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Miss Dissent Local Star

Food writer for the last decade, Miss Dissent writes Does My Bomb Look Big In This?, which is Sydney's most comprehensive food blog. You'll find well over 1500 reviews. On Zomato over 19 million views of reviews & photos. On Trip Advisor Level 6, #22 Sydney reviewer, 145,000 readers. Yelp 140,000 viewers in last 90 days. The blog: http://missdissent.livejournal.com/

Joined 27 December 2013 Lilyfield, NSW

  • Husk & Vine Kitchen & Bar

    Restaurants Parramatta, NSW
    With 518 brand new residential apartments above it, and 1400 artifacts below it, Husk and Vine Kitchen and Bar sits at the juncture between old and new. It sits below the suburb?s first five-star hotel, Skye Hotel Suites, which is set to open in August.

    During the excavation for this large-scale development, Crown Group uncovered significant archaeological remains that they have preserved as part of their final structure. They include a 1840s convict's hut, a wheelwright?s workshop, and the cellar of the former Wheat Sheaf Hotel, all sitting right underneath the restaurant. They?re connected by a flight of stairs that allows restaurant guests access to the impressive collection of artifacts, and via a glass floor that offers a glimpse of the archaeological dig from the restaurant?s terrace.

    Connection to this Parramatta of old also informed the restaurant?s wheat and wine concept. You?ll also find connection in the unusual décor choices. Hundreds of styrofoam 'sandstone' boulders are suspended on strings in mirrored boxes, creating an otherworldly cube with moody low lighting. On two sides the room is surrounded by an impressive open kitchen and bar.

    Reading like modern comfort food, the menu is designed to warmly welcome all of Parramatta through the inclusion of multicultural dishes. The menu will also pay close attention to seasonality - on the evening I dined this was evidenced by artichokes forming both table decor and appearing in a silky Jerusalem artichoke and truffle amuse bouche.

    On any evening you can take the opportunity to break Rosemary & Sesame Flatbread ($15) with your fellow dinners at a long convivial table, and smear your torn portion with warm hummus. The flatbreads and pides, including Haloumi, Sumac, Roast Garlic and Parsley Flatbread ($16) are cooked in a Beech clay oven. You?ll also find more easily sharable entrées like Za?atar Fried Chicken ($14) with oregano and garlic dip, and Lamb Ribs ($21) cooked in a date and tamarind glaze. The lamb ribs are good ? neatly avoiding the usual traps of being too greasy or too gamey - and even better when dragged through the accompanying smear of labne.

    Your must-have entrée is a skillet of Burrata Cheese ($19) presented on garlic bread with a cumin-heavy chermoula treatment, raisins, green leaves and pine nuts. It?s unusual but it works! If for some strange reason you?re anti-cheese, there?s also a Swordfish Crudo ($23). The delicate fish is given a grapefruit, white balsamic and pink peppercorn treatment that?s pleasant but was slightly dominated by olive oil on the evening I dined. You'll also find pink grapefruit making an appearance on the cocktail list, in a quaffable Grapefruit Spritz ($12).

    With the restaurant?s theme really leaning towards relaxed, convivial, sharing cuisine, the large share mains like Whole Butterflied Chicken ($45) with chilli, lemon and paprika sweet potato, and Lamb Shoulder ($65) with harissa, okra and chickpea stew, are going to be popular ways to dine. To my palate both of these dishes were under-seasoned, but I suspect it?s part and parcel of them being presented as a please-everyone ?family? style meal. With good quality sea salt on every table, each guest is of course then free to season to their personal proclivity.

    Build these sharing mains into full meals by throwing in sides like Baby Carrots ($11) in cumin, honey and Persian feta, and Chat Potatoes ($12) with intense black garlic offset by sour cream. The 2016 Ross Hill Pinnacle Chardonnay ($80) makes a nice poultry companion. For the lamb shoulder, the 2015 CRFT ?Chapel Valley? Pinot Noir ($80) will do the job without having to resort to anything more tannin-heavy from the interesting wine list that centres upon on Australian cool climate wines.

    For those who don?t like sharing, you could do much worse than your own bowl of silky Hand Cut Pappardelle ($24). You?ll see the thin strands of wide cut pasta hanging in the open kitchen. They?re given a simple burnt butter treatment with cubes of butternut pumpkin, pine nuts and goat?s cheese, and scrub up a treat.

    The short dessert menu offers up modern renditions of the classics. The pistachio and raspberry Bombe Alaska ($16) won fans at my table, but I found it dominated by the marzipan biscuit base. I?ve got no complaints about the pretty Pavlova ($15), tarted up into something quite adult using sharp tangerine and orange blossom cream.

    There's plenty to like about this new Parramatta player who hope to revolutionise the suburb's upper end dining with their accessible, relaxed, sharing menus.
  • Wei Long Hakka

    Restaurants Sydney, NSW
    The last five years have really seen Sydney's Chinese dining establishments broaden from ubiquitous Cantonese-Australian. You can now get a reasonably authentic look at everything from Cantonese to mouth-numbing Sichuan; from Hunan cuisine at restaurants like Chairman Mao in Kensington, to Jinxiang cuisine enjoyed by Uyghurs in China's West. If you look a bit harder, you'll find Yunnanese dishes at restaurants like Two Sticks, the odd bit of Shandong (usually chicken) and North-Eastern Chinese dishes like malatang at Yang Gou Fu Malatang.

    If you'll head into the 'burbs, you can also tick off Fujian cuisine, along with most of China's eight main culinary traditions. However what you might not already be familiar with is Hakka cuisine. This cuisine is associated with the Chinese diaspora. It's Central Plain Chinese food influenced by everywhere the Hakka were displaced to as a result of social upheaval. Many Hakka moved south, so when you visit Wei Long Hakka Cuisine, you will probably find it looks and tastes a bit like Cantonese food...

    Owner Austin starts our night off right by greeting my dining companion by name when we arrive for our booking. He's clearly excited to be presenting the dishes of his childhood inside this nicely appointed, three-storey split level restaurant on Bathurst Street. We're a bit excited too, selecting a not entirely cohesive meal from the nicely illustrated menu.

    We started with a Hakka staple - Dry Noodles ($8.80) - which arrive first as a dish rather than an accompaniment. They're simple, savoury egg noodles, and a silky pleasure to eat. Orange Dust Tomatoes ($11.80) arrive next - a white bowl of bright red, skinned raw tomatoes sprinkled generously with dried orange skin. They're unusual but very palate refreshing.

    Pineapple Quail Eggs ($18.80) presents flash fried soft-centred quail eggs in a sweetish pineapple and capsicum sauce. It initially doesn't appeal, but when eaten in contrast to hotter dishes like fragrant Clams in Hot Chilli Oil ($28.80), it grows on me. As for the clams, I'm pleased to report their spicy treatment doesn't overwhelm the juicy brine from the gently cooked bivalves. I reset my mouth with Smashed Cucumber Salad ($9.80) between forays into the hot, oily pot of clams and bean sprouts that's littered with dried spices. The salad is wet, juicy and dripping in garlic.

    Austin explains the greens accompanying the Beef in Rice Wine Lees ($21.80) are similar to Chinese cabbage. They're cooked with enough crispness to be texturally pleasurable against the super-soft pieces of iron-rich beef. Texture is an important part of Hakka cuisine, so you'll likely notice many toothsome pleasures across your meal. You'll enjoy Hakka food if you like dishes that are simple and honest.

    Austin's stellar hospitality continues right to the end of our meal, when he makes us a number of recommendations for next time based upon the dishes we enjoyed. The price of our meal felt reasonable; and it was further buoyed by being allowed to bring our own sake on a busy Friday night.
  • Fan Tong

    Restaurants Leichhardt, NSW
    A fàntong is a wooden bucket that cooked rice is served from. Traditionally, good quality ones made by artisans were watertight, but poorer quality ones were not. The word later morphed to describe a good-for-nothing person useful only for eating rice. In a positive sense it can also be employed to mean come and eat, and that?s just what local residents Chris and Autumn are hoping you?ll do at their new restaurant: Fàntong.

    Up until three months ago, Leichhardt residents generally had to make the trip east or west - to Haymarket or Ashfield - for their closest dumpling fix. Chris and Autumn decided that it was time for that to change. Building upon their experience at Brewery Espresso in Erskine Street ? a popular café that morphed into a hybrid dumpling joint under their stewardship ? they?ve opened in a two-level terrace on Norton Street. At the moment it?s only operating on the ground level, but plans for change are afoot once the weather warms up.

    The dumplings are handmade on the premises by Autumn, who hails from Beijing. They come in six different varieties (including vegetarian) and can be served up either pan fried or boiled. We opted for Chicken, Black Fungus and Bok Choy ($9.80/8) crisped in a pan. They?re lean and gently flavoursome. With wheat being the staple crop of Northern China, rather than rice, you should expect an abundance of wheat-flour products on this menu. Beyond the dumplings you?ll also find stuffed buns, noodles and pancakes. The Pork and Egg Bun ($7) is stuffed with a clever blend of juicy pork, fried egg, coriander, chilli and spring onion. The bun itself was a bit more like a flat bread roll than I was expecting, but overall it was a tasty dish that went down well with a large bottle of Tsingtao ($13/640ml) beer.

    Stuffed Shallot Pancakes ($7.50) are a bit of a revelation, cut into two sandwich style pieces and filled with tasty beef. With Peking roast duck being a Beijing speciality, Peking Duck Rolls ($8.80/2) were another must-order. The pancakes are nicely pliable and wafer thin, while the duck inside is crisp skinned and moist against hoisin, coriander and thinly sliced spring onion.

    Northern Chinese is generally a bit heavier on meat and lighter on vegetables, so I appreciated the list of inexpensive vegetable sides. Shredded Potato and Carrot Salad ($6.80) with Sichuan oil is a great way to break up all the wheat-based stodge. The thin slivers of carrot and potato are only mildly spicy - something that sadly followed through to our main of Kung Pao Chicken ($16.80). Expecting a good chilli kick, I dived into this stir-fried bowl of chicken, peanuts, capsicum and Sichuan chilli and pepper, only to find it mild and over-sweet. As this dish was the only disappointment in my first adventure under the traditional hanging lanterns in this simply decorated, wood-dominated space, I?m likely to give Leichhardt?s first dumpling joint another whirl.
  • Umi Sushi

    Restaurants Haymarket, NSW
    Playing with a palette of primary colours, the updated Umi Sushi & Bar certainly commands your attention. The glass box's golden yellow bar, bright red neon, and deep blue, 8-meter long fish tank, are only one aspect of the restaurant's update. After eleven years in this spot, the owners have re-made their original Umi Sushi into a flagship live seafood specialist, offering up omakase chef's daily selection sushi banquets. They've also put in a charcoal grill for cook-to-order kushiyaki, added multiple private dining rooms (with karaoke facilities), and backed it all up with a very impressive range of sake and Japanese whisky.

    We're seated at a varnished aggregate counter right in front of the live fish tank; eyeballing both our eventual dinner and the man behind the new menu who you might know from his work at Toriciya. You might also know his Spicy Kingfish Carpaccio ($16.80), since it has followed him across the Bridge. Thin slices of kingfish are dressed with jalapeno and mixed plum jam and presented in a pool of yuzu soy sauce. Chef Fukada pairs them with a junmai ginjo sake from the Niigata Prefecture - Denemon ($20.80/180ml) - served heated to 40 degrees. It's soft and ricey, and a lovely contrast to the lively, citrusy dish.

    The Oven-Baked Savoy Cabbage ($14.80) is another familiar dish that has made the jump - though it's better than the original thanks to the cooking accuracy of a new combi oven. The charred cabbage is flavoured with Japanese citrus, bonito and truffle, giving it a big savoury (umami) mid palate. We consume it with a seemingly light Chiyomusubi ($23.80/100ml) junmai daiginjo sake that comes into its own when drunk with this dish.

    After a pungent palate cleaner of Pickled Wasabi Leaf ($7.80) that I'd definitely order again, we move on kushiyaki. Chef excuses himself to charcoal grill our skewered meats; while we get acquainted with Komagura Munouyaku Yamada ($18.80/180ml). It's a junmai (no distilled alcohol added) kimoto sake, which basically means the yeast starter is made in a way that allows more funky yeast to be present, leading to a wilder, funkier flavour. Served at 40 degrees, it's just the ticket to enjoy against Yakitori Tsukune ($5.80/each). The sticky-sweet and juicy chicken meatball skewers are presented with onsen tamago (hot spring egg) for dipping. The sake is also big enough to cope with Yakitori Wagyu ($6.80/each) - these skewers are a real highlight, cooked at a sufficiently high temperature to ensure the crisp beef fat explodes in your mouth as you bite into it.

    We share a fillet of Char-grilled Saikou Salmon ($23.80) with Suiryu Kimoto no Dobu Junmai Genshu ($18.80/180ml) served at 45 degrees. The salmon is from the high alpine reaches of New Zealand's Southern Alps. Chef has treated the fish to a sake rice malt marinade, then char-grilled it to add some smoky flavours. His sake match works to cleanse your mouth of the oiliness of the cold climate fish.

    We get an on-ice preview of our next course, which includes items from the live seafood tank that we've been watching throughout our meal. The bivalves are expertly opened by Chef, and then placed on a DIY BBQ grill right under our noses. While watching the live South Australian Scallops ($9.80/each) squirm might not be for everyone, this method sees them stewed in their own juices. With a squeeze of lemon and some finely sliced shallots, they're wonderful eating - including the roe which I'm normally not so keen on. Made by an English Toji (master sake maker) called Phillip Harper, our accompanying beverage - Tamagawa Omachi ($20.80/180ml) - is gentle, so as not to interrupt or compete with the bounty of the sea.

    Freshly shucked Jumbo Oysters ($9.80/each) look intimidating raw, but reduce to a manageable size when cooked; though it's the Baby Abalone ($12.80/each) that are a revelation. I've never had abalone quite so tender and flavoursome before. They reminds me of uni (sea urchin roe) because they taste like a rock pool. Chef explains the similarity comes because both sea urchin and abalone eat kelp. He's delighted we enjoy sea urchin roe as many Western diners do not, and quickly assembles us a plate of Sea Urchin Sashimi ($29). Like any omakase menu, this is a moveable feast, where the chef is able to respond to your taste and drinking proclivities in real time.

    As we wrap this amazing Tasmanian produce in crisp nori sheets with wasabi and Maldon sea salt, Chef explains his parents live just fifteen minutes walk from Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. When he visits them, he walks there every day to revel in the sheer number of shellfish available. "Shellfish, rock salt, perfect in morning 8am," he says joyfully as I stuff this wonderfully simple blend into my own mouth with my fingers. It's an impossibly perfect dish.
  • Hombre Mexican Cantina

    Restaurants Campsie, NSW
    Originating in Queensland, Hombre Mexican Cantina was recently snapped up by Franchise Retail Brands (FRB). They're in the process of rolling out these fast casual Mexican restaurants across NSW, starting with stores in Stanhope Gardens and Clemton Park. At the same time they've let vivacious Group Chef Emeleen loose on the menu. This Canadian chef has Syrian-Lebanese heritage and a keen interest in making healthy, delicious food. Emeleen has pared back the menu into a shorter, more easily reproducible list of Tex-Mex inspired dishes, and brought many of the processes (like shredding chicken breast, and cooking rice) in-house.

    In the new Clemton Park store, you'll be consuming her dishes in a modern setting made into a colourful streetscape using painted white bricks, trompe l'oeil (trick the eye) doorways, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) iconography and hanging Edison light bulbs. While the scattered Mexican sombreros are a bit gimmicky, I've got no complaints about the tequila collection. They're offering up a decent range of the big brands - Jose Cuervo, Herradura, 1800, Padron - that goes all the way up to family reserve.

    We tried some out blanco tequila in a straight-up, classic, salt-rimmed Margarita ($9.90) that drank well. Jose Cuervo Especial Tequila worked well in a Paloma ($9.90) though I found the grapefruit soda that's blended with grape juice a bit oversweet. An extra squeeze of lime from the garnish helped created it into something more to my taste.

    In terms of eats, you can tuck into soft tacos that get cheaper in happy hour from 4pm-6pm each day. Fish Taco ($11/2) presents a lightly beer-battered flathead fillet on mild chipotle aioli with mango avocado salsa. It's fresh and good eating but light on chilli so I'd suggest making the two-buck tomatillo verde sauce add-on if you enjoy some zing.

    In addition to the house-made sauces, you can delve into their dining room chilli sauce collection to dress up your Burrito Jose Style ($14). The twelve-inch soft tortilla is filled with a blend of chipotle chicken, refried beans, Spanish rice and cheese, as well as shredded iceberg lettuce, roasted tomato salsa and guacamole. It's lightly toasted and holds together nicely. Once again it has please-all levels of chilli, so we availed ourselves of something labelled mild and full of vinegar called Frank's RedHot and a more aggressive bottle of Venom that really kicked our arses!

    Over a trio of Churros ($8) dusted with icing sugar and served with warm salted caramel and chocolate sauces, I muse that for a fast casual style restaurant, Hombre Mexican Cantina does a reasonable job. The food here is fresh, filling and not too expensive, and the setting is a pleasant place to dine.
  • Koh Chang Thai Restaurant

    Restaurants Campsie, NSW
    Koh Chang Thai Restaurant is a glass box on the edge of the Clemton Park Village piazza. The name means Elephant Island, so it's only appropriate that they're serving elephant beer - Chang Lager ($5). They're currently running a special where you can consume two bottles of this refreshing Thai beer for eight bucks. You'll like it if you like TsingTao, it's also Germanic in style, but slightly maltier with a gentle grainy sweetness.

    Koh Chang been open just three weeks, with staff explaining: "This is a new area, and it is a new area for a Thai restaurant." The all-Thai floor staff are just one part of a completely Thai dining experience that extends to a television screen showing footage of Thailand, Thai music, and orderly rows of imported Thai products sitting above the open-plan kitchen. There's bright orange Por Kwan Sriracha Chilli Sauce, Healthy Boy Brand Soy Sauce featuring a chubby young boy on the label, as well as jars of brined galangal and fronds of green peppercorns, and giant containers of squid sauce.

    As soon as we show an interest - we're keen chilli sauce aficionados - we're presented with two bowls of dipping sauces. The garlic-heavy sriracha is a particular delight when blended with sweet and sticky Caramelised Pork Belly ($22). This generously proportioned entrée is presented as a tidy pile of cubes of slow-braised pig, surrounded by thick cucumber slices to break up the sauce's intensity. Without the chilli addition, I found the sauce a little on the sweet side.

    Betel Leaf Prawns ($10.90/4) show better balance. The four prawns, which are flavoursome in and of themselves, are topped with a complex mix of roasted coconut, cashews, lime, ginger and red onion, and presented on betel leaves for wrapping. They're a one-bite party in your mouth, that'll make you wish they sold the clever topping in jars.

    If you visit for lunch, they offer an all-in-one Thai 'bento box' style meal. Prawn Tom Yum Fried Rice ($15.90) presents a generous serve of prawn-dotted rice that's tasty and compelling. Once again the prawns themselves are tasty, and gently handled. The rice dish is accompanied by a curry puff, a spring roll, a small amount of salad, and two juicy orange slices for dessert, making it a complete, satisfying lunch.

    You'll get to see those fronds of green peppercorns put to good use in dishes like Beef Pad Cha ($15), which is only available on their dinner menu. With thin slices of tender beef, it's a colourful tangle of peppercorns, red chilli slices, yellow baby corn, green beans and galangal in a light, red curry sauce.

    With them already doing a solid takeaway trade on the cold, wintery evening I visited, I have no doubt that Koh Chang's better than average Thai dishes will be well received by the new residents of Clemton Park.
  • La Provence Patisserie Fine Foods

    Cake Shop Lane Cove, NSW
    Arthur and Janie have owned La Provence for almost as long as they had their Crows Nest fine diner, S'Age Bistronomy. The fine diner launched on the day their son was born in June 2016, but sadly closed in April this year. With their attention freed up, they've just finished making some changes to this Lane Cove café. Beginning last May, they gave the venue a spruce-up that included bright, aquatically inspired artwork by Brush Project. With a slight name tweak to La Provence Espresso Bar, Arthur and Janie re-launched the cafe in late June.

    The new menu is an unusual blend of elements from the French-style patisserie it used to be, with a casual version of the intriguing French-Japanese cuisine they presented at S'Age Bistronomy. While here it's owner Arthur in the kitchen, the dishes he's cooking were created in consultation with his previous head chef.

    You'll enjoy dishes like Poached Chicken ($20) from the same beautiful earthenware using the same thin, elegant cutlery that they used at S'Age. The nicely set slices of gently poached chicken are dotted with black sesame powder, and surrounded by a gentle broth. With the 'noodles' made from pumpkin and zucchini, this is a healthy dish that is also gluten free.

    While Salmon Poke ($20) is very on-trend for Sydney right now, by switching out the rice for thin, soba noodles, and giving the diced orange fish a warm blowtorch kiss, they've taken the ubiquitous dish somewhere new. After giving it a good stir, the combination of noodles, seared salmon, cooked pumpkin slices, avocado mousse, green leaves and freshly topped tomatoes (that wanted for a whisker of salt) eats better than the sum of its parts.

    Now if you'd like your brunch to look a bit more like breakfast usually does, the Oat Porridge ($13) with fresh and poached fruit and a caramel quenelle of mascarpone eats very nicely. The collection of bright pink rhubarb, blueberries, vibrant red strawberries and dark cherries is particularly pleasing in winter when I always feel a bit fruit-starved.

    With portions here on the small side, you're left with room to indulge in selections from their patisserie counter. I tried a tiny Lemon Meringue ($6) presented in a slightly too thick tart shell, and a wonderful vanilla-rich Custard Tart ($5.50) made on puff pastry that shattered in a very satisfying way. Everything here is made onsite, from scratch (no pre-mixes).

    In the beverage department, you can't go wrong with their well-made Single Origin coffee. It's got chocolate and honey overtones when you enjoy it with milk in a Latte ($4.70) or Flat White ($4.70). You'll also find the current café drink darlings - turmeric lattes, and third-wave coffees - but I urge you to skip them in favour of the White Chocolate and Raspberry Thickshake ($8). Made using freeze-dried raspberries, this creamy pink milk drink is a taste sensation.
  • Platia Greek Taverna

    Restaurants Ryde, NSW
    Set in an open air corridor running between Top Ryde City Shopping Centre and the Top Ryde Library, Platia Greek Taverna is one of nineteen restaurants. What sets it apart from the rest is that it?s one of the only surviving independents in a highly competitive restaurant precinct that is dominated by chains like Hurricane?s Grill & Bar, Coco Cubano and Bondi Pizza.

    Without the benefit of collective buying power, and the budget for cinema and radio advertising, most independents are defeated by the sheer brutality of paying turnover rent. It?s usually calculated as a percentage of daily takings (which doesn?t take into account costs) calculated by the shopping centre landlord who takes a direct till read from each restaurant tenant.

    To survive capitalism at its most naked and scientific for three years, it?s evident that Platia Greek Taverna is doing something right. As we quench our thirst with a Greek beer - Mythos ($8) - and an even better Cypriot cousin ? Keo ($9), the easygoing charm of staff clue us in to one of the secrets to Platia's success: their people.

    Finding it hard to choose between their mezedes (starters) we opted for a Mezze Platter ($16/head). Minutes after placing our order we?re tucking into a cold platter of dips and dolmades, accompanied by grilled pita bread. The taramasalata here is a particular winner; the faintly pink dip is gentle with a solid, savoury mid-palate. Don?t fill up too quickly though - a second platter of grilled items arrives quickly thereafter. On it you?ll find Cypriot haloumi drizzled with olive oil, cheese stuffed mushrooms and a pile of loukaniko ? country-style pork sausages. It?s a very generously proportioned entrée that represents good value for your spend.

    The same generosity continues into a fat slab of Moussaka ($29) layering eggplant, thinly sliced potatoes, lightly spiced beef mince and fluffy béchamel that?s flavoured with nutmeg. This very honest, homely moussaka is well-suited to the 2012 Ktima Voyatzis ($45/bottle) chardonnay malvasia blend from Greece. It?s a lightly floral and juicy fruit-driven wine that will also suit Mixed Souvlaki ($29). Presenting a juicy grilled chicken and lamb skewer on tangy coleslaw with a pot of tzatziki, this dish also comes with compelling fat-cut chips. They remind me of the Greek fish and chips shops I grew up with in the suburbs.

    When our Dessert Tasting Platter ($28) hits the table, I can see why staff jokingly explained: "Our motto is: you won't leave here and go to McDonalds." Despite already feeling stuffed to the gills, I studiously taste my way across the plate?s gentle galaktoboureko (filo pastry topped custard) and great, cinnamon-heavy baklava. There?s also a gently aromatic walnut cake (karithopita) that?s made by the owner?s wife, though if I had a favourite it?d have to be elmek. Served in a glass, it?s made from layered baked shaved pastry (kataifi) with custard, cream and nuts, and despite being full, it?s intriguing enough to keep my spoon returning. If friendly staff offer you a nip of Skinos Mastiha liqueur to help kickstart your digestion, take them up on it! It?s actually a very soft and beautifully balanced spirit that tastes of pine resin.

    We leave Platia with a smile on our faces, and an understanding of why this independent has won over the people of Ryde despite stiff competition.
  • Uber Thai

    Restaurants Surry Hills, NSW
    Immersed in fragrant Thai basil, my teeth register pleasure at the resistance in long slivers of bamboo, and crunch in tiny green eggplants. Gently cooked chicken thigh is also plentiful in this well-balanced Green Curry ($12), and it?s a steal at the price. You?ll find the Grilled Pork Som Tum with Coconut Rice ($15) intensely sour, while the sweetness of Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly ($14) is cut with fiery bird?s eye chilli. Rather than the usual three rubbery hockey pucks on a plate, Fish Cakes ($6) arrive sliced into a pretty salad. Moo Ping Pork Skewers ($6/2 sticks) show off quality pig against a standout jim jeaw dipping sauce topped with roasted rice powder. Quality is also key in Rump Steak Salad ($15), though if you don?t like your beef pink Green Mango Soft Shell Crab Salad ($15) is a safer bet. Whole Coconuts ($5.50), Thai Iced Tea ($4) and the Sweet Indulgence ($8) of warm glutinous rice b alls stuffed with roasted coconut, round out the menu at this attractively priced spot.
  • SWOP

    Local Government Surry Hills, NSW
    The place to go if you work in the NSW s ex industry and you're looking for free condoms, dams, lubricant and gloves. They also offer free counselling, legal clinics, workshops and social events.
  • Crumble Top

    Restaurants Newtown, NSW
    I don't understand Crumble Top. I'd seen a lot of people posting about this place, so decided to try it. I have to say it was the worst crumble I've ever eaten. My dish felt like two tablespoons of tart stewed rhubarb and apple (good) that was cooked separately to being in the crumble, so not integrated at all. On top, there was an inch of super-dry oats, that as I mentioned didn't integrate with the fruit below. When you cook this dish at home, the moisture from the fruit actually interacts with the underside of the topping. When you whack it under a grill, it simply doesn't happen.

    Vanilla sauce was fine but a bit bland and too thick to pour, and the pandan and coconut ice cream looked so toxic with artificial green colouring, that I felt funny about eating it. Yes, I recognise most pandan extract ice creams use artificial green colouring, I just prefer natural products. I would rather eat a white pandan ice cream than consume artificial colours when I don't need to.

    It cost $13.99 - though I suspect half of that cost is in the over-packaging, which dwarfed the crumble itself. I suspect I could have made a crumble four times as big and five times as good for $5-6. I consider this experience a lesson learned.
  • Holy Duck

    Restaurants Chippendale, NSW
    Second time proved to be a charm at Holy Duck! After visiting this newcomer in January, I returned earlier this month to check out their updated menu. With the crew behind Chefs Gallery supplementing the menu of barbequed and roasted meats with vegetable dishes and a host of rice and noodle options, my first impression was that it?s now much easier to design a balanced meal at this holy temple of duck.

    I?m also pleased to see they took the hint and added a small list of craft beer and wine? if there?s anything rich barbequed meats call for, it?s booze to cut the fat and help wash them down.

    We whet our appetites with an entrée of Steamed Scallops ($16/4) accompanied by the signature Holy Duck! Pale Ale ($8). The beer, brewed locally in Leumeah, is a bit dark, flat and malty for my liking, leading me to prefer a Young Henrys Newtowner ($9). The steamed scallops are topped with alternating bright orange roe and garlic, and served on slices of cucumber surrounded by a soy broth. They?re a gentle and flavoursome way to ease your stomach into the more serious meats.

    Having availed myself of the Holy Duck?s namesake protein on my last visit, on this trip I made the Roast Beef Short Rib ($36) my meal centrepiece. Conveniently sliced for you, it?s presented on the bone under a tangle of green shallot kimchi with an accompanying green puddle of jalapeno puree. It?s a modern and interesting short rib rendition that eats well alone, or against their Roast Holy Duck! Fried Rice ($18). Along with plentiful amounts of roast duck, the fried rice is greened up with shallots and finely diced asparagus, then made lively using mustard seeds that pop on your tongue. My only complaint is that it?s hella salty!

    Kicking back to a standout musical soundtrack of jazz classics and standards, we conclude our meal with bowl of Sichuan Style Hot & Numbing Chicken Wings ($20). Despite appearances, this bowl of crisp and crunchy chicken wings actually doesn?t go far enough on the hot and numbing scale ? though it certainly is well-cooked and tasty!
  • King Kebab House

    Takeaways Campbelltown, NSW
    When I first started writing about food more than a decade ago, a writer more famous than I, told me that there was no such thing as authentic Australian cuisine. This thought has rumbled around in my head ever since, and on countless occasions I have tried to pinpoint what might be our country's culinary motif. Most times I find myself gesturing towards dishes that are Australian produce-driven, but cooked with underlying French technique.

    On the weekend I sat at an outside table at King Kebab House on Campbelltown's main drag, right underneath a sulphur-crested cockatoo that was casually eating a slice of pizza. Perhaps it was this iconic Australian bird that got me thinking about Australian cuisine as I tucked into my very first Halal Snack Pack ($10/medium).

    Eschewing the more traditional Styrofoam box, I opted to eat it from a plate. This dish piles halal-certified doner kebab meat sliced from vertical rotisseries onto a mound of crisp chips dusted in chicken salt. The hefty pile of meat and potatoes is topped with grated cheese and a latticework of sauces. While some - dubbed 'haram dingos' by the popular Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society group - choose to meddle with the customary sauce combination, I opted for what is known as the holy trinity: garlic, chilli and barbecue sauce.

    Damned if this dish wasn't a revelation! By taking our love for chips, chicken salt and barbeque sauce and marrying them with Turkish meats, garlic sauce and tangy chilli sauce, it was a perfectly balanced creation that was somehow bigger than the sum of all its parts. If that isn't what we are as a country on a plate, I don't know what is.

    By contrast, a Single Plate ($13) featuring marinated lamb cooked on a metal sword and served up with three snapping fresh, vinegar-rich salads, a separate dip sampler plate, and plentiful pillowy soft bread, felt very Turkish.

    So maybe where we find Australian cuisine is in the changes we slowly enact upon the dishes that land with the immigrants who now call this country home. We are lemon chicken and honey prawns; we're fried rice with frozen peas in it; we're ham and pineapple pizza; and we're definitely halal snack packs. These are all Australian.
  • Busshari Restaurant

    Restaurants Potts Point, NSW
    Busshari staff are particularly proud of their Soft Shell Crab Karaage ($18) making it into the Daily Telegraph?s list of the top hundred Sydney dishes. For good reason, too, it?s dry and intensely savoury. Ease your way in with the daily Sake Tasting Set ($15/3) that?ll have you discussing the merits of junmai, junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjo like a sake connoisseur. While hot dishes like Saikyoyaki ($20) - a blackened piece of miso-marinated toothfish that flakes into buttery white curls when tapped with a chopstick - are great, this place wins at sashimi.
  • Lucio Pizzeria

    Restaurants Zetland, NSW
    The artisan pizzas you?ll eat here are imperfectly perfect ? complete with bubbling, chewy crusts festooned with just the right amount of char. This is fully certified (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) Neapolitan wood-fired pizza with minimal toppings, like Speck ($21) boasting mozzarella, Fontina and speck. All the better for showing off those flavoursome bases! Going light on the toppings enables you to appreciate the simplicity of what?s there, like paper-thin prosciutto strewn over rocket and cherry tomatoes, topped with freshly shaved Parmesan on the Filetto ($21).
  • Char & Co

    Restaurants Double Bay, NSW
    If you?ve worked in a Sydney office, you?ve probably experienced a Brazilian all you can eat meat-feast on the boss?s dime. The stop/go paddles keeping the meat coming/at bay, with the whole thing feeling hectic and wolfish. At Char and Co it?s different, their churrasco is intimate, and while the meat comes out on swords, you feel like it?s been freshly cooked just for you. And you cant go South American without two things ? a Caipirinha ($17) and ending the night with dulce de leche.
  • Barrio Cellar

    Restaurants Sydney, NSW
    At Barrio, the focus is on tequila ? just in case the massive neon 'Everything with Tequila!' sign in the entrance didn't give it away... After my date and I descended into the art-deco inspired sunken cellar and weaved our way through the excitable after work crowd, she staked us out a comfy booth, while I sorted out the booze. I couldn?t go past Barrio's signature Tommy Margarita ($16), while my date wrapped her lips around a delicate Naked Lady ($18) with strawberry-infused tequila, cointreau, lemon and bitters. Tequila, tacos and tunes... consider me sold.
  • Bunnings Ashfield Warehouse

    Hardware Stores Ashfield, NSW
    Huge hardware store with reasonable parking, though the street out front gets busy. They usually have what you want though locating it can be hard without staff assistance. They make a sausage sizzle outside that usually wins my partner's vote.
  • Pasta Emilia

    Specialty Food Surry Hills, NSW
    Homely rustic pasta that you can eat in with them cooking it, or take away and cook at home. Keep your eyes peeled during truffle season when they have an amazing pop-up called Madame Truffle and collaborate on some pasta truffle combinations.
  • Izba Russian Treats

    Restaurants Newtown, NSW
    While I know my pirozhki (filled Russian buns) from my blini (pancakes) I must admit to being a bit lost with Russian cakes. After a good sampling here, I got up to speed. The first thing that will impress you about the Medovik (or Honey Cake) is the perfectly straight and even biscuity layers, separated by airy vanilla-infused sour cream, and sweetened with honey. It?s the standout of the creamy cake collection, that ranges from the subtler Russia?s #1 Napoleon that intersperses flaky pastry and custard layers, to the namesake Izba, which arrives looking like a pyramid of cut logs constructed from dough-rolled Amarena cherries, glued together by yet more vanilla-infused sour cream.