In 2017 Does My Bomb Look Big In This? continued to do a lot of moving around! Over the course of the year, this blog presented more than 210 pieces covering restaurants, cafes, clubs, bars, pubs, events and food businesses located in 74 different Sydney suburbs. This tally also includes 30 regional reviews across 26 different regional destinations (most within NSW) stretching from Brunswick Heads in the north, to Narooma on NSW's picturesque South Coast. There have been more than 34 distinct cuisines covered, with Afghani, Laotian, Bangladeshi and Serbian, sitting alongside this year's most returned to favourites - Japanese, Korean, Italian and Chinese. If you wanted to eat the best of this blog's 2017 meals in just 9 places, they would be:
1. Best Cafe
The biggest trend I identified in 2017 has been the social media led democratisation of cafes, across both Sydney and the state. While restaurant dishes are a bit harder to copy, most Sydney suburbs and regional centres have at least one café that is broadly on-trend. You’ll find them churning out turmeric lattes, brewing their own kombucha and making brunch dishes that involve more than simple bacon and eggs. I had notable on-trend breakfasts everywhere from The Weston Eatery in Canley Vale to Meet Mica in Surry Hills. The café I still think about the most - Milk Haus in Milton - did serve me a turmeric latte, but it was their date, Cheddar and toasted walnut scrambled eggs that changed my breakfasts at home completely.
2. Best Brunch
Beyond the widening of regular café fodder, lots of venues began to follow the lead of standouts like Saint Peter (my favourite restaurant last year), who cleverly widened the idea of what we eat for brunch. This year brunch included everything from fish cakes and eggs at Shelter in Lennox Head, to poached chicken in broth at La Provence in Lane Cove. However it was Allegra Dining in Alexandria who made brunch dreams come true with breakfast cocktails, spanner crab and smoked mozzarella jaffles and bloody good pasta.
3. Best Burger
This year you could barely open Instagram without seeing oozing American cheese. While it wasn’t a particular focus, I still smashed out a lot of burgers. I ate everything from globally focused cheffy numbers at Concept Burger in Wolli Creek to plant-based burgers at Soul Burger in Parramatta, and even revisited the Bourke Street outpost of last year’s burger winner, Bare Grill. The burger that is nestled most warmly in my stomach’s memory was at Miss America’s Diner in Riverwood. It’s not too fancy, just a great tasting burger in a retro setting rich with Americana staffed by cute-as-a-button waitresses who love what they do.
4. Best Ethnic Cuisine
This year I was chuffed to get into Serbian food at Madera Kafe Restoran in Warwick Farm, and I returned multiple times for more Afghan food at Bakhtar in Liverpool. The cuisine I drove to Blacktown multiple times to eat at both Abyssinia and at Blue Nile (which has sadly since closed down), was Ethiopian. My most exciting Ethiopian experience came at the hands of Tinsae Yigletu who hosts dinners in her own home under the banner, Dinner with Tinsae. Vegetarians will love the variety in Ethiopian cuisine, and meat eaters aren't likely to be disappointed either. If there's one particular thing you should try, it's their pliable pancake-like sour bread, injera.
5. Best Value Meal
This year saw me get my first well-priced halal snack pack at King Kebab House in Campbelltown; and eat my best ever dosa at Masala Darbar in Surry Hills for under $15. I fell in love with the homely plates at Silly Tart Kitchen in Kings Cross whose supper tapas menu dishes start at just $5 (I'll tell you more about them in 2018). However if you want to experience real value, you need to check out Bellbird at Casula Powerhouse. They’re utilising a great list of local suppliers, foraged ingredients and picked daily vegetables from their own kitchen garden to put out high quality dishes that cost fewer than twenty bucks.
6. Best Meal Under $100
Mid-range restaurants are so diverse it’s quite difficult to choose between them. I enjoyed the regional Italian cuisine (Ligurian) at ReccoLab in Balmain. The $48 tasting menu at Nilgiri’s in Cremorne was also a winner, offering up plentiful, well-made and interesting Indian dishes. I probably would have given this category to S’Age Bistronomy in Crows Nest, but it closed down shortly after I dined. Luckily the same chef - Tomoyuki Usui – has opened up his own spot, Restaurant Plage in Cremorne, which is my winner. They're dishing up innovative modern Japanese in a 3-course fixed price menu for $55.
7. Best Meal Over $100
With the term fine diner rapidly becoming outdated, this category ignores the hallmarks of white tablecloths and silver service, and just focuses on restaurants where you can expect to spend more than a hundred dollars on food and booze for each person. While I did my share of Sydney’s current it-spots like Paper Bird and Fujisaki, I had better meals at XO in Narrabundah, Umi Sushi in Haymarket, The Whale Restaurant in Narooma, and at Mode Restaurant & Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel. Most of the time I didn't eat degustations, which I have been finding a bit onerous this year, though I rate the one at HaNa Ju-Rin. While atmosphere in this restaurant is pretty much nil, and the booze list isn’t particularly exciting, I can't get the beautiful nigiri sushi in their omakase menu out of my head, so I’m giving it my best dinner over $100.
8. Best Sweet Treat
Not having much of a sweet tooth, I was quite restrained in this category. Okay, there was some excellent wasabi gelato at Petersham newcomer Gelato Republic; killer cupcakes by baker to the stars Orlando Sanpo at Vanoir in Paddington; beautiful rain cakes at the Taiwanese Night Market in Eastwood; and iced doughnuts at Grumpy Donuts in Camperdown. When it comes down to it though, the sweet treat I can’t live without was Frugii Dessert Laboratory's blue cheese ice cream. The only catch is: you have to drive to Braddon in the ACT to eat it.
9. Best Restaurant
Testament to the calibre of regional restaurants, my favourite meal at a restaurant this year was at Fleet. Situated in the tiny coastal town of Brunswick Heads, up near the Queensland border. This is restaurant is really worth the 772 kilometre road trip - the dishes are innovative with a wonderful sense of place, the wines are carefully chosen, and service is so warm, you feel like you're dining in the kitchen of friends.
Catch you all in 2018!