Food Diary: Tokyo Bird, Sydney

IMG_3036I’ve always loved little Japanese bars and restaurants. I love, in my visits to Japan, that some specialise only in a few kinds of food, and that the experience is an integrated one: have a drink, and have a delicious bar snack to go with it.

IMG_3066So, I love that Tokyo Bird has opened up in my neighbourhood, in Belmore Lane, near Commonwealth Street. Their specialty is yakitori, the delicious BBQ skewers of chicken, meat or vegetables, and they actually serve more than that. They have an interesting list of cocktails and Japanese whiskeys though I find it impossible to go past sake when it’s on the menu.

IMG_3074It seems to all be run by a young group of stylish and hip young Asian-Australians, and I loved the vibe. Found the lotus root chips a touch too salty, the skewers of chicken thigh and pork belly delicious, and I tried this weekend, but failed, to recreate the delicious creamy sesame dressing on a deceptively simple cabbage salad. Oh, and the chicken mckatsu nuggets were as expected. Yummy. A perfect light dinner for the two of us, with nice drinks. 60 bucks. I’ll be back!

Tokyo Bird
2/226-228 Commonwealth Street
Entrance on Belmore Lane
facebook.com/tokyobird  IMG_3035

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Food Diary: the Apollo, Sydney

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I ate here with my friend Dan ages ago, and I returned, maybe a year or two later wondering: is it as good as I remember? The answer, whole-heartedly, is yes. It was hard IMG_3009to go past the ‘Whole Greek’ menu that included homemade taramasalata which is to die for, and a honey-lemon saganaki, which my better half wondered why he’d been missing this all his life.

IMG_3012Then there was roast lamb, perfect potatoes – super crispy and bite-sized, and an interesting dessert. And olives. And two little glasses of Ouzo. $70 each.

The decor is Sydney cool. We sat at a table by the window next to some tourists from Quebec who were putting the charming waiter through hell: ‘How much garlic is there? IMG_3013Can we put that on the side? How is this dish done? No, we won’t keep our cutlery. Give us clean ones.’

From us: no complaints. The food was so good, I forgot to take photos, and the truth is that as a pre-theatre meal, we didn’t allow enough time and it was too much food. Much better if stretched over a longer period of time.

But GOD IT WAS GOOD.

This place is the bomb. Get there.

The Apollo
44 Macleay Street
Potts Point
http://www.theapollo.com.au/

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Food Diary: Blacksmith, Surry Hills, Sydney

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Very tasty combo salad on a rather pretty blue plate.

There’s this thing going on in Sydney cafés at the moment which seems to be a moment. Lots of wood, a bit of iron. Great coffee, moving into cocktails and drinks after work. A IMG_3033casual feel but a contemporary, smart menu with a nod to those are health-conscious and a friendly, jokey Australian tone. Lighting not too bright.

Blacksmith has always been busy when I’ve went by so we decided to stop by for lunch. There was an amusing sign about caffeine addicts near the coffee machines and a glass counter that looked full of luscious pastries.

IMG_3067As for us, my lunch pal had a baguette and seemed pleased with it. Also a blue protein shake and drink and we’re wondering whether the mason glass jars will ever go away, or whether they’ve just become part of local culture. I had a combo salad because I couldn’t decide between the green one (with risoni and broccoli and pesto) and the chicken confit and… oh, I don’t remember all the ingredients. It was delicious.

Worth another try, though with Meadow Cafe just across the street and a stumble into the park, and how did two such good cafés open so near to each other within a year?

 

Blacksmith Surry Hills
116 Chalmers Street

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Food Diary: Twenty 8 Acres, Sydney

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If you’ve followed my restaurant reviews, you’ll know that I’m always intrigrued by how a restaurant gets a good ranking on TripAdvisor. Twenty 8 Acres, a humble cafe, tucked away in Darlington, near the university, is coming up with 100 reviews, an average of 5 stars, and is currently the #1 restaurant in Sydney.

IMG_3049Go figure.

If I was to guess why, I’d say that it’s got everything that’s good about the cafe culture in Sydney. Great coffee and service. Delicious, fresh food. The chef-owners were at Forbes and Burton for a stint, and I remember their good food from there, so it wasn’t a surprise to get a delicious beef brisket burger and some fine chips. My lunch pal thought his Full Irish Breakfast was delicious, with particular compliments to the soda bread and blood sausages (two types, one light, one dark). Everything is homemade, including the baked beans, and it’s too much for one person to eat.

I think it’s a necessity these days for chefs to put their own personality and cultures into the food, so I love the Irish spin at this cafe, and I chatted away to the chef before my pal arrived, and he had a chat to Tim while I was in the loo. Very amiable, lovely, friendly place. I can see why people are giving it good ratings. I also like that they’ve got a little description up of who they are, and how they’ve named their cafe in honour of local history. Breakfast and lunch only, and I suspect the weekends are a bit of a sh*t fight to get in and have that Irish breakfast. Today, a Thursday early lunch was nice and quiet.

Twenty 8 Acres, Darlington
Corner of Boundary Lane and Ivy Street
http://www.twenty8acres.com.au/

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Food Diary: Steersons Steakhouse, Sydney

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King Street Wharf is a strange location for us to eat. It feels a bit touristy, and not particularly inviting. But my better half’s parents were staying at a hotel nearby before their cruise, and this was in the right location.

Obviously, the specialty is steak. And I’m not sure I’ve chosen this a prime rib like this as a main course in Australia. What to say? Described as a Havericks Dry Aged Beef [Dry Aged for 6-8 weeks], NSW Riverina Rib on Bone (MSA) Pasture Fed, 400g. It was $50 but the menu says $49.90. It was beautifully grilled on the outside, medium rare on the inside as I’d asked for. It came with a great jus, the potato chips were crisp. It was honestly too big for me, the crazy pleasure of the fat and protein and charcoal at the start was fading by the end, just because there was so much of it.

My dining companions were pleased with their Beef Wellington and a lady steak… and for an appetizer we had the fanciest pastizzis ever, beef cheek and a sweet carrot purée. No room for dessert. Ah, adorable French waiter, friendly in an Aussie-restaurant way, a contrast to the very different reserved service we were getting in Paris a few months ago. And sitting on the deck, in front of the harbour, with the evening summer light was really quite magical. All this and I got to use my Entertainment Guide coupon (now on my Iphone).

Steersons Steakhouse
17 Lime Street
King Street Wharf, Sydney
https://www.facebook.com/SteersonsSteakhouses

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Food Diary: Cipro Pizza al Taglio, Sydney

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I’ve heard mention of this restaurant dozens of times and never made it. In particular, it is said that their flourless chocolate cake is the bomb. Sadly, when my pal and I went, it was explained that it’s difficult to make and keep during the summer, so I’ll have to go back in the winter to try it.

IMG_2954And why wouldn’t I? With our appetizers of tomato bread and arancini, a piece of very delicious pizza each, and desserts, and a bottle of cold white wine from across the street at the venerable Dan Murphy’s, this was nearly a perfect meal. Fresh, tasty, simple and a fun atmosphere. The tiramisu was better than the pannacotta. I liked my potato pizza as something different but will try a lighter topping next time to see the difference.

It would have been nice if there was a place nearby that we could have stopped by before (for a cocktail) or after (for a nightcap) but it’s a funny sort of dead area for now. Ah well, it’s worth a special trip.

Cipro Pizza Al Taglio
Shop 9 / 21 Fountain Street, Alexandria, Syd
https://www.facebook.com/cipropizza

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Food Diary: Meadow Cafe, Prince Alfred Park, Sydney

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Open for lunch, daily (I think), next to the Prince Alfred Park swimming pool, this is a pretty damn fine combination: great food, friendly and competent service, comfy surroundings (inside if it’s too hot, but outside if you’d like) and, of course, a view of the ridiculously healthy and good-looking people of Sydney. In swimming trunks.

I’ve been here a number of times, and the menu is clever and concise, it feels healthy, there’s usually an interesting daily special, and the food is fresh, tasty and somewhat sophisticated. My friend’s crab and corncakes looked delicious. My cobb salad had just the right combo of lettuce, dressing, tomatoes, bacon and chicken: not a complicated dish but well executed.

Each time I’ve been the waiters have been young, friendly and efficient women, providing great service.

https://www.facebook.com/meadowcafe

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Food Diary: Dragoncello, Sydney

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My pal Daniel went here with a friend who has worked as a chef and said it was worth a try though he was a little worried about the service. I concur with both sentiments. We were here on a Saturday night, four of us, and I’m pleased to report that we were really impressed with the menu and the food.

It really is interesting and special. I like that the menu was quite focused, there’s a small selection of plates to share, appetizers and mains, and I could have tried them all! It feels like the dishes were all delightful in their own ways, with an emphasis on interesting textures and unusual flavours.

The glazed sweet potato with licorice and fig leaf cream was a standout. We loved the combo of licorice and sweet potato. The beef croquette with a seaweed salsa verde was a tasty morsel, and we wanted the recipe for the port and poultry paté with chamomile jelly (an interesting combo). The chef explained later quite how complicated it is to make, so we’ll have to just enjoy it there.

We tried three out of the four of the mains: Slow cooked chicken ballotine on hay cream, pickled onion, shiitake mushroom and Jerez sauce (pictured above, lovely, particularly the texture contrast with the puffed grain). Pan fried Blue eye fish, Apple and fennel puree and lemon myrtle was had by one of our party, who seemed to like it less than the two of us who had the chicken. And our other friend gave a thumbs up to his zucchini and green peas with lots of flowers and parmesan broth, which had less flowers than expected, but he really liked the flavour.

I’m a little worried for chef Roy McVeigh and his lovely wife though. It’s a tough market, our Surry Hills, and I’m wondering how they’ll do surrounded by so many more modest restaurants. It’s very high-end and creative food, with prices to match.

I felt almost as if the casual surroundings of Cleveland street, and the relaxed decor, were at odds with almost formal quality of the food creations: in a good way, the dishes highlighted above could have been part of a degustation menu served by waiters in designer uniforms.

I have the feeling they might have been short-staffed that night, because the service really didn’t match the heights of the food, it felt distracted (especially when we were trying to get our first drinks!) and though friendly and earnest, a new restaurant really needs a firm hand. We were charmed that Roy came out of the kitchen at the end and gave us his business card. I plan to go back and we wish them all the best.

As I mentioned in the previous posting, I’ve decided these are not ‘reviews’ but entries for a food diary. Check out the profile and reviews from Jugernauts and Not Quite Nigella instead for great photos and fuller descriptions. And do give Dragoncello a try. They deserve your business.

Dragoncello
466 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills, NSW
dragoncello.com.au

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Food Diary: Bang Street Food, Sydney

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In four months away from Sydney, Surry Hills is awash in new restaurants and cafés. The buzz (and sometimes sadly, changeover) never seems to stop. I read a few mentions of Bang Street Food on the net, and it took me a little while to figure out where it was located: just above Hudson’s Meats on Crown Street, the other side of where a doomed Japanese restaurant, Monkey Magic, was (and somewhat above the doomed Mexican restaurant, Agave).

IMG_2935Here’s the thing: this is definitely a winner. The chef apparently has some serious creds from restaurants like Est. and Lucio’s, the owner (of the Farmhouse in King’s Cross, which I’ve wanted to go to, but seems awfully busy) knows design and how to put together a restaurant. To me, it’s the perfect formula for Sydney (and the Eastern Suburbs): you get a chef to celebrate his cultural background, put a modern Sydney spin on it, serve it up in stylish surroundings with friendly and competent wait staff. I would guess that there’s no other high-end Bangladesh restaurant in Sydney. There seems to be a humble diner in Rockdale and another in Lakemba. It’s exciting for Sydney to receive a completely new cuisine and concept.

The paw paw salad (above) was delicious: fresh, sweet and sour. My better half thought there was something missing (salt?) but I rather liked it. Kale bhaji was IMG_2947delicious and crisp. I’ve had a lot of bad bhajis in my time, I tell you, and they can be greasy and the batter sometimes a bit gritty to my taste. We also had a kebab, wagyu beef perfectly done which we got to wrap up in flatbread with some salad greens, saw it in half and split it. The goat curry was exactly as I’d hoped, a rich tasty sauce, super-tender goat, and the lightest pulau rice possible (and some tasty naan).

Washed down with an exceptional mango lassi, and a pricy cocktail (flavoured with cardamon and cinnamon). We were just up for a light meal and I’d love to try more (including the desserts) but we’ll definitely be back.

This is my foray back into Sydney restaurant reviewing. If I did it so frequently in Paris in the last months, why not here? I’ll have to take more photos though. And really, this review of Bang on Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry is much better, with good photos and a full description of the experience. I think, in the context of Sydney, I’m going to have to rename these little write-ups as a ‘Food Diary’, since they lack the vigour and depth of an actual review.

In any case, see you at Bang?

Bang (Bangladeshi Street Food)
3/410 Crown Street, Surry Hills
www.bangstreetfood.com.au.

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The Current Lists 2015 (Books, Concerts, Exhibitions, Shows)

A new post for 2015.

Concerts and Shows

  • West Side Story, live symphony playing to the movie, at the Grand Rex, Paris
  • Blood Brothers, Hayes Theatre, Sydney: A great cast, acting and singing for their lives, but gosh, I didn’t love this show, as a show. It seems very old-fashioned in its structure and music, and formulaic. Perhaps it was original when it came out in the early 80s.

Exhibitions

  • Brancusi Workshop at the Pompidou Centre

Books

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Movies

  • The Theory of Everything
  • Boyhood
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Into the Woods
  • The Hundred-Foot Journey
  • To Be Takei
  • The Imitation Game
  • Date Night

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