Published in the City Hub, Bondi View and City News.
Michelle Dick is a fourth generation Aussie with a Chinese-Malay Mum. She can’t speak Mandarin but has learnt the names of her favourite Asian foods by rote. She’s fond of saying she’s just “fluent in Yum Cha”. Her Mum is from Melaka and is a remarkable cook (I’ve eaten her laksa myself). It inspired me to put Michelle’s tastebuds to the test by sending her out to give us the lowdown on four of Sydney’s Malaysian eateries. Michelle’s also a marketing professional; adventure seeker; and an aspiring writer who you can find out more about at: 8redfish.com.au
Ipoh on York
89 York St, Sydney (02) 9299 0001 ipohcentral.com
Jimmy used to serve his much-lauded laksas out of a tiny hole in the wall near Circular Quay. Relocating into this venue in 2012, he’s now serving some 400 lunches a day. Despite the expansion, he’s stayed true to his food philosophy.
Done right, this humble Chinese dish with its delicate flavours can be incredibly satisfying. The chicken is slow boiled in a homemade broth until it’s moist & juicy. It’s served with a red chilli that is sweet & vinegar-y. And a bright green gingery paste with a hint of garlic. I loved both of them. The rice (as it should be) is slightly oily & nutty in texture. If you blindfolded me, I’m not sure I could tell the difference from my Mum’s. It’s that good.
Ais Kacang (pronounced “ice kachang”)
Dig deep beyond the lashings of shaved ice, brightened with fluoro-coloured syrups & underneath you’ll find squishy green noodles, clear atap-chee, yellow corn, red beans, black grass jelly, crunchy peanuts & a heavenly mixture of sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk drizzled over the top. I’m instantly transported back to my happy place on a humid day in Malaysia.
Chinta Ria – Mood for Love
Level 6, Westfield Sydney, 188 Pitt St, Sydney (02) 8072 8888 chintamoodforlove.com
Come in from the bright lights through the heavy wooden door guarded by lions and you enter into a completely different realm with authentic Asian décor & warm lighting. My dining companion remarked, ‘you wouldn’t even know we were in a mall.’ Definitely more restaurant than quick service; this is also reflected in the food. My go-to dish here is the dessert tasting plate…
A firm jelly-like two-toned cake made of the root vegetable, which is a bit like tapioca, served with palm sugar & coconut milk.
These bright green pancakes made from pandan hold the sweetest combination of coconut & palm sugar.
Little triangular shaped pandan rice flour cakes, layered with coconut cream.
A modern take on a Malaysian classic and absolutely gorgeous in the mouth.
Chilled Durian Sesame
A firm mousse-like pudding with a custardy texture & a hint of sesame paste. It’s not overpowering, but still for the die-hard fans only.
760 George St, Haymarket (02) 9280 1006 petalingst.com.au
If you judge how good an Asian eatery is by the number of Asians, the noisiness or how orange the chopsticks are – then you’ve come to the right place. This place is all about the food. It’s a real in-and-out kinda place. But you have to know what you want. The menu contains no less than 121 items.
It’s perfect in every way. The generous servings of tender beef fall apart under my fork. From top to bottom, it’s really layered in terms of the spices. Lots of interesting bits & bobs: raw Spanish onion, Vietnamese mint, shards of lemongrass & star anise. Plus it’s got a nice lil’ kick at the end.
Mo Mo Cha Cha
This is a very traditional Nyonya dessert. It’s a warm & creamy savoury soup with sago (tapioca pearls) and sesame floating around in it. Sunk to the bottom are black-eyed peas & some crushed peanuts. It’s got just a hint of coconut sweetness. My dining companion loves it.
This cool sweet dessert drink features the infamous green wormy noodles and is flavoured with sweet palm sugar syrup called gula. Other ingredients such as sweet red beans & grass jelly offset the condensed milk & coconut. Lots of lashings of shaved ice round it off. Love! Love! Love!
580 George St, Sydney (02) 9262 7771 alicesmakan.com.au
Alice used to run a restaurant in Thornleigh that my folks would drive 1.5 hours to get to. This new joint is quite different. It’s in the food hall under the HSBC building near the cinemas on George Street. It’s brand spanking new, got cool branding and a short & sweet menu - my kind of place. Plus they’ve got a whole menu dedicated to kuih!
The laksa here has a great colour and the right balance of flavours. There’s lots of generous servings of quality ingredients served over two types of noodles. The tofu is soft enough to soak up all that delicious spicy soup. But it’s the home-made sambal that’s got me: it is remarkable. They should bottle that stuff.
Kuih Seri Muka
Kuih always equates to a party in my mouth. It’s a broad term encompassing cakes / dumplings / puddings / pastries usually made from sticky rice with sweet or savoury (sometimes both) fillings or toppings. If you like salted caramel ice cream – I urge you to try these little beauties. The top is sweet, creamy green custard that is balanced by the slightly salty bottom layer of soft, mushy sticky rice.
Alex Harmon takes in another night of al fresco dining before we're all locked away for winter...
It’s the original small bar in town, and unlike its inner-city counterparts, this one isn’t hidden away. Mrs Sippy spills out into Bay Street for ample opportunity of being seen. Très Double Bay.
Aptly, we commence with cocktails; mine combining watermelon, mint, vodka, pinot noir and my favourite fairytale – the Red Riding Hood ($18) is big and bad (in the best possible way).
The menu is made up of entrées, mains and share plates, although I’d recommend sharing everything - especially the Chicken Liver Parfait ($18)...
...a kind of fluffy pâté that goes superbly with apricot chutney and crisp sourdough.
Seared Scallops ($21) could be harder to share because they’re so good, bouncy and fresh with spiced cauliflower and almonds.
Marinated Tuna ($24) is pretty but a little flavourless – lashings of horseradish and beetroot help.
It’s guilt-free, but if you’re feeling bad, the Wagyu Beef Pizza ($25) hits the mark with a buttery garlic sauce and red cabbage for crunch and colour.
And to really indulge, go the Dark Chocolate Pot ($16) with peanut brittle ice-cream and honeycomb. I tried sharing this but didn’t get much of a look-in. I couldn’t help but say to my date: “My, my what a big mouth you have.”
37 Bay Street, Double Bay
Ph: (02) 9362 3321
The day after an epic 10-course degustation, I took a drive up Putty Road. Turned out to be a little longer than anticipated, so by the time we were heading back through Cessnock, I was starving.
Hoping for a half-decent steak I found this place, but twigged it was something more when I visited the candy pink bathroom with silver chandelier.
The luminosity continued into a lime green restaurant with a switched-on young chef – Daniel Hunt.
Well-handled seafood makes up much of his fancier Thursday-Sunday menu.
From the dependable staff favourite of Seared Atlantic Sea Scallops ($24) with cauliflower puree, Chambord jus, pear and jamon Serrano; to...
...a soupy skillet of Saffron Pappardelle ($24), briny diamond clams and king prawns, my taste buds were impressed!
Despite the exuberant number of extras – radicchio, black figs, vanilla syrup, potato fondant and hazelnuts – dotting rolled Nulkaba Farmed Quail ($24), the local bird sang. I also rated creamy Port Stephens Oysters ($3/each) with surprisingly smart dressings, like sesame and lime.
Throwing in lightly charred Salt and Pepper Garfish ($22) accentuated by a simple watercress, radish and ruby grapefruit salad, plus inexpensive local wines, and there’s good reason to stop not bypass this town on your next Hunter Valley adventure.
221 Restaurant & Bar
Royal Oak Hotel, 221 Vincent Street, Cessnock
Ph: (02) 4991 3700
Published in the City Hub, Inner West Independent and City News.
After chowing down on Chef Paul Cooper’s bespoke five-course menu all created out of the one Melanda Park heritage breed pig, my interest in all things pork has been piqued. It’s the right season for it too, what with a bumper crop of winter born pigs hitting the market, chefs and butchers all over Sydney are taking part in Australian PorkFest. So keep your eyes peeled for good pork prices and dishes like Bishop Sessa’s stuffed pig trotter with scallop, onions, pickled plums and rooftop garden herbs. Paul also turned out a cracking dessert called Bacon Bacon Bacon featuring lemon verbena parfait with salted caramel bacon, bacon praline and candied crackling. He’s a month early for Australian Bacon Week (12-19th May) when the folk at Australian Pork decide who's at the top of the bacon ladder. My bets are Trunkey, Schulz or Burrawang bacon.
Another one for your diary is the upcoming Pyrmont Festival of Wine, Food and Art, running from the 17-26th May 2013. For ten days, the waterfront suburb teams up with the Mudgee wine region, to produce a series of eating and drinking events to suit all budgets. There’s everything from wine dinners at Pyrmont’s best restaurants, to a long table Breakfast at Pyrmont Bay (17th May), to the headliner, a popular outdoor food and wine fair in Pirrama Park on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May.
Drinking with the Bar Fly is always an adventure. One minute I’m taking in the pineapple lights that deck out Bar Ananas with the signature Absolutely Ananas pineapple and chilli bitters cocktail in my hand, the next she’s managed to worm a bespoke whiskey cocktail out of them. Not only did handsome young Bar Manager Sean Duncan create a beauty, he even named it Miz Varidel in her honour. Interestingly enough, I was actually there to drink Champagne – Ruinart and Marc to be exact – in the French version of aperitivo hour. It’s called Cinq à Sept (5-7pm) and during it both the bubbly stuff and selected cocktails will be $15. Take your tipple with snacks from Paul McGrath’s (Bistro Ortolan) new bar menu, which might include mushroom veloute, deep fried oysters and rabbit rillettes.
With the imminent closure of inner west favourite Blancmange (4th May) looming, it makes a local restaurant hitting the ten-year milestone all the more impressive! So I headed in to Restaurant Atelier for one of Chef Darren Templeman’s celebratory ten-course degustation menus. They’re on every Saturday in April, meaning there’s still one dinner remaining (and it’s an absolute bargain at $100/head). The menu gave me the chance to revisit some of my favourite dishes, like duck egg (now Kangaroo Valley hen’s egg) Atelier, a wild concoction of onion soubise, foie gras and ocean trout roe presented in the shell. I also found some new favourites, like thinly sliced jumbuck carpaccio with white soy and pickled cucumber. Darren’s stayed in the game this long because his food is great and forever evolving. Here’s hoping he’s cooking for a long time to come...
With the imminent closure of inner west favourite Blancmange (last service Saturday 4th May) looming, it makes a local restaurant hitting the ten-year milestone all the more impressive! So I headed in to Restaurant Atelier for one of Chef Darren Templeman’s celebratory ten-course degustation menus. They’re on every Saturday in April, meaning there’s still one dinner remaining (and it’s an absolute bargain at $100/head).
The menu gave me the chance to revisit some of my favourite dishes, like duck egg (now Kangaroo Valley hen’s egg) Atelier, a wild concoction of onion soubise, foie gras and ocean trout roe presented in the shell.
I also found some new favourites, like thinly sliced jumbuck carpaccio with white soy and pickled cucumber...
...and this smoky coal-cooked West Australian marron tail with burnt eggplant puree, duck hearts and sprout tops.
Darren’s stayed in the game this long because his food is great and forever evolving. He was kind enough to send out one of my personal favourites - this abalone, pork jowl and enoki on nasturtium leaf. It's evolved even since the last time I ate it!
We were all enamoured with the truffled brie ice cream on this Woodside goat's curd with yellow carrots, salsify and jamon iberico dish.
I also love the flourish of dining room cooking, so appreciated the beautifully cooked 'beef tea' of Master Kobe wagyu sirloin, charred cos and chestnut mushrooms poured at the table.
There was also liquorice cured New Zealand venison loin with fig, bronzed fennel, pickled onion and nasturtium...
... and the list goes on! In the dessert courses I loved the tonka bean zabaglione with strawberries, black pepper and balsamic presented as a verrine the most.
Of course there was also a pretty palate cleanser of cider apple jelly with Pyengana cheddar and celery, and his signature souffle, sorbet and milkshake dessert as well!
If you've always been curious about fine dining but haven't felt comfortable jumping to one of Sydney's big hitters, this is a great interim step. Darren's been cooking at least at a two-hat standard for ages (regardless of what those milliners say) and I hope he is cooking for a long time to come...
22 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Ph: (02) 9566 2112
Tek tek: these intriguing Turkish words roll off the tongue (and were part of the song title Düm Tek Tek that won Turkey Eurovision in 2009).
At Efendy’s new casual Mezebar they’re 100ml mini cocktails (think: long shots), and at only five bucks apiece, you can afford a whole lot of bang for fifty bucks.
My favourites were Mastika ($5) a gin and mastic liqueur combo with lemon and cucumber; and Malatya ($5) featuring cardamom-infused apricot whiskey, Riesling and Uludağ fizzy lemonade - but perhaps I’ll go back and make sure?
Ten shots in (and only fifty in the red) you can probably afford a chaser – I favoured Efes Pilsen ($8), Turkey’s favourite beer.
It suits snacks like Bosphorus Fried Mussels ($10), served on sticks but a darn sight better than anything you’ll eat at the Easter Show.
As charcoaled meats are an Efendy specialty, you should definitely include smoky Beef Kebap Iskender ($20).
For alcohol absorbing bready snacks, there’s pide on the six-dip cold Meze Board ($22) won by the Süzme yogurt (labneh);
...or Turkey’s answer to the toasted sandwich - Borek ($7) filled with air-dried beef and kashar cheese.
Of course I blame my parting grin on the baklava, enjoyed from a shared Dessert Platter ($12), not ten tek tek…
Ground Floor, 79 Elliott Street, Balmain
Ph: (02) 9810 5466
Drinking with the Bar Fly is always an adventure.
One minute I’m taking in the pineapple lights that deck out Ananas Bar & Brasserie with the signature Absolutely Ananas pineapple and chilli bitters cocktail in my hand, the next she’s managed to worm a bespoke whiskey cocktail out of them.
Not only did handsome young Bar Manager Sean Duncan create a beauty, he even named it Miz Varidel in her honour.
Interestingly enough, I was actually there to drink Champagne – Ruinart and Marc to be exact – in the French version of aperitivo hour.
It’s called Cinq à Sept (5-7pm) and during it both the bubbly stuff and selected cocktails will be $15. Take your tipple with snacks from Paul McGrath’s (Bistro Ortolan) new bar menu, which might include mushroom veloute, deep fried oysters and rabbit rillettes.
Ananas Bar & Brasserie
18 Argyle Street, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9259 5668
Barely suppressing a giggle, I enter the Rawson Institute for Seamen, and am struck once more by the architectural beauty of the multilevel space.
My last visit coincided with their well-attended launch, complete with naughty nautical performance from Jessica Mauboy.
I’m pleased to report the focus on live music has remained, with the warm, textural tones of Duan & Only weaving through the dining room.
While he croons an excellent cover of Basement Jaxx's Romeo, I avail myself of an equally syrupy red: Mudgee's 2007 Cirillo 1850 Grenache ($90/bottle).
Guessing it’ll sing with Twice Cooked Duck ($32) I order a plate, but next time I’d stick to burgers and pizza.
Our personable waiter Liam agrees: “On Friday nights the burgers walk out the door!”
The Bar 100 Beef Burger ($18) drops to ten bucks on Friday nights, but it’d be hard to beat even at full price, if the small exemplar served up in Three Sliders ($21) is anything to go by.
Slightly dry Pork Bites ($14) with chilli salt and maple syrup were bettered by...
...a thin, white based Funghi Bianci ($21) generously dotted with mushrooms, garlic and truffled pecorino.
The second best thing I ate was an ultra-creamy Panna Cotta ($12), slipped onto my table by the forward-thinking Liam.
100 George Street, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 8070 9311
Pounding avocados tableside, our Peruvian guacamole girl unleashes a smile so devastating, it’s almost enough to make me love this joint.
I’m not alone: it’s jumping, and nearly every table avails themselves of her signature Market Fresh Guacamole ($9) with plantain chips.
As a chilli fanatic, I was smitten with Mexican Chilli Beer ($10)...
...a great drinking companion to the...
...equally feisty (though definitely messy) Glazed Pork Ribs ($34).
Agave-sweetened hunks of grilled cheese - Queso Fresco ($9) - work better to ease the burning sensation than the accompanying polenta.
Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche ($16) presented on house-baked tostadas were a little too delicate for my liking, but I lapped up...
...the Grilled Ocean Trout Soft Tacos ($16) decked out with pickled red cabbage, jalapeno and chipotle mayo.
Mexican for me means tequila, so I also delved into Shirin Topaloglu’s excellent tequila cocktails.
Try anything from her namesake Sweet Desire ($16) to my fav. - An Easy Read ($17) - an also easy-to-drink blend of Espolon reposado, pineapple and rosemary.
Perhaps the best use of tequila is their Milk Chocolate Shot ($6) that summoned up Florence & The Machine’s hit - A Kiss With A Fist.
I’m hoping the runaway success here will be enough to make neighbouring Jamie’s Italian rethink that pesky no booking policy…
105 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9230 0119
Published in the City Hub, Bondi View and City News.
The idea of four-dollar cocktails proved too tempting for me to resist; so last Saturday I found myself spending the hours between 4pm and 6pm ensconced in the modern warehouse setting of Neild Avenue. I took along the Bar Fly, and between us we managed to cover their whole range of Ore Del Sole cheapies, twice over. Being a warm day, I got hooked on the Campari Granita (with an Aperol & Cider chaser). Word is: both Neild Avenue and sister restaurant North Bondi Italian Food will be keeping the weekend aperitivo special, though methinks the prices may have to rise!
Another of my preferred tipples, Wild Brumby, has three short-run seasonal schnapps flavours on offer right now. As it’s raspberry season in the Snowy Mountains, they’ve been busily handpicking their own organic berries and distilled them into a wonderful Raspberry Schnapps. It’s a rare opportunity to drink a schnapps made totally on the one property, from fruit to glass. They’ve also worked their alcoholic magic on fresh Queensland mangoes and local sour cherries.
After a tantalising reminder of just how good Indian food can be at the book launch at Aki’s Woolloomooloo, I was eager to get my hands on Kumar Mahadevan’s From India [RRP $59.95]. The first curry I cooked was the aromatic chicken curry from Kumar’s hometown of Tirunelveli - and I was hooked! Without the book, I’d never have thought to add spices like cumin seeds, fried curry leaves, garam masala and crushed coriander seeds at the end of cooking, but it makes for one fragrant curry! Of course recipes are even better when situated by personal anecdotes, and this book also gives you an insight into the love story of Kumar and Suba. I’ve just finished reproducing a second recipe from the book, and it too was a winner!
Monkey Shoulder [RRP $48.99] is the blended malt whisky for those who don’t even think they like them! Scoring a bottle, I did my first sip neat but quickly discovered just how versatile this product is! I’ve mixed it into cocktails (taken from their handy website), had it with ginger beer and ginger ale, used it as a balm for colds in a hot lemon and honey, and even given it a run flambéing figs! With a name that stems from the temporary strain distillery workers used to get turning the malting barley by hand, this small batch blend of three single malts (including Glenfiddich and Balvenie) is sure to trip off my tongue next time I’m shopping for a cold-weather spirit.