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Three weeks in Sydney - a few dinner reviews and some future plans

sfcarole | Apr 14, 201507:11 PM

We arrived in Sydney a week ago Monday and eased into the time change from SF with dinner the first night at Sailor’s Thai Canteen, close to our rented apartment in the Rocks. Tuesday night we walked over to Fratelli Fresh on Bridge Street to have some pasta at Cafe Sopra. The pasta was great as usual but the real highlight was an impeccably fresh salad of thinly sliced fennel, cut up asparagus, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto and shards of parmesan cheese. Our server steered us toward that dish which I probably would not have chosen otherwise.

Wednesday night we met friends at Gastro Park, a restaurant in King’s Cross I was a little ambivalent about. We received a very warm welcome, and service the entire evening was helpful and accommodating. We started with some “snacks” to share: goats curd tartlets, scampi and dried Wagyu beef grissini. As an entree we all split a large order of the liquid butternut squash gnocchi with mushroom consommé. Our mains were the very crispy skinned barramundi (usually snapper, but not this night) with calamari crackling, squid ink sauce and smoked potato purée; the duck breast with a soy mustard glaze and kohlrabi ravioli; and beef fillet with onion crumble. I generally never like the large flake of barramundi and ordered it only to see how someone like Grant King might make it delicious. And it really was. Of course we were big fans of Pier, so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad! All in all a delightful dinner, marred only slightly by the somewhat gloomy space with it’s bare tables mired in a nondescript area of the Cross.

Our next night, Thursday, we walked over to Fix St. James for a super dinner, starting right off with their delicious crispy focaccia. We shared entrees of seared scallops and a salad I can’t remember. For mains I had a lovely grilled mulloway fillet while R (aka DH) had pasta with pipis. Everything amazingly fresh and perfectly prepared, seasoned and complemented. A fun evening.

Friday night we had another memorable dinner at Sean’s Panaroma out at Bondi Beach. It was one of many we’ve enjoyed at Sean’s over the last 15 years or so. Even though Sean himself is spending a lot of time at his farm in the Blue Mountains, our dinner was perfect. We opted for the five-course tasting menu since we hadn’t been back in three years. We started with a kingfish tartare wonderfully balanced with herbs and aromatics. Then a salad of three kinds of roasted beetroot, beet greens and walnuts on a base of creamy goat cheese. Next a fennel purée soup with oysters and spicy bits of pork. Our main was three different preparations of lamb: braised shoulder, roasted saddle and sliced grilled leg, all served with roasted kumera squash, shallots and grilled eggplant. The dessert was a chocolate mousse with other chocolate bits on the plate and some peach leaf ice cream. Every course was delicious and the service was friendly and attentive, though all of the tables were filled. Not many non-Aussies venture out here, except maybe at the height of summer, which I can’t fathom. It’s an easy ride on the 333 bus from Circular Quay. You can make faster time by taking the train from Martin Place, then a bus from the Bondi Junction station, but we like to avoid the transfers so we opt for the longer bus ride, getting some nice sightseeing along the way.

Saturday and Sunday we dined and lunched with friends at their homes (and I have to say some of these amateur chefs rivaled the ones in the professional kitchens), and Monday we shared a surprisingly good dinner at the Glebe Point Diner. Surprising only because I hadn’t heard about this restaurant, which is easily accessible to visitors by taking the 431 or 433 bus from the Rocks or along George Street. Their bread is from the Bourke Street Bakery and everything else seems very carefully sourced. We started with some kingfish tartare and a dish of fried brassicas mixed with chickpeas, pomegranate and ricotta salata - both a marvel of fresh tastes. Our mains were the tortellini with goat curd, mushrooms, sage & amaretti, and steamed vongole with pancetta and chilli. For dessert I had to have at least one pavlova while in Sydney, and this one had a base of lemon curd under a large perfectly baked meringue slice, passionfruit purée and double cream. R had the burnt Alaska with gingerbread ice cream inside. All very traditional fare, but put together with a freshness and creativity by a clearly talented team.

Last night, Tuesday, we headed over to Cafe Paci in Surry Hills for the very opposite of traditional. A lot has been written here and elsewhere about chef Pasi Petanen’s 9-course seasonal set menu, so I won’t go over it again. I was honestly concerned that the whole experience would be too ‘intellectual’ but from the warm welcome and helpful answers to our many questions to the delicious and playful take on the dishes, we were totally absorbed from the start. Every item was sparkling fresh and there was always an element of surprise to see how much creativity could be brought to bear on the local produce, meat and fish. As Martin Benn of Sepia wrote: “Crazy good”. I hope this pop up is still around on my next visit.

So now we’re almost halfway through our three week stay. We still have a lot to look forward to and I would love to hear any suggestions you might have as to what to add or subtract. During the day I have had lunches or snacks at Flour and Stone (loved the chicken pie!), Bourke Street Bakery, Chaat Thai, Houśe, Messina and Kakawa chocolates. I’m not a coffee drinker, but R is and I have passed along to him the many coffee suggestions on this board. So far he prefers the coffee at the Fine Food Store in the Rocks to Gumption. The milk in his Gumption latte was not very aerated and he thought the coffee lacked bite, whatever that means! Anyway, here’s what we have planned:

Dinners:
Sixpenny
Lucio’s in Paddington (love Lucio, the art and the food - a tradition for us)
Eating House
Billy Kwong’s new place in Potts Point
Ester
Quay
Porteño

Lunches:
Sepia

Cafés:
Four Ate Five
Three Williams

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