Coffee in Sydney: Saint George, Chippendale

I like anything that makes a city more beautiful. And for some reason, this tiny strip of Chippendale between Railway Square and the Central Park shopping complex is particularly ugly. Inexpensive restaurants and a few pubs in the next block (and the incongruous Posh Hotel, which looks anything but) and cheap Asian food and a McDonalds on the other side of the street.

So, Saint George really stands out, with its glazed red brick-shaped tiles, hipster vibe and smart, modern interiors of wood and concrete and exposed utilities. It’s an oasis of cool and charm. I only had a coffee, after a mediocre lunch at Central Park, and while (oh no!) I was disappointed at the lack of coffee art, it tasted just fine, and I sat at the window and watched the world go by. I’ll have to try their food sometime.

Saint George Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Fortune Village Chinese Restaurant, CBD

It’s second nature for Asian people to take over ordering the food in Asian restaurants. It’s both experience and control issues. In any case, I was rather pleased that my pals turned over the ordering to me at Fortune Village. I went with grandmother’s tofu, a combination omelette, and the clear favourite of the evening, deep-fried eggplant slices in a black bean sauce. We also ordered a salt and pepper pork chop dish and a spicy lamb, neither of which were standouts.

Overall, the food is tasty and appealing, the service efficient, and it’s a great choice for Cantonese food. I wasn’t in the photo-taking mood though! It was Glenn’s birthday and Simon, the owner, came out and had us pose with a photo of a sword (I won’t embarrass us by reposting the photo), presented Glenn with a photo magnet and then complimentary ice cream all around (with a larger portion for the birthday boy). It was a lovely and generous gesture.

Fortune Village Chinese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: L’Americano, Alexandria

We were not going to fight with the crowds at The Grounds of Alexandria after dropping off our e-Waste on e-Waste disposal day (this was surprisingly satisfying to do). And while restaurants attached to stores can be hit and miss, this stylish cafe is attached to a stylish furniture store, Coco Republic, and I liked the vibe immediately.

If I’d read the description on the website – ‘The first hospitality offering for the Australian-owned premium lifestyle brand’ – I might have given it a miss though. I think ‘restaurant attached to a store’ is a more honest description.

So, I was glad we went and that I got good vibes right away. My impression was confirmed by some outstanding latte art (and good coffee).

All three of us ordered the same thing: Avocado mash, cherry tomatoes, farro, hazelnut dukkah, prosciutto, shallots, organic eggs and artisanal toast. I mean: that’s a pretty good description. Why would you pass it up? I ordered mine with sausages on the side, Geoff had bacon on the side, and I think Davy had mushrooms, maybe?

Oink, oink. It was a great breakfast. The farro was really interesting. This was a great combo of flavours and texture: a cut above the standard Sydney breakfast. And it’s a charming decor (Italian Riviera inspired, apparently).

L'Americano Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Dove & Olive, Surry Hills

Our gang from school usually meets at the Shakespeare but to try something different, we went to Dove and Olive. I like the name, which reminds me of all those pubs in London with the same theme – Slug and Lettuce, Hare and Cabbage, Pig and Leek. OK. I’m making up some of these but the combinations seemed endless.

I’ve been downstairs here before, but I hadn’t seen the upstairs which is open and expansive with lots of seats. I think we’ll have to return here, if we’re not playing trivia!

Food are drinks were fine. One of our party, a local, says it’s always been one of his favourite pubs. I was pretty impressed with my Sunday roast. I was aiming for the short ribs but someone grabbed the last one. So I got the pork belly. The crackling was not super crisp, so was a bit hard to cut into and chew, but the meat was perfectly tender, and the combo of everything on the plate was really good.

I liked the carrots, and potatoes, and sort of biscuit, and most of all a crumbed pepper. Yum. My pal seemed happy with his too (beef of some sort).

Drinks were reasonable and tasty. I’d say this is a solidly good Sydney pub!

Dove & Olive Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Rey’s Place, Darlinghurst

Rey’s Place combines all my favourite things about dining in Sydney: new and unusual flavours or dishes; food that comes from somewhere, authentically; and fine dining – I like a casual meal too, but I like to when I can see and taste the thought, care and quality that’s been put into a meal.

Here, Filipino cuisine, which I’ve only had at very casual restaurants, in Hawaii and in Vancouver (and actually, one trip in Manila), has been plated up for the Sydney crowd, so served in manageable portions and the sometimes heaviness of the meat or sauces or fats is tempered with a different way of serving up, and again, smaller portions.

It’s a charming space too, a handful of tables upstairs and a modest downstairs space, in what looks to be a modified terrace house, taken over from the Indian street food place, Trunk Road, which I always meant to try and never did. From the owners of Bang Street, the amazing fine dining fusion with Bangladeshi street food, which seems to have closed, I wonder what they’ll do next. As I said, I love modern and upscale versions of ethnic food.

We started with a plateful of Chicaron Na Manok, delicious fried chicken skin, like pork crackling but much lighter with spiced soy and vinegar ($7). I couldn’t go by the sausage starter as well, Longganisa, a sweet garlic and pepper pork sausage, which reminded me a bit of Thai sausages, a stickiness and a different flavour ($10). Served with light crackers of deep fried rice, doused in pinakurat, a spiced vinegar, these were very good.

Rather than the Filipino specialty of crispy pata, deep-fried pork hocks, which my family is obsessed with, they do ‘Rey’s Lechon’ here, slow-roasted suckling pig with a housemade sarsa (sauce) and chilli-mansi dipping ($28). Photo at the top! I love roast pork. It’s a weakness.

And we couldn’t go by the Chicken Adobo, soy and vinegar chicken with crispy potatos and sweet onion ($23). Love this dish though flattered that husband said my version, cooked from a NYT recipe, is just as good (if not better).

Finally, a light salad, Itlog Maalat ($11), of salted duck egg, tomato, basil and mustard dressing was refreshing and delicious and a good contrast in texture and flavours to the other dishes. And really, I loved all the flavours because they are slightly different to me: mild heat, different kinds of vinegar, well-salted.

As you can see, the prices are very reasonable, and we were too full to have dessert (I would have liked to try their banana spring roll with ube (purple yam) parfait. We also had a great chat with the waiter who told us about the Filipino food scene in Sydney: there really aren’t many restaurants around but there are a few. But while I’m dying to try Sydney Cebu Lechon in Enmore, specialising in pork, I’d come back to Rey’s any day.

Rey's Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Paragon Hotel, Circular Quay

If you live in Sydney, you know this place, even though you might not know that you know it. It’s the pub on the corner at Circular Quay next to and above the McDonalds. I must have passed it a hundred times.

So, it was fun to finally eat here. My pal immediately identified that the downstairs looked a pretty standard (photo below) and the upstairs (forgot to take photos) is nice: open, funky.

It’s got a regular pub menu with reasonable prices. I can never resist a croquette and these were absolutely fine.

My pal had a lentil burger and I forgot to ask him how it was. Bad blogger.

I had a chicken parma and thought it was a more elegant version than some I’ve had. Everything: the fries and the chicken were perfectly crisp. How could I complain with that.

Washed down with a $40 bottle of Pinot Noir (and happy to get $20 off with my Entertainment coupon), this was an easy, tasty meal, a nice enough atmosphere to catch up, and perfect before going off to see Jonsi and Alex’s Riceboy Sleeps performance at the Opera House.

Paragon Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Gami Chicken & Beer, Central Park Mall, Chippendale

Reader. Yes: I was crying.

We ordered the fried chicken, as recommended, where you get to choose two flavours. Correctly, I chose the original, because then you really get to appreciate the crispy coating. And they served it with a nice dipping sauce of some sort.

And then we opted for the spicy one, rather than garlic, because why not? And while it was really tasty and good, it was so spicy, I was crying. But I don’t mind a good cry.

Dinner for two here, unless you carry extra stomachs (like most Asian people), it’s hard to order a lot of dishes. We couldn’t manage any more besides the chicken and I noticed that other tables that HAD ordered more were unable to finish them.

The chicken came with a nice, small coleslaw. We could probably done with a little more of it to cut the heat.

I have read about this place, and I like the concept: a bunch of friends who decided that they would open restaurants to serve really good Korean fried chicken. Matched up with beer, with is perfect, I really can’t complain about a thing here. Nor can I imagine ordering anything else from the menu except the delicious chicken, even though there looks like there are quite a few interesting things.

The decor is bright, cheap and cheerful and people seem to be come to enjoy their eating!

Gami Chicken and Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Gigi Pizzeria, Newtown

There are a few things to love about this place. I absolutely adore that this is a vegan pizzeria that doesn’t really advertise as such. I didn’t see it on the walls of the restaurant, or signage, or the menu. They just happen to not use animal products.

Now, I like meat, but I think it’s much healthier for the planet to eat less of it, and for humans to eat less meat than we do. Having a delicious option to meat and not make a fuss about it (and serve negronis and good Italian wine too). Well, that’s worth celebrating.

And indeed the food was delicious. The arancini were crisp and for arancini were very delicate actually. The pizza was very tasty though with the lighting and my rushed photo, it looks a bit impressionist, no?

Service was all over the place. The manager insisted on cramming us into a small tables for two, right next to each other, with barely any space between (but was more charming when he brought me a glass of house red). There was a charming young Italian fellow with a great accent. An amusing cluster of skinny European men in the kitchen all with the same patchy beards. But they kept trying to take our plates before we’d completely finished the food, and my attempt to say “Hands off my plate” in a joking way was met with confusion and a snarl. The service was quick but to the point of being rushed. Friendly cashier though who liked my eyeglasses.

Still, I’m very happy to recommend Gigi (which also happened to be my Dad’s nickname for my Mom). And I’d be happy to come back.

Gigi Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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2019 in lists: concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV

(A work in progress…)

Concerts, Shows, Theatre, Exhibitions & Words

  • Sasha Velour’s Smoke and Mirrors, the Enmore Theatre. See review here.
  • Jane Siberry in concert at the Camelot Lounge, Sydney.
  • Jane Siberry hosting Songwriters in the Round at the Estonian House, Sydney.
  • Bent Burlesque, Seymour Centre
  • Confessions of a Mormon Boy, Giant Dwarf.
  • West Side Story, Handa Opera: A classic musical, maybe my favourite, on a huge stage, colourful, with beautiful singing and acting and dancing. Loved it.
  • Heaven and earth: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Art Gallery of NSW.
  • Jonsi and Alex: Riceboy Sleeps, Sydney Opera House: It’s such a complex work, built up with so many sounds and layers, I never expected to see it performed live. I found it incredible.
  • John Grant, with Brendan McLean, special guest, the Metro.
  • Once, Darlinghurst Theatre.
  • Love is a Drag, Tim Draxl, Sydney Cabaret Festival.
  • Reuben Kaye, Sydney Cabaret Festival. Shockingly funny, filthy, witty AND he greeted each of us to the theatre with a hug. Uh-mazing.
  • Kim David Smith, Kim Sings Kylie, Sydney Cabaret Festival.
  • Caroline, or Change. Hayes Theatre: There were some great moments in the musical and wonderful performances, but I found it confusing. There were also some terrible moments (clichéd) and not a lot happens. I expected more from Kushner and Tesori.
  • Sydney Contemporary 2019: To be able to wander around the see some of the world’s best contemporary art while sipping a negroni. Unbeatable.

Books

  • Lily Brett’s New York (essays)
  • André Aciman’s Call me by your name (fiction)
  • Ali Smith’s How to be Both (fiction)
  • Chris Somerville’s We are not the same anymore (short fiction)
  • Jonathan Coe’s Middle England (fiction)

Movies

  • Three Identical Strangers: A pretty interesting documentary about some terrible incidents (triplets, as well as twins, separated for scientific observation).
  • Roma: The kind of film that if it were an arthouse film, I’d be raving about to tell friends, but since it’s the possible best picture at the Oscars, I think, ‘Is this overhyped?’ It has beautiful scenes yet at times almost seemed too simple and rambling to me.
  • Brooklyn: Finally caught this, on Netflix. I thought it was a beautiful, beautiful film, a meditation on living between cultures and countries, and Saoirse Ronan has this luminous beauty and charisma, a bit like Cate Blanchett.
  • A Star is Born: I’m not sure why this film didn’t grab me. I did like Lady Gaga’s performance, very natural, and found something interesting about Bradley Cooper’s character that he created in his voice and mannerisms, but its treatment of the themes of creativity, fame and jealous relationships was all a bit expected.
  • Isn’t it Romantic?: I have a soft spot for Rebel Wilson, and thought this movie fluff was a fine way to pass a weeknight in front of Netflix.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk: From the director of Moonlight, this was an interesting mix of romance and social history with beautiful acting (and people) and a soundtrack to die for. I found the pace a little slow and would have cut half an hour but I really did like it.
  • Shazam!: Hmm, top film in the USA right now and most of the critics loved it, with a few outliers. I just couldn’t find my way into the story, there are some good bits, but it was too juvenile before it descended into the regular smash ’em ups of regular superhero films.
  • Avengers: Infinity Wars: I had to catch up before seeing the big finale and I have to say I thought it was pretty good. The fight scenes make sense (unlike those of Shazam!): they generally had a logic of what the powers were and how they could be used. It’s fun to see such big actors playing … superheroes.
  • Avengers: Endgame: Likewise, I appreciated the slow, quiet start, the attempt to create emotional bonds with the audience but without overdoing it, and with good moments of comedy (Chris Hemsworth really does a good job with this). It was LONG with a LOT HAPPENING but enjoyable.
  • Rocketman: I liked this, maybe even more than Bohemian Rhapsody. It was fantastical in the right sort of ways.
  • Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts: Possibly only for fans of Rupaul’s Drag Race. I think Trixie is very talented and very watchable and engaging: but it delved so little into what made him tick. The film was not as smart and deep as its subject.
  • Nae Pasaran: Astonishing Scottish accents and a surprisingly uplifting film about Chilean solidarity from the Scottish workers at the Rolls Royce factory in the 70s. Much more engaging than it sounds!
  • The Farewell: I found this film touching and engaging. Star performances by Awkwafina and the woman playing her grandmother. Even though my Chinese cultural background is different to the one in the movie, I found so much of it relatable.

Television

  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, All Stars, Season 4: A pretty weird season and I’d agree with the internet chatter. A weird ending with the double-crowning, chosen from pre-filmed clips.
  • Marvelous Mrs. Maizel, Season 1: Binge-watched on a long, plane ride. Enjoyable. The critics LOVE this show, but strangely, I couldn’t then get past the first episodes of Season 2.
  • Bron/Broen, Season 4: How I loved this show. The character Saga is unforgettable and I was captivated every time she was on the screen. But her counterpart Henrik was also fantastic, and the crazy puzzle plot, with all its red herrings, was enjoyable.
  • Tidying up with Marie Kondo, Season 1: I was fascinated about the cultural reception to this show, too much hostility I thought from those who didn’t like it, which had racial overtones. I myself loved it.
  • The Good Place, Season 3: I love this show.
  • My Brilliant Friend: It was great to watch this TV adaptation after the first of Elena Ferrante’s books in her Neapolitan series, which I loved so much. A very different experience, seeing what is imagined come to life, but mostly successful to me.
  • The Umbrella Academy: Husband liked this quite a bit, it just didn’t come together for me. The motivations of … everyone were simplistic and cartoonish. 
  • Project Runway S17: Loving the return of this season to watch talented fashion designers at work. I thought at the start it was a bit awkward with the new team but was willing to see how it went. By the end, I was convinced: they really did a good job on this, focusing on the fashion and talent (and not interpersonal drama) and the cast all fell into a really nice groove.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race S11: Too many queens, too loud: have I overdosed on RPDR? In the end, I thought it was a really weak season for watching.
  • Survivor S38: I am not digging the ‘Edge of Extinction’ concept, combined with the returning players schtick; it’s thrown off the rhythm of the show and I still don’t ‘know’ the tribe members.
  • Leaving Neverland: A deeply disturbing documentary and I find it so hard to comprehend people watching these men and their families speak, and imagining that they made it up.
  • Killing Eve, Season 2: Some strange plot turns here. Husband thought it was even better than Season 1; I’m not so sure. Still: love the two leads and the style.
  • Game of Thrones, Season 8: Is it really over? We couldn’t help but watch it and there really was some amazing TV. But it felt rushed over all, with various huh? moments (and not in a good way).
  • Blown Away: A reality TV competion about glass-blowing? Awesome.
  • Stranger Things, Season 4: Hmm. Didn’t love this season, but watched it anyways.
  • Tales of the City: As an old fan of the books, I found it touching to revisit the characters and meet some new ones. Like the books, this isn’t high art: more of an engaging soap opera with characters that I have affection for. Lovely moments though, and the flashback episode was stunning.
  • Australian Survivor, Season 4: There is something in the Australian narrative that loves the theme of this and last season: Champions vs Contenders. It allows Australians to indulge in their idolation of sports stars, and the theme of the underdog at the same time. I hate it. It’s a boring and false narrative (contestants don’t care whether a champion or contender wins, they just want to win individually). But I still watch!
  • Handmaid’s Tale, Season 3: Ups and downs. As always, beautiful and striking images, yet I wasn’t sure about the script at times, where the characters didn’t act as I thought they would.
  • Fleabag, Season 1: Dark, dark, dark, this comedy. Original and outlandish and engaging.

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

Sydney Food Diary: Don’t Tell Aunty, Surry Hills

So, we couldn’t get into SÁNG, as I didn’t know how tiny it is. I thought the shop (or restaurant?) on the corner was part of it, so was surprised, trying to get into this modern Korean restaurant, that there was so little seating.

But it was Mother’s Day, after all, and I had planned badly. Instead, I backtracked, with my two visitors from Canada, and we decided to try the amusingly named Don’t Tell Aunty, modern Indian food that took over Colin Fassndge’s 4Fourteen.

We were told that we could only order the Mother’s Day special, $70 each, I believe, and sat down for a rather big feast. It’s a strange venue with its high ceilings. They’ve made it festive, and it’s a bit too brightly lit for my liking.

There was a Bollywood film being projected in one corner, which reminded me of nightclubs from my youth, back when nightclubs thought it was daring and camp to project old films on walls.

Our first dishes were fun and impressive. The lamb cutlet was particularly memorable. Cauliflower battered and fried, tasted like a sort of sweet and sour meat (photo at the top) Some delicious prawns. Oh, a choice of a cocktail to start things off: that was festive.

We didn’t know we’d be getting a thali each, a platter of food with many small dishes. There was a lot of food, I tell you!

I thought it was good rather than great. I feel a bit spoiled for Modern Indian lately. The excellent Masala Theory is nearby on Crown Street. Brick Lane on Stanley Street was superb. Both seemed a bit more refined, although it’s hard to compare a special menu to choosing your own dishes. Still, something was missing.

Dessert left us happy though. The kulfi coming in a long triangular mould, and gulab jamon always brings a smile to my face. And the restaurant is getting some good reviews so: give it a try.

Don't Tell Aunty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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