Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sepia, Sydney, New South Wales (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

2015 really seems to be Martin Benn's year. After years making his mark as the Head Chef of Tetsuya's, Sepia - the 3-Hatted restaurant owned by Benn and his wife Vicki Wild - has been named Sydney's best restaurant 3 times in the Good Food Guide in its 6 years of existence, and was voted by a panel of critics, fellow chefs and restaurateurs as the best in the country. Winning the One To Watch Award from San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants will undoubtedly mean Sepia's stature is likely to grow internationally, so our eating excursion to Sydney seemed eminently well timed to dine at what is undoubtedly Australia's restaurant of the moment.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Nomad, Surry Hills, New South Wales (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Nomad at Surry Hills was one of those unexpected finds that pop up when your search for one thing on the internet leads you to something seemingly unrelated. While planning for our upcoming Bangkok trip, I was looking for a travel write up published a few years back where a journalist was taken on a food tour of Bangkok by David Thompson (some people have all the luck!). I found the article in question, but also found a short interview with Thompson where he nominated Nomad as his current favourite place to eat in Sydney. As we just so happened to have a Sydney trip planned before our adventures in Bangkok, this was a very serendipitous tip, and after reading about Nomad's wood fire-focused cooking and the restaurant's hyper artisanal approach to everything from polenta to charcuterie, it was settled - we had to booked a table for two at Nomad.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Cafe Paci, Darlinghurst, New South Wales (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Alissa and I almost had an opportunity to try the food of Pasi Patanen back when we first started the Ministry of Gluttony. Fresh from our honeymoon eating our way around Asia, we took a brief break from the gluttony upon our return to Perth, before deciding to try the Tuesday night experimental dinner at Co-Op Dining in East Perth as an early Valentine's Day meal. At the end of the meal, we were alerted to the fact that the Tuesday after was going to feature a Riesling Rocks event dinner, with Pasi Patanen flying over to collaborate with Co-Op's chef Kiran Mainwaring for a special one-off menu paired with Riesling - our favourite white varietal. Having spent most of our money overseas and having just dined at Co-Op, it was a bit too soon for a return visit, however reading up about Patanen and his semi-permanent pop-up restaurant left me very intrigued. Located in a building that was former Mexican restaurant Cafe Pacifico, Pasi simply dropped the 'fico' and rechristened it Cafe Paci - a wildly experimental and relatively affordable degustation restaurant. It was only meant to last a year, however when we discovered Cafe Paci was still going strong it became one of the first restaurants that we booked for our Sydney trip.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Momofuku Seiobo (Bar Menu), Pyrmont, New South Wales (Alissa and Don eat Australia)

When creating the shortlist of places to check out during our trip to Sydney, Momofuku Seiobo was one of the places that I knew was non-negotiable. As long time fan of David Chang (I even cooked a dinner of Momofuku Ko dishes late last year), a visit to a Momofuku restaurant has been on my restaurant bucket list for many years, and I was not going to let the opportunity to cross one off the list pass me by. The only problem? We had already reserved degustation dinners at LuMi, Cafe Paci and Sepia months in advance, and with other banquet/chef's choice menus at Ms. G's and Nomad also planned, Seiobo's reservation window of 20 days before the requested date came a bit too late to an already crowded and expensive party, and I didn't want to cut any of those other meals out of our plans either. Thankfully, Seiobo had a perfect compromise; their small 5 seat bar offers a limited bar menu for walk-ins, and features that most famous of Momofuku dishes - the Pork Bun. With the promise of Pork Buns and other dishes in the more casual Momofuku style of Noodle Bar and Ssam, Alissa and I set off early for dinner in Pyrmont to avoid any potential queues for the bar.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Tim Ho Wan, Chatswood, New South Wales (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Okay, something that I've just got to get out of the way first - just because a certain restaurant in a chain has a Michelin star does not mean that by extension all branches of that restaurant are Michelin Starred. Some branches will invariable be better than others and even a chef as illustrious as Joel Robuchon - who has more Michelin Stars than any other chef in the world - cannot claim to have consistent 3 Star level restaurants in every territory with a Michelin Guide. Likewise, if a restaurant with Michelin stars has a branch in a territory without a Guide , it may well be Michelin Star quality cooking, but it is not by definition Michelin Starred cooking.

While Tim Ho Wan's ventures out of Hong Kong never outright claim to have stars for each outlet, they push the Michelin angle very, very hard as a selling point. However when not even all the branches in Hong Kong can claim stars, there is something disingenuous about people referring to it as Michelin Starred Dim Sum. Still, having actually eaten at the impressive Michelin starred branch in Sham Shui Po as well as the less incredible but still good Orchard Rd branch in Singapore, the idea of a Tim Ho Wan in Australia really excited Alissa and I, and we were very interested to see if the recently opened Tim Ho Wan in Chatswood would live up to the standard to which its marketing aspires.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Gumshara Ramen, Haymarket, New South Wales (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

While in Sydney for work a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to try a bowl of ramen so intensely porky and delicious that it was life changing. After sitting over a giant bowl of literally Pork, Pork, Pork and more Pork, I called Alissa and my parents up to tell them I'd just eaten the greatest bowl of Ramen in my life, and jokingly (but also half seriously) added that I was also about to have a heart attack due its rich unctuousness. Along with the more refined (and possibly even better) Hakata Ramen of Ichiran in Hong Kong, that bowl has been a high watermark for Tonkotsu - and Ramen in general. Called Super Mega Ramen and the most deluxe and impressive bowl sold at Gumshara Ramen in Sydney's Chinatown, Gumshara was the top priority of places to check out again while we were over from Perth for a week. Having eaten a lot of Ramen in the years since - and even written a guide to the different Ramen Joints in Perth - I was interested to found out if Gumshara was as amazing as I'd remembered it being.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Harajuku Gyoza, Potts Point, New South Wales (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

With such finite time while on holiday and seemingly endless things to see, eat and do, I like to be a very researched and well planned traveller. For our 2015 trip to Sydney, I booked all our major meals months in advance to avoid missing out on some of the more difficult to book places, and worked out journey times and opening hours for places that didn't take bookings so we could be there to beat the queues. I've mellowed out somewhat from the extremely detailed planning of our honeymoon however, and now fill some spaces in our schedules with the words 'Something Simple' - code for a meal that does not require a reservation, queuing or even any pre-planning to visit. Flying into Sydney in time for a late lunch, Alissa and I agreed that Something Simple was called for, and went with whatever we could find close to our hotel. As luck would have it, just two doors down from our hotel was Harajuku Gyoza - a cool looking Izakaya-style bar specialising in Gyoza and Beer. With its convenient location we decided to visit the place twice, and the following is an overview of both our meals.

Monday, 13 July 2015

LuMi, Pyrmont, New South Wales (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Although there has been a fair amount of cross-pollination of French and Japanese cuisines in a fine dining context, the crossover potential of Japanese and Italian cooking is relatively underexplored. Inherent conservatism and striving for authenticity may have kept playing around with Italian food off limits for a long time, however the strong focus on umami in both cooking traditions make many Italian and Japanese culinary ideas strongly compatible. 

With Modernists like Massimo Bottura having shown that one can be at once progressive while deeply respectful of cultural heritage from within Italy, its been interesting reading about a similarly progressive and open style of Italian cuisine developing here in Australia. Only having been open since September last year, LuMi and its head chef Federico Zanellato have already become critical darlings for the restaurant's innovative Japanese influenced take on Modern Italian. With Zanellato's resume including stints at such culinary meccas as La Pergola, Ryugin, Noma and Attica, LuMi was high on our list of places to check out while on a culinary tour of Sydney - so much so, that it ended up being our dinner on the Sunday of our arrival.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Eat No Evil (Pop-Up Restaurant), Mosman Park, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Regardless of best intentions and levels of gluttony, the chances of trying every single truck of the annual Food Truck Rumble in the Perth Cultural Centre is near impossible. Alissa and I had to make our choices, and inevitably some food envy set in when we heard of great dishes from some of the less busy trucks while the half hour wait for a Mac and Cheese Toasted Sandwich proved to be far from worth the absurd wait. One of the trucks that we kept hearing praise for was Eat No Evil, a truck with a mission 'to create a food experience that brings people together, breaks down barriers and gives an interaction with local ingredients and dishes that will inspire you to try something new and really think about what your eating.' Although we had considered trying to find the truck in the ensuing months after the Rumble, a meal from the Eat No Evil truck never eventuated. So when our friends Jarrad and Lexi invited us to a dinner at Eat No Evil's Pop-Up Restaurant at Good Things Mosman Park, we immediately jumped at the chance - what better way to try their food than to order the entire menu in a tasting format for $45 per person, with BYO for a very reasonable $5 a head?

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Mary's, Highgate, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

While Degustations and Noodle Shops are clearly food genres for which we have high levels of enthusiasm, Alissa and I rarely go out for breakfast. Being more a fan of the kinds of food available at lunch and dinner and somewhat bored of the conventions that define breakfast foods, I'm usually a bit utilitarian in my approach to breaking the fast to save more room for the lunch foods I really want to eat. Plus, with long weekend queues at the places that do serve interesting breakfasts, I'm more likely to end up grabbing an early Banh Mi or heading out nice and early for Dim Sum just as they open than stand around for an hour at all the breakfast hot spots.

For this reason, breakfast at Mary St Bakery has long eluded me. Alissa has been and raved about how good the food was, and blogger friends continually spruiked its greatness in conversation. So when I received an invite to attend a blogger's dinner at Mary St Bakery's nighttime alter-ego Mary's, I jumped at the chance - even when it turned out it was a night Alissa was unable to make it to.