Sunday 15 June 2008


Ok… so you’ve made it to the second date. That is the result persistence, personified by a phone call the morning after the first date (which I’m told is a cardinal sin) which went unanswered, followed by religiously on the hour messages left on voicemail and sporadic texts inquiring about their whereabouts and safety because they hadn’t picked up. But a call back finally comes after a week of silence, though since they’ve already got plans on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, the quick Wednesday night “catch up but got an early start” after work dinner will have to do. And you’ve got just the place in mind, much like the first date…

So your friend eventually finds you on the corner of Liverpool and Victoria, where you’ve been waiting for ½ hour wondering if they’ll ever come. A short stroll down to Onde, the cozy, smart, contemporary French influenced diner. Peering inside though the glass walls to see the place that could very have been featured in Ikea’s catalogue of Winter 2002 without an empty spot. Being the diligent “date” planner, one would have booked if they could but unfortunately, it’s a first come first served policy or take a ticket and wait for your number to be flashed on the electronic screen kind of establishment. Just before that cold sweat of disappointment arrives, the partner speaks: “A place this busy… must be good… I don’t mind waiting.”

Waiting at the nearby Green Park Hotel, the host eventually calls through tin cans to return to the nest for some food. About time, because the delicate zucchini flowers, stuffed and fried in a slightly oily batter served with rocket, a slice of lemon and shaved parmesan wasn’t going to wait any longer and neither was the partner. Thai inspired discus shaped crab cakes, plate blotted by a basil sauce with fennel salad sank quicker than the hopes of a once optimistic Romeo. Fried squid, amongst a bundle of slithered tomato, rocket and a creamy aioli was a mini revival for entrees.

Mains of fish of the day, a lovely piece of crispy skinned white sacrificed for the consumer came with a lentil vinaigrette providing character absent in the hopeless romantic. Perhaps the only sausage to see any light would be the pork and fennel kind, succulent and juicy, fried and charred nicely on the outside with fresh witlof, sautéed pear til mushy for fruity sweetness and roast potato. Duck cooked in its own fat, tasty and extremely soft, caramelised apple a perfect match for the meat though unfortunately the person sitting opposite didn’t think the same way about the would be Casanova.

Dinner, like the date didn’t go quite as planned. A few hiccups and maybe not the right time. They definitely won’t take calls or call back, but that’s alright, plenty more fish (and restaurants) in the sea.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 346 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst, NSW
What? Entrees $14, Mains $25, Desserts $10

Left to Right : Zucchini Flowers, Crab Cakes, Fried Squid Salad, Fish with Lentil Vinaigrette, Pork and Fennel Sausages

Tuesday 10 June 2008


Just as the tennis public heralded the arrival 21 years later after the fusion between Mr and Mrs Federer with all that elegant play, so did the food world rejoice when it was introduced to a young (now not so young) Japanese man by the name of Nobu Matsuhisa. With the backing of Al Capone and the all the hype of a Sex in the City movie, the celebrity chef brought “IT” to the most important southern state in Australia (apologises Tasmania) to be along side other food goliaths. “IT” being the uniquely Japanese and Peruvian influenced cuisine at his self-titled restaurant, Nobu.

The venue is low key, no frills, down to earth, much like the racquet superstar, with it’s red and chocolate hues, solid wood finishes with more of the tree appendages fencing the walls. Play singles matches on the cozy little tables that won’t fit much other than your choppers and the dish for your shoyu or be a knight at the round tables that invite players to share it around.

Swiss Maestro precise backhand slices of jalapenos bite off the surface of the lightly soy dressed whitefish sashimi that proves to be a perfect 15-love start. Beef seared quicker than a 1st round encounter against the world number 1 then thinly bladed is smothered in a lemony soy yuzu dressing garnished with chopped spring onion and flakes of garlic. New Style Sashimi from an old stager comes takes goodies from the sea such as scallops and prawn, served nude with only chives providing the same coverage as a Wilson natural gut string, sprinkled with sesame seeds and its oil for a bit of nuttiness and a citrus soy dressing. The balance of flavours impeccable, it really is an on the run Federer backhand whistling down the line in food form. As impressive is the lobster ceviche, the chopped crustacean meat sits on a leaf the colour of Wimbledon’s centre court, again lemony zing evident amongst a drop shot winner deft chilli paste. A messy mound of artichoke salad with its wheat noodles provides a pleasant change of ends to the warmer dishes.

Roger control of the ball is also found in the tempura. Sea urchin is lightly battered, fried to the point where not only the outer shell is crispy but also the little creature inside is heated to a warm gooeyness. Though this is no match for the Nobu signature that’s the Express at 23, the peak of its powers. Unleashing like a cross court forehand, the meaty steak of black cod that’s been soaking in a sweet white miso is baked til the fish is service line white, then grilled with a heat equal this his ground stroke so that the top caramelises to a fine crisp. Drizzle with lemon to completely change its flavour, an oversized novelty cheque bonus to go with this grand slam title dish.

Be prepared to open up the wallet, it’ll cost you an scalped ticket to the Oz Open’s women’s final. But with the extremely professional, informative and well drilled ball kids in black at the helm, Nobu, with all its grace, it’ll earn big prizemoney as well as a legion of fans to rival tennis’s ballerina.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? Crown, Whiteman St, Southbank, VIC
What? Small dishes $16, Mains $30

Left to Right : Whitefish sashimi, Beef Tataki with Yuzu Miso, New Style Sashimi, Lobster Ceviche, Artichoke Salad, Sea Urchin Tempura, Black Cod Miso, Sushi and Sashimi Platter

Asian Night Noodle Market

It’s that time of the year again. No not when the ladies attempt to destroy the doors on the Lonsdale Street entrance of the Melbourne CBD Myer at the crack of dawn for the boxing day bargains or when the blokes decide to clear out the underwear drawer of garments which have lost their elasticity to be retired as grease cleaners for engine parts. It’s Sydney’s October Good Food Month and one of its most popular events, the Asian Night Noodle Market held in Hyde Park’s North. With every year, the setting becomes more and more spectacular, with streams of red paper lanterns lining the air above, colour changing globe light features and the hypnotic lounge music. With booze available and plastic chairs to make oneself comfortable, or the patches of grass in the surrounds, make it a night out under the stars with some grub from the south east. It might not quite be hawker style or hawker quality, but there are plenty of choices as the stalls do their best with their hands tied due to equipment restrictions. With almost every country covered, you’ll either have to have a number of stomachs equal to a cow to sample them all or return on other nights.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? Hyde Park North, Sydney, NSW
What? Dishes under $10

Left to Right : Char Kuay Teow, Chicken Satay, Satay Sauce, Mussels, Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab

Monday 9 June 2008

Moncur Terrace

So you’re at this inner city bar and with a couple of freshly ordered drinks in hand you happen to “bump” into the pretty prey that you’ve been gawking at all night. The contact causes spillage that luckily narrowly misses all couture, follows with a rapid exchange of apologises in the most polite and sincere manner and ends with a somewhat forced laugh to lighten the mood. Finding some sort of attraction in each other (oh those are nice shoes where ever did you get them from?), a conversation is struck and surprisingly common interests are found. A connection. All is going well. Then comes the mistake. Exchanging numbers before excusing oneself to return to the friends, a dinner is suggested somewhat hastily. DINNER!??!?!?!!??!?! HOSHFUDDLE the guilty party proclaims immediately after… why not something more casual like coffee or brunch? That’s ok because the situation can be rectified.

Thankfully there are venues where one can impress a potential breeding partner on the first “date” that balances great nourishment, price and atmosphere without exuding the impression of trying too hard and being overbearing. One such place is Moncur Terrace, the Johnny Walker Red Label to the Johnny Walker Blue Label Bistro Moncur. Up the stairs at Woollahra Hotel, escort your date to the alfresco dining with glistening steel chairs and granite-esque table tops, the long tree branches to soften the tan and grey coloured concrete wall surrounds attempt to provide a casual, outdoors feel.

Having hurdled the awkward silences with small talk about the weather, ankle bracelets and Barak Obama, then running out of speaking topics, the waiter arrives at an opportune time to take orders. The pizzas look fun, but on this occasion, the bloke impresses by selecting a rather sophisticated fillet of crispy skinned kingfish, dressed with a light tomato & white wine vinaigrette sleeping on a bed of roasted sliced spuds and other wholesome vegies. Showing a bit of authority, the lady chooses the burger that ain’t what the average punter would expect. Those with problem dentures have no problems with the wagyu beef patty that not only melts in the mouth but I bet would also inbetween two column heaters. Find it with melted cheese on top, sitting on a slice of tomato and cos lettuce, carbs from a dusted bread roll arriving with generously thick hand cut chips.

The food has the potential to brighten the mood of aspiring couples. It’s not the kind of place has that has the “you are the one for me baby” factor or “I’m expecting “coffee” at your place after this” that a restaurant with harbour views would. Choose the Terrace, with it’s casual atmosphere, to manage expectations that won’t set the bar exceedingly high for the next “date”, if you’re lucky enough to get that far.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 16 Queen St, Woollahra, NSW
What? Mains under $27

Left to Right : Kingfish, Wagyu burger
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