Tag Archives: Sydney

Bennelong, Sydney

When I found out that Guillaume by Bennelong was closing, I was sad that I never managed to eat there before it closed, even though it was definitely on my wishlist. There was a lot of back and forth about who exactly was going to take over the iconic Opera House space, so when The Fink Group re-opened Bennelong under the helm of Peter Gilmore, I was so ready to book a table.

This proved more difficult than it sounded, because even though it’s been six months since it first opened, Bennelong shows no signs of slowing down. We had to book a couple of months in advance just to find a Saturday night booking that was at a reasonable time (i.e. not a 9.30pm booking), and so it wasn’t until late last year that we managed to finally sit down and enjoy our meal there.

There’s a choice of dining in the Cured and Cultured area or in the Restaurant. We chose to go down the Restaurant route, which meant that we were seated on the lower level of the dining area underneath the soaring glass windows that give you unparalleled views of the Bridge and Sydney harbour. The three course a la carte menu will set you back $130pp with about 6 different dishes to choose from per course.

Grilled Lady Elliot Island bug, organic turnips, radishes, XO sauce

The first thing that strikes me with each dish is that it is impeccably plated. Every dish is styled to perfection, so that your eyes can feast on the food before your stomach does. The grilled Lady Elliot Island bug is no exception, with a golden piece of the bug meat draped over turnips, pink baby radishes and micro herbs. The XO sauce really accentuates the seafood flavours of the dish, and complements the sweet, juicy bug meat nicely.

Smoked Blackmore Wagyu tartare, fermented chilli paste, cultured cream & grains, mushrooms, seaweed, egg
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nel. restaurant, Sydney

I’m far from what people would call a decisive person, and these days we are so spoiled for choice that even deciding what to eat for lunch can turn into a lengthy process of elimination to figure out exactly what I want.

It was a pleasant surprise then, to walk into nel. to find that there was no choice to make. Nel serves an 8 course tasting menu for $88, and we were more than happy to leave our meal in the capable hands of chef Nelly Robinson.

Menu

We were ushered to our table in the small, underground space where the restaurant was situated. The 8 course menu for the night was already placed on the table when we sat down, and aside from asking whether there were any food allergies or intolerances, there were no more questions and we were ready to get started on the food!

Vinegar, parmesan

Our first course was a series of snacks which came out in quick succession. The first snack was a cloud-like vinegar marshmallow rolled in airy pieces of grated parmesan. It dissolved in the mouth so quickly it just left an impression of sour vinegar and cheesy parmesan on the tongue.

Goma hollandaise, ham

The next snack was a black, gnarly-looking cigar, which actually turned out to be a beef cheek and ox tongue croquette with charcoal. Each cigar was dipped in the goma (sesame) hollandaise topped with bits of ham, which had a nice salty and nutty flavour.

Truffle, rabbit

The last snack consisted of two parts – a truffle and rabbit pastry and a rabbit consomme. These were surprisingly light in flavour, but a good warm up for the dishes to come.

Bread and butter

I usually don’t bother taking photos of the bread and butter, but here at nel it was pretty exceptional. First of all, the bread was a dark black colour, and the waitstaff explained that this was black pudding and onion bread. To be honest I couldn’t taste a definitive black pudding flavour, but it was delicious nonetheless and I could have eaten a whole basket of it!

Crab, “taste of pimms”, cucumber, strawberry, mint
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Menya Mappen, Sydney

Back in 2010 when Menya Mappen first opened, the idea of a self-service udon and tempura bar was unheard of. But fast forward five years, and now there’s several Japanese self-service style noodle/rice bowl restaurants scattered around Sydney, but the original Mappen is still going strong with queues going out the door when we visit on a weeknight.

It’s literally been years since I last ate at Mappen, and while it’s still the same concept, there’s some nice additional options available. There’s a monthly special (this month is a beef yaki-udon style dish), and there’s also some new drinks including a non-alcoholic apple cider and a creamy green tea slushie.

Apple cider (non-alcoholic) – $1.90; Green tea slushie – $3.30

Move along the cafeteria line and you’ll be asked for your order. There’s lots of options, including a choice of noodles or rice, udon or soba, hot or cold, soup or sauce. Thankfully there’s a decent picture menu to help you decide what you like the look of.

Tempura bar

Keep moving along and you’ll get to the tempura bar. This is where it’s easy to go a bit crazy with all the deep fried foods, but I usually try to restrict myself to two extras otherwise I end up too full to finish it all.

Cold bar

I used to walk right past the cold section but that was before I realised what goodies lay inside the mini fridge! There’s chilled items to add to your noodles like wakame seaweed, kimchi, corn and bamboo shoots, as well as seaweed salad and daifuku desserts.

Ontama bukkake udon (regular) – $4.90
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Yasaka Ramen, Sydney

No Ramen, No Life. It’s pretty much a mantra I live by, as I find myself getting insatiable cravings for ramen every couple of weeks. I was pretty excited to hear about yet another ramen place opening up in the CBD – and run by an ex-Gumshara chef as well! We found ourselves heading over to Yasaka Ramen a few weeks after it had opened to check out what the fuss was about, and to see if chef Takeshi Sekigawa had brought the infamously rich Gumshara tonkotsu broth with him.

Making takoyaki

The first thing you see when you walk into the restaurant are several takoyaki cast iron moulds where a chef is busily turning the octopus balls to make sure they get just the right amount of crispiness. It’s just as well that they have several of these moulds along one wall of the restaurant as there’s lots of different takoyaki to choose from including wasabi soy, teriyaki sauce with egg salad, and grilled cheese!

Takoyaki (8pcs) – $10

We have to order some takoyaki after seeing them being freshly made out the front. The takoyaki are nicely cooked and creamy on the inside, with a touch of ginger and lashings of takoyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito flakes.

Menu

But the focus here is, of course, on the ramen. A full page of the menu is dedicated to three variants of thick tonkotsu pork bone broth – tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu shio, and tonkotsu miso – with a variety of toppings. The ramen noodles are also made in house and sometimes you can see them being cut into thin strands out the front of the restaurant.

Egg ramen (tonkotsu shoyu base) – $14.80
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The Smoking Panda, Sydney

I always get a little thrill when I find the doorway to a hidden bar. It’s that rewarding feeling of solving the puzzle of where the bar entrance is, and of knowing something that’s maybe a little bit secret.

That’s how I felt when we walked into the Hotel Coronation, a dingy looking pub on Park Street that I’ve walked past hundreds of times. We knew there was a small bar around here somewhere but it certainly didn’t look like there was one when we entered the pub. We wandered upstairs to what I think was the actual hotel guest rooms (yep, definitely no small bar there), back down the stairs again, and up another flight of stairs where we began to see the fluorescent glow of pink neon lights of The Smoking Panda.

Blackberry & Sage Smash – $17

There’s an old skool Chinese takeaway restaurant feel in the decor, with booth seating and Chinese restaurant-style chairs and tables, but we wander past these and the lanterns straight over to the bar, where we fix ourselves up with a cocktail or two.

Interestingly, the drinks list deviates from the Chinese theme, with an American slant on the cocktails and a big focus on bourbon – there’s more than 50 types of bourbon available from the bar! Our first cocktail of the night, the bourbon-based Blackberry & Sage Smash is fruity but not too sweet, with the tart blackberry and lemon flavours layered over the bourbon.

Georgia Peach – $17

The Georgia Peach is also a bourbon-based cocktail with fresh peach and mint over crushed ice, making for a refreshing drink.

Blue Lagoon – $17

We spy someone order the Blue Lagoon, a lurid blue drink that by all accounts was actually quite tasty. That blue stuff? That’s blue curaçao, gin, vodka, lychee and dragonfruit which is topped with a lemonade foam and popping candy. We got a little taste of the lemonade foam which tasted kind of like a Sprite creaming soda.

San Choy Bao – $5 each

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