sort of way. Give it a try some time, especially if you’ve got a vegan or vegetarian friend in tow.

East Sydney Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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