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Sydney, Today

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Going to Sydney soon for a few weeks on business (and they're trying to get me to relocate there... we'll see about that). Where should I eat besides Quay and Tetsuya's?

I wish I could have tasted it.

My dinner at Tetsuya's ten years ago, for comparison.   Caviar and snow egg sandwich; beetroot and blood orange salad; gazpacho with spiced tomato sorbet; tuna tartare with goat curd and wasabi  

  • 3 weeks later...

Din Tai Fung - there's one of these like a mile from my hotel, on the upper floor of a fancy shopping center. It was very crowded during lunch on Easter Monday (a public holiday in Aus).


Everything I tried was well-made. Hot & sour soup, basically the platonic ideal. The soup dumplings were small compared to versions I've had elsewhere. The wrappers were very delicate, but somehow managed to not break. They were excellent. A chicken schnitzel with egg fried rice, also good. Worth a trip.

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Had dinner at the bar at Alpha, a very popular Greek restaurant. Service at the bar was horrendous, and I was the only one there. (Maybe we shouldn't be so hasty to do away with tipping.) The food passed muster, though. Nice pita bread ($2) and smoked eggplant salad ($10). Four grilled king prawns ($30) were lovely, but this course was small enough that you might want to order a side dish. For dessert, a very nice chocolate baklava ($12) with cherry ice cream.


Stitch is a basement-level prohibition-themed "speakeasy". It's kind of funny that other countries that never had prohibition have prohibition-themed bars. Anyway, nice atmosphere (lots of old sewing machines everywhere), decent enough drinks (for about $19 each - the going rate in Sydney), but this place definitely could not compare with the best in NYC.


Felix is a French brasserie owned by the same restaurant group that owns some other very popular places like Mr Chow and Palmer and Co. It looks a lot like Balthazar outside with the red awnings, but the similarities largely end there. King crab legs ($20 each) were fine, and served with an excellent condiment that was sort of like Russian dressing. The main, barramundi with pea & lardon salad, was maybe a little overdone. First time I've had barramundi - it's sort of like cod, but not as good (I thought it had a more assertive fishy flavor). Profiteroles for dessert hit the spot.

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A few observations about dining in Sydney. Credit card transaction fees are commonly passed on to the customer. A lot of places will add 1-2% to the bill if you pay with a card. Also, today is ANZAC Day, the Aussie version of Veterans Day. It's a big holiday here. Many places that are open on ANZAC Day (and I assume they do this on other holidays too) add a surcharge to the bill - sometimes a fixed fee, or a percentage of the bill (one place I saw added 10% to the bill).

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Mr Wong's is a very popular big box Cantonese restaurant located in a back alley off Bridge Street in the CBD. It's the rare big box restaurant where the food is pretty good.

It's not easy to find. It's located in the back of a building on Bridge Street and you can barely see it from the sidewalk. The sign is tiny and stenciled onto the side of the building. The place is pretty big - seats 240 I think. They're known for their dim sum (not served at dinner except as a sampler), roast duck, and mud crab. I didn't try any of the above (but I may go back for the duck) - I ordered a snow crab salad ($19), steamed fish ($33 - blue cod I think), a bowl of rice, a martini and a manhattan (both very good).

Portions are rather dainty, but I wasn't terribly hungry anyway, hence the light order. Everything was well made. The crab salad was mixed with greens and also topped with salmon roe (or something that looked like it). The steamed fish was similar to any steamed fish you might get in Chinatown, but with a clearly much better fish and a way more flavorful sauce - this sauce was more oily (in a good way) and salty (also in a good way :D) than your typical watery soy sauce and scallion-type sauce.

The food's very good, but pricey. You can easily spend $100-$200 (or more!) per person (plus a $7 fee for holiday service and a 1% credit card fee).

They also have mud crabs and spiny lobsters available from the tank for the "market price". If you have to ask the market price, you can't afford it. Prices for these live crustaceans like lobsters and crabs are punishingly expensive - not just at Mr Wong's, but anywhere in Sydney. The mud crab was around 130 $AUD per kilo (average specimen about 800g), the spiny lobster was over 200 $AUD per kilo. One lobster in Sydney costs more than the Le Bernardin chef's tasting menu - which often includes lobster.

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Rockpool Bar & Grill is a fancy steakhouse run by local celebrity chef Neil Perry. His flagship restaurant, Rockpool, is a few blocks away. My meal at Rockpool Bar & Grill didn't inspire me to want to spend more of my employer's money at Rockpool, but I am curious about his Chinese place Spice Temple, located downstairs in the same building as Rockpool Bar & Grill.


The room is very nice - an art deco space with soaring ceilings. Reminded me of Eleven Madison Park, but not as great. Service was competent, but I think less attentive than you'd expect in NYC. But they give you bread and water!


The appetizer was a sampler of four crudos ($32), the best of which was a scampi ceviche. The others were just OK - although the fish was of good quality. One was an "ocean trout", one looked like akami, the other I'm not sure - some sort of white fish.


I ordered "lamb chops and cutlets" ($52) as my main, with a side of carrots. The carrots ($9) were prepared extremely simple - boiled, and covered in butter. They were excellent though.


I take issue with the lamb, and I think this is a cultural issue with the way Australians like to cook meat because I encountered this at another place. Australians seem to like their steaks cut about half as thick as you'd get in a good steakhouse in NYC, and they cook them to death. If you order something medium-rare, it will come out at least two levels of doneness higher. And so it was with the lamb. (They call lamb chops "cutlets" here.)


The dessert was a black forest trifle ($25), apparently inspired by a dessert at The Fat Duck. It was terrific.


Comped a glass of wine.

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