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Maranellos Woodfire Pizza Restaurant and Bar forms the southern headland of a bay of casual restaurants that guard the entrance to Pacific Square. With more than nine years of serving Maroubra locals up their sleeves, and an extensive menu that’s never changed, it’s a reliable spot for a family feed; either before, or after, you take care of the weekly shop.

The Maranellos team have kept the ever-tightening family budget firmly in mind too, with a three-tiered lunch specials menu that saw us eating Vitello Funghi ($14.50) for less than fifteen bucks. The tender pan-fried veal was cooked in white wine with garlic, button mushrooms and parsley. It was served with a generous and diverse amount of vegetables, including golden roast spuds.

Fiori Di Zucca Ripieni ($18.90) – a dish you might know better as battered and fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese – were crisp but the filling felt a bit on the bland side. Though that was before I dragged them through the accompanying romesco sauce, which perked them up a bit.

With red pizza carriers on the counter, and a busy pizza chef turning out takeaway orders, pizza is obviously a mainstay for the business.

From the list of traditional pizzas, Supreme ($23.90/large) proved pretty standard with mushrooms, green capsicum, onions, olives, ham and cabanossi. The bases are thin and reasonably tasty, but I don't get any tell-tale wood smoke flavour.

I was much more impressed with Petate ($24.90) from the gourmet selection. It’s a very successful update to the classic potato pizza that - instead of thin raw slices of potato - uses chunks of roast spud. They're teamed with rashers of bacon and red onion, then topped with fresh herbs and splats of sour cream. Throw in a bottle of reasonably priced wine – I drank the 2017 Mount Trio Pinot Noir ($35/bottle) which offered bright acidic red fruit and a little funk – and you have yourself a winning lunch for two.

All you might want for is a salad, and the well-presented Caprese ($17.90) answers that call rather nicely with bocconcini, tomatoes and springy fresh rocket, drizzled in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt.

With the weather cooling down, if your thoughts are turning to pasta, Maranellos also have you covered. While you can eat classics like a slightly overcooked Fettuccini Carbonara ($22.90) with its rich bacon, egg and shallot-based cream sauce, I was more impressed with Spaghetti Aglio ($24.90).

This classic Naples pasta dish has got a big cold-fighting garlic hit, that goes very nicely with king prawns and plump scallops. It’s freshened up with cherry tomatoes and rocket leaves, and will see you hit the shops feeling healthy and satisfied.

Maranellos Woodfire Pizza Restaurant and Bar
Shop 51, Pacific Square
737 Anzac Parade, Maroubra
Ph: (02) 8347 0733

Maranello's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Coya

Themed dinners give chefs an opportunity to bust outside the mundane repetition of reproducing their regular menu, and flex their creativity and skills. They’re a chance to woo diners onto the dark side of eating things they’re not familiar with; dishes that might not sell on an everyday menu. At Coya, on the back streets of Cromer (part of Sydney’s Northern Beaches), Chef Ashraf Saleh is flexing his formidable skills with a well-priced, six-course Game Dinner ($69/person).

Before you turn up your nose and tell me you don’t eat camel, in Saleh’s capable hands, the intensity of game is gentled into easy-to-like, approachable creations.

Dishes, like our opening venison nayeh, meld strong French technique with Arabic influences to come up with harmonious cross-cultural collisions. Seasoned raw venison is turned from a mould then topped with horseradish cream and chilli pearls that burst on the tongue with bright capsaicin. It’s surrounded by fluffy wasabi pea dust and garnished with a rice puff that reminds me of panipuri. What’s even better, this hybrid dish is as tasty as it is eye-catching.

Showing a remarkable knack for plating, Saleh’s three Southern fried quail tulips sit upon an organic looking rice cracker seasoned with kale dust. Quail tulips – in case you were wondering – are quail legs with the thigh bone removed, and the delicate poultry meat wrapped around the drumstick bone in a tulip formation. Dipped into a little pot of chilli aioli, they're finger-licking good. The green dust has a clever gunpowder note that reminds me of cracker night when I was a kid, and inclines me to eat the whole rice cracker.

Next Saleh shows the versatility of kangaroo by reimagining it as kangaroo brandade. Textbook crumbing and not even a hint of the iron-rich flavour that can be off-putting about ‘roo help to make these three well-sized croquettes impressive when you drag them through tangy raspberry and balance them with lemon.

A big, savoury hit of roasted rabbit runs though the hare parcels, which are basically a riff upon the manti (Turkish dumplings) I enjoyed last time I was at Coya. The textural, chewy dumplings are nestled in a fluffy cauliflower velouté so lovely I’d have been happy just to eat a bowl of it. Basil oil and edible flowers that actually have a flavour, pretty up this bowl of Turkish-inspired comfort food.

By the time we get to the camel that was probably making some diners nervous, the sunny little dining room is full of convivial good cheer. Holding court at the front table are Australian cooking legend, Janni Kyritsis and his former acolyte who cooked with him at MG Garage, Lauren Murdoch, now an award-winning chef in her own right.

Tucked between a soft mattress of potato puree and a delicate top sheet of daikon, the tagine braised camel sits somewhere between beef and lamb. Long fibres of spiced meat remind me of rendang, and are easy to like against gently employed preserved lemon.

We float back to the CBD on a super-tart passionfruit cloud that enveloped ice cream and tangy yoghurt. It’s perfect to clean up your palate after a game dinner that really belied my expectations about gamey intensity.

There’s still time to book in for Coya’s next fancy feast that is taking place this Sunday, 26 May, 2019. This time chef Saleh is doing an entirely Vegan Tasting Menu ($59/head) that kicks off with vegetarian tartare, and ends the five savoury courses on mushroom shawarma before an intriguing chickpea take on dairy free dessert.

NOTE: You can see my first review of Coya back HERE.

1/61-63 Carawa Road, Cromer
Ph: (02) 9981 7053

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


Review - Chicken V

Chimaek is a Korean term for fried chicken (chikin) and beer (maekju). It’s the kind of pairing that makes you yearn for days when Sydney had a thriving late-night scene and you could pull up at a spot like Chicken V for a post-club feed. These days all their flashing nightclub lights and spinning mirrorballs only serve to remind me of what we’ve lost. I’m also dining a lot earlier in the evening...

The room is full of under 30s arranged on little stools around low wooden tables. The soundtrack is upbeat minimal hip hop. The items on every table are beer and fried chook.

We’re lured in by the 9 Boneless Chicken Sampler ($39) that’s presented on the brightly coloured double-sided menu card and duplicated on the outside of the restaurant’s street facing windows.

It’s a chance to try a small portion of nine different types of their fried chicken, kicking off with traditional, that’s slightly heavy on the batter, but tasty enough.

Punctuating our path through the nine gates of fried chook with pickled daikon and jalapenos, we weren’t as fussed on Chicken V's honey butter and cheese snowflake.

While crazy hot did pack some punch, it wasn’t the best tasting gochujang I’ve encountered, lacking in savoury middle.

Both the onion and shallot topped chicken were good, with the thinly sliced vegetables breaking up the intensity of eating so much fried chicken. My two favourites here proved to be soy (because it was very savoury) and the gentle yellow curry, which almost felt Dutch in origin. Both went very well with Hite Beer ($5) and a bottle of Korean rice wine, Makgeolli ($12), which is big enough to share.

To up the vegetable quotient of your meal Corn Cheese ($18) here is good, if a bit pricy.

It’s a skillet of finely diced red capsicum, white onion and corn kernels in a cheesy sauce, covered with melted cheese. The vegetables are kept with some crunch, and it’s great to enjoy with chicken!

Fried Rice Cakes ($12) have nice rough outsides that makes the sauce stick, though I reckon the saucing could have been more exciting than plain old sweet chilli sauce. Regardless they make nice chewy drinking snacks, particularly if you’re keen to use Chicken V as a nightclub replacement and stick around for booze, tunes and Gladys Berejiklian’s idea of acceptable good times.

Chicken V
Shop G02 & G03, 345B-353 Sussex Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9267 5401

Chicken V Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Sushi Oh-Oo

Lured in by a mate’s photo of foie gras-dusted nigiri sushi, I recently checked out the curiously named Sushi Oh-Oo. You’ll find the modest, galley-like restaurant in Five Dock. The intimate restaurant is fronted by a small enclave of outdoor, curbside tables separated from Great North Road by a screen, and an orderly row of chairs for customers awaiting takeaway. There’s certainly no space for them inside!

Despite the tiny footprint, effort has been made to create an inviting space using natural materials. The kitchen is encased in wood and paper screens. Overhead there’s a dark bamboo ceiling and down one side, a textural stucco feature wall with leaves inset into the plaster that reminds me of a bamboo forest. Hanging ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) flags add a splash of bright colour to the otherwise neutrally toned room.

Staff use little stools to retrieve dishes over the high sushi counter that is decorated with fish scale tiles. While sushi is what I’m here to eat, I note that the illustrated menu also offers up an extensive array of hot dishes and bento boxes. First dish to arrive is the aforementioned Grilled Big Salmon Belly Nigiri with Foie Gras ($15/2 pieces). A small barrel of hand-shaped sushi rice is draped in a big, fatty swathe of salmon belly. It has been given a very light sear to activate the fat, and a good dusting of finely shaved foie gras. It’s rich, indulgent and extremely delicious.

I pull back with Avocado Nigiri ($4/2 pieces). It arrives as two gravity-defying pieces topped with fans of flawless, ripe avocado.

Egg Nigiri ($4/2 pieces) here is delicately sweet and tender, rather than rubbery and flavourless as so many of them are. The topping to rice ratio is generous, secured firmly with little bands of nori.

Grilled Wagyu Beef Nigiri ($18/6 pieces) is the perfect way to finish. Each piece is tender with a big, flavoursome beef hit. They’re painted with sticky yakiniku sauce that’s used sparingly enough to just provide some caramelisation and sweetness, knocking out the need for soy sauce; though the fluffy wasabi is an asset against the rich meat.

Sushi Oh-Oo’s standout sushi will definitely drag me back - I don’t think I have eaten better sushi in the Inner West.

Sushi Oh-Oo
93 Great North Road, Five Dock
Ph: (02) 9712 0377

Sushi Oh-OO Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Event - Ironfest: Once Upon A Time

Ironfest is a wonderfully participatory festival that takes place each year in Lithgow.

Created by local artist Macgregor Ross, the first Ironfest took place in April 2000 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of steel.

The festival originally had a mostly artistic focus that celebrated the relationship between people and iron and steel.


Two decades on, it’s a two-day event that attracts a costumed parade of visitors and participants from all across the state.

They’re here for the pageantry – each day ends in a grand parade – historical re-enactments, performances, and a marketplace that winds its way throughout the Lithgow Showground.

As a first-time attendee for the Once Upon A Time themed festival on 27-28 April, the first thing that struck me was the number of inter-generational dress-ups.

From a family taking on the characters from the movie Shrek to a tribe of fierce, horned wildlings, Ironfest really is a place where everyone can get in on the fun.

As we wandered under the colourful bunting checking out marketplace stalls, it was hard to keep your eyes on their wares as a veritable parade of costumed people passed by.

As a food blogger, I was obviously also keeping an eye open for thematic festival eats.

While I did imagine myself gnawing on a hunk of meat still clinging to the bone medieval-style, the best I could find was a Foot Long Kransky ($14) to ease my hand-to-mouth meat urge. I joined a breakaway part of the Roman legion at The German Grill Haus and got a very tasty cheese-infused kransky for my spend that protruded well beyond the soft hot dog bun.

It was loaded with nicely drained ‘kraut and given a crisp onion and pretzel topper for some crunch, with  tomato sauce and mustard there for the asking.

When your feet get tired – there is a lot of walking at Ironfest – there’s always the grandstand. Framed by mountains and a line of golden poplars, it provides a great overview of the whole affair, and is thus a good place to sit and take in a battle or two.

We watched a commemoration for members of the Light Horse Brigade lost in the 1917 Battle of Beersheba.

It was followed by a slightly whacky twentieth century battle on the Western Front with the allied forces taking on the Germans.

I’m not big on war, so it felt a bit bizarre to watch a German Panzer IV & Kubelwagen driving by. Things got even weirder when a band of medieval foot soldiers stormed the field and murdered the allied forces, only to be blown up by an M1 Stuart.

While plenty of the enthusiasts are absolute sticklers for detail, I liked that Ironfest didn't let historical accuracy get in the way of a good battle.

By the end I was a bit shell-shocked from the force of the loud, percussive explosions, meaning I walked away with a better appreciation of what being in a warzone might actually be like.

The explosives also blew perfect smoke rings that floated intact across the battlefield.

Lithgow Councillor Cassandra Coleman, fabulously dressed as a steampunk Smurfette with blue skin and all, was kind enough to arrange my two festival highlights.

First, I was lucky enough to bottle feed two 4-week old baby alpacas at Rosa Carruthers’ petting zoo located in the Kids’ Kingdom. Dressed as Robin Hood, the always-smiling Rosa later led her ‘unicorn’ in the end-of-day parade with two lovely flame-haired wenches wrangling a pair goats and an adult alpaca right by her side.

My second highlight was riding on the back of a steam traction engine in the parade.

In the capable hands of a lady driver whose family own three different engines all on display at the festival, I rode around in a grand machine once used to pull heavy loads.

Perched on the wood pile used to fuel the hungry fire in the boiler I had a particularly good view.

Looking past a kilt-clad band of Scottish musicians, I saw the Space Cowboy performing up a sideshow storm on a grassy area called The Common.

It was surreal to watch bands of armed militia being overtaken by a Catbus.

Plucked from the film My Neighbour Totoro, the grinning, twelve-legged catbus had windows occupied by waving passengers, and a striped tail.

With all the costumed participants gathering on the battlefield for a photo, the stage was set for a hearse to arrive bearing a tombstone with next year’s theme engraved on it: Gothic.

Word is, next year there will also be a satellite Ironfest taking place on the Casula Powerhouse’s riverside parklands on the October Long Weekend to cater for all of us Sydneysiders who love getting their costumes on too!

Ironfest Gothic will take place at the Lithgow Showground over the weekend of Saturday 18 April and Sunday 19 April, 2020. Entry for an adult for a single day is $50; a child is $35 and a family is $125. Purchase on the day, or online HERE.

Review - Sash Japanese

With Sydney’s Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian still frowning upon late night good times, pre-loading is the only way to get any mileage out of your night. Kick off with cocktails and a pre-club feed at Sash. This Melbourne export recently opened up a branch on Wentworth Avenue in Surry Hills.

The former motorbike shop – actually where I bought my first Suzuki GN250 – has been given a Melissa Collison make-over. While the concrete walls and floors remain, the utilitarian warehouse-style space has been brightened up with pink and purple neon.

The end effect is quite similar to fellow Melbournian, Chin Chin, which you’ll find just a few doors up the road.

The pink and purple colour scheme is continued into drippy watercolour art by Shannon Creese that frames portals into the kitchen.

It continues down into the lower split-level of the 160-seater space, where you'll find comfy curved leather booths to kick back in and enjoy great tunes and cocktails. Continuing the Chin Chin connection, the cocktail list was designed by a former staffer - Head Mixologist, Kyle Rose.

Yuzu Tears ($22) is a well-presented whisky cocktail that doesn’t let down those who like to taste the spirit in a blend of yuzu, agave and lemon juice. Topped with a fluffy egg-white floater, the Geisha Girl ($19) is a less boozy affair, combining cranberry juice, plum wine, yuzu, lemon and sake into a pretty drink that made my more sweetly-inclined gal pal happy.

Besties, David Nelson and Kyle Stagoll, the guys behind Sash, were inspired by a New York restaurant in the meatpacking district called Catch, who fused Japanese-inspired flavours with popular American dishes. Their resulting restaurants are most famous for their sashimi pizzas.

Smeared with sriracha, the Blue Cheese Sashimi Pizza's ($26) firm nine-inch base has a chaotic topping of seared tuna, salmon, blue cheese and cherry tomatoes. It’s lashed with wasabi mayo, dusted with mozzarella and topped with micro-herbs. It doesn't work as pizza or as sashimi, but as some sort of weird hybrid it eats okay.

I’m more impressed by the Wagyu Truffle Tacos ($9/each) that take graded wagyu beef, lightly grill it then sit it inside the shell on sushi rice with truffle yakiniku, truffle aioli and a generous tomato and jalapeno salsa topper. It looks like it’s going to be a messy disaster, but the gyoza skin-shell tacos are surprisingly hardy, holding up well across a three-bite consumption.

The petite Lobster Mac’n’Cheese Dog ($18) is everything I hoped it would be. Merging lobster tail with macaroni cheese, torched Parmesan and truffle oil into a super-soft brioche bun, it is the kind of late-night kitchen genius that's guaranteed to eat well as you work your way towards tomorrow’s hangover. Rooky mistake: only ordering one to share.

From the raw bar, Kingfish Sashimi ($21), is served with a colourful and chaotic blend of Japanese and non-Japanese flavours. There’s pickled daikon radish, wakame seaweed salad, tobiko (flying fish roe), juicy orange segments, yuzu ponzu, fresh herbs and pale green dabs of wasabi crème. While you don’t get a lot of flavour from the kingfish against such a cacophony of flavours, it’s a fun dish to clink chopsticks over with a date.

On the waiter’s recommendation, we filled out the corners with something fried (portions are on the small side). Slathered in spicy mayo, the Ebi Mayo Crispy Prawns ($18) were actually the tastiest thing we tried. The compelling row of fried tiger prawns encased in batter, alfalfa sprouts, genuinely spicy mayo. and slices of red chilli, enlivened our palates and saw us leave on high.

Bookings at Sash will obviously be essential to snaffle a coveted booth seat, particularly on weekend nights.

Sash Japanese
80 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills
Ph: (0466) 434 159

Sash Japanese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Punjabi Fusion Sydney

Punjabi Fusion Sydney pulled out nearly every bell and whistle contained within the molecular and fine dining canons during my degustation dinner. There were gravity-defying levitating plates, smoking platters, foams, pearls, dots of duelling sauces and tuile sticking out of just about everything. What sold me on this new restaurant, however, was the underlying flavours and successful execution of their culinary mash-up.

Back in 2016 the couple behind the restaurant - Perth-born Uma Singh and her husband Kamaldeep Singh who was born in state of Punjab in India's north - opened their first restaurant in Harris Park.

While it bears the same name, that restaurant pushes a more traditional line, presenting an array of Punabi dishes, including their most famous export, butter chicken. As Uma explains, trying butter chicken across Sydney that all lacked in the traditional sourness, was part of their inspiration for creating the original Punjabi Fusion.

Three years on, they’re building upon their success with a progressive Indian fine dinner in Millers Point. The Singhs have brought elegance to this dining room, using screens and cleverly designed lighting.

Well-spaced tables draped in white tablecloths are surrounded by comfortable, aqua or pink chairs. Terrariums make for cute table décor, but of course the real spectacle here is the food. For a first-time visitor, the Non-Vegetarian Degustation 7 Course Menu ($119/head) will give you all the fine dining trappings.

Our aperitif was prosecco, presented in a wooden box with a pipette of strawberry nectar to add at your whim. The black salt rim was a clever surprise, amping up the flavour of the freshly muddled strawberries.

Compressed watermelon arrived on a smoking griddle filled with dry ice. It’s a juicy wet amuse bouche made even more texturally entertaining with carrot crumbs and three different textures of mint.

Even the Pappadum Basket ($10) here is a little bit extra, with four types of roasted and fried pappadum and two chutneys.

Where the fireworks really begin is with the Lamb Keema Bruschetta ($15). Slow-cooked, spiced lamb mince is piled onto a toasted garlic baguette round then adorned with grated egg white. Dragged through dots and squiggles of chutney, it’s an all-of-palate delight.

From the creative chaat menu, Crispy Kale Chaat ($15) is almost as impressive. The kale batter employs trisol – a molecular technique – to keep it super crisp and oil-free. You’ll find your crunchy battered kale hiding under foamy yoghurt dotted with chilli pearls; accompanied by the usual tamarind chutney, mint relish and chaat masala seasoning.

You’ll find Galauti Kebab ($24) on both of the Punjabi Fusion restaurants' menus. As the story goes, there was once a nawab in Lucknow who had bad teeth. As he couldn’t eat regular kebabs, his chef came up with this super-soft lamb kebab with the fibres pounded into nothing. In this kitchen, lamb mince is broken down with pineapple and papaya, then marinated in a complex blend of whole spices. Raised to your lips on a sago pappadum, the pasty lamb patty is earthy and complex against popping pearls of fragrant yuzu juice.

Piled onto a scallop shell then garnished with a charcoal tuile, Tawa Masala Scallops ($20), wins me over with fried green beans – bean poriyal – dusted in coconut. You’ll find them under a cloud of beetroot that contrasts nicely against fresh lemon juice and the dried mango powder in their chaat masala. It’s a veritable Indian house party in your mouth against the lightly seared scallops.

While we reset our palates with a light but icy ball of orange, basil and white wine sorbet, let's talk booze. We’re drinking the Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay ($84/bottle) - a competent and likeable selection from their slightly pricy list. Entry level wines are your to be had for fifty bucks, though the list - which favours red wines over white - goes all the way up to an eight hundred buck Chateau Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild in case you’re feeling rich and super-fancy. Alternatively there's beer, with a few imported and domestic bottles plus Kingfisher on tap alongside their own-brand Pujabi Fusion Lager ($8/440ml). I'm told it's brewed in Spain. It drinks very much like an Indian Cobra, just with a less metallic edge.

In terms of mains, Executive Chef Vijay Prakash (who comes to Punjabi Fusion Sydney with a host of five-star hotel experience) has given the steak an Indian makeover. Draped over an aloo tadka (spicy potato) cake, the achingly tender Angus Beef Steak ($45) has been cooked sous vide then finished on the grill. With sautéed asparagus spears to drag through splats of bright yellow kasundi mustard sauce, this only problem with this dish is that it’s over too quickly.

With Singh talking such a big game about the Punjabi Fusion Butter Chicken ($35) it would have been remiss of me not to try it. Tender morsels of chook are marinated in tandoori masala and cooked in the tandoor (clay oven) then presented in a tangy sour gravy made with fresh tomato, cashew nut and fenugreek. It's adorned with two textural and eye-catching batons that take garlic naan from something floppy and uncouth to something befitting the fine dining brief.

The rest of my degustation is blur of (tuile-topped) warm beetroot pudding; a spinning paan (betel leaf) replacement bound in cherry fairy floss that you snatch off a levitating plate; and a warm digestive of apple ginger blossom tea that smokes when you dangle in the tea bag.

While I like the kitchen’s sense of whimsy and playfulness, it’s the well-realised Indian flavours in the savoury dishes that will bring me back to explore the rest of their innovative menu before winter is complete.

Punjabi Fusion Sydney
Shop 6 & 7, Observatory Tower,
168 Kent Street, Millers Point
Ph: (02) 9241 1440

Punjabi Fusion Progressive Indian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Travel - Tarana Community Farmers' Market

There’s about thirty minutes of winding country road between Lithgow and Tarana. You’ll travel through hilly brown countryside, past the flat expanse of Lake Lyell. Built in 1982 by Delta Electricity for the Mount Piper and Wallerawang power stations, the 2.38 square kilometer lake is now used for recreation, with motorised water-sports, boating, swimming and fishing for rainbow trout, brown trout and Australian bass as the most popular pursuits.

You’ll eventually find the Tarana Community Farmers Market in the tiny village of Tarana, on the grounds of the Rural Fire Service shed. Held on the fourth Sunday of every month between 9am and 1pm, it’s predominately a local affair.

As well as allowing local farmers and artisan makers a direct outlet to sell their produce and products, the market supports the Tarana Rural Fire Service, including via funds raised at a bacon and egg roll stall on one side of the shed.

Beyond the obvious commercial benefit to the community, the well-attended market is also an opportunity for locals to grab a cuppa and have a yarn with their neighbours. It’s also a rallying point for local issues, with a survey being circulated by the Tarana Valley Community Group (TVCG) regarding Lithgow City Council's proposed plans for Tarana Village. It was great to see an active citizen voice helping to ensure that the proposed picnic tables and landscaping will go where the locals want them!

For the local talent, it’s a captive audience (and some money in a bucket), though the band does have to compete with the steady clank of metal on metal. Dave ‘The Village Blacksmith’ Walker from Cargo (on the other side of Mount Canobolas) has set up in the middle of the ring of stalls, demonstrating his metal working skills and sharpening your knives if you happened to remember to bring them along.

As for the farmgate stalls, the biggest producer I found was Jannei Goat Dairy. You’ll find their cheese factory north of Lithgow in Lidsdale. They’re a family business that offers fresh goat curd, feta, white mould cheeses, and semi hard styles like the Jannei Lidsdale. It’s made like a Cheddar, with a long, lingering semi-sweet palate that begs to be teamed with onion jam on a neutral cracker.

When I visited the market in April, Paling Yards Grove were just waiting for their new season olive oil to be ready. You’ll find their olive grove about thirty clicks west of Orange. At the market they offer environmentally friendly extra virgin olive oil bottle refills, as well as dressings and dukkah to enjoy the oil with.

My other big find was a German baker that didn’t advertise a business name, but had a big plastic box full of salt-crusted pretzels sitting on their blue and white chequered tablecloth. It’s nicely displayed range also included gingerbread men, cinnamon scrolls, shortbread biscuits, macaroons, vanillekipferl (cresent-shaped vanilla cookies) and lebkuchen. The latter is a bit like gingerbread, made with honey, spices, nuts and sometimes candied fruit. This particular version is made from the stallholder’s oma’s (grandmother) recipe. After eating the pretzels, I regretted not buying more of his wares.

Remember to bring a chilly bin, the range of products on offer includes farm meats as well as shelf-stable salami that will survive until you get back to Sydney if you happen to forget.

Next Market: Sunday 26 May, 2019

Tarana Community Farmers' Market
Main Street, Tarana
Ph: (0412) 759 542

Review - The Malaya

The Malaya make one of Sydney’s best rendangs. Their Coconut Beef Rendang ($28) is well-balanced and fragrant, with a fluffy gravy that’s sitting right in the sweet spot before the fats separate. Each mouthful of the falling-apart beef is salty, sweet, sour and hot, with umami – that savoury middle - in bucket loads. Steamed Rice ($4.50/person) opens up the sauce and extends the palate length, making this rendition of the famous Indonesian coconut curry worth your trip to The Malaya alone.

Last week we popped back King Street Wharf to get reacquainted with this longstanding Southeast Asian icon. What what we thought would be a quiet Tuesday evening saw us joined inside the dining room by a flock of bookings and walk-in diners.

The Malaya has aged well. The restaurant space feels dark and sophisticated, and is effective in keeping diner attention centred upon the Darling Harbour view.

What’s even more pleasing, is the years (The Malaya first opened in 1963, albeit in a different location) haven’t pulled them away from what they were. The rendang still tastes the same; their cow-milk laksa recipe (because in the 1960s coconut milk was impossible to find) is still the same.

The Chicken Sambol ($27) is cooked from the same recipe they were using thirty years ago. Made with belacan (shrimp paste) candle nuts and dried shrimp, it’s a spicy but linear curry blessed with a funky middle that reminds me of eating ikan bilis (dried anchovies). On the day I dined, the thinly sliced chicken thigh pieces perhaps had spent a little bit too long in the pot, as we didn't get much flavour or texture out of them.

There’s not a lick of sweetness to this curry, so consider punctuating it with forays into Sichuan Eggplant ($27). Cooked with ballistic dried chillies, these lusciously soft wedges of eggplant mingle with cashew nuts, shallots and Chinese water spinach in a kecap manis (sweet soy) based sauce. While the dried chillies have real heat, they’re easy to avoid; and when you do, there’s only a very gentle heat to the rest of the dish.

Riesling is an obvious match to spicy cuisine, and the wine list at The Malaya tries to lead your horse to water by kicking off their wine list with seven of them. The 2018 Crawford River ‘Young Vines’ Riesling ($62/bottle) will do the job in a limey, citrus fruit-driven fashion.

It’s summery and light enough to work with Salt and Pepper Prawns ($38), and energetic enough to cut a swathe through curry.

The prawns were a bit light on the salt, cracked black pepper and chilli for me, though the restaurant was more than happy to oblige with three pots of chilli, one of which totally kicked my arse.

I soothed my palate in Otak-Otak ($17/2), which sees white fish minced with chilli, spices and tapioca starch into a spongy (like ‘brains’), enjoyable little parcel you unwrap from inside a blackened banana leaf.

In a final, genius move, dessert at The Malaya comes in size small! Their Black Rice Pudding ($5) made on black glutinous rice cooked with pandan leaves, and their Sago Pudding ($5) with sago and coconut flavoured with palm sugar, both arrive in elegant little glasses.

Each of the glasses contained just enough dessert to put your mouth back together without amping you up too much on sugar.

Now while I deliberately selected dishes that were likely to be hot, there’s plenty on The Malaya’s menu to suit people who are not big on chilli. And, if you happen to fall in love with your rendang or laksa, on your way out you can buy a jar of the kitchen's sauce to take home. I might even have bought some of their Rendang Paste ($10) myself...

The Malaya
King Street Wharf
39 Lime Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9279 1170

The Malaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Event - Taste of Tasmania (Part 4)

While many of the events I attended at Taste of Tasmania were heavily populated by interstate and international blow-ins, including me, the Luke Burgess Dinner ($160/head) I attended was the big exception.

Burgess clearly made an enduring impression on Tasmanians at his former restaurant Garagistes, despite it closing back in 2015.

The nurses I sat with credited Burgess with starting them on their journey toward seeing food as pleasure rather than simple sustenance. They were pretty convincing – especially as they were breaking with their now vegan diet to enjoy this dinner.

Over quite a few bottles of 2017 Sinapius Home Vineyard Chardonnay – wine dinners down here don’t follow the stingy Sydney model – I took the opportunity to learn more the island state from people who actually live in it.

All the vegetables were in the ground today,” explains Burgess by way of introducing his menu-free meal and his overall cooking philosophy.

Burgess prefers to cook with what the fisherman has caught that morning, and the farmer has harvested that day.

Our grumbling tummies were quickly sorted with linseed crackers topped with puréed salami.

We moved onto lettuce leaf boats filled with sweet green onion then dusted with Pecorino cheese.

It’s all very simple, with Burgess relying upon the freshness of the produce to elevate each dish. Most of the dishes are presented family sharing style, though we each get a little plate of ling treated with koji and salt, served with wakame salad and green tomato juice under thin slices of summer squash.

Cooked over hot coals, lamb ribs are next on our agenda.

The super crisp fat is a highlight against the gently flavoured lamb.

With them we move onto a wine called Brian – the 2017 Brian 3 Pinots (375ml) to be precise. It’s made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris and has a juicy, refreshing fruit-driven flavour with a spicy finish.

As we each skewered our own flathead and consumed the simply cooked fish against turnips and young onions, we could hear Mojo Juju warming up the crowd on the festival main stage.

While Burgess rustled up our dessert, I ducked out for a peek.

Looking much more comfortable singing their own material than they were on New Year’s Eve forced by the promoters into a strange thematic duet, Mojo Juju held the audience enthralled with their emotional and political songs.

Playing to the home state’s excellent cherries for the plate's only sweetness, our profiterole dessert was just the ticket to end a fun meal with newfound Tasmanian friends.

Scallop Pie Side-Bar:

Inspired by the Burgess dinner, the next day we took a produce drive that saw us sample multiple varietals of cherry.

However, the best pitstop we made was this chilly bin in a wheelbarrow by the road in Pelverata. It lured us in with a chalkboard promising spray-free salad greens, marmalade and more cakes than your average cake stall.

We lifted the lid and filled the honesty box, taking away an array of treasures from honey joys to lemon slice and chocolate chip cookies, all neatly hand-packaged and labelled with honest ingredients and a best before date.

In between cherry stops, we pulled in at Banjo's Bakery Cafe. This affordable Tasmanian bakery chain captured my attention by promising six scallops in every Scallop Pie ($8.50).

We counted seven in ours, though didn’t rate this pie’s pastry or the super-mild curry flavour.

Using super-tiny scallops meant they weren’t as toothsome as the big ones I liked at Doo-Lishus.

Banjo's Bakery Cafe
33 Gordon Street, Sorrell, Tasmania
Ph: (02) 6265 6666

Banjo's Bakery Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Heading to Tasmania?
Does My Bomb Look Big In This? has you covered...
The Taste of Tasmania: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4.
Breakfast (Hobart): Born in Brunswick, Dandy Lane, Room for a Pony & Macquarie St. Food Store.
Lunch (near Hobart): Willie Smith's Apple Shed & The Dunalley Store.
Dinner (Hobart): The Source, Franklin, Frank & Templo.
Beyond Hobart: Freycinet Marine Farm, Harvest Launceston & Mudbar Restaurant.