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Miss Dissent Local Star

Food writer for more than a decade, Miss Dissent writes Does My Bomb Look Big In This? - Sydney's most comprehensive food blog. You'll find well over 1500 reviews. On Zomato over 23 million views of reviews & photos. On Trip Advisor Level 6, #22 Sydney reviewer, 175,000 readers. Yelp 143,000 viewers in last 90 days. The blog: http://missdissent.livejournal.com/

Joined 27 December 2013 Lilyfield, NSW

  • Recco Lab

    Restaurants Rozelle, NSW
    Pizza, a true expert once told me, is twenty percent worse by the time it gets to your home. I try my best to honour food by eating restaurant food in restaurants wherever possible. So while I did cheat and try out ReccoLab?s pizzas before dining at the restaurant, I don?t review home delivery. Needless to say though, they were good enough takeaway for me to wonder what they?d be like in-house. Cue me: taking a trip to this buzzing glass box in an upmarket part of Rozelle.

    It?s a grander enterprise than I?d imagined, with two distinct dining spaces running alongside three separate kitchens. In the front café there?s a gleaming white brick wood fire pizza oven, and a busy white-clad pizzaiolo firing off pizzas. The second glass-fronted laboratory style-kitchen is where the Neapolitan pizzas (and their naturally proofed 48-hour dough) are created. The third kitchen, responsible for the rest of the menu, is in the bar and restaurant section of the long space. It?s a convivial atmospheric room with dark wood detailing adding something organic to the modern, minimalist space.

    The hard working bartenders turn out cocktails of a very high calibre. Ananas Mezcalito ($17) is a beautifully balanced cocktail based on a super smoky mescal. It rolls around your mouth with an integrated mix of fresh pineapple, Cointreau, lime juice and homemade habanero syrup. If you prefer an aperitivo ? an appetite stimulating pre-dinner cocktail ? hit up Sbagliato Al Basilico ($15). Garnished with a basil leaf cupping a trio of pine nuts, it?s Campari, Cinzano Bianco and Tio Pepe sherry that has been shaken with lemon juice, homemade basil syrup and aquafaba emulsifier (which mimics the properties of egg white).

    There is also the 2015 St. Michael-Eppan Gewürztraminer ($69), a lovely easy-drinking wine with floral notes, white stone fruit and some underlying spice. It goes down well with the chalkboard special ? Sarde Beccafico ($18). Presented on brown paper, three baked sardines have their oiliness tamed with pine nuts, currants and breadcrumbs. This dish unlocks the wine?s sweetness and varietal characteristics.

    The food here is not Italian-inspired, or Italian-influenced, it?s real Italian regional dishes from specific places. The owner, Antonio (who is also a DJ), is Genovese. The name pays homage to the costal town of Recco, which is famous for focaccia con formaggio, so obviously you should try some! It?s basically two layers of very thin focaccia dough filled with melted Italian stracchino cheese. We tried it Molto Buona ($29) which is topped with thinly sliced (they have a Berkel) prosciutto di San Daniele and Italian truffles. It eats somewhere between a pastry and a pizza, and is great for sharing as an entrée.

    Battuta ($21), a hand-cut beef rump dish that?s Italy?s answer to French tartare, sits on creamy burrata with hazelnuts and anchovies. It?s one of the gentler and more easily charming raw beef dishes you can eat.

    The busy floor team are fresh off the plane with thick accents and wonderful rolling r?s. We got genuine warmth, connection and enthusiasm across three different staff members, despite every table being full. Good service is also found in the details, like heated share plates, landing right before our Spaghettone Verace ($28). This spaghetti dish dotted with pipis, parsley, garlic, white wine and chilli was perfectly al dente. The shellfish were in a few seconds too long, but the briny juices were excellent.

    The only dish I wouldn?t order again was the Cauliflower ($13) side of flash-fried cauliflower with gremolata and good ricotta salata. It was too raw in places, too cooked in others, though improved by their excellent orange, fruity house-made chilli oil.

    Clearly though I forgot to try the pizza I actually came here to eat - so I'm going to need to revisit. I'm tempted to try a Tuesday night when it's Giro Pizza (all you-can-eat) for an astonishing $20 per head.
  • Fastway Couriers

    Couriers Sydney Olympic Park, NSW
    Worst courier service in Australia. They don't care. They don't even take your call IN THIS COUNTRY, so we have no idea if they are underpaying their useless telephonists. Their website doesn't work properly. They don't actually try to redeliver your parcel on the day you redirect it to. When you do call and set another day verbally, they don't apologise for their inadequacies, nor do they deliver on the NEW day they arranged. If you call and ask to speak to a manager to make a complaint, they say none are available. I would never use them. I have contacted the sender of my parcel to ensure THEY never use them again. I will never buy any other goods that use this courier.
  • Dinner with Tinsae

    Caterers Winmalee, NSW
    After immigrating to Australia and settling in the Blue Mountains, Tinsae began popularising Ethiopian culture and cuisine using Ethiopian coffee ceremonies at markets and events. Ethiopia is widely recognised as the birthplace of coffee, and Ethiopians have a particularly fragrant way of roasting the green coffee beans in a clay pot called a djebena. Tinsae's Djebena Coffees business soon extended to cooking classes at the Auburn Community Centre. Her latest initiative is a series of dinners at her own home under the name Dinner with Tinsae.

    The meal began with baskets of Injera, rolls of pliable, pancake-like bread with the tasty tang of fermentation. We were encouraged to unroll them on our plates and dot them with wot (thick stews) and assorted accompaniments. In Ethiopia, it is traditional to eat with your hands, using the injera to collect the wot and deliver it all to your mouth.

    The highlight of the meal was Doro Wot - a spicy Ethiopian chicken stew. It's pretty much Ethiopia's most famous dish, and is usually reserved for celebrations because it takes many hours to prepare. Like an Indian curry, the magic is in the slow cooked onions. The rather astounding thick gravy is flavoured with Berbere, a complex Ethiopian spice blend featuring up to fourteen different ingredients. The Doro Wot was served alongside a colourful vegetable stew - Atkilt Wot - made with cabbage, carrots, green beans, capsicum and potatoes. Bowls of earthy roasted beetroot and home-made Ayib, a feta-like cheese also made the rounds. Another meal highlight was Misir Wot, a deep red lentil dish that uses the same berbere spice mix as the chicken stew, but somehow manages to taste completely different. It was great rolled in injera with a scattering of Ayib for a hint of creaminess.
  • Frankie's Beans

    Cafes Darlinghurst, NSW
    The coffee machine ? a white Sanremo Opera ? looks like something out of the Thunderbirds. The logo has been burned into the custom-finished wood front. It?s the centerpiece of this stylish café newcomer, as it should be ? Frankie?s Beans Specialty Coffee Roasters are serious about coffee.

    Perched on the side of The Elan the café makes good use of an oddly-shaped space. The well-lit barista and kitchen area is nicely framed using a white ceiling a row of spotlights. The lower-lit seating area keeps some height, and uses theatrical technique to keep your eyes on the barista, by painting all the fixtures black.

    After placing an order at the counter, we pull up some banquette and an ergonomic Scando-style wooden chair; finally slowing enough to appreciate the finer details. Below our feet are shiny polished concrete floors. In one corner a stylish Gramovox vertical record player is spinning vinyl (with less chance of damaging it); while on another wall there?s a white coffee grinder with shiny copper fittings. It all adds up to a beautifully put together space.

    We began our caffeine journey with our usual poisons ? a Latte ($3.50) and a Flat White ($3.50) ? made with Frankie?s award-winning 3 Colombians blend. This coffee is made using single origin Colombian beans that have been roasted three different ways, and then blended by café owner, Frank. I found it to be smooth and fairly quiet, not throwing either chocolate or fruit, but giving me a balanced, easy-to-like cup with good crema.

    In terms of eats, the Bacon & Egg Roll ($10) here is a beauty. Presented on a milk bun pimped out with Haloumi ($4), it?s further enhanced by Frank?s special barbaioli sauce (a blend of BBQ and aioli). I?d be hard pressed to think of a better bacon?n?egg roll I've had in recent years. For something more homely, and more possible to eat on the go, the Lamb Jaffle ($10) is your menu go-to. Filled with a generous amount of long-strand, 8-hour slow-cooked lamb, cheese and tzatziki, it only wanted for a whisker more salt.

    After we?d taken the edge off our hunger, we had a chat with Frank about his own personal coffee revolution ? F.A.B. ($4). It?s short for Fractional Atmospheric Brewing, and in a nutshell, it?s a way to use a modification on the espresso machine to create a pour-over style coffee without the high price tag, or the long wait. The modification reduces the atmospheric pressure that water is introduced to the ground coffee, from about 9 bar (nine times the atmospheric pressure at sea level) to less than 1 bar. Sanremo built the modificed parts, and were so impressed with the results, there?s talk of them making this modification an option on their machines going forward.

    We give it a whirl with a single-origin coffee from the high elevation K'ach'ur region of Ethiopia. Frank gave it to us in the standard fifteen grams dose, which gives it a bit more body. What you should expect is a cleaner, more delicate brew than your standard espresso shot. This allows you to discover more of the coffee?s characteristics, like floral notes, and more subtle acidity. The flavour also develops and changes as it cools.

    "Who am I to tell you how to have your coffee - milk, sugar etcetera? Though we?d like you to try it without,? Frank finishes our conversation reassuringly. He?s quietly persuasive though, and I have no doubt that if I became a regular, I?d soon be walking in and asking for an 11.5 gram Ethiopian F.A.B ($4). I?d also ask for a Portuguese custard tart ? they?re pretty fab. too!
  • Capriccio Osteria

    Restaurants Leichhardt, NSW
    With Capriccio Osteria being located in my local ?hood, I've followed it quite closely, hoping this modern Italian restaurant would survive and thrive in a strip that could be past its heyday. After a lackluster visit last year, I was pleased to get wind of them acquiring a new chef. It provide a good reason revisit, and, as it turned out, rediscover a much-improved restaurant.

    We?re seated on the ground floor of this sunny yellow, two-storey restaurant, where I?m pleased to report, they have swapped out the high tables and bar stools for normal height tables and chairs. Wanting to wash away the taste of a hectic workday, we quickly secure a pair of Gin Rosso ($16) cocktails. They team gin and Aperol with fresh, seasonally appropriate blood orange juice; and represent a tart, fresh reminder that spring has well and truly sprung. Our table is quickly flooded with small plates from the appealingly succinct menu.

    With pretty new share-plates with lemon yellow logo branding on hand, we dig in. Leek and Taleggio Arancini ($15) are crisp and tasty; and further improved by a smear of pumpkin seed pesto. They manage to convert even my most skeptical dining companion, who has long hate them. Prosciutto Parma ($12) had been swapped out for Culatello on the night we dined. We counted ourselves as particularly lucky to be wrapping pieces of this thinly sliced, slightly drier and tastier cured pig product around warm fingers of House-Made Rosemary Focaccia ($5). It's now replacing prosciutto on my shopping list at home.

    A small pot of Chicken Liver Pate ($9) gives a modern Italian take on a wider European dish by using a mandarin jelly topper. The pate is tasty and super fine, and accompanied by precisely the right number of hazelnut crisps. The showstopper was a seasonal Wagyu Beef Rump Carpaccio ($35). Super-thin beef slices arrive adorned with truffle mayonnaise and Jerusalem artichoke crisps. They are then finished at the table with a generous number of black truffle slices, shaved by hand in a pungent cloud. It?s earthy and wonderfully textural - a truly sublime finale to this year?s truffle season.

    While the carpaccio was admittedly quite fancy, the chef has walked a good line with the menu, leaving diners the option to duck in on a weeknight for a bowl of hand-made pasta and a glass of wine. Ravioli ($28) filled with pumpkin and ricotta (that keeps them from being over-sweet) are well-handled in sage brown butter. They?re simply presented with a scattering of almonds and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if you so desire.

    Even better is the Saffron Fettuccine ($28) presented in a golden tangle under slow cooked lamb shoulder, pistachios and luminous white shavings of ricotta salata. This dish shows remarkable restraint, with lean lamb tamed into something that still lets the subtle ribbons of freshly-made pasta speak. Throw in a glass of the 2014 Cantine Vernaccia ($15) from Sardegna, Italy ? a citrusy wine that has the weight of an unwooded chardonnay - and you could walk into the night after a satisfying, one-course midweek meal.

    It would however be a shame to miss out on a slice of Sydney?s impending summer ? a cool green Basil Panna Cotta ($13) with slow-roasted pineapple. There?s also a black-on-black Liquorice Ice Cream Drowned in Espresso ($10) that?s so moody, light seems to fall into the glass. I leave smiling, because Capriccio Osteria just delivered me the best meal I?ve eaten in this space.
  • Meet Mica

    Cafes Surry Hills, NSW
    The beautiful Mica looks a little flustered. Her fledgling foray into the café world is lacking both head chef and head barista on the Tuesday I visit. This year?s flu season has been especially brutal. Every table in her eponymous Surry Hills café ? Meet Mica ? is full, with a queue of people waiting.

    Mica, who has a Cantonese background, has chosen a largely Japanese aesthetic for this venture. She explained it's because she?s ?very impressed by the way Japanese people treat their food (dedication and freshness).? Mica has left the finer details in the hands of Chef Lee. Lee is Le Cordon Bleu trained, with work experience stints in famous kitchens including InterContinental Sydney, Tetsuya's and Kensington Street Social. His resulting café menu certainly represents one of Sydney?s more interesting brunch offerings.

    While we wait for our food, we take in the surroundings. Markco Studio have created a very stylish space, despite it being situated on the edge of a fairly daggy, brown brick housing complex. Tiny round tiles provide a monochrome backdrop for shiny exposed copper piping and gold accents that extend all the way to a custom-finished La Marzocco coffee machine. White-painted fixtures add height to the bright and airy space, and show off the antler-like, gold light fittings. A few leafy green hanging plants and wood?n?weave chairs throw in something organic, keeping it all from feeling too sterile.

    Opened at the table, a red and black bento box called Lite Sammies Bento ($14.50) arrives packed with dainty white-bread sandwiches, all with their crusts removed. It?s made visually interesting with edible flowers, and rounded out with crisp lotus chips and edamame. It?s level-up Australian café fare not only in the aesthetics, but also in terms of variety, because each of the three sandwiches has a different filling. There?s smoked salmon, pickled fennel and mixed greens accentuated by a piquant dill mustard cream; a vegetarian antipasto-style filling with grilled zucchini, roasted capsicum and basil pesto; and my favourite ? a pliable Japanese egg roll with lettuce.

    Flowers also make an appearance on Porridge ($14.50), where creamy, comforting oat porridge is brightened up with orange and yuzu, toasted almonds and clouds of coconut foam.

    Matcha French Lava Toast ($18) has obviously been designed with a view to Instagram. The matcha-dusted toast is supposed to cut open to reveal an oozing matcha core. My French toast was sadly ooze-free. Regardless, I was impressed with the flavour profile of the dish, which combined smokiness from blow torching, nicely bitter matcha, and condensed milk passed separately so you could sweeten it (or not) to your palate?s content.

    With Chef Lee not in the kitchen, execution and timing during my visit to Meet Mica was not perfect. However it's early days, and I?m intrigued enough about lobster congee to give it another shot?
  • Red Chilli Haymarket

    Restaurants Haymarket, NSW
    Recently we took a wander down Dixon Street and ended up at the place that pioneered Sichuan cuisine in the Sydney region, all the way back in 2002. It?s called Red Chilli Sichuan Restaurant, and you access it via a carpeted staircase that has seen better days. The dining room however, is expansive and nicely decorated, with an array of private dining spaces.

    High backed wooden chairs surround golden-topped tables that are bathed in yellow light. Slate tiles frame a viewing window into the kitchen, where a calm, efficient white-clad chef labours.

    The second you?re seated, your table is instantly treated to tea and an appetite-inspiring plate of spicy Sichuan-style cabbage and peanuts. It?s got bite ? as has much of the traditional, Sichuan menu, though it also contains Sichuan dishes that are devoid of heat, like tea smoked duck.

    Anticipating a chilli-heavy meal, we load up on beverages ? Tsing Tao Beer ($7) and a very cuisine appropriate Handpicked Margaret River Chardonnay ($10/glass). The wine list her eis a cut above those trotted out by many of the neighbouring Chinese restaurants. Handpicked Wines ? who have a cellar door in Chippendale ? offer a curated collection of wines from around the globe, mostly earmarked for export to the burgeoning Chinese market.

    You'll also find a considerable Baijiu selection at Red Chilli Sichuan Restaurant. Baijiu is China's distilled grain spirit made from fermented sorghum - one of the more famous ones is called Moutai - but it may be an acquired taste.

    First to land are the fiery dried red chillies of Deep-Fried Chicken Dices with Hot Dry Chilli ($24.50). This dish looks much more scary than it eats. Pick through the dried chillies and only eat the fried chicken morsels, which will quickly numb your lips with Sichuan pepper powder.

    For something a bit saucier, the Stir Fried Clam with Spicy Sauce ($28.50) is a well-balanced dish. The little, briny clams are rounded out with tender lotus root, ginger, shallots, more dried chillies and Sichuan pepper. It?s gentler on the spice, and the sauce is lovely scooped up in the clamshells, and on rice.

    We also try loading it into an odd little steamer basket of Sichuan Style Sweet Corn Bread ($9.50/6). While it's a good vehicle for delivering sauce, I'm not sure these are entirely successful. They look, smell and feel a bit like corn-flavoured Playdough, with a curiously sweet rather than salty flavour. I'm more enamoured with a well-blistered plate of Stir Fried Green Beans with Pork Mince ($18.50).

    It was a solid introduction to the inaugural Red Chilli Group restaurant that started their journey towards ten restaurants. This group now contributes to the popularity of Sichuan cuisine in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane.
  • Le Coq Healthy Rotisserie

    Restaurants Rozelle, NSW
    As we arrive the female French maitre d' appears to be having a breakdown. She's emitting a deep throaty cough while being patted by the slightly uncomfortable kitchen-hand, who is also running dishes out to the packed dining room. Le Coq is seriously understaffed on the floor, which means tables, including my own, are seated without menus, water, wine or attention for quite some time. We eventually ask the harried kitchen-hand for menus, and are soon happily weighing up proteins and debating duck fat potatoes versus truffled mac'n'cheese. Diners are always happier being left with a menu in their hands.

    The phone is ringing constantly, and a helmet-clad Uber driver hovers near our table, adding to the chaos. A regular diner comes in to order takeaway: "You had me on hold, so I walked down." She's told to return in twenty minutes. One can't help but wonder if this understaffing is by choice or mishap, given the owner's published thoughts on inflated salaries.

    I'm distracted from my musings by the arrival of wine. Cleverly, the wines here are all the same price - Glass ($13), Half ($30), Full ($55) - which feels quite liberating. We settle upon an Aussie 2016 Roeleur Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley that's good without being great, and a 2015 Chateau de Corcelles Gamay from Beaujolais, France that smells incredible but has a lot of stem. It settles with food, and we enjoy switching between these two half carafes at will.

    In this newish incarnation of the La Grande Bouffe space, it has been remade as broadly French provincial, with fake plants, clusters of caged hipster bulbs, backlit wooden booze shelves and dark wood fans. The visual centerpiece is of course the well-lit, gold embossed rotisserie oven that first holds a crisp skinned piece of pork, then a pair of pre-smoked ducks with dangling necks, spinning lewdly and seductively over a horizontal row of rotating chickens.

    We decide to hedge our bets on dueling poultry. Our Holmbrae Corn Fed Chook ($26/half) and Smoked Crispy Duck A L'Orange ($36/half) arrive from the orderly open kitchen relatively quickly after our order was taken. Our proteins are presented on a platter and stand, lifting the aromatic birds closer to our eagerly flared nostrils.

    They're both beautifully cooked - the chicken juicy and flavoursome, the duck smoky and intense with a thin layer of subcutaneous fat keeping it moist in your mouth. The duck is rich, but if you're smart enough to follow staff advice, the Hot Chic ($4) sauce is a perfect green chilli-based accompaniment that does an excellent job at cutting the fat.

    We eschew entrees for a one-course family style meal, rounding it out with tangy Ma Poule ($12/small) coleslaw with grilled corn and a lime yoghurt dressing, and Thyme Garlic and Duck Fat Kipfler Potatoes ($10). The latter aren't quite as exciting as I wanted them to be, but they're excellent vehicles for delivering more Chicken Gravy ($4). The gravy, incidentally, is so good, I find myself wiping out the gravy boat later in the meal.

    Despite the understaffing, this is the upmarket chook shop I've always wished existed. They'll definitely win my business again the next time I want comfort food.
  • Gelato Republic

    Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Petersham, NSW
    Just launched in Petersham, Gelato Republic, is Michael's first ever gelato store. After learning to make gelato in Southern Italy, Michael has returned to the Inner West to present his own take on contemporary gelato.

    Rather than the usual temple of fluorescent light, Michael has created an upmarket dark and moody setting. The almost theatrical backdrop focuses your attention where it matters - on the two long cabinets of gelato. The first cabinet presents dairy-based flavours, while in the second there's an equally big array of sorbets that are both vegan and lactose free.

    With staff handing out taste testers, I couldn't resist starting with one of the more unusual sorbets - turmeric, lemon and ginger. It's vibrant and punchy with a big turmeric flavour. It's also surprisingly creamy - something Papaianni aims for with all of his sorbets.

    You will also find some surprising flavours in his dairy-based selection, running from a slightly too subtle avocado & balsamic, to the first olive-based gelato I've tried: olive and basil. It's a remarkably adult flavour with nicely balanced sweetness against the savouriness of black olive. However if these two sound too weird, you will find traditional and contemporary favourites like chocolate and salted caramel, with the latter eating nicely. All of the dairy flavours are smooth and ice crystal free, and surprisingly, they don't leave you with a furry tongue.

    The best thing I put in my mouth was wasabi gelato - it's a pretty pale green and packs an intense wasabi hit. It's remarkably refreshing and palate cleansing, and would be a winner with jalapenos on a summery carpaccio of raw kingfish.
  • The Silly Tart Kitchen

    Restaurants Elizabeth Bay, NSW
    Having been a Kings Cross resident for many years, I have a soft spot for this suburb, particularly as it was prior to Mike Baird's unjust lockout laws, that disguised a sell-out to property developers. Revisiting 1 Kellett Street was like a trip down memory lane. My eyes couldn't help but see the deep red walls of Libertine, when the space was a French Vietnamese restaurant, and the white smoke haze of Korean barbeques from when it was South Seoul. In the hands of new owners, Nina Purton and Josh Cook, the cushion room has given way to a jam room, and darkness has been replaced with glorious light.

    While there was a bicycle draped casually at the entrance, its rusty spokes, flat tyre and hand-lettered signage screams heart rather than hipster. This honesty extends to the interior where the furniture is all found, or inexpensive, and refurbished by the pair, who laughingly explained that before opening The Silly Tart Kitchen, they'd never used a drill! What they have created is nothing short of amazing.

    As you move through the space, take the time to investigate all the nooks and crannies. You'll find everything from a fairy-lit local gin display, to a shabby chic cake table, to a cabinet where they are aging their own bacon. Rather than another hipster theme park, Silly Tart Kitchen is a venue where the curtains match the drapes. Their handmade artisan environment is backed up by a five-kilometre locavore strategy (the tightest I've ever seen) and a commitment to making everything they can in-house.

    Despite the pleasurable interior, it's hard to resist dining in the beautiful arbour of hydroponic plants. Come summer when these edible greens get properly established, this indoor-outdoor space will have its own cooling microclimate.

    Wines are nicely obscure, with the same focus upon staying as local as possible. The Pankhurst Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay ($15/glass) is a lovely dry Canberra district sparkling wine, that's an excellent day drinker without the usual crippling acidity. Equally good is the 2017 Gilbert Rosé Saignée ($13/glass) from Mudgee/Orange, which teams a kiss of strawberry with a savoury, dry finish. In the afternoon I'm partial to Mimosas ($15/each), and here they're tarted up with house-made strawberry syrup against cold pressed juice and their quality sparkling wine.

    Country is given an excellent Kings Cross twist in the clever Five Spice Meatloaf ($18). While it arrives - on a beautiful artisan plate - looking like something Nanna would recognise and enjoy, the poached duck egg and XO sauce give it a kick she might not be expecting. It's a crackin' update, resurrecting a dish that has all but disappeared from menus in recent years.

    Cured Snowy Mountains Trout ($19) gives you a salty and punchy platter of 12-hour gin-cured fish with 'little boys' (sausages), pickled cucumber, fennel tops and lime aioli. It's unusual but it gets me grinning. Fried Corn Fritters ($16) give you chance to wrap your lips around the house-cured bacon, and house-made fermented chilli sauce or tomato ketchup, against fluffy corn and capsicum fritters. Or you can play it cool with Poached Chicken and Felafel Salad ($19) - a dish that neatly proves healthy can still be tasty and eye-catching - while saving some space to hit up the cake table.

    Mother's Pikelets ($16) are the antidote to all that ails you - including disappointing encounters with over-sweet desserts designed for Instagram rather than actual eating. Three fat pikelets are dressed with light orange syrup, and dotted with candied ginger and (homemade) Turkish delight. Pistachio, fresh strawberries and curls of coconut round it out, though it's the toasted coconut marshmallow that transports me straight back to child-like delight.

    The plates, by the way, are by retiree and backyard potter, Karen Walker, whom Josh "met randomly at a birthday party". It's another great example of the way this pair use locavore not just as an on-trend buzzword, but as a method to increase connectivity with the artisans and humans who inhabit their local sphere. The Silly Tart Kitchen is exactly what the new Kings Cross has been missing.
  • Dumplings & Beer

    Restaurants Darlinghurst, NSW
    While it's not likely to win any awards, the second outlet for Dumplings & Beer in Stanley Street, East Sydney, is a good spot for a fast, no-frills feed. Decorated with red fabric lights and a wall-sized dragon mural, and playing kung fu films with the sound off on one wall, the restaurant takes over street level in a two-storey terrace.

    Pull up a stool, or a seat on the red banquette, and on the newsprint-covered, lacquered tables you'll find an order pad and a pencil. Go nuts, stuff is cheap for Darlinghurst, and serves are small enough to allow you to order a diverse dinner without much coin. Rendang Beef Slider ($9.90/2) offer up quite a passable long-strand beef rendang inside a fractionally soggy bao-style steamed bun.

    Obviously, as the name suggests, you should match your bao with beer. We try out their House Draft Beer ($8) - an on-tap Grevensteiner - but hedge our bets with a Chimay Dorée ($12). To be honest, my preference is for the latter, a light and refreshing Belgian beer that is dominated by hops, citrus and coriander. The beers are passed to us over the side of the bar, rather than brought to our table, which is odd, but fits with the low-key, write-your-own-order style of place that it is.

    The mostly young crowd does not seem to mind that Dumplings and Beer don't stand upon ceremony. They're too busy quaffing fluffy BBQ Pork Buns ($3/each) packed with red, sticky pork, and ordering steamer baskets of dumplings. We hit up the Mild Chilli, Beef and Mushroom ($12/3), which arrive in purple dumpling skins that are have a reasonable thickness. We dip them in a soy and vinegar mix that pleases my dining companion.

    The friendly staff and reasonable prices make up for them not being the most amazing dumplings I've ever eaten.
  • Jarrod's Shakes 'n' Snags

    Specialty Food Parramatta, NSW
    I was quite impressed by the super-cute Kombi van set up called Jarrod's Shakes'n'Snags. Not only is the food truck itself beautiful to look at, the items on the cool surfboard menu all sound great! With hotdogs currently Sydney's biggest food trend, we settled upon the Wild Pig Snag ($9). A super-soft hot dog bun is stretched to the limit with a generous amount of smoky, chilli pork chorizo, fresh baby spinach leaves, cheese, onion, bacon bits, pineapple, jalapenos and Jarrod's chimmichurri. It's one of the best hotdogs I've tried.
  • The Owl House

    Restaurants Darlinghurst, NSW
    It had been way too long since my last visit to The Owl House - a bar that wormed its way into my heart in 2012. Charismatic owner threw me straight into The Dog House. While I was willing to take one on the chin for neglecting my favourite bar, it turned out this wasn't meant as a punishment. It's actually the name of their new Thursday night initiative, where diners can chow down on dangerously good hot dawgs matched to whiskey or beer.

    Now before you get all twitchy about sausages containing filler, let me assure you that while sausage did mean something very different when I was a kid, The Owl House's snags are the bomb. The three sausages I wrapped my lips around during my time in this bar were all top notch, and made in-house. I count myself as lucky to have tried three, generally they'll be presenting a single (and fully-customisable) hot dog option: Tonight's Dawg ($12).

    Don't get too excited! First read the beautiful letterpress menu card that offers up some booze-matching options. My recommendation is to hit up the Dawg + Buttered Fashioned ($25). This dangerously smooth Old Fashioned update involves butter-infused Bulleit Bourbon, honey and bitters, arriving in a tumbler with orange rind and a slow-melting ice sphere.

    It's a hit against tonight's actual dawg - a tasty Merguez sausage. It arrives with a brioche hot dog bun on a board with sauerkraut, pickles and caramelised onions. Saucing is left entirely up to you - with a row of little jars left for you to investigate further. To my eye the earthy North African Merguez sausage suits the smoky chipotle, but don't let me hold you back: load up your doggie until it's full to bursting!

    As luck would have it, on the Thursday I dined, I was also able to try a Balmain bug sausage in a Dawg + House Beer ($19) arrangement. The beer was Peroni Red (or Peroni, before it was ruined for export) and the sausage was a subtle beauty that was best matched to sweet onions and tartare.

    Heed my advice and visit quickly, and you might be able to make your evening a multi-snag affair by eating a dawg as entrée, and moving onto Duck Cassoulet ($34). The latter dish is one of the cleanest and clearest renditions of cassoulet I've tried. This cleverly ensures each ingredient - including an excellent Tolouse sausage - is able to speak in turn. The cassoulet is centred upon a duck Maryland, which has oodles of flavour, backed up by sausage, lardons, beans, carrots and sweet onions, then further enriched by bone-marrow butter smeared upon bread.

    You really want to enjoy this thoroughly modern cassoulet rendition before summer comes callin'. It also calls for wine, and The Owl House is very good at answering this kind of call. I tried it against an intriguingly wet 2014 Domaine Henri Delagrange Et Fils Aligoté ($13/glass). This white burgundy is soft and intriguing, and well versed at cutting duck fat. For a completely opposite wine to tackle this dish, the 2010 Chateau Bouscasse Jardins Petit Corbu, Peti Manseng ($14/glass) is richer and more syrupy, making it a good match to the pepper and spice in the cassoulet. Heck, have them both! You're in a bar, and as yet the Liberal Government haven't made any laws against double parking wine...
  • Market By The River

    Farmers Market Ermington, NSW
    It's hard to pass up an outdoor market once the season has turned to Spring, so Saturday saw me taking my first trip to Market By The River. This monthly market takes place on the first Saturday of each month in Halvorsen Park, Ermington. It sits in the middle of a riverfront development that?s part of the changing face of this suburb. Dominated by a playground, the park itself is a fairly austere, treeless affair with brown grass. The market stalls thus bring some colour and interest to the site. What you will find is a decent collection of high quality food and drink stalls, some fresh produce, and a number of artisan and handmade stalls, with only a few commercial ring-ins like Tupperware.
  • Cucina Locale Revolving Restaurant

    Restaurants Blacktown, NSW
    On a clear evening from Cucina Locale's windows you can see both the city skyline and the Blue Mountains. It feels like the geographic heart of Sydney, though I'll hazard most of you didn't even know this revolving restaurant was here. It's not surprising really; unlike the others in Sydney's revolving restaurant set, Cucina Locale isn't located in a towering high-rise, or in the heart of the CBD. It's tucked away on level five of the Blacktown Workers Club.

    The restaurant dates back to 1994, and I'm reasonably convinced the carpet and décor are original. However it seems churlish to focus on the dated interior when the view is this good. Plus if you get bored on your ambling 47-minute loop of metropolitan Sydney, there's also an interesting local art collection running around the interior, featuring artists like Mulga.

    Despite the name, the food you'll be eating isn't strictly Italian. Chef Jessie Singh took on the restaurant after a year of it lying dormant. Singh is playing to the name's meaning - local kitchen - rather than its linguistic origin. He explains the surrounding local government area "has 140 nationalities, and that's what we're trying to put on the plate." We kick things off with a vibrant Beetroot Cured Salmon ($20) that delights the mouth with tiny cubes of salted, pickled lemon rind against dabs of horseradish creme.

    While it's likely not the first textures of corn dish you'll have eaten, Pan Roasted Scallops ($24) draws upon the holy union between scallop, corn and pig, very successfully. Popcorn is an unusual textural element, but it works against the smooth puree and juicy corn kernels. Crisp pork crackling adds even more crunch against the trio of perfectly cooked scallops, which arrive still translucent in the centre.

    Burnt butter gives the slightly thick Ricotta Ravioli ($20) a solid, savoury edge against the sweetness of candied pumpkin. This pasta dish suits the 2012 Finisterre Pinot Noir ($60/bottle) from their concise, keenly priced list of wines, where all bar two French Champagnes sit under sixty-five dollars.

    By this stage our table has completed one revolution, passing in front of the mock bride and groom set up that is cleverly set on the outside of the revolving restaurant turntable. Surrounded by fairy lights, this table is set under a camera that can live feed it to screens set in the corners of the restaurant where there's also dance floor spaces, or room for a live band with the baby grand piano already in situ. Sadly on the evening I dined, one dance space is cluttered with stacked tables, but it's nonetheless easy to imagine this space in full swing.

    Guests would likely be well pleased with the generously proportioned mains coming out of the Cucina Locale kitchen. While pricy, the 14-Hour Braised Riverina Lamb Shoulder ($40) presents a huge wheel of beautifully rendered lamb shoulder that's big on flavour against a crumbed lamb cutlet, sweet pumpkin puree and a textbook potato gratin. A crisp-skinned fillet of Pan Roasted Atlantic Salmon ($38) proves equally thick, and - delightfully - is cooked so it's still translucent in the middle. It's made into a complete meal with plentiful broccolini and tasty potato roesti with mint aioli used to unite the dish.

    Interestingly though, it's the Lilydale Free Range Chicken Breast ($34) that wins us over. The chook is presented skin-on and nicely juicy over a wickedly good smoked potato puree and pan-seared Brussels sprouts in a lake of great jus. It's one of the best chicken dishes I've had so far this year.

    As we commence our third rotation around the lights and sights of Blacktown, we end our meal with a moist Orange and Almond Cake ($14) and a Deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie ($15). I'll admit that while these days deconstruction has done its dash for me over the pleasure of fully assembled pies, this dessert won me over with crisp meringue sails anchored in tart lemon curd, fresh fruit and quirky quinoa crumbs.

    The technically great cooking and the sheer quirkiness of this location makes me glad grateful that the Australian Good Food Guide brought Cucina Locale to my attention. It's particularly good value on Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday nights when three courses and a glass of wine will set you back $75/head. As I leave I'm already wondering what other treats are buried in Sydney's Greater West?
  • The Governor's Table

    Restaurants Sydney, NSW
    Cease your search for the quintessential place to bring visitors and introduce them to modern Australian cuisine. Blonde wood, part of an understated Scandinavian design aesthetic, makes for a beautiful dining room that allows the sandstone architecture, staghorns and Australian native table decorations to shine. Earthenware plates arrive bearing a good cross-section of contemporary Australian cooking, with plenty of accessible choices.
  • Sky Terrace

    Pubs & Bars Pyrmont, NSW
    It?s like a mini (suit-filled) street festival on the rooftop of the casino. There are food tents serving tasty Chicken Quesadillas ($10) and Grilled Pork ($8), bars scattered around the perimeter, a gaming tent, drinks served in blue plastic cups and?oh?a bongo player. While the bongo-DJ-saxophonist trio leaves my date with ?mixed feelings,? we?re quite happy to enjoy the sense of superiority that comes from being able to see such an expansive view of Sydney and the harbour? Yes, we are looking down on you with cocktails in hand, tiny, scurrying ant-people.
  • Daniel San

    Restaurants Manly, NSW
    With hot pink neon screaming ?wax on, wax off? and a name like Daniel San, Karate Kid style Americanised appropriation of Japanese culture is a given. If you can get past ?me love you long time? trophy plaques, replica caged chooks and goldfish in plastic bags, they dish up credible beachside izakaya (pub) grub. Being a drinking venue ? and one which seats 350 at that ? ordering takes place at the bar.
  • Orange Grove Organic Food Markets

    Farmers Market Lilyfield, NSW
    This is a solid inner city market, though it is expensive. The bacon and egg rolls are the eat-on-site standout. You'll also find good veg, decent bread and cheese. There are multiple van-based butchers who attend as well. If you're lucky the knife sharpener will also be there, and you can get your knives sharpened while you shop.
  • Din Tai Fung

    Takeaways Glebe, NSW
    The signature item at Din Tai Fung is Xiao Long Bao ($10.80), the semi-legendary pork soup dumplings that have carried this restaurant across continents. Let me confirm that this reputation is not unwarranted. These are seriously good dumplings; but be warned: the unctuous soup is delicious, but perilously hot. Similarly delightful is the Braised Beef Noodle Soup ($16.80) with its dark and well-flavoured broth and falling-apart tender beef. The roasted chilli warmth of Shrimp and Pork Wontons with Tangy Sauce ($10.80) had me scraping around for leftover morsels. In fact, all the classic dishes seem to hit the mark.