Sydney Food Diary: Devon Cafe, Surry Hills

Around the corner of Haven and a few blocks away from Meet Mica, Devon is the original purveyor of Asian-Western fusion brunches and lunches. I last reviewed the Devon in 2015, three years ago, and it’s good to report (bringing my North American family here for brunch) that it’s still going strong.

The front part of the cafe is stylish Scandinavian, but the back has some odd military-type netting, and more space to sit. Either location is fine to try their interesting dishes, such as the fantastic dessert for breakfast matcha option, pictured above (They call it DMC, the Devon Matcha cake).

My almost-12-year-old niece’s choice was the meatiest of options: pork belly (perfect), sausage, an amazing potato, and peas!

Everyone was happy with their choices (and there were seven of us, so there was a lot of choice). I quite like the specialty of the house with miso grilled salmon, an eel croquette and one of those perfectly cooked 63 degree eggs. Their much-photographed Little Lost Bread is French Toast amped up with sweets and colour. I loved my Tropical Chia Pudding, a simpler dish than the others. I’m not sure you can go wrong here.

And their coffee is very good too.

Devon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Christie’s Seafood Excellence, Fish Market

When I wrote, on Boxing Day, that I wanted to try Christie’s, to compare it to the Fish Market Cafe which is right next door, I didn’t expect that I’d be able to do so less than a week later, with my in-laws rather than my family. But that’s the thing: the Fish Market really is the perfect place for visitors to Sydney to come for a meal and soak in the vibe of this bustling market.

Also, we were particularly blessed that day. We were just letting out my father-in-law close to the market, as he has trouble walking, and the very kind security/parking guy directed us to park right next to the market. Usually parking guys tell me something negative; this was such a kind gesture. Then, when waiting at a peak time, like really crazy packed to the rafters crowd scene, a table of people at Christie’s saw Dad-in-law and said they would go soon, would we like their table?

We ordered a similar amount of food and a selection as I did at Christie’s, one fried selection and one grilled. Because there were two white people and one Asian person who ordered, they decided that we should get fries; I would have liked to try their Asian noodles. My verdict was that the seafood was just a little bit nicer than at Christie’s (which was excellent) and the portions were a little smaller and that it was a little more expensive. Too many tiny squid for the table’s liking (which was the same as the platters at Christie’s). But basically, thumbs up. Very tasty, and a great food and tourist experience.

Christie's Seafood Excellence Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Gojima, Star City, Pyrmont

So, advice first of all if you’re at Star City and you’re with a group and some people are sitting outside and you want to try Gojima: you can bring the food out of the Gojima but not their alcohol (even if people are drinking alcohol outside at the tables).

This was annoying to have ordered delicious cold Japanese beer and then having to have them refunded and taken away in order for us to join the rest of our group, before seeing the wonderful musical ‘Beautiful’, based on the life of Carole King, at the Lyric Theatre.

But, having gotten that quibble out of the way, I really love the concept of these burgers: patties out of sushi rice, delicious fish in between, a layer of seaweed to hold it all together. Yum. We also split some fried chicken which was as fried chicken should be: crisp and juicy and delicious.

Gojima Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Max Brenner, Bondi Westfield

Max Brenner started with one shop in Israel and a second in Sydney, opening the year I arrived in Australia. Now they’ve expanded to 50 shops around the world. I’m impressed with the way they moved on from the idea of selling high-quality interesting pralines, which would work in Brussels or Paris, but not really in Australia. They still sell chocolates but their main trade is the experience of chocolate, mainly in drinks which you can use to wash down other assorted chocolate treats.

I indulge occasionally so I know what I’m getting: a really high-quality and decadent chocolate drink, somewhat pricey, in an amusing mug: their marketing is really great. At this location, before seeing the movie Call Me By Your Name upstairs (which I liked a lot and my husband not so much), I had a cookie dough chocolate milkshake and my better half had a salted caramel hot chocolate.

Delicious. So, solid and strong marks for those… but I’m subtracting stars for the deteriorating round banquette. Yipes.

 

Max Brenner Chocolate Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Poolside Cafe @ Boy Charlton

We’re contradictory, aren’t we, human beings? We change our opinions about the same thing. We apply a certain set of reasoning in one situation and not in another. For example, the Poolside Cafe at Boy Charlton pool is a spectacular location. Spectacular. A tranquil view of Wooloomooloo (or the ships docked there). Eye candy in the form of athletic and sometimes preening Sydneysiders sunbathing or doing laps. The green of the Domain’s Yurong District to the west leading up to Mrs Macquaries Point.

In yesterday’s review, I was so grateful for the nice view of Bondi Beach from Moo Burgers, I said it really didn’t matter how the food was. But for some reason, I found some dissatisfaction at the Poolside Cafe between the contrast of how visually beautiful the food is and a lack of flavour.

My poached eggs in burnt sage butter was interesting with yoghurt, a contrast to the savoury oil. But there wasn’t a strong burnt sage flavour, and I was left in the end with a weird pool of butter. Husband’s fruit bowl looked beautiful but he felt there wasn’t any variation in the grain used and that it just wasn’t quite right.

And yet the service was warm and friendly. And the day was beautiful. Such a great location and such pretty food would seem to earn higher ratings on Zomato than its current score of 3.3. So it looks like others have felt the same contradictions.

Poolside Cafe @ Andrew 'Boy' Charlton Pool Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Moo Gourmet Burgers, Bondi Beach

Say you’ve got friends or family visiting overseas…

And say you’re visiting one of Australia’s most famous sites, Bondi Beach…

And say you’re hungry. Wouldn’t you want a view like this?

Even if the quality of the food was mediocre, and it wasn’t, this view sort of trumps everything. It’s the perfect place to take out-of-towners for a casual lunch when seeing the sites.

In the meantime, my family liked their burgers, onion rings and this amped up fries.

I thought the food was good. Not bad, not extraordinary, but fine. But it does appeal to tourists (and locals perhaps) with a wide selection on the menu, everything from kangaroo burgers to wagyu beef patties and salads.

The step up to the restaurant seems to be a hazard. People kept bumping into it. I got my foot caught under it while getting up to go inside (we had the table right in front).

But as I said: this view is amazing. The food is secondary.

Moo Gourmet Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Pablo, the Cheese Tart, Chinatown

Look like Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake has some competition. The cashier tells me that Pablo is from Osaka but there are stores in all major cities in Japan. It seems like a very similar proposition as Uncle Tetsu’s: a light Japanese cheesecake, not too sweet, sold in large varieties and small tarts.

I couldn’t NOT try one, so went for the matcha tart. It was not what I expected: more of a gooey custard than the light cheesecake that I know from Uncle Tetsu’s, a lovely matcha shade of green, and I have to say: delicious. They’re pretty small, and $4.50 which feels expensive, but it was tasty enough I would definitely consider buying a big one and bringing it to a dinner party. Stay tuned.

P.S. It strikes me only now, looking at the logo, that the cheesecake chain is named after Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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2017 in lists (Concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV)

Concerts, Shows, Theatre & Words

  • Ladies in Black, Lyric Theatre, January: An Australian homegrown musical with music by Tim Finn of Crowded House, this show got great reviews when it was being developed a year go… though the reviews of this run, for the Sydney Festival, have been decidedly mediocre. There’s just not much originality and punch in the storyline, a young woman trying to find her way in the world. She sings about finding herself and overcoming fear, much like any musical heroine. When I’d first read about rules for writing songs in musicals, the number one rule was to show what was happening, but not say it. So each time I heard characters plainly sing ‘I’m happy’, ‘I’m sad’, ‘I’m sterile’… I cringed. The biggest attraction of the musical seemed to be its references to Australia, now and in the 50s, and the audience lapped it up. And it wasn’t terrible overall, it just could have been much better.
  • Nude: Live, AGNSW, January: Seven members of the Sydney Dance Company, solo and in groups, dancing, nude, in front of extraordinary art, and in an immersive “Sleep No More” fashion where spectators move in and out of rooms, and view the dance at different angles. Fabulous.
  • Jann Tiersen, Sydney Opera House, January: Amazing French musician and composer, best known for the Amelie soundtrack. I thought his music intricate and beautiful. Just as amusing was his complete lack of engagement or interest in the audience, which gave him rapturous appreciation. He’s all about the music!
  • Tomboy Survival Guide, Spiegeltent, Sydney Festival, January: Wow. Ivan Coyote and friends, and a wonderful show of spoken word performance backed up by a cool band (and some music and singing too). Witty, poetic, funny and most of all honest. The universal feeling of not fitting in matched with an introduction to a very different world. Loved it. Amazing.
  • Cabaret, Hayes Theatre, February: It seems to be getting mixed reviews, but I liked it. Incredible performers. Perhaps a little frantic (and Paul Capsis’s interpretation of the emcee is more than terrifying), but an apt production for these present times.
  • A night with David Helfgott, Sir Stamford Hotel, March. Review here. 
  • James Vincent McMorrow, Sydney Opera House, March. I love this guy. Love the voice. Love the music.
  • Andrew Bird, Sydney Opera House, April. Has it really been so long since I first started listening to Andrew Bird (Noble Beast, 2009)? Yup. This concert tour sees him playing with a band of three others. At times, with his flexible, lazy voice, and all the fiddling, it could be bluegrass Americana, but then the violin takes on almost classical tones, and the insistent plucking of violin strings that he uses as his most common percussive background, plus his virtuoso whistling, all takes this music into completely original territory. Plus his playful and complex lyrics, and a few self-deprecating anecdotes, had me as transported as the first time I saw him. Last time we saw, my pal M called him a ‘mad genius’ (it was a solo show, with much more looping). He still seems like a mad genius, really. I think the extra band members lifts the energy, though makes the show feel slightly less personal.
  • Sydney Dance Company, Orb and Ocho: An amazing double-bill. Quite different than what I’ve seen from them before. Loved both pieces. 
  • Sweeney Todd, Barrow Street, NYC: Holy cow what an amazing show. Review here.
  • Pacific Overtures, Classic Stage Company, NYC. Review here.
  • Amelie, Walter Kerr, NYC. Review here.
  • Waitress, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Hello, Dolly! Shubert Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Dear Evan Hansen, Music Box Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Come from Away, NYC. Review here.
  • Sweat, Studio 54, NYC. Review here.
  • Groundhog Day, NYC. Review here.
  • Only Heaven Knows, Hayes Theatre, Sydney. A homegrown Australian musical from 1988 written about the 40s and 50s. Interesting.
  • Blue: The Music of Joni Mitchell, Queenie Van Zandt, Hayes Theatre. I love Joni and Queenie told an interesting story of her through her songs. Love Queenie’s voice.
  • Mark Crawford’s Bed and Breakfast, the Belfry Theatre, Victoria, B.C., Canada. The theatre right around the corner from my brother’s place, opening night, a sweet and entertaining play about a gay couple opening a bed and breakfast in small town Ontario.
  • Coro Innominata’s Lux Aeterna: An afternoon concert of Australian choral music: loved being introduced to the work of Dan Walker, James Humberstone and the Translucent Duo and of course, hear Sally Whitwell’s compositions, magnificent piano playing (of Philip Glass) and her musical direction.
  • James Vincent McMorrow, Factory Theatre: The Factory Theatre in Marrickville is a strange venue, very casual, a combo of a bar, convention centre and RSL. This makes it a great and intimate venue for artists; I shall never forget seeing Rickie Lee Jones here. And McMorrow’s show was also memorable for me: great view, proximity and sound for this amazing guy with soaring vocals, unusual song structures and an intensity in his lyrics and delivery. He is GIVING himself while singing, I could feel the emotions deeply and I could feel him. A wonderful concert.
  • 2 One Another, Sydney Dance Company: I love the SDC. I loved the amazing lighting design, the costumes, the music and of course the dance, the shapes and gestures of the dancers, what seemed particularly mathematical in terms of staging for this show, the various marching lines and trios and duos and solos and how they were placed on the stage.
  • Bittersweet Obsessions: Monteverdi & Bach, Brandenburg Orchestra: Some staged opera scenes with costumes and a set; so an interesting eclectic mix including the coffee cantata.
  • Me & My Girl, Neglected Musicals, Hayes Theatre: Trevor Ashley directing a cast doing this fun, old-fashioned musical. The two leads were outstanding. The cast was having fun. A good night.
  • Merciless Gods, Griffin Theatre: Interesting adaptation of short stories by Christos Tsiolkas. Some amazing acting, and a little too operatic at times, I find, like some of the scenes in his novels.
  • Trevor Ashley’s The Bodybag: First Christmas pantomime in four years for Ashley and writer Phil Scott. As expected, raucuous and entertaining.
  • Beautiful, Lyric Theatre: I liked this show. How could you go wrong with the music of Carole King? Esther Hannaford gets the role she seemed born to do.

Exhibitions

  • Nude: Art from the Tate collection, AGNSW: Such an amazing variety of images and sculpture, and what a story is told, from the heroes and gods to women bathing and then artists painting themselves or pushing boundaries. A compact and very interesting exhibition and the way they’ve lit and placed Rodin’s The Kiss was awesome.
  • Guggenheim Museum: ‘Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim’; ‘Thannhauser Collection’; ‘Brancusi’; Jackson Pollack’s Alchemy; Anicka Yi’s Life is Cheap.
  • Whitney Museum: ‘Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s’; ‘Where we are: Selections 1900–1960’; Whitney Biennial 2017.
  • MoMA, NYC: Robert Rauschenberg, Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction,
  • American Museum of Natural History: I liked the meterorites and gems the best
  • The Met: Rei Kawakubo, Age of Empires (Han & Qin Dynasty art), Y. G. Srimati and the Indian Style, Chinese Hardstone Carvings

Books

  • The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant (short fiction):  I started this last year, and took a long break, and finally finished it in January while travelling. Still trying to get my head around it. 
  • Peter Ho Davies’ The Fortunes (fiction)
  • Berndt Sellheim’s Awake at the Wheel (poetry)
  • Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You (fiction)
  • Viet Than Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (fiction)
  • Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air (autobiography)
  • Richard Siken’s Crush (poetry)
  • Jonathan Galessi’s Muse (fiction) – except it was so terrible I couldn’t finish it.
  • Susan Cain’s Quiet (non-fiction)
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (non-fiction)
  • Edmund White’s Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris (biography)
  • Bill Hayes’s Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me (biography)
  • Jack Viertal’s The Secret Life of the American Musical (non-fiction)
  • Gerald Stern’s In Beauty Bright (poetry)
  • Simon Fitzmaurice’s It’s Not Dark Yet (autobiography)

Movies

  • Bridget Jones’s Baby: OK. I’m a fan of Bridget Jones. I didn’t see the last one which sounded terrible, but really, this was just fine for airplane viewing.
  • La La Land: I liked it. It was fun and engaging, and romantic. The two leads are charismatic. I liked that the tone of the fantasy ending was bittersweet. I’d rather have films winning awards that have a stronger message than nostalgia and entertainment but…
  • Moonlight: Review here. Amazing.
  • The Great Wall: Surprisingly, not terrible. Review here.
  • Miss Sloane: Review here.
  • Arrival: I thought this was a really interesting and beautiful film; great ideas; and putting a women linguist as the hero: loved it.
  • Captain Fantastic: An odd film with some terrific performances. Not sure whether I really liked the story or not!
  • Sing!: Man, this got mediocre or bad reviews, but singing, animated animals. I can’t help myself. I liked it.
  • Lion: Pretty good, I thought, though I’m not sure I was as taken with it as the rest of the world. Nice to see Dev Patel grown up and playing a mature part.
  • Adriana’s Pact: an amazing documentary seen at the Latin American Film Festival. If you get the chance… go.
  • The Cakemaker: My sense of the film was borne out by reading about it later. A first film by a first-time filmmaker, it packs in too much. Is it going to be a food porn film (Like Water for Chocolate or Chocolat), a thriller, a meditation on grief and loss, something about gay identity, or a look inside conservative Israeli society and the politics of kosher food and identity? Some nice performances and cinematography, but too much happening here.

Television

  • Transparent, Seasons 1, 2 and 3: How did TV become better than movies? Truthful, funny and frantic.
  • The Crown: Amazing TV.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 9
  • Survivor, Season 34
  • Survivor, Season 32 (missed this one when it came around)
  • Game of Thrones, Season 7
  • Handmaid’s Tale, Season 1
  • The Good Place, Season 1 (We’re liking this!)
  • Sense8, Season 2 (Loved Season 1, a little lost during Season 2)

Posted in Book, Concert, Exhibition, Film, Sydney, Theatre/Show | Leave a comment

Sydney Food Diary: Yok Yor, Chinatown

They say that good Thai food in Sydney can be even better than in Thailand because the chefs have access to better quality produce and are free from tradition to create better dishes. When my family was visiting from overseas, then, Thai food was the first place I took them to.

The Chat Thai in Chinatown is always impossible to get into (we checked) so we backtracked a few blocks to Yok Yor. My family from Hawaii believe that the Pad Thai is among the best (and most interesting) they’ve ever had, with more sauce than usual, wet and delicious. I was happy to show off how many Thai restaurants cook whole fish here, which I think is stupendous.

And basically, everything else we ordered was delicious. All of this at inexpensive prices and with attentive service. A high recommendation for casual, great Thai food.

Yok Yor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Xage, Surry Hills

A casual Vietnamese meal with the family during the Christmas holiday period. My favourite Vietnamese dish are Nem, the deep fried spring rolls with a delicate rice noodle crust or wrapper. These were suitably delicious and the highlight of the night.

I quite liked the squid dish but it was a bit too visceral for my family. We had a fried rice with red chicken, which turned out to be little balls of chicken, a slow-cooked pork shoulder dish and a beef dish.

I liked the food better the last time I came, two years ago. Something felt off to me this night, the sauces a bit too sweet or some spice combination not agreeing with me.

Still, this is perfectly acceptable casual Vietnamese food, and I’m happy for their staying power, particularly since they’re across the street from the cursed restaurant location that most recently did in ‘Master’. It’s outdoor seating and mostly communal, so if you like that social summer vibe, it’s a good choice (and if you don’t like it, stay away…)

Xage Vietnamese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In June 2015, I wrote this:

Can the food get any better in Surry Hills? It’s ri-donk-ulous how many good restaurants there are. The food here was tasty, spicy and fresh, cool Asian but at cheap prices. I kind of like when a dish, like the duck papaya salad, has flavours that I’m unfamiliar with and I’m taken by surprise. The chicken curry with mint was superb, the summer roll, the duck skewers also good. Didn’t like the soy-ginger chicken. Where was the meat? Hated the cramped communal table but I guess you make do with the space you have. I’ll try it again.

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