Tag Archives: Sydney

Sokyo, Sydney

Grain fed Rangers Valley sirloin with hon shimeji mushrooms and a lime black pepper jus

Chef Chase Kojima helms the counter at this slick new restaurant in Pyrmont, Sydney. It’s clear that his time working at Nobu restaurants around the world have been a strong influence on him as he brings modern Japanese cuisine to Sydney

The staff in this buzzy restaurant are attentive and knowledgeable and they selected dishes for us to be shared at the table. Our waiter explained that the dishes would follow the order of the menu – starting with sashimi, then tempura, grilled dishes from the robata, and finally sushi (we skipped soup and salad).

Hokkaido scallop sashimi with yuzu honey dressing and crunchy miso

Our waiter either clearly knew what we wanted from chatting with us, or all the food served there is outstanding. I like to think a bit of both.

Kingfish ceviche with green chilli and crispy potato

We started with Kingfish miso ceviche and scallops. I guess with great access to superbly fresh seafood, both of these were going to be great anyway, with the Kingfish a classic ceviche, marinated in lemon and green chilli and topped with crispy potato strips. The scallops came thinly sliced, dressed with yuzu honey and topped with crunchy miso. The citrusy yuzu dressing and the saltiness of the miso brought out the sweetness of the beautiful Hokkaido scallops.

Snapper tempura with black pepper and green chilli vinegar

Next up was the tempura. One of my favourites of the evening was lightly tempura’d snapper fillets that came with an insanely good black pepper and green chilli vinegar dipping sauce. We also had asparagus with a truffle poke sauce and edamame dip.

Beef short ribs with caramalised eschallots and kurubota pork belly with spicy shirodashi and yuzukosho

From the robata, beef short ribs with caramised eschallots and a BBQ terriyaki sauce, tsukune chicken with shallots and a pineapple ginger sauce, octopus with a Peruvian glaze and sirloin with foie gras, fig and a plum wine soy. To be honest, the sauces here I think overpowered the dishes, but each of the meats was so perfectly cooked. I particularly remember the melt in your mouth texture of the short ribs and how tender the octopus was. We also had kurubota pork belly, with spicy shirodashi and yuzukosho (a paste from chilli peppers, yuzu peel and salt), grain fed Rangers Valley sirloin with hon shimeji mushrooms and lime black pepper jus and a classic, miso cod. Yes, we may have ordered too much.

“Queensland roll” – spanner crab, spicy avocado sushi wrapped in soy paper

We then moved to the sushi course of “Queensland roll” – a roll made with spanner crab, spicy avocado, and soy paper, and spicy tuna with crispy rice, truffle salt and a spicy mayo. Maybe I am partial to seafood but I love that the food ended on something lighter. Both these again let the seafood shine, especially the crab in the Queensland roll.

The meal finished with a selection of desserts all of which were great (my favourite was the fondant). I think desserts deserve a separate post, each a little piece of delicious art. And a wonderfully sweet way to end a fantastic meal.

Ground floor, the Darling
The Star
80 Pyrmont Street
Pyrmont NSW 2009
Tel: 61 2 9777 9000

Lunch: Fri-Sat 12pm – 2.30pm
Dinner: Mon-Thu 6pm – 10:15pm
Fri & Sat 6pm – 11:15pm
Sunday closed

Happy Mother’s Day !

My mum’s tomato salad with cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, goat’s feta and mint

I was fortunate to be in Sydney with my Mum on Mother’s Day over the weekend. Sydney put on the most spectacular weather for us and we decided on such a glorious day we would have fresh oysters and prawns from the Sydney Fish Markets, and enjoy them on the balcony with a bottle of champagne.

While dad and I were out buying the seafood, Mum made us the best tomato salad for lunch. Simple and delicious, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Cherry tomatoes in red, yellow, green and brown, each with a slightly different taste, kalamata olives, goat’s feta, olive oil and mint.

It looked so good on the plate you began eating it with your eyes. Thanks Mum – so glad to have been able to spend the afternoon with you (and of course Dad too !).

I hope everyone else had as wonderful a Mother’s Day with their families and wish all Mother’s a Happy Mother’s Day !

Happy New Year !

As the end of 2011 ticks closer and closer, I’d like to thank all of you for sharing your lives with me and allowing me to share mine with you.

Here’s to a sparkling 2012 filled with fun and most importantly, more great food adventures !

I leave you with a photograph of my hometown Sydney and their fireworks spectacular over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It’s a cheat photo from a previous year but I do wish was there with my family.


Makoto, Sydney

Scallop and salmon gunkanmaki

A colleague recently took me to Makoto in Sydney.  It was the perfect plan.  We were both a bit frazzled from being in a full-day meeting, so the intent was to grab some quick sushi, which we both love, then back to the hotel.

What I didn’t plan on was just how delicious the sushi was – which made us stay a lot longer than we originally planned to.

Soft-shelled crab handroll

Makoto has got to be one of the best sushi trains I’ve been to.  The sushi trains you get here in Singapore don’t even compare. OK, Makoto has the benefit of fresh seafood from Sydney, but it really ups the ante with “regular” dishes like lobster or abalone gunkanmaki where the rice is wrapped in seaweed and the topping is placed on top, and dishes like soft shelled crab handrolls use beautifully crisp, lightly battered crab that you can actually see – not the usual soggy oily mush you get in Singapore sushi trains.  I

I left all the ordering to my colleague and why not, the dishes kept coming, each one of them a delight.

Get there early though – we did, and nabbed the last two seats at the counter.  An hour later there was a queue outside the door, and Liverpool street is not a very nice place to stand.

Makoto Sushi Bar
19 Liverpool Street (World Tower, corner Liverpool and Pitt)
Tel: (02) 9283 6767

Mon to Fri 11:30am – 2:30pm
Sat to Sun Noon – 3pm
Mon to Sun 5:30pm – 10pm

Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe

Picture perfect morning at Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe

It’s really very difficult to beat a perfect day in Sydney in Autumn or Spring. The weather just makes everything look like it’s been colour enhanced with its azure blue skies and there’s a breeze that gives a hint of cool respite from the sun.

This morning was one of those perfect days and we decided to take advantage of it and grab breakfast down at the Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe at Balmoral Beach.

Mid-way through my breakfast fry-up – scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, sausage, portabello mushroom, roasted tomato and potato rosti

Bathers’ is a Sydney institution – one of those iconic restaurants that have been around for as long as I can remember, making indoor beachside dining even more sunny than outside.  In addition to the spectacular views this place has, the rest of the dining experience is just spot on, starting from the friendly and efficient staff who are ever attentive and seem to magically appear when you are ready to order, but you never noticed prior to that moment.  It’s also comforting to know that it’s also had the same chef for the last 12 years, with chef/owner Serge Dansereau still at the helm.

I stuck to my standard big breakfast – scrambled eggs on toast with roasted tomatoes, bacon, pork sausage, portabello mushroom and potato rosti.  It turned up shortly after I ordered, the eggs perfectly cooked juuust on the right side of runny, the bacon cooked to salty perfection – it all looked so appealing that I immediately tucked into the food before I remembered to take a photo.

Blueberry pancakes

My sister ordered the blueberry pancakes.  I had buttermilk pancakes from Pancakes at the Rocks earlier this week, and found them very doughy and not at all what I remembered.  The ones at Bathers’, on the other hand, were amazingly light and fluffy, not too sweet, with fresh blueberries cooked into the pancake like little treats with each mouthful.

A stroll along the beach after makes for an absolutely perfect Sydney morning.

Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe
4 The Esplanade, Balmoral, Sydney
Tel: (612) 9969 5050

Friendship Attics – strange name, great place for a special birthday

Steamed egg in tomato

Cantonese restaurants are everywhere in Sydney.  And the standard of most of them are pretty damn good.  So what is it that makes one more of a favourite for me than others ?

My dad recently turned 70, and my mum organised a surprise birthday bash with 70 of his oldest and closest friends.  And she organised it at Friendship Attics.  From Singapore, I was left wondering what on earth is Friendship Attics, and why there ? When I got to Sydney that week and we went to recee the place, so we knew how to set up etc, I found out why.

1) It’s not an enormous restaurant that can seat 700 guests.  It comfortably fit all of my dad’s friends and we got to book out the entire restaurant, keeping it cosy and intimate.

2) The staff were so helpful and so friendly and truly made having the event there a breeze

3) The food !  Typical Cantonese fare, but mum selected the menu and boy did she choose well.

First course of cold cuts

We started with the traditional banquet first course of a selection of cold starters: jellyfish, various cold cuts of pork and of course, crispy suckling pig.

broccoli with crab meat

The rest of the meal just seemed to be endless dish after dish, but the standouts for me were the lobster with ginger and shallots, the green green broccoli with crab meat (made eating greens a breeze), fish cooked two ways (deep fried head and tail with stir fried fillets, and steamed egg in tomato.  Sounds weird, looks weird, tastes terrific.

Of course there was “longevity noodles” – long strands of ee-fu noodles which are meant to signify long life.

Friendship Attics’ location is close enough to Darling Park on Sussex Street that there is no real need to make the trek to Chinatown to fight for carspace or the crowds to get a great yum cha as well.

Friendship Attics Chinese Restaurant
321 Sussex Street, Sydney
Tel: 9261 2177

La Renaissance

La Renaissance Patiserrie’s ham and cheese croissant

In a recent trip back to Sydney for my dad’s 70th birthday, we decided to opt for a hotel near Circular Quay, overlooking Sydney Harbour, rather than our usual hotel choices nearer to the retail district of town.

It meant that every morning we had the luxury of being able to walk outside of our hotel (we stayed at the Four Seasons), and out be straight out on to the Rocks area of Sydney.

Projection of the symphony conductor on to the Sydney Opera House

Sydney’s a very young city, relative to the rest of the world, being just over 200 years old, and the Rocks area is where it all started.  I used to learn about it in school (social studies) and this area has not only been preserved – building facades and areas still paved in cobblestone – but enhanced by a activities around the area to take advantage of the breathtaking location. Activities like projecting a broadcasted symphony onto the sails of the Opera House.  Or the Rocks Markets where you can take a leisurely stroll on a weekend to view various arts and crafts.

The one thing D and I took advantage of was our close proximity to La Renaissance Patiserrie. Part of Bistro Baroque, a wonderful French Bistro, this small patisserie was pretty much where we had breakfast every day.  Eating al fresco on Argyle Street watching the world slowly wake up, sipping our coffees and enjoying La Renaissance’s amazing array of pastries and macarons (which were savoured for morning or afternoon tea).

You get a glimpse of the kitchen when your order – all balloon whisks and the smell of sugar and butter permeating the air. It was just such a joy to be close to that much pastry 🙂

Highly recommended (although not if you’re on a diet) are the croissants – I simply had to have them while I could, especially with the close of Mirabelle patisserie in Singapore (anyone know if they just moved from Mackenzie Street rather than closing down please tell me !).  The ham and cheese croissants were also decadently delicious.

A charming and delightful way to enjoy a morning (or afternoon) cup of coffee.

La Renaissance Patiserrie
47 Argyle Street The Rocks Sydney
Tel: + 61 2 9241 4878

Mr Chows

Shredded crispy duck pancake

Why isn’t shredded crispy duck available in more restaurants ? To our knowledge it’s available in just one restaurant in Sydney, and none in Singapore.

Mr Chows is tucked away in the quiet end of Kent Street in Sydney, near the Rocks.  It serves Peking cuisine, most importantly, shredded crispy duck.  Apparently this dish is quite popular in the UK, which might mean it’s not really authentically Peking (I’ve never had it in China) but I don’t really care of its authenticity, it’s delicious ! Essentially it’s half (or whole) duck seasoned with aromatic five spices and deep fried, then shredded at your table, to be served in thin pancakes with slivers of spring onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce.  Think classic Peking duck, where it’s just the skin that’s served in the pancake.

Crispy beef strips

If you ever go to Mr Chows, make sure you also order the crispy beef strips – thin strips of beef and carrots, lightly battered and fried, and tossed in a sweet, almost honey sauce.

Anyone know of where in Singapore you can get this dish, please let me know !

Mr Chows
33-35 Kent St
The Rocks
Sydney 2000
Ph: 02 9252 3010

A Crown Street gem called Toko

Beef tataki with citrus soya sauce and garlic chips

Toko in Sydney is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit in a long time, and I managed to go there last Saturday night.  The whole stretch of Crown Street from Oxford Street to Cleveland Street has changed so much in the last ten years and it is now just full of great cafes and bars and restaurants that I think epitomises Sydney, especially in the summer when people spill out on to the street to enjoy the warm weather.

Reminiscent of Sushi-e at the back of Hemmesphere Bar, this place is abuzz with people and chatter and music and was packed by 7.30 when we got there (although I think Toko is more izakaya dining – where it’s basically a place to drink with the added benefit of having food to eat rather than a sushi bar).  Luckily there was a table for us (one of the downsides is that you can’t make reservations and they won’t seat you until all your party are there).

We opted for the degustation menu to sample as many dishes as possible from the menu (and to avoid having to make a decision on a Saturday night after a few wines!) and every dish that was presented to us was a delight.

Crispy soft-shelled crab with wasabi mayonnaise

We started with a beef tataki – seared thinly-sliced beef with a citrus soy sauce and garlic chips.  The beef was perfectly seared on the outside while rare in the middle and the garlic chips were a nice contrast in crunchiness to the tender beef.

Next up was what I would arguably call the best soft-shelled crab I have ever tasted.  The batter was light and crispy and there was absolutely none of the soggy oily mess that you often get with soft-shelled crab.  It was served with a wasabi mayonnaise but I don’t think the crab needed anything at all.  Absolutely perfect.

King fish sashimi with ponzu dressing

Third course was I think what reminded me of Sushi-e and their amazing king fish that’s served with a drizzle of smoking hot olive oil, thin slices of king fish sashimi served with a ponzu dressing, with ginger and crispy crushed garlic.  Again, the contrast in textures really worked in your mouth.

Courses that followed kind of blurred after these three as the wines flowed freely, but I do recall seared scallops toped with finely grated daikon served with a drizzle of basil emulsion, seared duck breast with sliced ginger and sansho pepper, and simple zuccini on skewers and corn on the cob from the robata grill were surprisingly super sweet and delicious.

Toko also has a sushi bar in Paddington, but on a Saturday night when you just want to catch up with friends in a bustling bar with the added bonus of a table and non-stop delicious plates of food being served, Toko in Surry Hills wins it for me.

Toko Restaurant and Bar
490 Crown Street
Surry Hills

T: +61 2 9357 6100
F: +61 2 9357 6155
E: info@toko.com.au

Bookings taken for lunch only

Our eating holiday in Sydney

I love Sydney. I love that it never seems to change and that its winters are full of brilliantly blue skies with crisp cold wind, and the food just always seems to be nothing short of fab. I do realise that there is a big difference between produce in Singapore and Sydney – simply put, nothing is fresh in Singapore, it’s all air-flown or imported. Sydney just seems to have access to seafood, meats and vegetables that always seem to amaze and delight.

There are the requisite “to do’s” of eating when I go home – yum cha and the fish markets, but D and I also managed to wander around the supermarkets and ate at simple bistros and loved it just as much as the dinner we had at Marque.

Let’s start with the supermarkets. Large, airy spaces make shopping a delight, and the produce is displayed in all their glory. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, an array of fresh seafood and meats at the deli counter, and the bread, oh, the bread. Crusty on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside and the choices are so many it’s almost confusing. The fresh meat all have a free-range option that does not make you raise your eyebrows at the cost – it’s all just brilliant.

Of course the restaurants/bistros etc get access to all of this (if not better as they would buy direct from the producers), so popping into Fratelli Fresh for a simple meal – the meat platter – meant we were served with this huge serving of freshly shaved meats – drizzled with a little olive oil, pepper and served with a wedge of lemon. Simple. Delicious.  And breakfast at Cafe Zoe on Bourke Street – buttery scrambled eggs cooked to wobbly perfection served with a hot cup of milky coffee.  I had food envy for the rest of our table with their omelettes and even simple sourdough toast.

The fish markets are pretty disappointingly grubby – apparently the crazy government turned down an offer by the owners of the markets to help refurbish the place. What a shame, it’s full of tourists and we should show a better game than just the seafood. The place is cold, dirty, poorly laid out. But again, the produce…I have always loved wandering around looking at the many many typed of fish available, all looking clear eyed and fresh, smelling like the sea. We ate so much there I can’t even recall everything but the standouts were the Sydney Rock Oysters – smaller than Pacific, but so so much sweeter, uni (by the container !) where the delicate taste of the sea just melted on your tongue, and good old fashioned crumbed and fried calamari.

Yum cha is still a bit hit and miss. I managed to squeeze in two – Sea Treasure up at Crows Nest which certainly deserves not to win “Chinese restaurant of the year” (and has not, since 2008) – just blah, really. For simple ease of getting parking on a weekend, we went to the Greenwood Restaurant at North Sydney on our last day. The food was much better than Sea Treasure, but the dumpling “skin” (which also meant the rice rolls) was too thick for my liking. I like it thin and slippery.  You could probably get better in Singapore, but it’s the hustle and bustle and simply being able to see the food in the trolleys that for me make yum cha the experience that it is.

All in all, I ticked all of the boxes for food that I wanted. And all in all, being back in Singapore, I am grateful that I managed to squeeze it all in a week.