Eats of the Week!

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Another lovely meal of shared plates at Cafe Nice after seeing the Terracotta Warrior lanterns at Circular Quay with our visiting Melbourne friend. This was a beautiful dish of Ocean Trout Rilettes showered with petals of prettily mandolinned radishes and garlic (and an errant pea from another salad).

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Terrible photo from my friend’s ancient iPhone of our exquisite puddings: nougat/ parfait/ burnt caramel/ watermelon (trop bizarre, si délicieux) and champagne gelée with fresh figs, vanilla ice cream & chamomile granita. There was something very Y2K about both these desserts, and we loved every bite of them.

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Expensive green things and some of our dumpling selection at Din Tai Fung, World Square. I appreciate that DTF is top quality, but the pricing is a bit whack. Did a small dish of water spinach with garlic really need to cost $13.80? I adore the dainty Shanghai style dumplings and the spicy Szechuan dishes, but I baulk at some of the prices. Plus we were still hungry, so we went across the road to Sea Bay and had a hearty second dumpling dinner for a fraction of the price!

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A Fantasy Island and a Bubblegum Glory at The Smoking Panda, hidden above The Coronation Hotel on Park Street between Lowes and Woolies. My pink concoction looks like a milkshake but was actually bubblegum-infused vodka, bubble-gum syrup, fresh lemon and lime lemon over crushed ice. If 12-year-olds were allowed to drink cocktails, I imagine they’d flock to this one.  It was great, albeit ridiculous.


Latenight BBQ King action! Gotta be quick to get the crispy chicken. The spinach with garlic & water chestnuts was a hit; honey prawns went in seconds; and those last bits of sticky pork shortribs weren’t there for much longer either. Nor were the 8 other dishes our slightly raucous, very ravenous party of 11 enjoyed at sometime after 11pm on a Friday night…


After we had eaten every morsel of those 12 dishes (plus prawn crackers) apart from what was decorating the table cloth, the vegetable & egg fried rice came! Hurrah for fried rice! More $5 VB!


Saturday morning coffees and a brilliant oval-shaped over-sized berry muffin for two, from Black Toast, Annandale. (Hopefully not featuring Heptatitis A infused frozen berries. Eek!)

Terracotta Warrior Lanterns at Circular Quay

I think I did pretty well this Chinese new year. I didn’t get any red envelopes (NB: being Chinese would help…) but I did make a point of eating as many dumplings as I could in two weeks (Hong Kong style at Nine Dragons, Shanghai at Din Tai Fung, and North-Western at Sea Bay) and finishing with a midnight feast at BBQ King. Plus using the sheep, ram AND goat emoji in my instagrams of said food.

The other thing I’m pleased I did was see the gorgeous Terracotta Warrior lanterns by Xia Nan, originally made for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and temporarily installed at Dawes Park at Circular Quay. What a stunning scene, with the harbour, Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Luna Park in the background. It was great to be able to freely wander around the statues – love an interactive installation! I hope they come back next year. (And maybe by then the selfie stick trend will have died, and I’ll be able to enjoy wandering around the statues and taking rubbish photos without fear of being impaled.)

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In the next three pictures I inadvertently snapped unsuspecting visitors looking like nearby statues.  See: (1) old chap with great cheekbones, long nose and moustache; (2) lady standing tall with an up-do; and the best one, (3) dude in yellow with an undercut and a topknot.

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Gong Hey Fat Choy til next year!

Abb Air Thai Cuisine 1982, World Square (Goulburn Street)

And there I was thinking 3 Mama Chef’s had the oddest name for a Thai restaurant in Sydney… until I met Abb Air Thai Cuisine 1982.  The Facebook page tells me the name has no meaning, but that they ‘ensure that presentation and taste are the keys to your very own definition of “Abb Air”’! And also that the owner’s name is Tangerine Khan, which I think is just fabulous.

It had been the presentation which caught my eye last month when I was unusually walking down Goulburn Street beside World Square rather than my usual shortcut through it.  The diners whose meals I could see, sitting in the window, had their food served in shallow bamboo baskets, which I thought was pretty presentation for Thai food.  I have a longstanding allegiance to Chat Thai, and am usually loathe to try any new Thai place, but 3 Mama Chef’s and recently Surry Hills Eating House have marginally unsettled my allegiance.  So I’m a bit more open-minded now, and don’t panic if it’s after 7pm and we’re not yet in the Chat Thai queue!

On a slight soggy Wednesday night, Hubby and Rasta and I had been drinking at the incongruous combination of Bambini Trust and The Smoking Panda, and I was now leading them to dinner: ideally Hawker, but via Boon Café (see – trying new Thai), and maybe via Chat Thai.  Boon was full, we predicted a long queue at Chat Thai as it was nearly 8pm, and then I remembered the place on Goulburn Street with the cute bamboo trays, which would be on our way to Hawker anyway.  Cute trays still looked cute, and the menu looked enticing (and declared it would ‘simply surprise in taste‘!) so we stopped.

Good move, us!  Abb Air Thai Cuisine 1982 was officially excellent, and it’s minutes from my office so I’ll certainly be back.  I was thoroughly impressed with our selection, especially the exciting green balls and black soup.  I can live with the silly name.  (NB: Cash only and BYO, so you need to come prepared.)

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Kui Chai. Fried green balls of goodness!

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Deep fried glutinous rice dumplings filled with sautéed garlic chives, and sprinkled with crispy garlic, with a soy & chilli dipping sauce.  So many levels of dumpling deliciousness.

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After all of that I didn’t really get a shot of the cute bamboo baskets. Here’s a bit of one, with our chicken kra dong on sticky rice. Sort-of Thai fried chicken (thigh meat plus skin) topped with crispy shallots.  Simple and satisfying.  We got extra black sticky rice, too.

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Boat pork: rice noodles in black herb soup with stewed pork and vegetables.  And more balls.  The fragrant, oily black soup was incredible, and unlike any Thai soup I’d had before – we could taste warm, sweet spices like cinnamon, and I spied a star anise in the dish.  There was a large quantity of skinny rice noodles underneath, and juicy pieces of pork.  We drained the bowl, and sopping up the soup with the extra sticky rice.

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And some greens for good health: my old favourite, water spinach. Here with a chilli and yellow bean sauce (Chat Thai do this one too). An unfailingly delicious combo.

The bill for 3 of us was only $54!  AND you could get a table without queuing!  I note they also do late-night supper, which is handy.  Having now enjoyed the tastes as well as the presentation at Abb Air, my very own definition is DELICIOUS ☺

Abb Air: Thai Cuisine 1982 on Urbanspoon

A Boathouse Birthday

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My Aged Father recently turned 75. In lieu of a present, we took both my parents out to the lovely Boathouse On Blackwattle Bay, our new #1 special occasion restaurant. Again we were treated to a fabulous table. Behold the sunset view…

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…and at twilight ♥

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Mum, Hubby and I shared a selection of oysters for starters, and nibbled Dad’s pretty roasted baby beetroot with goats curd, pine nuts, black olive and sorrel.

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With four of us there were enough stomachs to justify the gargantuan handcut chips with aïoli. Seriously – the picture doesn’t capture the size well enough, but each chip is a quarter of a potato. VERY good chips, but too much for two to have room for anything else! I had another variation on a freshly-filleted and quickly roasted white fish: Mulloway with Pine Mushrooms, Mussels & Samphire.  I loved this possibly more than the trevalla from last time, if that’s possible.  This fairly robust fish stood up to the meaty mushrooms & mussels, and the samphire added an additionally lovely sea-salty crunch (my small wish would be for more samphire, because I ♥ samphire).

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My & Dad both had the lovely trevalla, and Hubby tried the Pan Fried Coffs Harbour Mackerel with Cauliflower, Pinenutes, Baby Octopus & Raisins.  These were all vaguely Spanish flavours and all very perfect together, and again the gorgeous fish was not upstaged. Bonus points too for Jenga fingers!  (And I spy two of the famous truffled snapper pies in the background – still not tempted though, when they do such superbly simple things with such wonderfully fresh fish.)

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More chocolate calligraphy, and the near-remains of the complimentary chocolate macarons! (and Aged Father’s aged arm)

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We retired chez famille for pudding – a fabulous rhubarb & plum tart made my Mum (post coming) and the most wondrous bottle of Petaluma riesling which Dad had cellared for 10 years. Excellent forethought, Father! Happy Birthday ♥ ♥ ♥

Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay on Urbanspoon


Yamato Izakaya, Castlereagh Street

I caught up for lunch with a dear friend who is now conveniently working on Castlereagh Street rather than the Northern Beaches. We met in the new-ish ANZ Tower forecourt thingy on Castlereagh Street, in the block between Park and Market Streets.  Lots of nice-looking places to explore there, including a very sweet izakaya called Yamato, where we decided to have an al fresco Japanese lunch.  We had such a nice time – assisted by FREE glass of vino and FREE ice cream! – and pencilled in our next lunch date for the same time & place, three weeks hence.

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Ordering chit. And free lotus root crisps. And free wine! (Not amazing wine. But free!)

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The first time, I had the Tokyo Sushi Set for $18. All the Tokyo sets come with salmon/kingfish/tuna/squid sashimi and the obligatory miso, salad and rice (except for the sushi set – no extra rice). The sushi was very good, and a fancy and generous selection too.

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My friend had the Tokyo Tempura Set, substituting cooked salmon for sashimi. Equally lovely!

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Second visit: I had the Tokyo Saikyoyki Set with grilled miso-marinated cod (really? Do we get cod here? Either it was frozen and imported, or it was something else. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it!)

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My friend had a slightly larger Hokkaido set, again with tempura. This one came with additonal ebi furai and korokke – crumbed prawn and a potato croquette.  There are also smaller donburi sets ($16 ish) and another place-name one which were the biggest and had more cooked things. The dinner menu is large, and apparently they’re doing a 20% off promotion!

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Gochisosama deshita. See you in another few weeks!

Yamato on Urbanspoon

El Loco at The Excelsior, Foveaux Street


El Loco Mexican Cantina Y Barra, at The Excelsior Hotel. Faux Mexican on Foveaux Street, Surry Hills. I’m not convinced anyone there is Mexican (Justin Hemmes is behind it, like most things in Sydney) but the décor and drinks are fun (who doesn’t love cacti, piñata, and Tequila slushies?) and the food is extremely tasty.  Best to get there early as it fills up extremely quickly, even midweek.


Happy Hour pints for $5!  Decent selection too.  White Rabbit Dark Ale, James Squire Fifty Lashes, and James Squire Orchard Crush Cloudy Cider para mí.

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This is hands down the best meal I’ve ever eaten in a Sydney pub. Doesn’t look very pretty, but I’ve had it twice now and will eat it at EVERY FUTURE VISIT to El Loco. They do yummy tacos and tortas and hotdogs etc, which are cheap and fun and snacky. But they also do (for a mere $18) this generous dish of utterly fabulous grilled fish with zingy salsa verde, a flavoursome radish and fennel salad, and something called “Mexican rice” which I suspect contains crystal meth, it’s that addictive and goooood.


I made Hubby get the fish too and he loved it too. Rasta had a (reportedly also delicious) El Loco Salad with grilled chicken (from a choice of various proteins), crunchy shredded veggies and (*ahem*) tortilla crisps and a mound of grated quesa fresca. Oops. And we shared two rounds of the excellent housemade corn chips with perfect guacamole and pico de gallo. I really enjoy their salsa because it’s blitzed finely enough to coat a corn chip properly and not fall off in chunks!

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El Loco magaritas served in apparently biodegradable cups!  Here we have Spring Fling (Olmeca Altos Blanco mixed with Pimms, with fresh fruit and topped with lemonade) and The Cabron (Cucumber infused Olmeca Plata, fresh mint and lime juice).  Refreshing, not too sweet, and nice Tequila. Gracias, El Loco!

El Loco on Urbanspoon