TheDegustationAsian's Profile

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Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Hi Sneedy, will gladly provide some mid-range NYC suggestions.

Feel free to email at roseUNDERSCOREswp @ hotmail dot com and let me know what you are looking for.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Thanks for the advice, especially from a local. Archetype looks good and I was unaware that chef Zetts had left Solbar.

Additionally, I was wondering if anyone had heard much about Press in St. Helena. Trevor Kunk formally of Blue Hill in Manhattan left to Napa and I was wondering if anyone had recent experiences about the menu.

SF/Napa Itinerary

goldangI95 thanks for the suggestion. We like Indian food, especially chaat, but I don't think it is a priority for this visit. However, we will give it consideration for our next visit.

Btw, saw you discussing Indian food or the lack thereof in NYC. Not totally arguing with you but if you want chaat, make a trip to Floral Park at Mumbai Xpress.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Yeah, I imagine the lines at many of the popular vendors are always pretty long at the Ferry building. Considering we want to visit some bakeries in Mission for breakfast anyways would you suggest visiting the Blue Bottle location instead of the Ferry building location?

We were planning on splitting a porchetta sandwich as well as a burger but I appreciate the warning, especially if we wanted to stop at Humphrey Slocombe afterwards.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Thanks for the comments. I think Tadich was a great option for the exact same reasons that you mentioned. Unfortunately, it looks as if I'm going to have to pass this time around and heed the advice of the other hounds regarding Friday traffic.

Looks like I'll try to get to Chez Panisse for a early lunch at the Cafe.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Just personal preference. As I said upthread, I meant no offense and it wasn't meant as a slight to San Francisco as a pizza city.

I also missed Mangieri when he was in NYC and have heard that his pies are only getting better. Even though NYC may be overrated as a pizza city we still have lots of very good options and considering the limited amount of meals I have on this trip I'd just prefer his pies due to his craftsmanship and excellent ingredients.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Hi barleywino, hope I wasn't confusing but re Saison my question was about whether a party of two could split a beverage pairing, not the menu.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Thanks for the heads up about Friday traffic. Still looking for any other good early lunch alternatives for Friday before heading up to Napa.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Thanks for your comments. Re Cotogna we are much more interested in the non-pizza options. No offense towards pizza in San Francisco but the only one that interested me was the Neopolitan pies from Una Pizzeria Neopolitana. Unfortunately they are open for dinner only.

Thanks for the heads up about the lines for Roli Roti. Their porchetta sandwiches look amazing. Between grabbing a New Orleans cold brew from Blue Bottle, a canalé from Boulette's Larder, a porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti, burger from 4505 Meats and ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe we hoped to eat well around the Ferry building.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Thanks Robert. Already booked a 1 PM lunch reservation at Cotogna. It was my understanding that lunch is much easier to book than dinner, perhaps even more so now that Tusk will close Quince for the revamp.

From his twitter account it seems Bright is in Europe but I'll most likely reach out to the restaurant directly about beverage pairing options. I know certain restaurants in NYC (Jean Georges) offer half pours which is very nice.

SF/Napa Itinerary

Wife and I will be visiting San Francisco and Napa in early August for a wedding. We are from New York but have visited both areas five years ago. Will be staying in Nob Hill and Yountville respectively but will only have a car for the Napa portion of the trip. Interested in hearing comments from fellow hounds regarding our preliminary itinerary. Thanks in advance for your comments and look forward to reporting back.

San Francisco

- Arrive ~ 10:30 AM, check in at hotel and get settled.
Lunch - Cotogna or Pizzeria Delphina
- Preferences between these two popular casual Italian spots? Currently leaning towards Cotogna as a) they take reservations and b) we will order more than just pizza at either restaurant and Tusk's pastas sound very good.

Dinner - Bar Tartine
- Looking for another mid-priced casual restaurant serving excellent food. People's opinions re this restaurant seem varied but many people I trust seem enthusiastic about the ingredient quality and modern approach of Eastern European cuisine.

Lunch - Roli Roti and/or 4505 Meats
- Plan on arriving early to the Ferry Terminal building and grabbing a porchetta sandwich and a burger from both vendors.

Dinner - Saison
- Our only splurge for the trip. Have an 8:45 reservation and plan on ordering the extended Discovery menu. Question for those have been, does anyone know if they would accommodate splitting one of the premium pairings?

Lunch - Kin Khao/Turtle Tower/Tadich/Chez Panisse?
- Unsure where to go for our final meal before heading up to Napa. Admittedly pretty diverse choices, I'm leaning towards the cafe at Chez Panisse since we will have a car. Open to hear other suggestions but visited Swan's and Zuni on our previous trip.

For breakfast we planned on visiting as many of the following bakeries: Tartine Bakery, Craftmans & Wolves, b.Patisserie, Knead Patisserie and Boulette's Larder for a canalé. I know many of the popular items tend to sell out early but am interested in hearing people's suggestions.

Coffee includes: Blue Bottle, Ritual, Four Barrel, Philz, Sightglass. Suggestions appreciated.

We also like ice cream and plan on trying both Humphrey Slocombe and Bi-Rite.


Friday & Saturday plan on being tied up with the wedding. Will be staying at a B&B but might try to get to Oxbow for an espresso at Ritual or some oyster at Hog Island as a snack.

Lunch - Ad Hoc Addendum
Fried chicken lunches.

Dinner - Bouchon/Bottega/Mustards?
- Suggestions for a casual dinner for Sunday night. Have been to both Bouchon and Bottega and enjoyed each but open for other suggestions.

- Fly out of San Francisco on Monday afternoon.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Thanks for all of your help answering my questions and helping me form my itinerary. Without the help from hounds like you, PhilD, kersizm and others on this board I would've had much more trouble. I had a wonderful time visiting and wish I could return more frequently. Please feel free to reach out if visiting New York as I'd like to repay the favor should you need advice.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Brae was easily my favorite meal of the year (so far, as we will be visiting Saison in August). I think Dan Hunter is doing something very special between the local product he can obtain combined with his technical skill. I feel that along with Attica and Quay, Brae should be included on the shortlist as Australia's best restaurant.

As for VdM, I feel the meal was a bit more style than substance. I made the EMP comparisons because it was a calculated move by Humm and Guidara to rise in the S. Pellegrino rankings even at the risk of alienating many of their regulars. The interesting thing is from the conversation we had with our captain, the restaurant's abrupt change of pace was more Cory Campell's decision that Shannon Bennett agreed to. IMO, the problem with telling such a narrative (kangaroo hide chairs, dried Penfold vines, Australian ingredients, iconic Australian foods) is that its success is predicated upon the quality of the food. Without such reinforcement, the narrative becomes weak at best and to many tourist (such as us) becomes lost.

That said, taste is subjective and I'll be the first to admit I've eaten only a single meal there. Hardly fair to make a sweeping statement about a restaurant. But I was disappointed, especially compared to similar restaurants we've visited throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and the US. Hope my experience was an outlier and I'd still suggest people visit if they're interested.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Re: my comments about the quality (or my perception of a lack thereof world class) Japanese food in Australia wasn't meant as an insult but rather an observation. All cities, even world class cities such as New York or London or Paris or insert whatever city, has their culinary strengths and weaknesses. I also don't take my descriptor of world class lightly. Europe, which has historically been lacking even quality sushi restaurants improved significantly with Sushi Tetsu in London (I don't consider Zuma anywhere near world class).

For me, having lived and worked in Tokyo for a period of time, the lack of Japanese seasonal ingredients (especially when it comes imported seafood and produce) in many Australian restaurants is particularly telling. Again, considering Australia's love for Asian cuisine coupled with the relative close proximity to Japan makes the absence of a world class Japanese restaurant even more surprising. Hong Kong of example has significantly upped its Japanese restaurants with the recent additions of Sushi Shikon and RyuGin, plus the more fushiony likes of Yard Bird and Ronin.

This is no slight to Australia. New York is very conservative compared to Chicago (Alinea, EL Ideas, Schwa, Moto) and lacks the Thai/Malaysian/Vietnamese food other cities have. Many European cities lack good pizza, all if not most cities don't do everything well and I was just commenting as to this fact.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Phil, I was referring to Australia. Aside from Tempura Hajime which I read was good but not on the level of Kondo, I hadn't read about any notable Japanese restaurants. In the US what we lack in tempura restaurants we more than make up for in quality sushi (Masa, Urasawa) as well as a few decent Kaiseki, Yakitori and Izakayas.

In your opinion did I miss something worth visiting?

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Our final day in Australia was spent packing and eating. Lunch was at Lee Ho Fook. We had a booking but probably didn't need one for Sunday lunch and were seated at a small elevated two top when plenty of tables were available (annoying). Staff was informative and answered most questions without any issues.

Started with Warm Scallop with Silken Tofu and Soy Butter. This was more interesting than good. The scallop and tofu were fine but the dish lacked texture and wasn't seasoned enough as the soy butter failed to register.

Better was the Milk Bun with Braised Pork Belly, Salted Cucumber, Fermented Chili and Peanut Sugar. Interestingly enough the chef chose to use a milk bun instead of the overused steamed bao. But despite this decision, we preferred this version since it closest resembled the classic Taiwanese Gua Bao.

The Crispy Eggplant with Spiced Red Vinegar was their take on the popular Fish Flavored Eggplant. Another dish that's not popular in the USA, we enjoyed the crispy eggplant with the sweet and tart sauce.

White Pepper Spanner Crab and Taro Mille Feuille was sadly a deconstructed version. No stack as we initially imagined, but still tasty, instead we used the taro chips to scoop the crab.

We ate the Moreton Bay Bug Tails with Leeks and Fragrant Sichuan Chili Oil with the House Fried
Rice. This was excellent, plump bug tails cooked perfectly with plenty of sweet leeks and spicy oil to spoon over the rice. Speaking of the rice, this was a bit more oily than what my mother-in-law makes (Cantonese) but a solid version that avoided being over seasoned.

Already planning on revisiting Messina for a final gelato we couldn't leave the restaurant without splitting a Jasmine Tea Custard with Burnt Caramel. Having previously worked at Marque this seemed like the obvious choice and we weren't disappointed. As advertised the custard had a subtle but present Jasmine flavor which paired beautifully with the complex burnt caramel.

Compared to Northern Light we enjoyed Lee Ho Fook more. Perhaps we are biased, Chinese background and my Korean heritage but the execution seemed slightly better here when comparing the two meals. Lee Ho Fook won't be for everyone, while it's not particularly expensive it's certainly not cheap but after chatting with the Chef, we both agreed that hopefully restaurants like this will dispel the notion that Chinese food needs to be inherently cheap.

One final trip to Gelato Messina. Our final selections were: Breakfast of Champions II - Yogurt Gelato with Housemade Croissants and Plum Jam and Salted Caramel and White Chocolate.

Dinner was at Rumi. Lacking many notable Turkish restaurants in NYC, I chose this for a nice change of pace. After getting lost (thanks Google Maps) we arrived and were immediately seated. Started with the Labne house made from organic milk and was served with flatbread.

Spiced School Prawns with Tahini was good. We liked how the tahini's nuttiness paired with the crunchy prawns.

Fried Cauliflower with Caramalized Onions, Currants and Pine Nuts was fantastic. Sweet, nutty with plenty of texture, this was a great side with our mains.

We shared the Quail "Joojeh" Kebab with Pickled Grapes and Oregano and an off menu Chicken Kebab. Unfortunately, we passed on the Lamb Shoulder since we were still a bit full from lunch. That being said, both kebabs were good with the quail being a highlight.

To finish we shared a Almond Milk Pudding with Raisins and Pistachio. We weren't particularly fond of the lumpy texture, but it was a fine dessert taste wise. Had we been hungrier or with a larger group I'm sure we could've sampled more of the menu which looked great, but we managed to enjoy our visit.

I'm not about to make any statement on whether Sydney or Melbourne is better. Instead, I find them both great for different reasons. My one regret during our time in Melbourne was that it was so short and became so fine dining oriented. While Melbourne has some excellent fine dining, I'm confident it's strength is actually the mid-range restaurants serving excellent food in a casual setting. I really enjoyed my time here and hope these reports are entertaining (agree or not) and helpful to others.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Sorry to backtrack a bit but I recently realized I forgot to write up my report on Northern Light and Gelato Messina.

We had a 9 PM reservation at Northern Light. Billed as a riff on a Japanese Izakaya I was intrigued and booked a reservation after reading Yuki's (dining without borders) blog post. We arrived to a packed restaurant. Our seats weren't quite ready and had to wait but was politely offered complimentary glasses of sparkling wine which we accepted. A few minutes later and we were seated at the far end of the bar and eventually left the ordering to the manager who I had been in correspondence with. We stuck with mostly draft Sapporo beers but were given complimentary tastes of Yuzu sake.

We began with Charred Shishito Peppers with Togarashi. A twist on the classic izakaya staple, these were good. We enjoyed the Togarashi since none of the peppers were spicy.

Sichuan Spiced School Prawns with Curry Mayonnaise was a great beer snack. I cannot help wondering why these haven't caught on in NYC restaurants but aside from a non-existent Sichuan flavor, these were excellent.

Air Dried Blackmore Beef with Wasabi, Yolk and Fried Potato was one of the restaurant's signatures and for good reason. The fatiness of the beef was excellent in dried form and enhanced with the rich yolk and sharp wasabi which we mixed-in with the tangle of fried potato threads.

Another item we "had to try" was the Unagi with Squid Sauce, Salted Grapes and Mojama. Another well comprised dish. The eel had been lightly smoked and the rich glaze complimented the grapes and the salty mojama.

Things veered off-course a bit with the Kurobuta Pork Belly with Kimchi and Smoked Cauliflower. The dish was just too heavy. The kimchi wasn't pungent enough to balance the dish.

The Chicken Skewer with Honey and Katsuo Soy was much better. Grilled over Japanese charcoal the chicken thighs remained perfectly moist with a subtle sweetness from the honey.

The final dish was unfortunately, the weakest. Bo Ssam with house Kimchi, Lettuce, Red Pepper Jang and Duck was the most disappointing for multiple reasons. First being the duck was far too dry which was unsalvagable even with the additions of both kimchi. The other problem was with the kimchi with was proudly advertised as being house made. Being Korean I've eaten my fair share of kimchi and this was just not good. I applaud the thought but not the execution.

Northern Light was good but nothing I'd regularly seek out. That said, in a country that lacks world class Japanese food (yakitori, sushi, tempura, kushiage, etc.) perhaps this is a fine alternative. Staff was very nice and informative and due to the tight spaces between tables, I would recommend eating at the bar if possible.

We passed on dessert and instead walked down the street to Gelato Messina. Another two scoops in cups: Chocolate Fondant and Vanilla Manjar - Vanilla Gelato with Dulche de Leche filled Doughnuts and Salted Roasted Almond Flakes were both perfect ending to a serious day of eating and drinking.

Sydney - 13 Days

One thing I may for forgotten to mention about Nomad was that despite knowing the restaurant's two turn table policy, were not informed that we could order as we go and incorrectly assumed we didn't have to order at once. Most small plate restaurants in NYC require taking your complete order which is yet another annoying practice.

Sydney - 13 Days

Seeing how a number if NYC restaurants are now charging for bread I don't mind so long as it's good. Otherwise I wish the restaurant did away with it altogether and pass the savings along to the customers.

Re credit card transaction fee, I feel this outrageous. Quay in particular is an expensive restaurant which is assume few pay with cash and benefit directly from this practice. I hope this does not spread to NYC.

Sydney - 13 Days

Hope any/all of my comments relating to price doesn't come off as uninformed. I was and still am aware of prices in Sydney restaurants but hopefully framed those comments in the context of comparative value.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Just remembers I forgot to post from a late dinner at Northern Light (will report later). Anyways, we slept in and decided to skip the brunch queues and instead, join the lines at D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella. Having skipped Lucio's in Sydney and craving pizza we arrived hungry and looking forward to these hyped Neapolitan pies. We arrived to a busy but by no means slammed lunch service. Service seemed scatter-brained as the entire staff ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. Charming? Maybe to some but for us it seemed frustratingly inefficient. Regardless, we were eventually seated and ordered: Farro and Spelt Salad with Rocket, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin, Toasted Pine Nuts, Goat's Cheese and Vincotto. Expecting the salad to appear before the pizza we were a little surprised when delivered simultaneously. Admittedly we didn't ask the order, my real issue with this practice is that you ultimately run the risk of some food going cold. The salad was good, hearty from the grains with sweet and creamy bites from the roasted veg and cheese. We ordered and split the following two pizzas: Pizza San Daniele - San Marzano Tomato, DOP Buffalo Mozz, DOP San Daniele Prosciutto and the Pizza ai Porcini - Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Oil and Mozz in Bianco with grated DOP Pecorino. Both pies used high quality ingredients with nice ratios maintaining balance, however, our complaint was with the crust which we felt wasn't chewy enough and too blonde, though this just our preference. Most Neapolitan style pizzas in NYC have superior char on them affectionately known as "leopard-spotting" and imparts a smokey and complex flavor. Overall, we thought DOC P&M to produce good but not great pizza that is very popular.

On our way back to the CBD we exited the tram for dessert at Spring Street Grocer to visit Gelato Primavera. Heeding the advice from fellow hounds on this board we came in with high expectations but left a disappointed. We ordered just two scoops: Pistachio and Fior di Latte. Texture of both were nice but the flavor intensity (more so in the pistachio) seemed lacking.

Dinner was another marathon, this time at Vue de Monde. From the private elevator to the views and open kitchen, the restaurant makes quite an initial impression. We were led to our large two top overlooking downtown Melbourne and a flurry of snacks started arriving.

Salt and Vinegar Chips with Macadamia Nut Purée and Compressed Apple was a fun starter. Truffle Marshmallows were good, reminded me a bit of the savory marshmallows Eleven Madison Park used to serve. An oyster poached in its natural juices and served in its shell was fair but lacking it's liquor. Salt cured Wallaby with Wasabi was rolled table side from a large block of Himalayan Pink Salt. This was tasty but lacked any gaminess to make it distinctive from beef or other proteins. Smoked Eel with White Chocolate and Caviar was very good. Loved the savory-sweet interplay. Finally, two BBQ skewers: Duck Tongue and Lamb Heart with Pineapple. Both very good.

First course was Barramundi with Potato, Chicken Liver and Caviar finished table side with an Apple Cider Chicken Jus. The barramundi was bolstered with chicken liver and potato with the caviar acting as seasoning. Fine but a tad interesting to start with a cooked fish course. When asked, our server explained the current chef de cuisine wanted to digress from the usual degustation progression. I've experienced this once before and had mixed feelings about it, we left this meal unconvinced of its superiority.

Next was Flinders Island Lamb with Apple, Sun Flower Seed Purée and Mustard Foam. This was the second course in a row with a table side finishing element. The mustard foam in this case was fine by itself but took away from the lamb which we thought was very good.

Third was Blackmore Wagyu with Smoked Bone Marrow and Salt Bush with grated slices of Frozen Beef Fat. This was simply ill-conceived. Far too little meat to make any impression and severely under seasoned (a tartare pet peeve of mine). The combo of smoked bone marrow (didn't detect smokiness) and unmelted beef fat (disgusting) made the dish too rich. Finally, the dish being served in a small marrowbone sans spoon made eating difficult.

Fortunately, a palate cleanser arrived next. Cucumber and Wood Sorrel Sorbet with Herbs we crushed with the help of a mortar and pestle and liquid nitrogen was smart and delicious.

Bread service included a sack of warm Fennel Sourdough and served with Hand Churned Salted Butter made from organic cream from Victoria. We were told the chef previously worked at Noma and made it a point of emphasis to craft the menu around Australian-centric foods and ingredients. The restaurant previously used French Butter. I wished they never switched. Similar to Eleven Madison Park (a restaurant we've visited multiple times and enjoy) the proliferation of chefs coming out from the kitchen to serve or finish a course, a theme (NYC vs Australian ingredients) has a difficult task IMO of toeing the fine line between being well executed and becoming kitsch. In a way to differentiate itself and climb the S. Pellegrino rankings we feel EMP has fallen hard into the kitsch and frankly felt similarly about Vue de Monde. Rant over, aside from being served warm, the bread was merely average and lacked a crusty exterior or any discernible fennel flavor.

Bread was served alongside Duck Yolk cooked 63 degrees a la sous vide with Pear and Truffle. The egg was good. The sweetness and crunch of the pear and earthiness from the truffle paired well with the runny egg yolk.

Marron from Western Australia was served with a Pine Mushroom Cream. We were instructed to eat this course with our hands. Another very good course. Hand towels were provided afterwards.

Another utensil-less course was Fried Soft Shell Crab with a Tarragon Cream. The body, claws and sandwich were served a bit overseasoned and lacking any acid to help cut through the oil.

Ox Tongue with Bone Marrow, Beetroot and finished with a Crème Fraîche Snow (table side) was the final savory course. Unlike some of the other elements served table side, the Crème Fraîche snow worked here and made complete sense within the dish. Sweet, tangy and beefy, this was a nicely executed course.

Cheese was to be served next but the trolley had a three table queue and we were asked if we would allow them to serve us cheese at the end of the meal. We agreed. A palate cleanser of Candied Celery wrapped around Coconut Sorbet was a nice transition to the sweet side of the menu.

Fresh Milk Ice Cream rolled in Mandarin Biscuit and Gel with Malt Snow was fine but we felt the course didn't need the malt snow.

Tonka Bean Soufflé with Valrhona Chocolate Ganache and a Smoked Ice Cream was very good. Extremely light, this was a textbook soufflé.

The cheese trolley eventually arrived and we were given a nice selection of: Epoisse, Cheddar (Tazmania), Goat Cheese (France), Brie and a Roquefort. All were ripe and served with a bevy of accoutrements that I cannot fully remember. A truffled honey was especially nice.

Petits fours included: One Penny Orange Jellies, Lamingtons - delicious, White Chocolate with Olive Oil and Sea Salt and Eucalyptus Ice Cream Bon Bons.

As with our meal at Attica, we were the last to leave and were given a tour of the kitchen. Service was good but opened up much more after some conversation. One puzzling aspect was the upsell of a truffle supplement. Truffles were from Western Australia and were offered at $60 pp/three courses...their choice. Considering no menu was provided ahead of time and the fact that they weren't particularly fragrant, especially compared to the black truffles from Perigord, we passed. We were pleased when we saw the kitchen use truffles for the dessert (soufflé) course and an IMO would've been a waste of truffle. As with all other tables we were given a nice take home bag that included: tea, brioche, honey and cookies/biscuits.

Overall, our experience at Vue de Monde was a relatively mixed. This, coupled with their prices resulted in a disappointing experience. There is no doubt that the restaurant sources great product but we were out off by the theatrical presentations which IMO seemed to overcompensate for a lack of flavor. With one exception none of the food was bad per se, but compared to other meals during our trip, should not be held in the same category as our meals at Brae, Quay, Rockpool, Sixpenny, etc.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

Yeah, thanks for pointing out my mistake. Been busy retracing notes and typing up these reports so apologizes in advance for typos/errors.

Yeah, long meal. We've done longer or ones about the same (Eleven Madison Park) but the kitchen's timing wasn't as off as it was here. Hopefully it wasn't a result of Shewry not being in the kitchen, regardless good food but painfully slow.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

After a late dinner from the previous evening we were up early to pick up a rental car for an early lunch reservation at Dan Hunter's Brae. Thanks to useful advice from this board we chose to rent a car and make the 1.5 hour drive instead of taking the train and staying the night. Accordingly, breakfast was light, consisting of coffee and croissants. After a scenic drive through the countryside we arrived early for our reservation. Under the staff's advice we took a stroll through the garden and eventually made our way inside for lunch. I should disclose that we were known to the house and were greeted by name upon arrival. Having learned that we were to lunch at Brae the following day, our server at Attica was sure to mention his partner worked at Brae. Having said this, we paid the full price for all of our food and drink and were served nothing additional from the kitchen. Having decided to drive we were pleased to hear that half pours of the menu's beverage pairings could be accommodated.

After being asked for dietary restrictions the meal began with a series of snacks. Beef Tendon with Mountain Pepper was fried and resembled a beef tendon prep at Mugaritz, a holdover from Chef Hunter's days as chef de cuisine no doubt. Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips were seasoned better than the version at Vue de Monde and were pleasant with our Sparkling Wine. Fresh Ricotta with Dried Figs were also nice. The snacks really became exciting with the Burnt Pretzel with Treacle and Pork that paired wonderfully with an Australian microbrew. Short Fin Eel with Sea Urchin, Zucchini and Chicory was also very nice. Turnips were braised then hollowed and filled with Brook Trout Roe was an excellent combination that literally burst with flavor. Finally, the Prawns with Nasturtium and Finger Lime was served as two bites. The tails were dressed but IMO the best of all of the bites were the heads which we were encouraged to eat whole filled with that amazing head fat.

Our first course was Calamari and Pickles. The knife skills of the kitchen were on full display as the squid (from Port Phillips) had been immaculately scored, then lightly poached. The combination of sweet squid and pickles was a promising start.

Next was Southern Rock Lobster with a sauce made from Carrots, White Onion and Sea Butter. The morsels of lobster meat were cooked just until tender and enhanced from the sauce containing strong lobster coral flavor. Excellent, especially considering how disappointing lobster is usually prepared.

At this point we were offered bread which is all baked in house in a special brick oven located just outside the restaurant. By far, this was the best bread we ate in all of Australia and could rival the excellent sourdough from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Thick slices of Whole Wheat Sourdough were served with Fresh Jersey Cream Butter. This was incredible with a complex whole structure and dark and crusty exterior. Needless to say, we had several pieces throughout the meal.

The bread was aptly served with Egg Yolk, Potato, Jerusalem Artichoke and a sauce of Gruyere and Vin Jaune. Rich and savory, this tasted like the wonderfully haute version of breakfast that just begged to be cleaned with that great bread.

Raw Wallaby with Wattle and Lemon Myrtle was a nice play on beef tartare. The lemon myrtle was a nice touch as was the wattle which provided some necessary texture.

This being autumn Chef Hunter mentioned the abundance of mushrooms and so the following course of Wild Mushrooms and Milk Curd with Chicken Liver and a Chicken Broth was a homage to his foraging trips. The rich liver and medley of raw and cooked mushrooms were came together with the chicken broth.

I was saddened to see the local lamb removed from our menu. However, as far as beef courses go the Grass Fed Wagyu Short Ribs with Leek, Cauliflower and Kale was good.

Dessert took an interesting turn as we were first presented with Simmered Plums with Onions, Honey and Cultured Milk. The onion in the simmering liquid helped restrain the honey's sweetness while the plums acidity was balanced from the cultured milk.

The last course is fast becoming the restaurant's signature dessert: Parsnip and Apple is a deceptive name. Apple and vanilla pastry cream was housed inside dehydrated and candied parsnip skin. For parsnip fans like me, I found the synergy between the nutty parsnip and sweetness of vanilla and apple outstanding. A truly inventive and delicious combination.

Finally a petits four in the form of a Pistachio, Blood and Quince Tart was a great parting bite while we sipped a double espresso.

Before leaving we had a pleasant chat with Chef Hunter and I can honestly say service was the best of our trip. Brae was easily the best meal on our trip, Sydney included, and I hope more people make the trip out to his restaurant now that it's even more accessible from Melbourne. The food is highly technical but like Attica, conveys a strong sense of place with surroundings to match. This is destination dining at its pinnacle and hope to be able to experience Hunter's food again at some point.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

For out first breakfast in Melbourne we visited Auction Rooms. Flat Whites ordered we were disappointed to see many of the more popular items missing from the breakfast menu. We split the following dishes: Brûlée Brioche with Devils on Horseback and Grapefruit, Chilaquiles with Pulled Pork Shoulder, Toasted Corn Tortillas, Salsa Verde, Queso Blanco, Black Beans and Fried Eggs and Potato and Ham Stack. The French toast was excellent, with a nice caramelized flavor. The devils on horseback, bacon wrapped dates, were salty and sweet and the grapefruit helped temper the sweetness. The chilaquiles were impressive. A bit richer with the addition of pulled pork but tasty. The potato and ham stack was equally delicious and we enjoyed the crispy edges.

I was able to sneak in an afternoon Flate White from Patricia. Really enjoyed the coffee from this standing room cafe.

We had a later lunch at Cumulus Inc. We avoided the crowds and were immediately seated. We started with the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with crispy Skins and Sour Cream. The soup was nutty and sweet with a great texture. The crispy skins and sour cream kept the dish interesting. Served alongside the soup was a bread selection of Seeded Bread and a Housemade Sourdough. Both were okay but useful for finishing the soup. A simple Bitter Green Salad was ordered to supplement our lack of fresh greens. Marinated and Pickled Octopus was good. The octopus wasn't overly pickled and maintained a supple texture while the pimenton infused aioli carried a Spainsh flavor profile. Equally Spanish was the Peppers de Padron that had been blistered and sprinkled with sea salt. Warmed about the possibility of the random spicy pepper we enjoyed these familiar snacks. The final dish we shared was the Foie Gras Parfait with Toasted Brioche. This was unfortunately disappointing. Unbeknownst to me, Australia cannot import unprocessed foie gras and many restaurants (Nomad) cut the mixture with chicken livers. This is really unfortunate because Australians are stuck with a grossly inferior product. As with the lack of unpasteurized cheeses, these restrictions severely limit many fine dining restaurants which often use/rely on such luxury ingredients. Anyways, the parfait was good but hardly a substitute for a proper torchon of foie gras. Only mistake was not ordering the made to order Madelines with Lemon Curd.

Dinner was at Attica. Was able to secure a 8 PM booking and were the final table to leave. Chef Sherry had left earlier that day for France but the kitchen performed well. Bread service consisted of a Housemade Rye Sourdough with Freshly Churned Butter and Sea Salt and a Macadamia Nut Butter with Salt Bush and Macadamia Oil. The bread was good but hardly special which was a bit disappointing for a restaurant of this caliber but we enjoyed alternating between the sweet butter and the rich macadamia nut butter.

Snacks included Fresh Milk Cheese with Honey from the Rooftop. This was very good with two servers scraping fresh honeycomb onto our bowls of fresh cheese. Next was Rainbow Chard Leaves with Housemade Sourcream and Quongdong Powder. Slightly sour and slightly sweet this showcased the garden and native qoungdong. Steamed corn from the Southern Penninsula with Housemade Butter and Alpine Pepper was a miniature buttered corn on the cob. Next was Walleby Blood Tartlets with Plum Jam. Chef Sherry's grandmothers recipe, these were rich and very good. Finally, arriving inside a hollow walnut shell was Shaved Button Mushrooms with a Walnut Purée.

First course was Steames Western Australian Snow Crab with Sorrel Leaves and Verjus. This was excellent, sweet crab meat with bitter sorrel and sweet from the reduced sauce made from verjus, an excellent start of the meal.

Next was Western Australian Marron with Sorrel, Tarragon and Fried Chicken finished with a sauce of Onions and Pork Fat. Another strong dish, the Marron was beautifully cooked and enhanced by the greens laced with savory chicken skin but the sauce was just stunning.

Third course was Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya. Minced raw kangaroo meat was atop a purée of bunya bunya (similar to pinenuts) and topped with shaved disks of raw red carrots. Texturally interesting, the kangaroo meat was mild but appropriately seasoned and the addition of frozen currants provided bursts of a welcome bitterness.

Given the acclaim of Chef Sherry's previous potato dish we were very disappointed with his current version. Called Minted Potato, Medium Rare this consisted of a roasted potato topped with a sauce of mint, garlic and Clothbound Cheddar. Told the dish emphasized texture by our server, the potato was indeed cooked medium rare. Unfortunately, it tasted like an undercooked potato with a very good sauce. I have no doubt Chef Sherry is trying to push the envelope of his diners with these dishes, however, IMO it shouldn't compromise it's flavor.

Much better was the King George Whiting in Paperback. A filet of King George whiting from Port Phillips was topped with Minced Pearl Oyster Meat, Green Tomato Juice and Beach Spinach and cooked in paperback bark. Mimicking a traditional way of cooking fish, the process resulted in a moist and flakey fish with another excellent sauce.

Our final savory was Pork, Rotten Corn and Lemon Aspen. A bit surprising to many diners our server explained the "rotten" element as a traditional method of using excess corn from harvests and was combined with fresh corn and turned into a sauce poured over roast pork loin. Despite the name, the sauce was sweet without any discernible funk of rotten corn. While the pork was cooked well, I wished the kitchen incorporated more of a fermented flavor profile into the sauce to add some complexity. To us, this dish felt a bit safe.

All evening we saw nearby tables being escorted away for some time. Our time had come and a server asked if we would visit the backyard garden for a pre-dessert. After being showed the garden we were given an Anzac Biscuit and given a cup of warm Apple Tea.

Upon returning to our table we were served our first dessert: Pears and Maidenii. Served in a pear shaped wooden dish were balls of Bosc Pear that had been rolled in Pepper Spice over a smooth and refreshing Pear and Vermouth Sorbet.

The final dessert was Raw Strawberry Jam. Macerated Yarra Valley Strawberries had been put through a centrifuge to create a thickened jam-like consistency without having to cook and in turn process the natural sugars of the strawberries. This was served over a meringue with raw and dehydrated strawberries and a native berry granita. This was equally innovative as it was delicious. Staying with the restaurnant's ethos of showcasing native ingredients, this was a very worthy conclusion.

Served the restaurant's signature petits fours of Puhko Eggs which were Milk Chocolate Eggs filled with Salted Caramel and a copy of our menu the meal had officially concluded.

Our overall assessment of the meal was marred by the painfully slow progression. Service was good, friendly and knowledgable but the kitchen took far too long between courses. We spent an excess of five hours during the course of the meal. The food, aside from the potato, was uniformly excellent. Highlighting native ingredients and cooking preparations the restaurant evoked a strong sense of place which is precisely what we were looking for when we made our initial booking. Chalking up the odd timing aspect of our meal to an off night, we still thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Attica and would highly recommend dining there.

Melbourne Advice - 5 Days

This is a continuation of my trip reports about a recent vacation my wife and I took to Melbourne. Feel free to read about my Sydney reports in that thread.

We arrived in Melbourne mid-afternoon and after checking into our hotel and purchasing Mykie cards we made our way to The Town Mouse. We had a 8 PM booking and were immediately led to a two top towards the back of the dining room. We sat on stools but hooks mounted on the wall were provided for coats and bags. Our server gave us the annoying speech about how the menu works (share plates) but was otherwise very pleasant and helpful answering our questions. We started off with complimentary sourdough and seaweed butter. The sourdough was underwhelming with an underdeveloped crust but the seaweed butter was a nice touch.

We began with a few small plates: Olives with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon, School Prawns with Green Goddess Dressing and two Goat's Cheese Profiteroles with Caraway, Thyme and Honey. The prawns, eaten whole, were delicious especially with the dressing that almost mimicked an aioli. The profiteroles were also very good, however, we both really enjoy the goat's cheese-honey combination. The olives were fine for what they were and were nice to snack on over our wine.

From the vegetable section we ordered: Crisp Brussels Sprouts with Buttermilk, Lemon and Mint and the Slow Roasted Red Cabbage with Prune, Parmesan and Red Apple. The Brussels sprouts were okay, but were overseasoned and lacking acidity. I felt the buttermilk and lemon would suffice but this was an inferior version of a similar dish we ate at Porteño. The cabbage was fantastic. Easily the best dish of the night. Being fans of vegetable dishes I felt this restaurant did a commendable job featuring these ingredients. Roasted cabbage with apples are a classic combo but the addition of Parmesan cheese helped transform the dish into something different altogether.

We split one main: Duck Breast with Pickled Quince, Turnip, Cavolo Nero and Gingerbread. This was a well executed dish. Duck cooked med rare with a properly rendered skin but wasn't as interesting as the vegetables.

We decided to split a single dessert: Lemon and Yuzu Curd with Banana, Sesame, Spiced Rum and Coconut. We chose this wanting something on the lighter side and were satisfied. The yuzu and sesame elements were very Asian but made complex with the spiced rum jellies.

Service was informative and friendly (unnecessary but welcome) and the food was uniformly good. Town Mouse received a slew of praise and good PR and our meal confirmed why. To us, the restaurant was a shining example of a place with better food and service than it needed to be which is very welcome these days.

Sydney - 13 Days

Last official day in Sydney meant breakfast and a quick snack before having to catch an afternoon flight to Melbourne.

Having been told the menu was changing I decided to revisit Devon Cafe. Flat Whites ordered we were greeted by the same server I met during my first visit who happily went over the new menu with us. We split both dishes: Little Lost Bread was a Peanut Butter and Jelly Brioche French Toast with Banana, Nutella and Peanut Butter Ice Cream and the much hyped Breakfast with the Sakuma's with Miso Grilled King Salmon, Smoked Eel Croquette, 63 Degree Egg, Radish Salad and Kewpie Mayonnaise. The French toast was more a dessert than brunch. Between the toast, ice cream and Nutella the dish was way too sweet. We understood the concept and the dish seemed very popular but for our tastes it was overkill. A side of Bacon was generous and gave an Elvis like feel to the dish. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the Sakuma dish. The salmon was cooked well, a tad over for my preference, but far from being dry. The egg had been cooked sous vide with a fudge-like yolk consistency. The croquette lacked too much flavor but lent texture and the salad provided some acidity and balanced the rich dish.

Stopped by Flour and Stone before hailing a taxi for the airport. Ended up eating the Panna Cotta Lamington and Chocolate and Salted-Caramel Tart in the airport and were impressed with both.

Overall, a great trip to Sydney. Wife really enjoyed herself and was impressed with the city. Having not been back in over seven years my trip was both nostalgic but fascinating to see how much has changed. Food wise, we had some disappointments (Sepia), some surprises (Rockpool) across a wide range of experiences. While Quay was our favorite overall meal, our experiences at Sixpenny and Cafe Paci were more similar to the restaurants we frequent back home. If interested about reading my trip reports I'll continue to writing in my Melbourne thread.

Sydney - 13 Days

Day 12 began with a morning Bridge Climb which took longer than I remembered. We grabbed coffees and croissants from a bakery who's name escapes me. We enjoyed beautiful weather but were running really late for a planned lunch at Mamak. We snuck inside just before they literally turned the sign around and locked the doors. Service was prompt but pleasant despite being the last table for lunch service. Started with the obligatory Roti Canai. Served with two curries and a dab of sambal this was an excellent version compared to the versions at most Malaysian restaurants in NYC. Fluffy and crispy, it's obvious why the rotis are the restaurant's signature dishes. We samples both the Chicken and Beef Satay served with a Peanut Sauce. The smokey flavor from being chargrilled was nice but we thought these to be fairly average to the satay we eat back home. We split a few pieces if Ayam Goreng and an order of the Mee Goreng. Again, both dishes were fine but nothing special. Actually, we were a little disappointed by the lack of "wok hai" in the Mee Goreng. Amazed that they allowed us to order the Roti Bom (20 minutes as per instructions) it was worth every cent and then some. Having no dessert roti back home, this was billed as the richest and decedent of the dessert selections. Extra thick and buttery this roti was just amazing. Especially great was the layer of caramelized sugar, which almost mimicked a Kouign Amann and other laminated pastries. Served "a la mode" this was about as indulgent as one can imagine but just fantastic.

Dinner was at Sepia which I can only describe as a disappointment. Having read comments about their somewhat rigid pairings, we decided to go by the glass route which was okay, but the front of the house was severely understaffed which resulted in several courses where we had empty glasses. Chef Benn and his wife were not in the restaurant as it was his birthday but the repeated use of several ingredients, odd flavor profiles and heavy reliance in Japanese products left is rather unimpressed.

Amuses were: Cornet of Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Horseradish Crème Fraîche and Dehydrated Heirloom Cherry Tomato with Tomato "Nectar," Tomato Dust and Micro Basil. Both were good, the cornet perhaps being a slight homage to Thomas Keller's Salmon Cornets. However, the tomato amuse seemed more like the kitchen wanting to show off it's technical skill than focusing on flavor. I had to wonder why not serve a better tomato like Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns or if focusing on technique - concentrate flavor like Ferran and Albert Adria?

I hadn't yet eaten oysters on this trip and ordered a few NSW Premium Rock Oysters with Lime and Rice Vinaigrette. Good, but not as briny as some Atlantic varieties. Furthermore, like at many Australian restaurants, many serve oysters "dressed" which for someone like me who prefers the natural flavors, tend to be muddled with such preps.

First courses were: Sashimi of Yellowfin Tuna with Jamon Iberico Cream, Hatsuka Radish, Apple, Wasabi and Pork Crackling an Scarlett Prawns with Heirloom Tomato, White Cucumber, Crème Fraîche, Tempura Batter and Matcha Tea Oil. The sashimi was one of my favorite courses of the night. I liked the prawn course more conceptually than how it was executed. Aside from the first of several repeated ingredients, I would've preferred more bitterness from the matcha oil.

Second courses were: House Made Chèvre with Rhubarb, Beetroot, Rye and Native Violets and "Scallop Sushi" with Nori rolled Scallops, Avocado Cream, Pickled Ginger and Puffed Sushi Rice. The chèvre course was a beautiful but IMO an upscale version of beet and goat cheese salad. The rye crumbs did provide good texture. The scallop sushi course was my favorite of the meal. Inventive, technique-driven but most importantly delicious, I wish the rest of the meal was of the same caliber.

Third course was "Sashimi" of Bonito with Flavors of Roasted Chicken, Umeboshi, Upland Cress, Green Tea and Nori. A dish with clashing flavor profiles (IMO), I was confused why chef chose to incorporate the rich chicken cream to an already bold flavored fish (bonito). Perhaps this was a case of one too many components (I liked the umeboshi) but the green tea and nori combined to form a mess of a dish.

Scampi grilled over charcoal with Sudachi, Myoga, Lemon Aspen, Salanova, Fried Battered Kombu and Mitsuba. Fried kombu felt like its sole purpose was to provide texture and not as much for its flavor the scampi was small but fine. However, compared to the langoustines in Spain or France these scampi just lacked flavor and were minuscule. I thought Benn was backed by on of Sydney's top seafood wholesalers. If so, these were an embarrassment, as I've had superior versions (admittedly from New Zealand) at restaurants in the US (Per Se off the top of my head).

Seared David Blackmore Wagyu Beef with Nameko Mushrooms, Roasted Red Onion Jus, Oba Leaf, Fried Potato, Kombu Crumb and Citrus Soy and Roasted Corn Fed Chicken with Charcoal Grilled Scampi, Pine Mushrooms, Heart of Palm and Nasturtium were our next courses. We both preferred the chicken between the two. My main gripe aside from the repeated inclusion of a crispy kombu element was how thinly the beef was cut as to almost deprive us from fully enjoying the quality of the Blackmore beef. Maybe it was done to counter the richness of the Wagyu, but I was not impressed. The chicken was better but still confused by the inclusion of the scampi.

Final savory was Seared Mandagery Creek Venison with Sansho Pepper, Caramelized Jerusalem Artichoke, Pumpkin and Raspberry. The venison was very good, pleasantly gamey and cooked rare. The pairing of game and fruit such as raspberry in this dish was stellar, however, I couldn't help but think it clashed with the sansho pepper.

We supplemented cheese and were served Pyengana Cheddar with Plum Wine and Apple Pectin, Sheep Yogurt and Pear Cream. A fine composed cheese course. Another highlight of the meal.

First dessert was Pear and Sheep Yogurt Sorbet with Ginger Spice Crumb and Fennel Snow. A fine dessert but the back to back pear and sheep yogurt combo was a bit monotonous.

Autumn Chocolate Forest with too many components to list looked better than it tasted. So many components (chocolate, almond, hazelnut, lavender, shiso, green tea, licorice, fennel) made for one muddled bite after another. Disappointing.

I had emailed earlier in the week and requested the off menu but signature Japanese Stones. These looked amazing and were a technical standout. Better yet they tasted better than the faux stones we were served at Mugaritz. Flavors were Passionfruit, Pear and 72% Soft Chocolate.

Petits fours were two pieces of chocolate and mint fondant.

As few additional observations. Front of the house was very understaffed which resulted in empty water (we drink sparkling) and wine glasses and odd timing from the kitchen as to firing of various courses.

The restrooms are located outside of the restaurant (okay, I've been to plenty of hotel restaurants with similar facilities) but the men's restroom was particularly small which led to a queue towards the end of my meal.

Bread service (Japanese Steamed Milk Rolls) were excellent and served warm. Very similar to a bread we ate at Azurmendi in Spain.

Overall: there is no doubt that Chef Benn is a very technical chef. His use of technique and precision is evident in his food as well as his plating. Additionally, his knowledge of Japanese flavor products is impressive in a country that lacks world caliber Japanese cuisine. However, the repeated use of ingredients throughout the meal was a bit shocking and uninspiring. Also, IMO his dependence on Japanese ingredients led to some interesting flavor profiles, many of which we were less than impressed with. We are not Japanese nor claim to be experts in Japanese food but I've lived in Tokyo before and am familiar with most of the ingredients we encountered so I find it less likely of this being a case of one who is unfamiliar with particular flavors. Again, I have no doubt but to think I'm in the minority and chalk our experience up to an off night when the chef wasn't in the house (known to happen to the best chefs Passard etc.) but I'm only reporting our experience which we ultimately found poor, especially from a restaurant of this reputation and price point. I can only hope our experience was an outlier.

Sydney - 13 Days

Day 11 began with the usual Flat White, this time from Mecca Espresso.

Took the train to Newtown to visit Black Star Pastry. Line was manageable when we arrived (Monday morning) but quickly grew after we ordered. Definitely caught a bit of attitude from the woman working the counter but didn't let her rolling eyes bother us. The Lamb Shank and Red Wine Pie was delicious minus the large bone that caught me off guard. Not sure if this was normal but seemed like an oversight on their end...Sausage Roll with tomato sauce was better than average but IMO not quite as good as the version from Bourke Street Bakery. Finally, no trip here would be complete without a slice of the famous Strawberry-Watermelon Cake. Overall, quite pleased with the flavor. Liked the rose flavored filling and the fruit kept the cake moist and surprisingly light. If I had one critique (besides it's price) I thought the cake itself reminded me of the cakes found in many Cantonese bakeries. Perhaps it was the combination of fruit and cottony texture of the cake but that was the comparison that immediately came to mind.

Lunch was at the bar area at Rockpool Bar & Grill. Ordered both the Blackmore Full Blood Burger and the Greenham Grass Fed Burger to compare. Both were cooked medium rare (would've thought the Wagyu would be cooked medium) and both preferred the grass fed burger. The Wagyu burger was a bit fattier as one would expect but it was the more prominent flavor of the grass fed burger that we preferred. IMO we prefer the Black Label Burger from Minetta Tavern with its dry aged flavor and texture to both of these burgers. Another complaint was that the pickle was very assertive which is okay, but when paying premium for a burger I want to taste the beef, not a pickle. Hand Cut Chips were fine, a bit too chunky for our tastes and the Onion Rings were good. To finish we split a slice of Catherine's Passionfruit Pavlova. For what it's worth, this was the best pavlova I've ever had and despite being filled from the burgers we had no problem cleaning the plate.

Once again we found ourselves in Surry Hills for dinner at Billy Kwong. Had an 8 PM reservation and was seated at a snug two top near the front window. Backless stools were fine with me but might not go over so well with others. Seating was also tight, as in NYC tight. Again, fine with us but this was the first Sydney restaurant we observed this lack of space. Being only two of us, we only ordered four dishes. We began with a reoccurring special, Wok Fried Rice Noodles with Braised Beef Brisket and Fermented Black Beans. Slightly reminiscent to the popular dim sum steamed rice noodles this had added texture from being fried in the wok. A good starter. Next was Homestyle Fried Biodynamic Eggs with Organic Tamari and House XO Sauce. eaten with a gigantic serving of steamed Jasmine Rice, this was delicious. The yolks were still runny and the heat from the xo sauce made for an excellent egg prep. Finished with Kylie's signature Crisp Skin Pasture-Fed Duck with Native Quongdong and Organic Plums. This was about as good of non-Peking style Chinese duck prep as we've had. Loved the fruit and spices against the crispy skin and moist meat. Finished with a pot of Jasmine Tea and a side of Steamed Organic Chinese Greens with Organic Tamari for good measure. Service was okay but very hurried and the restaurant was packed. We appreciated the server apologizing for the slow service and was told the former Prime Minister was eating a few tables away.

Walked down the street for dessert at Gelato Messina. We stuck to classic flavors and ordered a scoop of Coffee and and Dulche de Leche. Both were very good as we ate our order in the park across the street.

Sydney - 13 Days

Day 10 was a Sunday and Sundays can prove a bit tricky when travelling with many restaurants closed. My wife and I joined the newlyweds for brunch at Three Williams. We were running a little late but the staff agreed to seat them without us, miraculous considering it's popularity. Unfortunately for me, our friends expressed that they weren't too hungry. So I immediately scrapped ordering a side of their fries or the fish croquettes. Instead we started with coffee, which didn't arrive until after our meal...speaking of food my wife ordered the Crunchy Brioche French Toast with fruit and yogurt and I had The Merchant a fancy bacon and egg roll with slaw and ranch dressing on a brioche roll. Food was fine as was coffee (when actually received it) but neither of us were too impressed.

We visited the zoo and had a late lunch at the Surry Hills location of Spice I Am. Eating late meant no wait and we were famished. The Pad Prik King with Crispy Pork Belly was very good. Asked to be prepared spicy we thought this was a superior version of this dish. The Basil Crispy Chicken was good albeit a bit safer. Again, a nice amount of heat permeated throughout the hunks of chicken and abundant amount of Basil leaves. The Green Mango Salad with Fried Soft Shell Crab was pretty similar to the versions back in the US but was still a tasty dish. The acidity from the lime juice was bold and appreciated. We also shared the Mussaman Curry which was the best rendition we've had. Far too often the versions in New York (Ayada, Sripraphai) are too sweet with an overdose of coconut milk. This version tasted far more balanced and was excellent with sticky rice. I was happy to have eaten at both Chat Thai as well as Spice I Am. Both offered some very good food and ultimately superior Thai food I routinely find in the US.

Until this point I had neglected Italian food. It's not a slight to the Italian food in Sydney but more a reflection of New York having many good Italian restaurants. However, I was craving Italian and we had a booking at Osteria di Russo & Russo. A bit off the beaten track for tourists, we found our way to the quaint restaurant. After a brief chat with our server we chose the $65 six course meal with the request for a particular pasta and cheese.

We were given slices of pretty ordinary Rye-Sourdough bread served with Italian Olive Oil.

First course was the Capesante - Hervey Bay Scallops with Aglio Bianco, Grapes, Apples, Witlof and Cauliflower. The scallops were sliced thin and served crudo style. Perhaps a few too many elements but the apple made sense and the others didn't detract from dish.

Lingua - Chargrilled Veal Tongue with Banga Cauda, House Truffles Dwarf Peaches, Pickles and Smoked Salt was next. Not sure if I liked the sweet peaches with the savory banga cauda but the peaches and grilled tongi was nice.

Our pasta course was Fregola with Prawns, Squid Ink, Mussel Butter, Bottarga, Chili and Basil. We specifically requested this dish to be included in our meal and we weren't disappointed. Particularly impressive about the dish was the deep seafood flavor it exhibited but between the prawns (perfectly cooked), mussel butter (great idea), squid ink and bottarga I wasn't too surprised.

Our main was the Maiale - Pork Cheeks with Jerusalem Artichoke, Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms, Prunes, Spelt and Hazelnuts. Earthy, savory and satisfying especially on an autumn evening, this was a nice secondi.

We were given an option between a classic or composed cheese course. We chose a composed and were presented with a Monte Veronese Panna Cotta with Quince Paste, Pine Nut Brittle, Vinocotto and Pane Carasan. We really enjoyed the chef's composed cheese course, especially the addition of the pine nut brittle.

Dessert was Castagna - Chestnuts with Valrhona Chocolate, Coffee, Marsala, Currants and Cumquats. Again, an unnecessarily complicated dessert but we enjoyed the use of Valrhona chocolate. Overall, we thought Osteria R&R was a good restaurant with a talented chef with potential to improve. While we respected the thought behind the dishes we felt much of the food was counterintuitive to the philosophy behind most Italian food, simplicity and use of the best possible ingredients. Hopefully, with time and feedback the chef and restaurant will continue to evolve it's cuisine.

Sydney - 13 Days

Still a bit tired from the wedding we grabbed take away Flat Whites from nearby Gumption.

Took the train to the sleepy suburb of Stanmore for a lunch at Sixpenny. Easily one of the trips most anticipated meals, Sixpenny and Brae were the two most mentioned restaurants from industry folk we talked to in NYC/Brooklyn. Chef Puskas was not in the kitchen, however, chef Parry was and oversaw our meal. Sebastian Crowther had recently left the restaurant but new somm Dan Sharp did a commendable job with the pairings. Throughout the course of the meal the restaurant was busy but never packed and service was friendly and efficient.

The meal started with a series of snacks. First, a bowl of Salt and Vinegar Chips. Next, Pickled Yucan with Rose Germanium Syrup and dusted with Rose Powder. The yucan, a South American root vegetable was crunchy and tasted like an exotic pickle. A warm Cheese and Tomato Gougéres filled with Tomato Chutney and topped with Parmesan Cheese was excellent. Also very good was a Jerulslem Artichoke Scallop with Sunflower Seed Salt. Finally, we were given Charred Treviso with a Dandelion Sauce and Cured Egg Yolk. It had a nice charred flavor with the egg yolk mellowing the treviso's bitterness.

First course was Pumpkin Poached in Verjus with Chestnuts and Sour Cream. Welcomed the sweetness from the pumpkin juxtaposed with the sour cream and chestnut for texture.

Western Australian Mud Crab with Silky Macadamia and Chamomile was visually stunning. Having had a remarkably similar combination of crab and macadamia at Mugaritz (where Parry had previously worked) we thought this version tasted better.

Potatoes Roasted in Fresh Mustard with Lemon-Thyme and Spinach sounded a bit pedestrian but tasted anything but. In fact, this was one of the highlights from the meal and much better than the potato course we would have several days later at Attica. A liberal application of brown butter bathed the potatoes until they reached an optimal texture, still maintaining a little bite before giving way to the creamy interiors. The sharpness from the mustard seeds helped preserve balance.

The fish course was Lightly Steamed Murray Cod with Nettles and Toasted Rye. The nettles had been puréed into a sauce that had a vegetal quality. The rye had been mixed with butter and applied like a paste of sorts over a perfectly cooked piece of cod.

Malted Veal with Cabbage and Fermented Anchovy concluded the savory portion of the meal with a bang. While I wasn't enamoured with the texture of the veal due to it being cooked sous vide (mushy), the fermented anchovy infused malt glazed over the meat packed a savory punch, preventing this course from being ordinary.

A Pumpkin and Yogurt Ice Crème Sandwhich was a fun transition to desserts without being too sweet.

Sweet Rice Custard with Marscarpone Ice Cream and Lime Jelly was very good. The jolt of acidity from the lime jelly played nicely against the rice custard and ice cream.

Final dessert was Poached Prunes with Plum, Jasmine and Chocolate Sauce poured tableside from a cook.

We ended with coffee, tea and petits fours in the form of their "cookie jar."

Before leaving Chef Parry took us out back to the restaurant's small garden and we chatted over the future of the restaurant and the Sydney dining culture.

Like many young-modern restaurants here in the US, talented technique-driven chefs are striking out on their own and creating their culinary identity. Puskas and Parry are not only excelling (a stellar review filled a few weeks ago reinforcing this fact) but are doing things on their own terms. Talking with chef Parry left the impression that they are trying to be different (not using Wagyu as a final savory) but not stand out, but rather to raise the bar across the Sydney fine dining scene. Modernist plating aside, the ability to tap into their own garden and the movement away from protein-laden tastings that weighs (no pun intended) the diner down are welcome additions IMO. While Sixpenny didn't serve the best food of our trip, it seems to be improving steadily and wasn't far behind, but was easily our favorite meal in Sydney.

Late dinner was at Din Tai Fung. For some reason we thought the restaurant closed at 7:30 so we're relived to see numerous people waiting for their table. We kept our order relatively simple but arriving later into service they were understandably out of a few items we wanted to order. Cucumber Salad in a Vinaigrette Dressing wasn't the best value (maybe half a small cucumber?) but was tasty enough. To supplement our general lack of vegetables we devoured our order of Water Spinach with Garlic. DTF's version was fine but lacked the "wok hai" we look for in many stir fried dishes. Two orders of XLB. One with Pork and the other with Pork and Crab. Good versions with thin skins and a nice soup base, served with the usual ginger and black vinegar condiments. We shared a Braised Beef Noodle Soup, surprisingly better than expected, and Taiwanese Fried Rice with a Crumbled Chicken Filet, also better than expected. A solid if not spectacular meal, it satisfied our craving for Chinese food.