Sydney Food Diary: LuMi, Pyrmont

I’ve had my eye on LuMi since I started reading reviews about it (it opened in 2014). In particular, a filled pasta dish with liquid gruyere or parmesan was mentioned, which had caught everyone’s taste buds. So, I was disappointed, looking through the current menu not to find it on the menu. Ah well.

We started the evening with some very pleasant cocktails, and the space is really lovely, situated out on the wharf beyond Star City. It’s nice enough during daylight but as it becomes dark, with the lights of the city surrounding you, and the clever suspended lights above you, it has a very cozy atmosphere – and also fairly intimate. The restaurant doesn’t pack in too many diners, but rather than feeling exclusive and stuffy, it feels casual yet elegant.

It’s a requirement to have the eight-course degustation, though you can specify dietary issues (one of our table opted for vegetarian, to avoid the fish) and there were various add-ons; James and I split six oysters (delicious!). Ah, and most of us did matching wines, an excellent selection of mostly Italian wines, but with a side trip to Germany and Japan. They were generous pours.

There was also a generous serving of snacks, various tasty and delicious bites, including a sort of frozen parmesan mouthful, which served notice of one of the themes of the restaurant: the chef likes cool and cold things, possibly with a granita or frozen item. Interesting. I don’t know if I’ve come across that before. After the snacks was a lovely bit of bonito tuna, and then suddenly the evening got even better.

The oxheart tomato tartare was memorable and beautiful, quite like a steak tartare in fact, there was some technique of drying the tomato just enough to give it a great bite, and then chopped finely and served on crème fraiche with sancho pepper. Another notice served: interesting food ahead.

Then: my wishes were granted. Agnolotti with porcini mushroom and rye dashi turned out to be either the dish I’d heard of or a modern incarnation. Like a Western version of the Shanghai soup dumpling, the moment you break open the pasta wrapping, a rich, warm liquid fills your mouth. It was both rich and delicate, unusual and wonderfully delicious. We were all blown away.

The taglioline with scorpion fish and capsicum was a nice little dish as well, where you could taste the bite of the fresh pasta, and the combo of flavours and textures were lovely.

The wagyu was also a huge standout. A modest strip of the most perfectly cured and cooked steak (apparently three days cured in a pastrami style, I think). Some grilled or BBQed tiny peppers alongside. Incredible. Mark liked his vegetarian course, beetroot, which had a mysterious gelatinous covering.

For dessert, a tasty mousse or cream inside a frozen Granny Smith Apple (photo at the top of the page); it somehow represented to me the meal in general: pretty yet simple presentation, unfussy, with some mystery (what would be revealed by lifting off the top of the apple?) and then: delight.

The Douglas Fir ice cream, with raspberry and extra virgin olive oil, was served with a Japanese peach liqueur; I think it was umeshu rather than a fruit-flavoured sake.

The finish: compressed watermelon steeped in yuzu, so more of a lemon and citrus flavour than watermelon. Apparently, you can compress watermelon in a vacuum sealer; it concentrates the flavour while changing the texture. I found it amusing myself, though it wasn’t a favourite of the table.

I’ve been trying to be generous lately for some of our fancier meals, but in comparison to recent restaurants, LuMi takes the prize, and the price wasn’t much more expensive ($115 for the degustation, $80 for the matching wines). Mark said it was one of the best restaurants he’s been to lately. I’d agree (sadly admitting that it was better than any of the fine dining experiences I’d researched and booked in Buenos Aires over our Christmas holidays). With not one but a few memorable dishes, great techniques and wonderful flavours (and great service, particularly the sommelier), I was impressed and happy.

(As has happened before, I intended to only take a few photos, so as not to interrupt the lovely meal we were having, but then I got so excited about the food, I started taking photos of very course… So missing photos from the snacks and first course (and vegetarian options)… Oops)
LuMi Bar & Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Book review: Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The experience of reading ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ is a strange one. You start with the end, and know that an articulate, passionate and caring man has died, and he is the one who has written most of the words. It is written with urgency, to get down these words before he died. There is also a sense of a key mystery that is at the heart of many books: in this case, as compelling a mystery as any; will Paul Kalanithi discover the meaning of life, and of death?

I did have the sense, after finishing, this beautifully written, fiercely intelligent and compassionate book, that with more time, Kalanithi would have written more, filled in more details, had the time to explore even more. And yet, the answer, the meaning of it all, in my interpretation, is ‘enough’.

Kalanithi did enough: to live, to care for his family, to do as much as he could in his career, and then: to spend time with newborn daughter.

The book isn’t just about dying. It’s about an overachiever, about how mortality affects relationships, about the pressures of being a doctor, and the challenges for doctors or anyone dealing with death and people who are dying. It’s about the solace of literature and creation, and about legacies, and about life.

View all my reviews

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Sydney Food Diary: Zambo, Surry Hills

We were lucky enough to try Zambo for Valentine’s Day dinner. It was a fun night out, seeing the wide variety of couples that Surry Hills encompasses. I’ve been wanting to try Zambo for a while. What a change from the purposeful cave that Marque created; Zambo is much more open and light. It’s right next door to Besser… so two Italian restaurants as neighbours could be a good thing or a bad thing (in fact, one couple came into the restaurant thinking they were at Besser).

Zambo is aiming at the fine dining market… and offers both a four and seven-course degustation (they added an extra course for this special dinner) as well as the a la carte menu. The food is witty, with a nod to more casual and humble eating, but is definitely on the fancy end of the spectrum.

I loved their Signature Austral-iano snacks. Oysters and verjus granita and a lamington, or what kind of looked like a laminton but was actually home made ham, balsamic vinegar and fennel seeds and instead of a batter or bread, it was pork!

The ‘Pie that wanted to be a Pizza’ was a perfectly crisp pie shell oozing with the flavours of a margarita pizza. And some nice homemade bread there too…

The zucchini flower with this pretty solidified goat’s milk cover, spelt crunch and almond polenta was a great combo of texture and flavour. One of my favourite dishes of the night.

I did wish we’d gone for the eight-course menu so we could have had the ‘Love explosion’, agnoletti filled with liquid basil cream. Doesn’t that sound good? Instead our sole pasta was lunghetti pasta with hand-picked Spanner crab, chives and crispy bread. Tasty indeed. Reminded me of the pasta that I’d had over at Acme in Kings Cross.

Spanish mackerel was the fish of the day, served with a capers emulsion and roasted corn. I loved the thin slice of corn on the cob, how it was roasted. Very elegant. I’m going to try that. I like mackerel. It’s rich. My better half thought it had a bit of a strong flavour, appropriately fishy. Maybe not his favourite.

The organic veal rump with wattle seed, spring onions, and red cabbage was perfectly done. The roasted onion was so packed with flavour.

For dessert, poached cherries, white chocolate, mascarpone and cocoa nibs. Again, a very nice interplay of textures.

We did the matching wines and had a great little tour of Italy, through the various matches (all excellent). All in all, I thought it was a very nice meal. I wonder how it will do in Surry Hills’s tough market. People do have money here… but seem to be favouring more casual dining at the moment. I’m not sure if regular evenings feel as formal as this one did; I suspect it might, the ghost of Marque hovering around with an exacting eye (and palate). I’d say you should be able to get a feel of the place from the photos and this review: if you think you might like it, I’d say give it a try!

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

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Movie review: Miss Sloane

I was just musing to my better half: when did TV become better than movies? The question was in relation to what I think is stunning: the series, The Crown, as well as the start of the second season of Transparent. Wow.

Case in point: Miss Sloane. I had some high hopes for it. The pitch, exploring the world of lobbying and ethics, sounded fine, and I’ve not seen much of Jessica Chastain but she gets good reviews.

But it kind of seemed like a poorer version of TV shows that I’ve watched. Some court room scenes and shenanigans like the Good Wife, but without the wit and fast pacing. A protoganist who is ruthless and scheming and has questionable ethics.

Well, the Underwoods from the House of Cards would chew her up and spit her out for breakfast. And similarly, while Miss Sloane wasn’t particularly likeable: that’s not a problem. I could watch Robin Wright’s character on House of Cards all day long. I just didn’t find Miss Sloane very compelling, particularly as she’s a cypher: there’s absolutely no explanation of how she got to be the way she is.

Another trope from House of Cards, how to win votes and influence senators, felt plodding and unpredictable. Seen it. Other aspects of the film felt TV-like but not in a good way. The junior lobbyists are all roughly the same age, and a rainbow array of races and types and appearances. It felt very constructed. The pal I watched it with commented that it felt like it was dumbed down to appeal to a broader audience.

The hooker with a heart of gold idea was not made any more original by having the sex worker in question be a man. A scene where the courtroom gasps in shock that a male sex worker has female clients in Washington. Get over it, you old-fashioned prudes!

The pacing was really very slow, and overall the film lacked wit. But it wasn’t absolutely terrible. The actors were all very watchable, and I didn’t mind the preposterous ending, which at least gave me some drama. In fact, if the film was a faster-paced 90 minutes, I think I would give it a higher rating. As it was, it might have reached a 6.5/10 though was probably more like a 6.

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Sydney Food Diary: Old Town Hong Kong Cuisine, Chinatown

In the movie ‘Miss Sloane’, they show the title character not cooking for herself and viewing food only as fuel by eating at the same casual Chinese restaurant. ‘How do you always eat here?’ asks another character, implying that it would get boring. But none of this really rang true for me. Aside from the fact that it was a dumb way to establish character (and not really mentioned again), it looked like one of those Chinese restaurants that has a huge menu, not unlike that of Old Town Hong Kong Cuisine, and if you like Cantonese food, you could return to again and again.

In any case, the movie wasn’t that great, but it made us hungry (because it was too long) so it was appropriate we ended up here, at the funky end of Dixon Street, which seems to have 90% hotpot restaurants at the moment.

Yes, as the other reviews here have mentioned, it’s pricy, but it’s cheaper than a trip to Hong Kong. Once a large table of noisy university students had left, it was tranquil enough upstairs. Our $40 bottle of Riesling was very nice, and honestly, the food was delicious. Soy chicken and roast duck, a combo plate. Perfectly done shiny mushrooms and vegetables. And while I should have opted for plain rice, I decided we DESERVED fried rice that night. All up, $100 for the both of us (including the bottle of wine). A tasty meal, with free prawn crackers and watermelon to end.

Old Town Hong Kong Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: S’Age Bistronomy, Crow’s Nest

It was a fun little adventure to head up from Surry Hills to Crows Nest on a Tuesday evening for dinner at S’Age Bistronomy. Billed as Japanese with French influences, it’s located on a corner on Pacific Highway, formerly Waqu, and the waitress told us perhaps long ago a bank.

The space is cool and beautiful, with a clear Japanese aesthetic (it helps to have sake bottles on the bar). The views out of the window are a little unfortunate, the traffic and not very pretty buildings. But settle in, and ignore the outside world.

I think they’re doing a very interesting thing here, offering diners a special meal experience if they desire with a degustation, but also offering more casual fare (and interesting cocktails). It’s a mid-range restaurant, quite inexpensive I think for what you get (and cheaper glasses of wine than most places I’ve eated at lately in Surry Hills).

We opted to pick and choose different dishes from the menu and got to try an interesting range of chef’s techniques. Loved the duck liver pate filling of the beetroot macaron, though the macaron was a touch too crisp for me. Great combo of flavours.

The squid ink lavosh and smoked cod cream seemed deceptively simple, yet the texture of the lavosh and the intense, beautiful flavour of the cream made this a standout. Also, presentation was very nice.

My better half commented on how the bonito sashimi (with smoked soy and raspberry and a delicious black garlic cream) tasted of the sea; I thought the sashimi tasted very high quality. A great dish. Photo at the top of the post.

We had high hopes for the glazed lamb ribs with sweet potato, but alas, it was not to our taste, even though I give full marks to the complicated system set up for the finger bowl and bones! I’ve never seen such a system. Somehow I’ve gotten used to slow-cooked ribs, melt in your mouth, but still crisp on the outside. These were tender but not done in the same technique, and the potato was underdone.

But this dish: what a dish. And a humble side dish too, for only ten bucks. Thrice cooked potato with burnt butter. It was the essence of deep-fried on the outside (but not greasy) and then soft and creamy in the middle. The hint of the guilty pleasure of junk food (or really good fish and chips for example) but so perfectly done, it had to come from a fine dining restaurant. The burnt butter sprinkled on top just made it even better.

To drink, we had cocktails, a Fragroni, a negroni with amaretto mixed in (I slightly prefer the original’s bitterness but this was good).

And a salty sake, an interesting concoction with lime, cointreau. salt and sake and yuzu – but I couldn’t taste any of the sweet notes at all. It really was salty and sour. Cocktails are only $16. A bargain! I also had a very nice glass of organic Italian pinot grigio. Yum.

It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t fit in another dish, nor dessert. But left happily sated after our culinary adventure in Crows Nest.

S'age Bistronomy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We dined as guests of S’Age, but the opinions above are my own. In the meantime, what’s up with the Zomato ratings? It’s listing 3.2 out of 5 from 10 votes, but of the 8 public votes on the page, there is only one 3 and the rest are 4’s and 4.5’s. Certainly not an average of 3.2 unless two anonymous voters both gave a 1 star without rationale…

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Movie Review: The Great Wall

I suggested Lion and my friend said he can’t stand anything with Nicole Kidman in it. I suggested Hidden Figures and he said that he’d read a review with the lead actor that said they’d really sanitised the book it was based on. He suggested Silence but reviews have been mixed and the idea of missionaries colonising Asian people makes me kind of queasy.

So, the Great Wall it was!

And you know, the thing is: it wasn’t terrible. I’d read the controversy about whether Matt Damon was cast as a White Saviour for Asians. And he’s not, although he is the focus of the film, the individual that gets the most attention. As a friend pointed out, the Chinese might have been quite pleased that they could afford to hire Matt Damon for their film, and use him for their purposes (though I discover it’s a co-production, and the writers and producers all have Western names; only the famous director, Zhang Yimou (and a cast of thousands) are Chinese). In any case, I could find ways, perhaps of being offended in a minor way (it would have been nice to have Chinese heroes with the Whities really as secondary), but I can’t get worked up.

What the film seems to be is a regular big budget action movie, with monsters and special effects, that has a Chinese setting, mostly Chinese actors, and a somewhat Chinese sensibility. The rather large army is dressed in different colours according to their role, and I disconcertingly thought they looked like a bunch of Wiggles.

Photo from Universal Studios

But the scenery is amazing. The costumes are amazing. The actors are beautiful (especially Jing Tian, the female commander). The script is basic and passable, without any laugh out loud ridiculousness. About one-third of the way from the ending, the script completely seemed to fall apart, with gaping holes in logic.

But with my expectations so low, I was more than pleased that I didn’t hate it.

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Sydney Food Diary: BBQ Galbi, Waterloo

Why go to a Korean BBQ restaurant and not have the BBQ? Any number of reasons, really. Korean Fried Chicken. BiBimBap. Well, that was our decision on a quiet weeknight.

This is a pretty charming and casual place in a little complex with other Asian restaurants, probably at least two other Korean ones and at least one Vietnamese.

The staff are friendly and welcoming.

However, the funniest moment was when the Mama-san brought us the wrong BiBimBap, and then smiled very sweetly and basically said, ‘You can order the one you want next time.’ And she dropped the plate on the table and ran away.

I’ve had Korean Fried Chicken before which is… well, orgasmic. If found this mixed. Some pieces were really tasty; others not as much. It was still pretty good. We had the standard one (no spices or flavours).

The BiBimBap was tasty, neither terrible nor special. I thought the selection of pickles was pretty good. We had cans of Korean beer to wash it all down.

BBQ Galbi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Shinmachi, Newtown

Shinmachi advertises itself as Japanese Tapas. I think it was called Wagaya and changed to the present incarnation around April 2016. David and I popped by here on a Saturday night after seeing the bizarrely not terrible movie, The Great Wall. It was packed when we arrived, but cleared out a bit. It’s a fun, fast place.

We loved the iPad ordering system, with iPads attached to the walls near each table. David is vegetarian and there was more than enough to please us, though we couldn’t resist ordering both the Nasi Denkaku (eggplant) and deep-fried tempura eggplant.

I also had the fun sake tasting, four cups for $12 from different regions, as indicated on the map. I wish the sake was cold though, rather than room temperature.

We also had deep-fried lotus root (delicious), a vegie sushi roll, and for dessert, black sesame ice cream with a matcha pannacotta (and some sweet red beans underneath). Very tasty.

The food was very tasty, and came out quick, and possibly wasn’t fabulous, but that’s not what we were expecting. It’s tasty enough, not expensive, and the experience is rather fun. All up for the two of us was only $65 (and only me drinking). The bill could be larger if you indulge in the various amusing drinks they have here (pear sake!) but if you’re after cheap, this is inexpensive. I’d be happy to drop by for a quick and easy meal here anytime at all.

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

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Coffee in Sydney: Crown St Grocer, Surry Hills

Crown St Grocer is a bit of an institution, selling high-quality and slightly expensive Italian food and deli products. They have a great range of cheese.

And the coffee is just fine. What better outlook on a morning in Surry Hills than to watch the world go by at Crown and Albion?

Crown St Grocer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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