After having indulgently splurged on eating out everyday during my holidays, I made a note of all the restaurants/places I ate at while in Sydney.
Pancakes on The Rocks
The Rocks is a suburb (with a funny name, if you ask me) in inner Sydney that is a historical and tourist hub. I heard about this restaurant from my mum, who lived in Sydney while she was studying university. It’s a lot like the Pancake Manor (or Parlour, or whatever the perpetual name-changing has resulted in), but I’m guessing this is the original Pancake restaurant chain of Australia. The food there was quite good, I ordered a pancake stack with syrup and ice cream, and the cakes were thick and fluffy. Interestingly, a friend commented it tastes like there’s custard in it. We also ate a pizza which tastes much better than the fast food version, and I tried the BBQ pork ribs, which wasn’t spectacular, I think it was just marinated with the bottled BBQ sauce. However, I think people go there more for the atmosphere than anything. It’s housed in a beautiful historic building, but without the dingy atmosphere of Brisbane’s Pancake Manor. The top level was busy with modern subdued lighting and the rush of waiters, but downstairs was an alarming contrast, with homey decor and lighting, without the commotion upstairs.
Overlooking the business precinct of George St, classy businesspeople in suits come here for an upmarket meal. Reflecting the clientele, the interior is elegant, glamarous and grandeur; with a see-through ceiling (like that awesome room in Hey Arnold!), majestic columns, and spacious tables. The food is beautifully presented and a culinary delight. I had a Thai grilled chicken with sweet chilli sauce with salad and rice. It was a generous and a splendid meal for $16. My cousin had a chicken schnitzel which was crispy and freshly fried.
Hurstville RSL Chinese Bistro
Very good quality food. Only in Sydney have I seen the cuisine of Asian-Western fusion (“international”), that serve Western food staffed by Chinese people. This is one of them. For $20, you get a very generous set meal of soup (the cream of mushroom soup was very nice, no doubt they used real cream rather than cornstarch), salad (sun-dried tomatoes, greens, olives, chicken), a main (I chose grilled chicken or something), and a dessert (unfortunately, the ‘dessert of the day’ was only a simple fruit salad) and drink (Chinese milk tea please). Very good quality food, attentive service, and a nice casual atmosphere to boot.
Pavillion Hotel (CBD)
Apparently the Thai food here is good. They advertised on a sign outside “$6 lunch special” which is a good deal if you ask me!
Excelsior International Cuisine (Kogarah)
This is another one of those restaurants like the above. Probably not quite up to the standards of Hurstville RSL club, but very good nevertheless. For $18, you also get a soup (their cream soup was nowhere near as creamy as the RSL club), an appetiser (deep-fried prawn with a salad… it was crispy and fresh), a main (I chose Thai Green Curry with chicken, which was good, and served with a choice of rice or potato gratin), and dessert (Chinese people really haven’t mastered the art of Western dessert-making… it was a weird ‘chocolate jelly’ which just didn’t taste right), as well as a drink (milk tea as usual… when I ordered the waiter asked “Chinese or Western style?” and I was like.. what’s the difference? Apparently, Chinese milk tea contains evaporated milk rather than ordinary milk. No wonder I like it so much better!)
Japanese restaurants owned by non-Japanese people have a bad rap. And I must admit I had this sentiment, but after coming here, I was a convert. On arrival we got some complimentary ‘noodle salad’ which was nice. Most people order the set menus for two as it’s the best value and a huge array of food. Dinner sets include teriyaki, tempura, and.. well I forgot the rest. 😛 An approximately $35 meal sample consists of: Sashimi or Sushi, Agedashi tofu or chawan mushi, Beef tataki or yakitori (3 pieces), Chicken teriyaki or beef teriyaki, Miso soup, rice, Green tea ice cream and Japanese tea. As you may suspect by now, it could feed three or four people. The food was very good: the sushi and sashimi was very fresh, the steamed egg was silky soft, the tempura was light and airy (the sweet potato was particularly good)…it is very good value!
Located right next to a train station, this little arcade is surprisingly tranquil and probably a hidden gem. You can tell it’s a Japanese hub: two Japanese supermarkets and two big Japanese restaurants. Earthy and unpretentious, we were seated in a little deck with plastic sheets to shield the elements. We went on a rainy day and didn’t get wet, but there was a little gap in one little corner and if there had been someone sitting there they would have been soaked! Luckily a waiter resolved the problem. The sushi was very fresh, and had a very large variety. The hot dishes were also pretty good, I ordered an una-don which was absolutely humungous, and for the first time (in a long time) I actually didn’t clean my plate. The fillet was about 25cm long and on a bed of rice 30cm long 10cm wide, this could feed two or even three people. Anyway, the eel was very nice, grilled perfectly without much burning. It was served with yellow, soft, sweet-sour tasting little shreds of curiosity. It’s a very good and down-to-earth restaurant. But the tempura isn’t their specialty, it was a little stiff and oily; as the name suggests, the sushi and sashimi are probably a better choice.
Takeya Japanese Sushi Bar + BBQ (Coogee)
Located in the beautiful beach Coogee Bay (much undervalued when compared with iconic Bondi, its “award-winning hotel” infamous for the faeces-contaminated ice cream!), this Japanese/Korean restaurant offers a cosy refuge from the wind and rustic sand. My uncle and I tried the Bento Box at $20. We both ordered teriyaki, chicken for him and fish for me. It was a good sampling of everything: gyoza dumplings deep-fried, sashimi and sushi, miso soup and teriyaki fish. It’s not spectacular, but delicious nevertheless. The tea there uses real green tea leaves (gasp!) and some roasted brown rice, lending an oily film on top and a slightly burnt nutty fragrance (I’ve tasted them before, it’s called “genmaicha” it must be an acquired taste), it was funny because with my uncle’s wacky sense of humour, he was saying how we were drinking the leftover rice from other diners’ meals. haha.
Ichiban Boshi Japanese Noodle Shop (CBD, The Galleries Victoria)
This is popular with Asian locals looking for a cheap meal. The ramen is very good and very generous, with a simple fast-food style interior. Their neighbour is a very good Japanese bookstore Kinokunya. Apparently they have a sister store in The Gold Coast (the restaurant that is).
I walked past this shop and reminisced about last year’s holiday in HK. Super cheap Japanese fast-food style, better than Brisbane’s popular Hanaichi. Their gyudon bowl was only $5.35.
Aijen Ramen 千味拉面 (CBD)
Sydney is lucky to always be the first Australian city to get all the new stores. This is one of them, a chain restaurant that I often see in Hong Kong. I have been told the soup is laden with MSG, but hey, that’s not surprising for an enterprising Asian food shop is it? *update* There is a store now in George St, Brisbane City.
Pepper Lunch (CBD)
Located right in the hustle and bustle of George St, I passed this numerous times, but never had the chance to try it. It is another chain restaurant serving Japanese-style steak meals.
Din Tai Fung (CBD)
This chain restaurant is famous worldwide for their xiao long bao, but most of the other dishes were delicious. The interior decor is very ingenious: walls that were filled with plates and steaming baskets (behind perspex of course!), and ambience was contemporary. Most impressive was the glass walls of the kitchen, where you could peep in to see masked and gowned dumpling-makers swiftly and diligently creating the dumplings to painstaking precision. The menu had pretty pictures and recommendations starred, and there were instructions on how to eat a xiao long bao! When they arrived, I cautiously picked them up with chopsticks, wary that the delicately thin skin would burst and a whole explosion of soup and pork would ensue. But it stayed intact until I bit into it and the sweet soup came flooding out. It was tasty, but after my mum left a bit of the soup on her spoon, it was kind of scary to see a whole layer of fat hardening on the surface. We could also detect some MSG. Well, this isn’t exactly the sort of place you’d come to if you were going to be pedantic about health. Some underrated dishes that I thoroughly enjoyed were the cucumber salad (the sour-spicy dressing suited the coolness of cucumber), the vegetarian delight (a mix of seaweed, with tofu strips, bean sprouts and glass noodles drenched in sesame oil, the crunchy and chewy balanced well, and the flavour was delicate), the fried rice (distinctively delectable; short grain rice, buttery with morsels of egg, prawns and capsicum), drunken chicken (I didn’t particularly like it because it tasted like rose-essence wine which I don’t like), century egg with tofu and pork floss (really unique, the flavours melded beautifully; the egg was perfect with a rich, creamy yolk), hot and sour soup… While it’s pricey, the food is great, and probably more to do with the experience of going to one of the “Top 10 restaurants of the world”.
Sunny BBQ Restaurant (Hurstville)
Typical cha chaan teng style, with the usual Chinese menu scribbled over the wall and Chinese roast hanging intimidatingly for the world to see. Grandma and I ordered hot and sour soup (good, but a little too thick with cornstarch), udon stir-fried with chicken and black pepper (saw it several times in Sydney, must be all the rage. It was light and tasty, but something you could make with equal success at home.), and deep-fried dough sticks wrapped in rice noodle rolls (The dough sticks were a little chewy (as expected since it would have been softened by the moist rice noodle roll, but I liked it. Maybe because I’ve been deprived of dough sticks in Brisbane, such tasty fluffy things!). Best of all, it’s cheap!
Delight Dim Sim (Hurstville)
I ate here a long time ago, and was surprised to see it was recommended as a good Chinese restaurant in a Sydney foodie book. I ate the usual stir-fried noodles: char kway teow, dry-fried beef noodle.. and it was delicious, with good ‘wok hei’ and not too greasy, just as good as Hong Kong’s standards. They also sell frozen dim sim to cook at home. The shop is small and simple, but the food is great.
BBQ King (CBD)
Sadly, I’ve never actually eaten here, but I was told that my dad really liked this place when he was studying at University of Sydney. It is also renowned as a good place to buy Chinese roasts.
Palace Chinese Restaurant (CBD)
Leaving the best to the last, this has to be the best Chinese food I’ve eaten in Australia. Such an outrageous claim, you would only believe if you went there and had a taste yourself. It is truly mind-blowingly exquisite. The Chinese soup was nice, without any MSG taste, and full of fresh melons and meat. Entrees came, scallop placed on top of its shell in a light sauce, beautifully tender and flavourful. Then came Pork Ribs in Special Peking Sauce, tender pork coated in a sticky film of slightly numbing sweet and sour sauce. The beef fillet was also very tender, without a tinge of tenderiser/baking soda aftertaste, which the waiter boasted was because they use a special cut of beef (probably the most expensive). Dessert was the usual sweet soup and Chinese pastries/cakes. The interior design has all the trimmings that one going to an acclaimed Chinese restaurant would expect. Apparently their Yum Cha is award-winning, but I’m sure whatever comes out of this kitchen would be good enough to impress any gourmet.
Satang Thai (Haymarket)
This is the sort of place that only locals would know about. I went there with A.F. while we were in search of lunch. Its setup is quite interesting: the kitchen is about double the size of the eating area, and I have heard this saying that the bigger the kitchen:eating area ratio, the better the food. We ordered a Pad Thai (to share, because we weren’t hungry), and all the choices are very inexpensive. We were seated in the very cramped table with two seats, but it was good and cosy service: chopsticks and condiments were on the table free to use as many as you liked, and when asked for an extra bowl we weren’t met with scorn. Halfway into eating the waiters seemed to have realised the patrons would be thirsty and poured us glasses of water. The food is good and authentic.
Lindt Cafe (CBD)
Facing competition from Max Brenner, I decided to go here with my friend C.H. since we are both such chocoholics. This would be the more classic chocolate restaurant, with Max Brenner being trendier. Apparently Lindt Cafe only exists in Australia! Heading into the immaculate and grand Martin Place restaurant, I was so happy to be seeing chocolate everywhere! After a long time of indecision (who can choose from so many different chocolate foods?!), we decided on trying the iced chocolate, dark chocolate cake and Lindt chocolate cake. Next time I’m going for the degustation plate. The iced chocolate was good, although a little too sweet. The cakes were luscious: the dark chocolate one was 50cents cheaper and quality commensurated; it was sweeter and had crunchier edges, but not as moist and chocolatey as the original chocolate cake. Apparently they’re famous for hot chocolate. It has a grand interior and is the perfect place for a treat (both tongue and mind).
Baby Cakes by Renee
I have been told that cupcakes are now the new Krispy Kreme in Sydney. A few years ago, Sydneysiders would bring a box of KKs for their deprived friends interstate (outside of NSW), but now it seems cupcakes are the rage now, and my mum’s friend from Sydney even brought a box of these baby cupcakes instead of the usual doughnuts. Moist, fine-crumbed and buttery, these golf ball-sized cupcakes are mainly eye rather than tongue candy. Ate the flavours white chocolate mud, hokey pokey (toffee) and strawberry Christmas special (with an adorable Christmas tree icing).
85° Coffee-Cake Shop (CBD)
Located adjacent to Pepper Lunch, their tantalising array of enticing cakes beam out of the window. Apparently this store was created by some creative businessmen who were indulging in some desserts in a five-star hotel and thought that the less affluent also deserve to afford such quality cakes. What I find funny is the bad English that features on the captions next to the cakes, despite how they’ve been in Australia for 2 years now.
Bread Top (CBD)
I hear it’s a good place to buy Chinese bread.
Sugar Cane Juice
This isn’t exactly a restaurant but it’s a drink that I often come across while in Asian fruit stores, and not yet discovered in any other Australin city. I’d see the vendors pushing green sticks of sugar cane into the juicer, extracting just a meagre drop for every push, and all with their bare hands (cringing in the hope they had washed it before). The taste isn’t just sugary water as one would expect: cloyingly sweet, but with a refreshing, almost grassy, fragrance.
I just proved to everyone what a crappy food critic I’d make, since everything tastes good to me!! I also proved that I can waste a lot of time writing up restaurant reviews, and also failed in thinking I could be succinct. Who would ever stuff in 22 restaurant reviews in one post? To sum it all up, yes, the food in Sydney is so much better than Brisbane, and boy am I jealous how they always get the good chain stores first!
(P.S. Merry Christmas to everyone! Today we ate spaghetti bolognaise for lunch and going to eat fried rice for dinner. How very traditional of us!)