Sydney Food Diary: Mekong, Chippendale

I went to Mekong not long after it opened. I thought it was very impressive indeed. Then friends booked for a staff Christmas party and weren’t as impressed, so it’s taken me a while to get back. A friend, who’s moved overseas to Spain, hasn’t seen this new street of restaurants and I thought it would be fun to show him, and I thought Mekong would be a good choice, and offer food that he wouldn’t be able to easily find in Madrid.

And it’s a nice buzzy atmosphere. Empty when we arrived, it filled up quickly. We had a table where we overlooked down into the Spice Alley food court, which was fun.

Even though the banquet menu was tempting, we found it was pretty much the same cost to order the plates individually, which gave us more choice, and we still in fact ended up ordering too much. They must cut down the portions for the banquet menu.

Absolutely loved the starter with the crispy crackers and finely chopped catfish (photo at the top). This eggplant with pork floss was also a highlight. It was all sort of good.

But all the other dishes were really delicious too. The cabbage looks deceptively simple but had a beautiful flavour.

The soft-shelled crab, in a generous portion, was pretty incredible.

The crispy pork hock put us over the edge. We were too full for dessert! Even though I’d been to Mekong before, it was fun to be surprised: that the food is still so good and that the dishes were slightly unusual and very tasty. And I always love a win when I choose a restaurant to go to with a friend and it’s a good or even better than hoped for.

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

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Sydney Food Diary: Sabbaba, Bondi Junction

I’ve always liked the Bondi Westfield mall. It’s got a good vibe, good shops and beautiful people. We occasionally end up here for a movie, and if we have time, a meal before the movie. There’s a lot to choose from at the food court, but I have to admit I often end up at Sabbaba, part of a chain (I think I’ve eaten at them all).

I like their falafels. The food is fresh and tasty but has some flair to it. You can see what you’re getting from their display case.

I just grabbed a bagel with an egg filling, but it was tasty and what I wanted.

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

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Home Cooking: Melissa Clark’s Lemony Pasta Kelp, Chile and Anchovies

I’ve been saving recipes for pasta right now, to take advantage of my new Philips Pasta Maker (which I love, my god, it’s so much fun). The New York Times, which is probably my favourite source of recipes, put up a paywall a while ago for their Food section. I’ve been too cheap to pay for it (and already subscribe to the regular edition) but they dropped the paywall for World Press Freedom Day (3 May) and suddenly I found some amazing recipes.

Actually, I don’t know why it’s still available (as of 18 May):

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020190-lemony-pasta-with-kelp-chile-and-anchovies

This caught my eye because I really love an unusual ingredient and … kelp.

The idea of the recipe is that the puréed kelp gives the sauce a depth of flavour and an interesting texture that matches with anchovies, a generous amount of parsley and a hit of chile. It works! Plus, I got to make a fresh batch of penne, which turned out better than the first batch I made (I used more pasta flour and less semolina, but added some xantham gum to make sure the pasta stuck together).

I’m not sure that the kombu that I found in an Asian grocery was exactly what Melissa had in mind for her recipe (she said you can find kelp as purée or smoothie cubes from specialty shops in the USA) but it worked fine. About 35 grams dried gave me the 70 grams needed; I used the nutribullet to purée it and I thought the flavour combo was great. I think I’d put even more than the 8 anchovy fillets that it required, and the more fresh parsley the better.

I’m definitely going to make this again, and it’s weird enough (and tasty enough), I’d even serve it to guests.

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Sydney Food Diary: Grandma’s at McEvoy, Alexandria

Listen the food is fine here, but I kind of liked the way the whole place made me ask questions. Like how they get business? My guess is that it’s all people on their way to shop at Bunnings, Victoria’s Basement Warehouse, and Petbarn, because there’s just not a lot around here, in terms of either houses or even other businesses. Maybe there are some offices nearby that keep them afloat.

Then, the whole idea of the place: Grandma’s. It says prominently on the wall that this is a ‘concept’ (not a restaurant?). It’s the idea of global grandmas who have inspired the food (seems Israeli or Middle Eastern inspired though all the staff are young Asians). But I find it a mismatch that it’s a big warehouse space, not cosy like Grandma’s house too, unless your grandma lived in an industrial warehouse.

Still, the food was absolutely fine. I can never go past a meat pastry and this one was delicious. Then we split a Shakshouka, that they do in many flavours: we got the Italian one with bolognaise. It was tasty and piping hot. The flatbread was weirdly solid, not a light variety, but it seemed that way on purpose. Drop by on your way to Bunnings?

Grandma's At McEvoy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Cafe, Food n' Grog, Sydney | 2 Comments

Sydney Food Diary: Cafe con Leche, Surry Hills

I stopped by this cheery cafe on Fitzroy street for coffee a few months ago so was glad to come back with my pal Darryl for breakfast. It’s a Colombian cafe, I believe, and has a neighbourhood, authentic feel.

Thus, the coffee is creamy and delicious, but lacks coffee art, but is fine. As for the breakfast, it was easy to imagine my Colombian special to be something that I could get on holidays visiting the country or if invited to a friend’s home.

The flatbread was dense, and perhaps a touch dry, but therefore suitable for dipping into the beans. With the the well-cooked plantains, eggs and chorizo, salsa and herbs, it was tasty and… a bigger portion that I could eat!

My pal had a quesadilla and seemed happy with it. I’d be happy to come back here.

Cafe Con Leche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Drinking in Sydney: Scout Sydney, Surry Hills

I’m a sucker for the hype occasionally, and the Scout Sydney team has been bringing it. I think I saw a sign on a local bus shelter. I saw an article in Time Out Sydney before it had opened its doors. I’ve seen it on Facebook. And the idea seems exciting to me: take one of the world’s best mixologists and give him his own space in my neighbourhood and see what happens. Oh, and they take reservations which for a bar, I think, is sort of crazy. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Super-amusing is this wooden box they’ve built to block off the stairs to this intimate space on the top floor of the Dolphin Hotel. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been all the way up there before. It is like a treehouse entrance perhaps, or a boy scout’s secret hideaway.

We arrived early, though we made a reservation, and were served drinks by a succesion of young men, mostly European. It was dead quiet but slowly filling up and we were assured it would be packed later on. It’s dark and intimate with well-placed lighting and an impressive large fake treet in the middle (carrying on with the treehouse theme).

An amuse-bouche with watermelon and nori was a taste of what was to come, as the flavours were slightly strange together but made you ask: do they work?

The cocktail menu is, as I’d hoped, inviting, though what kind of cocktails would they be? We learned with our first round. It’s all about flavours and flavour combinations. The stamped ice is amusing and large size of the cubes, and with each of the drinks there was a visible garnish. But there’s something clean and direct about these cocktails, visually and texturally.

The trick is the ingredients. These are the cocktails we had:

Avo on Toast: 666 Butter, Avocado, Brioche’d Prosecco, Orange Wine, Coffee Oil, Isolated Lychee Tannin.

Cane Toad: Guava, Blended Rum, Muyu Vetiver Gris, Bunya Nut, Verjus

Death Myrtle: Calvados, Cinnamon Myrtle, Burrata Whey, Overnight Apple.

Green Negroni: Tanqueray, Melon Quinine, Peach Leaf/Stone/Fruit Vermouth.

All of them were $22 each. And while this is certainly not cheap, it doesn’t seem to be more expensive than the other high-end cocktail bars in Sydney. If you’re prepared for the prices, you can settle down and enjoy yourself.

Apparently, Avo on Toast (photo second above) isn’t for everyone, and I just couldn’t taste the avocado. But I DID taste coffee and a slightly burned toast and butter. The overall effect was breakfast in a cocktail, and I liked it.

My pal Trevor thought his Cane Toad (photo at the top) was better though. It had a wonderful strong guava flavour. Delicious.

He also preferred his Death Myrtle (photo above) to my Green Negroni (photo below), and the combo of cinnamon and apple and calvados was lovely.

I’m a huge negroni fan. So, why not switch it up? This was light and vegetal, almost more savoury then sweet, and a contrast to the heavy, powerful punch of a regular negroni. I liked it.

In any case, if you like cocktails, I’d definitely recommend a visit. I think it would also impress out-of-town visitors and those of your loved ones who like bright and shiny objects.

Scout Sydney Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: White Cockatoo Hotel, Petersham

Now, this was a surprise. And such a surprise that I didn’t get proper photos of all the dishes we tried, nor of the venue. It was a fairly impromptu reunion of old friends, in a part of the city unfamiliar to me, and here in a quiet area next to a train station is the White Cockatoo Hotel.

A perfect autumn day, still warm but not as hot as summer, ample seating outside: just the right temperature. We downed beers and I had a sangria on tap (generous amount of fruit garnish, not bad) and we switched to riesling. My roast lamb, with perfectly cooked pumpkin and yummy kale was great. Our vegetarian was impressed that her choice, a selection of roast vegetables, was the first and most prominent menu item. Our guest from out-of-town had snags.

Good friends, food and drink on a perfect Sydney afternoon. Life couldn’t get better.

White Cockatoo Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Drinking in Sydney: Corridor, Newtown

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Buzzy, hip and crowded. Who cares about reviews? (a review from August 2016, scroll down for an update).

Corridor has a good look about it, the open frontage revealing a shiny bar, and in back and upstairs, classic Newtown: it could be a share house, really: pull up a few chairs around a table to have a drink with your housemates, and turn the music on.

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I arrived just after 7pm on a Friday night and it was buzzy. My pal said it had been packed 15 minutes before. Strangely, while I felt like a cocktail, nothing on the list really jumped out at me. It was like I’d stumbled into the wrong house party. And then, on the wine list, under white wines, there were only three choices, a chardy, which we had, and was pretty good, and not one but two Kiwi white wines. After the glut on the market a few years ago, I’m still a bit apprehensive about them: I don’t know the names of the better winemakers; and often find them too generic.

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But who cares if I don’t vibe with the cocktail list and think there should be more white wines to choose from. Newtown doesn’t! Corridor’s a popular place, and looks like it won’t be going away anytime soon, on ever-changing King Street.

Update: Apr 2019

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

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Sydney Food Diary: Rustic Pearl, Surry Hills

It was great to be to show friends from overseas, Canadians who are living in Penang, a bit of Surry Hills’s cafe culture. Our mission was to find vegan food for one of the party, and for some reason, because it’s next to Yulli’s (with its vegetarian and brewery awesomeness), I always assumed this buzzy little cafe was vegetarian too.

It’s not, but there are a lot of good options for both vegetarians and vegans. It’s a Turkish cafe, and I love a blend of cultures. My Turkish scrambled eggs were delicious. Our vegan was happy with her breakfast. And my pal Phil liked his Eggs Benedict. A win. Also: they have a sensational rating on Zomato. It’s nice to see a local cafe that is well-loved, with no gimmick to attract clients, just good food and service.

Rustic Pearl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Big Daddy’s Burger Bar, Darlinghurst

There was no way that we were ordering the food on offer at Karaoke World on Elizabeth Street. It looked nasty and overpriced. But, wow, were we ever hungry after an exhausting session of karaoke for Justin’s birthday. And I’d drunk too much without eating anything so was a bit tipsy.

Big Daddy’s Burger Bar came to the rescue, requiring no decision at all. It was there on our way home, we’d never tried it before and it’s loud design beckoned to us. I didn’t know it’s a chain, and there are six of them in Sydney. It’s an Australian creation, I think, though peddles Americana.

We both went for the Mac Daddy. A burger with macaroni and cheese. And bacon. And you know, I’m not sure I can be objective here. We were hungry. It was super tasty. It was just what we needed. And… the next day, expecting a hangover, I didn’t have one. I reckon all the alcohol got absorbed into those carbs and fat and I felt fit as a fiddle. So, to avoid a hangover: I highly recommend this burger.

[Update July 2019: It’s closed already! I should have had another one of those burgers before it shut down!]

Big Daddy's Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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