Pasta Emilia, Surry Hills

I’m always drawn to places that do one thing, and do it very well. To me, it means that all focus and dedication is placed onto one type of food and mastering it, making it the best it possibly can.

There’s no prizes for guessing what Pasta Emilia’s main strength is. The pasta here is made onsite and with organic ingredients, using recipes from the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy which is famous for its pasta. Pasta Emilia makes several types, including fettuccine, strozzapreti and filled pastas like ravioli and tortelli. While these are all available for purchase in convenient take home packs and sauces, we decided to eat in at the rustic, cottage-like cafe in Surry Hills for dinner one night.

Strozzapreti al ragu di carne and parmagiano – $18

We’re here for the pasta so we skip the entrees and dive straight in. The house made strozzapreti is a short pasta that kind of reminds me of DNA strands with its rolled and twisted structure. Strozzapreti literally means “priest stranglers” and legend has it that the name comes from the fact that priests enjoyed the pasta so much, they ate it too quickly and choked themselves! Whether that’s true or not, make sure you savour every mouthful of this strozzapreti that’s mixed with a rich beef ragu topped with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Crab and prawn tortelli with salsa verde and chopped rucola – $32
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The Land of Seafood and Dairy – Hokkaido, Japan

It’s no secret that Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan, has some of the best seafood and dairy. The northern island of Japan is surrounded by cold ocean waters which makes it the perfect habitat for seafood, and the large countryside in Hokkaido also allows space for dairy farms to operate and produce some of the creamiest dairy products I’ve ever tasted. It might be no surprise then that as part of our two-week Japan trip, Sir D and I headed first to Hokkaido to… well pretty much all we did was eat. And walk to other places to eat some more.

We spent the majority of our time in Sapporo, the capital of the Hokkaido Prefecture which is about a 40-minute train ride from New Chitose Airport. We stayed at the Richmond Hotel Sapporo Ekimae, which was a comfortable hotel that came to about $65 per night for two people. The hotel was conveniently located right next to Exit 22 of Sapporo JR station, as well as being a few blocks away from Exit 3 of the Sapporo Ekimae, the underground walkway that connects Sapporo’s major public transport hubs (also great for escaping the cold!).

Nijo Markets

Being in Hokkaido, one of the things we made sure to do was eat lots of seafood. On the top of my list was to visit the Nijo Market (二条市場, Nijō Ichiba), which is a public market in central Sapporo that sells a wide variety of crab, scallops, fish and other seafood as well as fresh local produce. I was pretty excited to see shako (mantis shrimp) which is something I’ve only ever heard about in this comic!

Seafood at Nijo Markets: Shako or Mantis shrimp (left) and crab (right)

We walked around the markets looking for some donburi (rice bowl) to have for breakfast. It was a little early so not all the stores were open yet, but we stumbled across one that had a few people dining in it already. Best of all, it had mini-don set where we could try a bit of everything.

Mini-don set at Nijo Markets – 2900JPY (approx 30AUD)
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Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills

Here crabby crabby crabby…

Paramount Coffee Project has been on my go-to list for some time now, so when a public holiday conveniently rolled around, I made the most of my day off and took the opportunity to pay them a visit.

The cafe space is airy and bright, with a few small tables, some larger, family-style tables in the centre of the cafe and counter seating at the coffee bar. We’re lucky to get a table quickly at the big shared table, but the place is quite popular around lunchtime and we notice some people having to wait until a table becomes available until they are seated.

Latte – $4

Coffee is serious business here with coffee beans displayed on the bar and a few coffee blends on offer from Reuben Hills and Seven Seeds. There’s the option of filter coffee or espresso based drinks, but for today we stick with our stock-standard lattes.

Coca Cola ox cheek waffle – $19
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Chica Linda, Surry Hills

Pachanga Boy Sour – $17

It seems as though the Drink’n’Dine group has always got a new project in the works. After opening House of Crabs and The Oxford Tavern late last year, their latest venture is Chica Linda at The Carrington in Surry Hills. While I’ll miss the Spanish-influenced paella onigiri and morcilla stuffed squid at Beba Y Cene, Chica Linda serves up some spicy, robust and earthy flavours from South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Hot Lady – $10; Panamargarita – $17

It’s not just the food that’s had a Latin American twist applied to it – the cocktail list also features pineapple, jalapenos and of course, tequila. The ‘Hot Lady’ cocktail – a name that is quite appropriate that Chica Linda means exactly that in Spanish – is a sweet concoction of guava and tequila, while the Panamargarita packs a punch with salt and jalapenos.

Burnin’ Passion – $9

It’s hard to ignore a drink that lists ‘fire’ as an ingredient. Even though it’s a weeknight, we promptly order some Burnin’ Passion shots for the table and go a little snap-happy at the fire burning out of the passionfruit cups. The shot itself seems to be quite variable, with some people spluttering at the strong taste of alcohol and others downing the sweet passionfruit and vodka mix easily. We suspect that the fire element comes from a high-proof spirit which allows it to burn for quite a long time – but it also means that it can taste quite alcoholic if there’s too much of it!

Chicharones – $5

These chicharones are a great drinking snack. The puffy, light deep fried pork rinds are sprinkled with a chilli seasoning and served with a tangy guasacaca sauce.

Arepas: (clockwise from top) Smoked pork – $6; Grilled cheese – $5; Soft shell crab – $6
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