Food Diary: Hakiki Ice Cream

IMG_3393Who knew? Turkish ice cream has two magical ingredients, the root of a wild orchid, salep, and mastic, a chewy resin. These turn ice cream chewy and stretchy. It is reputed that in region in Turkey, there is an especially chewy version that one eats with a a knife and fork. Wikipedia tells me that the name for Turkish ice cream is Dondurma or Maraş Ice Cream.

Suffice to say: I was curious.

IMG_3394A perfect little pre-theatre dessert. I couldn’t resist trying two flavours, the salep mixed in with fresh baklava and orange blossom.

With so many italian gelato stores, and a few Asian-inspired ice creameries, like Passionflower, I’m happy to be introduced to something a little different, and will be likely to stop by to try another flavour when I’m in Enmore.

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Food Diary: Quay, Sydney


XO Sea

Quay surpassed any expectations that I had of it. Currently sitting at #58 in the World’s Best Restaurant list, it’s one of the few high-end Australian restaurants that I haven’t tried in my time here. It’s been on my list… at least since Peter Gilmore’s Snow Egg dessert landed in the consciousness of tens of thousands of Australians who watched contestants on Masterchef try to make it.


That view! That lamp!

So, I had the inspiration to book it for my birthday this year, falling on a Tuesday, so it wasn’t so hard to get in. We opted for the degustation menu with the regular, not premium wines, but really, before any of the food came, I was already there… The view. And the gorgeous glass lamp on the table. My god.


Surf n Turf (ahem, pig jowl with scallop)

Comparing the food to some other Australian restaurants, it felt more modern and complex than what I experienced the last time at Tetsuya’s; it’s not as avant-garde and bitter as Marque; it’s not as textural as Sepia. But it felt pretty much perfect: not showy but complex, the focus really was the flavours, rich and salty; and it was hard to choose a favourite: every dish was consistent, interesting and tasty.



I won’t go into individual descriptions. In fact, I’d actually planned not to take as many photos as usual, but then couldn’t help myself. All that accomplished was not taking photos of half of the courses…

quay menu

But I do have to comment on the Snow Egg.

Here you can see me below, all in heaven, surrounded by twinkling stars.

The dessert was extraordinary and unexpected. We did remember, IMG_1547upon tasting it, the components of the dish. There’s a gorgeous flavoured granita, sitting on top of a fool (custard mixed with fruit puree). The snow egg itself is a perfectly smooth meringue that has a shell, a sugar disc of praline melted over it, a thin layer of crunch. And then a beautiful soft yolk to the meringue; which is an ice cream. I vaguely recall the waiter saying the flavour of the dish changes seasonally. I think this one was plum.

The various textures were distinguishable but played with each other in such a complex way I actually had to close my eyes to not be distracted by my sense of sight. And in tasting the particular combination of flavours, and more so, the textures, I actually felt transported. I’m not sure where, but it was good. More on the snow egg (including a recipe, but I can’t imagine ever trying this) is here.


Apparently, the second dessert was also featured on Masterchef, and my god, this one was good too, although we had a version of it in Scandinavia. I can’t remember where. Each of the layers inserted into the chocolate holder were delicious, one was of milk, another of chocolate. Visually playful, delightful with the different textures. Yum.

IMG_3371 IMG_3372 And to finish things off, some lovely truffles, along with an espresso that I managed to half-spill on the white tablecloth, the coffee stain spreading like my embarrassment. Ah well, the waiter pretended not to see (service was top notch of course), and we stumbled out into a wet and wintry Sydney night, now counting myself a year older, and very happy to have tried Quay.

I’ve gone to some huge efforts to try to eat at lauded restaurants on my travels; but this one was just at my doorstep. How spoiled we can by our surroundings.

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Food Diary: Dodee Paidang, Haymarket, Sydney

IMG_3331Dodee Paidang seems to be most infamously known for its Tom Yum soups, with noodles, that come in ratings from 0 (something like ‘infantile’) to 5 (volcano). The first time wewent here, we had a 3. It was so spicy, I couldn’t feel my mouth nor taste anything else for 15 minutes. I notched it down to a two on the last visit, and it was still too spicy. Wimp.


Still, the noodles have a great bouncy texture and the flavours are delicious. I just have to admit my defeat and go down to a 1 next time.Otherwise, I like this place because it really feels like a Thai restaurant to me in Thailand, not a Thai restaurant that’s been made Sydney cool. I don’t like the box of tissues substituting for a real napkin, but hey, that’s what it’s like in Thailand (when you’ve not gotten a roll of toilet paper instead). The dessert bar in the back, filled with mysterious multi-coloured gooey things, also looks authentic, and the staff have that particular flare of authenticity and rather short skirts on the second time I IMG_3329was there.


The food was bloody good. A little appetizer of crispy pork skin, a wonderful papaya salad…

IMG_3330Grilled beef skewers, and the afore-mentioned soup.

IMG_3333Our favourite, unexpectedly, was the soft-shelled crab. Perfectly crisp.  IMG_3332And the damages? Except for a tingling tongue, they were little: just over $40 for lots of food and variety for two people. Wow.
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Food Diary: Brazilian Fogo Churrasco, Central Park, Sydney

fogo - 1

You know, I didn’t think this place was terrible. It’s made fast food out of Brazilian BBQ. My better half felt like eating MEAT. We ordered the big platter for $24, and it was more than enough for the two of us. With a glass of house white wine, and it was OK. The lime bean salad tasted fresh enough; I didn’t really like the chicken salted fries. The meat wasn’t bad, nor particularly good. I thought the service was very friendly. A fun atmosphere with Brazilian music. It brought me back some happy memories of Cae and John hosting me many years ago in Rio, meeting their friends, and learning about Brazilian culture. If you’re in the mood then…

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Food Diary: Cafe Shenkin, Surry Hills, Sydney

shenkin - 1

Between trying out the Knafeh bakery yesterday and returning to Cafe Shenkin a few days ago for lunch, the theme this week seems to be Israel. And why not? I’ve never visited the country, nor am I familiar with its cuisine. The menu at Cafe Shenkin doesn’t just have a twist of what’s different, or is ‘influenced’ by a cuisine. It’s authentic, and it means that there’s a lot on the menu that I simply don’t recognise.

I’m making my way through though… Shakshuka, Ziva, Sabih, Angelita. And each one I’ve tried is delicious. Usually with a flaky and tasty pastry, and some nice sauce, and either vegetables or meat. I went for lunch this time with a vegetarian and unlike many restaurants, he didn’t have to search for what he could eat; at least half of the menu was vegetarian.

Weirdly, we both decided independently to get the same thing: a bureka with potato, onion and mushroom. As you can see above, it was dee-licious. Add to this good coffee and very friendly service, and I’m glad Cafe Shenkin has opened a branch in Surry Hills of its mothership in Enmore.

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Food Diary: Knafeh Bakery, Sydney

Knafeh - 3 So, I read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, and c’mon, if that’s not intriguing, what is? A new food sensation for Sydney, a back story (pastries bringing cultures together often in conflict in the Middle East) and bakers with big beards, Palestinean brothers serving Jerusalem street food.

By chance this morning, I see on Facebook that they’re at Moore Park Entertainment Quarter today. As they’ve been at other locations fairly far away from me, this seemed like a good chance.

I thought they’d set up a regular food stall in the market, but no: this is a whole event! It’s a shipping container, it’s an entire lawn of people hanging out, as you can see: it’s an event. Knafeh - 4The guy serving up the orders has a microphone and is doing a comedy routine to call out names of orders, there’s a buzz in the air, there’s curiosity.

And the Knafeh (as explained helpfully by the comedian, the K is pronounced, sort of like kuh-nah-fay)? My god. Delicious. And exactly what I want as a reward for my foodie expedition. They only serve knafehs (and mint tea I think). I had no idea what to expect. But it’s what I love: something simple, done well, true to a culture, and a novelty.

Knafeh - 1And absolutely delicious, reminding me a bit of a custard, or a crème caramel, but a soft, not-too-sweet, cheese, a thin crunch of semolina on top, eaten out of a wide shallow paper container.

Wikipedia says it’s cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup; the tiny cardboard box that it comes in, like a pizza box, says ‘Jerusalem street food’. We got one each, they’re too tasty to share. Eight bucks. All hail! If it comes to your neighbourhood, and even if it doesn’t, track it down.

Knafeh - 2

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Review: Marina Abramovic’s Project 30, Sydney



24 June – 05 July 2015
12 noon – 7pm daily


Pier 2/3
Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, Sydney

Only a few days left to catch Marina Abramovic (I can’t figure out how to put the accent over the ‘c’) if you’re living in Sydney and haven’t experienced it. If you’re going, then just go, and don’t read this review…

If you went, what did you think?

I wanted to go without knowing anything about the installation, and I’d count myself lucky that I only briefly read about two of the six parts. I won’t list each one, but in brief, the artist, with a large number of helpers, created full immersive experience, multifaceted and interconnected. Not only did we take part in the artwork, but our interaction was part of it and even visually so.

There was something haunting about watching various people slowly walking down a long edge of the space, quietly, mindfully in short footsteps.

Perhaps the simplest of the parts, where participants were placed in a tableau, some on blocks, some in chairs, and asked to close their eyes, was as powerful as any of the others. I became quiet. With the noise-reduction headphones, I could hear my heartbeat. I felt completely alone in the space, even though I knew there were many other people surrounding me. And I felt a communality in our aloneness.

Being tucked into the womb of a camp bed, in rows of camp beds, at the end of the space, was unique. Where does the mind go in these circumstances? I relaxed and felt deep calm at moments; my mind wandered at other moments; I mused, also, at the uniqueness of being tucked into this bed, in this big open space on a pier over the Harbour.

I have done exercises of looking strangers or near-strangers in the eyes; I enjoyed it so much I did it twice, and if I had wanted to, could probably have contemplated the single panels of colour that some people were placed, or placed themselves in front of. It is an exercise in time, patience, choice, connection and vulnerability. How long to meet the gaze for? How long to make the moment last? What is the other person thinking?

The part that most people talk about was sitting down to separate and count a pile of black lentils and white rice. It was more of an interesting task than I thought. What technique would I use? How would I keep track? A fellow next to me seemed to be separating them all out, without counting. I noticed most of us needed help from our pencil to separate and count the objects. I began counting right away, in groups of five for the lentils and ten for the rice grains, and at times became fascinated by the shapes of the items: how many broken parts of rice? Does one count a full grain, or each part of a grain? Had I ever really noticed how pretty a black lentil is? It was an impossible task, and at the end, the end that I chose, I’d only done a small portion of the pile. I think I counted about 500 lentils, and decided at the end that while I had written down 500 grains of rice, my system was confused and skewed.

While doing this, I mused on how we keep ourselves occupied, on whether a task is a pleasure or a burden, the differences in approaches that everyone must have brought to the task, and why were we doing it anyways? It felt to me that by having the choice to do this strange task, that it became pleasurable. While there was a simple instruction, in fact, there were no rules. No one would be grading me on the task, no one monitored it. There was something soothing and calm about doing the exercise, and most of all, I thought about how we create meaning in our lives.

Without a watch or a phone, I had no idea how long I’d stayed, but when I left, I’d been there nearly two hours. And I was sad to leave this strange, beautiful world, full of meaning, and quiet.

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Food Diary: Una’s, Sydney

Unas - 2

Una’s in Darlinghurst, Sydney, is an absolute institution. They’ve been around for 45 years! They’re remarkably consistent, and the food tastes pretty much exactly as it has the last times that I’ve been over the last 15 years or so. It’s hearty, heavy and sticks to your ribs. The service is always reliable and efficient.

I always end up ordering the Jagerschnitzel, in one of its pork, chicken or veal varieties (above is veal), smothered in thick mushroom sauce and with a generous serving of rosti potatoes. This poses a dilemma as the wonderful crisp batter will slowly get soggy from the gravy if you don’t eat it quickly enough.

As I only go to Una’s about once every two years, various memories come back. First of all, I love the little coleslaw (below) that they serve with every meal. And I do remember enjoying a variety of the appetizers and mains: beef croquettes is what we had this time, although I’ve had deep-fried camembert in the past, as well as goulash as a main and pork knuckle. But I also remember the stages of eating the main course. First bite: a delight! Deep-fried battered meat, crispy hashbrown potatoes. It’s tasty and feels naughty as well to eat something that is considered particularly health-conscious these days (as a side note, I’m always amused how many gay men eat in Una’s, considering how health and body-conscious gay men are, it’s seems a funny contradiction). And then the second bite: hmm, there’s a lot of food on this plate. And then, by the time I’ve finished it all: agh, I ate too much, and don’t feel wonderful. The quantity and heaviness seems to outweigh the initial pleasure.

But then again, I should know better.

Unas - 1

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Food Diary: Tim Ho Wan, Sydney

Tim - 2

Ever since I found out there was a Michellin-starred Dim Sum house in Hong Kong, the most inexpensive Michellin-starred restaurant in the world, I’ve been recommending that friends go there if they’re in Hong Kong. I’ve never managed to get there myself. Cameron told me a wonderful story that the prices were so cheap, he reckoned that the prices were for individual items, so ordered numerous quantities of each… and then had to give away food to happy neighbouring tables at the end.

Tim - 1

I was very excited to find out that Tim Ho Wan has made it to Sydney, though it took me a while to get there. I’d heard the lines were terrible, and indeed they could have been. Except we were going to a friend’s photography exhibition and so went somewhere around 5:30 I think (on a weekday). We got a table without problem though by the time we left, there was a rather large queue already. So, all you haters who couldn’t appreciate the food because of the line, go when it’s less crowded!

Tim - 3

There are already a million photos of the individual dishes on the net, from the Sydney restaurant and other location… So, here are just a very few. Was it good dim sum (or yum cha as they call it in Australia)? Yup. Was it great? Yup. Did it blow my socks off so I knew why they got a Michelin Star? Not really. But with reasonable prices, and really very tasty food, I’m happy to give my recommendations.Tim - 4

And this: these famous baked pork buns. My friend Malu finds them too sweet, but I say ‘Nooooo’. There is a magical combination of sweet, savoury, crispy and soft.

Tim - 5

And I would go to Tim Ho Wan anytime for these. Though I liked most of the other dishes well enough, including my hot barley tea. Uh, I did think the Mango Pomelo Sago dish was weird; I was expecting something much nicer. But the Malaysian steam cake was delicious.

Tim - 6
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Food Diary: Chonsiam, Sydney

Chon 2 - 2

Sydney has such freaking good Thai food. An unmentioned friend of a friend won’t eat the Thai food here in Sydney because it’s not as good as in Thailand, but the thing is: a lot of people think the Thai food is better here. Thai chefs have more space to experiment, freed from tradition, and have higher quality ingredients.

I’ve loved the look of this hole-in-the-wall, and stopped by after a late morning meeting in central Sydney. Since Masterchef had just had an episode where someone made this dish to emulate Thai street food, I couldn’t really go past ordering the pork omelette. I’m not sure how you can go wrong with this dish, and it was delicious, though I should have been patient enough to wait for the little caddy of hot sauces that was going around, but somehow not to my table.

Chon 2 - 1I was too shy to order the $4 boat noodles, since part of me was thinking: how can they keep a restaurant afloat if people are only paying $4! But it seems like a specialty of the house. So, the next time I went by, I tried it: lovely sweet broth, fun combo of both beef and beef balls (there’s also a pork option), soft and tasty thin rice noodles, fresh greens. Aroy! (Thai for delicious). And all for the cost of a large latté.


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