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Bar roundup:

 

Palmer & Co. This is a basement-level prohibition-era speakeasy located in a back alley in the CBD, underneath another bar called Establishment (same owners, the Merivale group). It's like a big box cocktail bar. Very popular. There's limited seating (I think no seating at all at the bars), but no crowd control. So it gets pretty packed, and you'll be standing. To order drinks you have to elbow your way through to the bar (I believe there's two bars). It basically reminded me of an upscale local pub that also makes pretty good cocktails. The room is nice - lots of exposed brick and brick vaulted ceilings. Worth a trip maybe if you can stand the crowds and noise.

 

Frankie's Pizza. This is more of a bar than a pizza shop. It's a pretty big and popular bar, too. There are I think three bars spread out over multiple rooms and levels. It's not a fancy place, just a beer and shots bar where 20 and 30-somethings get their drink on. The pizza is actually very good, too.

 

Eau-de-Vie. This is the most New York-y bar I've been to so far. It's hidden away in the back of a hotel in Darlinghurst. Not so easy to find. Pretty small room. I went early on a Sunday so it wasn't crowded, but on weekends it probably gets packed. Drink menu was obviously influenced by the New York bars. I had a butter fat-washed old fashioned and a smokey Rob Roy. Both pretty good. Very expensive drinks - most are $20-$24. This would probably be considered to be one of the better bars if it were in NYC. I'm guessing the experience is miserable when it gets crowded, though.

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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  

One area where Sydney may have NYC beat is Thai restaurants. Chat Thai is a local chain with four or five locations, one about a mile south of my hotel, and open until 2am. The food's not cheap, but reasonable by Sydney standards. More importantly, I'm fairly certain it beats any available Thai in NYC, but I haven't had them all.

 

I started with two skewers of pork meatballs and chicken ($2 each), both quite tasty. Following this was a plate of four grilled prawns, also good. But the best dish was an astoundingly great curry with a generous amount of mud crab for $29. The curry was extremely spicy, but not blow-your-head-off spicy. All this plus sticky rice came to $57.

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Golden Century is a late-night (open til 4am) Chinese seafood restaurant located in the heart of Sydney's little Chinatown. You don't have to, but you can spend some serious money there if you're so inclined. Either way, I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in Sydney.

Everything I had was good. If this place were in New York, it would definitely be among the best Chinese restaurants.

The seafood selection from the tanks that line the room is breathtakingly expensive. Lobster $198/kg. King crab $205. Live prawn $138/kg. Mix cod $148/kg. Wash one of these down with a bottle of Moutai - $7,800.

My budget does have a limit, so I had to order more carefully. A half kilo of live pippies (sort of like cockles, but the shells are more flat. $64/kg) in XO sauce was pretty great. Really addictive sauce. A couple pieces of har gau on the side - as good as any you're likely to find in NYC. For the main, Szechuan shrimp. I probably shouldn't have ordered this since it's not a Szechuan restaurant, and I'm sure it wasn't authentic - but it was actually still pretty good. It was a pile of shrimp with some slivers of zucchini, in an orange-colored chili sauce (no Sichuan peppercorns present). The shrimp was very high quality and perfectly cooked.

The bill came to around 85 $US, I think.

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Nomad is a rustic, "slow food", and sort of ambiguously Mediterranean restaurant in Surry Hills that might be worth a visit. They make their charcuterie in-house (the aging room is on display as soon as you walk in). I should have ordered some, but I didn't. (It's only available as a sampling, and I didn't feel like eating a big plate of the stuff by myself.)

 

The menu format is "small plates" and "large plates". This doesn't mean "appetizers" and "mains". All of the plates are meant for sharing, and they seem to actually be designed that way (ie, bowls of stuff cut into small pieces). The waiter recommended two small plates and one large for one person. I was a little worried about what the portions were going to be like. But it turns out Sydney's idea of "small plates meant for sharing" is different from New York's.

 

The small plates at Nomad are like double the size of what you'd get in New York (and the large plates are larger than most mains). So I actually over ordered.

 

The first course was chiparras peppers with grated cheese (I think manchego). I had no idea what a chiparras pepper is. They look and taste like shishitos. They came out as a big bowl of peppers blistered on a grill, with the cheese grated on top. Sort of a weird dish as an appetizer, but would work better as a shared side dish.

 

The second small plate was ocean trout pastrami with a quenelle of sorrel yogurt, pickled guindilla peppers, and crisp flatbread. Again, quite a large portion. Good for two to share. I'll be damned if I can tell the difference between ocean trout and salmon. I also am not sure what made this ocean trout "pastrami". But it was fine. Basically like a really good bagel and lox when you ate it with the yogurt and flatbread. Nothing wrong with that.

 

The main was lamb loin with roasted eggplant and sheep's yogurt. A very large portion - like double the meat you'd get if you ordered this in NYC, on top of a filling pile of eggplant. The dish didn't blow me away, but it was certainly a nice main course and well prepared.

 

For dessert, a tiny chocolate-coated ice cream popsicle and an excellent pot of tea called Russian Caravan.

 

This is the kind of place that (in New York) probably wouldn't be worth going too far out of your way for, but you would love to have it in your neighborhood. In Brooklyn it would be a three star restaurant. :D

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Sailor's Thai is an upscale Thai restaurant in the Rocks. Not bad, but not really worth a visit. This is a Safe Ethnic Restaurant for white people that are afraid of food, and will pay a little extra for the piece of mind.

 

Appetizers of betel leaf wraps with shrimp + chicken-stuffed grilled squid were fine enough, but boring. There was a really sweet, nutty sauce on the betel leaves that I could have done without. The presentation was a bit "cheffed up", but the food was fairly ordinary.

 

For the main, wagyu beef steak with oyster mushrooms. "Wagyu beef" is meaningless in Australia, as far as I can tell. Every restaurant from corner pubs to fancy steakhouses advertises it. It tastes like any ordinary beef to me. The menu didn't specify the cut, but it appeared to be a flank steak. At $42 this doesn't seem like a good deal, but it was at least a pretty big portion. And actually cooked correctly, although a little uneven.

 

Dessert was mango sorbet with coconut sticky rice. The above, plus one cocktail, came to AUD$111.

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Pie Face - we have a couple of them in NYC (I've never tried one). In Sydney Today, you can't walk two blocks around the CBD without passing a Pie Face. They're all open 24 hours, too.

 

The pies are OK for five bucks. They're little flakey-crusted meat pies. Filling's kind of bland, but it'll do in a pinch.

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Sepia is a newish, highly acclaimed modern Australian restaurant with Japanese influences. I dined at the bar. They have a separate bar menu (which shares a lot of similar dishes with the dining room menu, but with slightly different preps), but I'm pretty sure you can order off of any menu at the bar. The good thing about Sydney is that a lot of restaurants will serve you food at the bar, but nobody actually eats at the bar, so it's usually extremely easy to get a seat.

 

I ordered mostly off the bar menu (the exception being dessert, which is not on the bar menu). Judging by the level of cooking, I should have gone for the full-on meal. If Sepia was in NYC, I think it would be a three-star restaurant. (A real three-star restaurant.)

 

The first course was the only miss - after that each course got progressively better.

 

Yakitori-grilled shiitake mushrooms were OK, but served in a pool of a sort of sweet, brown sauce. Eh.

 

Following this was three skewers of yakitori-grilled chicken thighs. These were much better, although they were lightly coated in some sort of bland sauce that didn't really add anything. But the quality of the chicken was excellent, as was the grilling technique.

 

This was followed by an outstanding grilled New Zealand scampi. Served plain on a skewer, but with some spice dusting around the plate and a creamy sauce, but it really didn't need anything.

 

The main course was a butter-poached spanner crab with shellfish and shiso emulsion, topped with crisp fried bread crumbs and a few cherry tomatoes. This course was a knockout. The buttery crab meat along with the rich sauce was pure luxury.

 

For dessert, I ordered the "autumn chocolate forest", which I think is one of the chef's signature dishes. This actually came with a pre-dessert - an excellent sheep's milk yogurt gelato with fennel snow and meyer lemon. The pre-dessert would probably qualify as a full dessert in most New York restaurants.

 

The actual dessert was visually arresting - it was like a miniature forest diorama, complete with moss and rocks and twigs (all made of chocolate), topped with a quenelle of raspberry sorbet. Really, one of the best desserts you're likely to encounter anywhere.

 

If you find yourself in Sydney, I think Sepia is a mandatory visit.

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Phillip's Foote is the grill-your-own steak place in the Rocks that Wilfrid was talking about. A steak dinner or lunch costs 32 AUD flat, no matter which cut you choose. It's a bargain.

 

You walk into a room with a salad bar and a butcher case and choose your cut. You pay your $32 and they hand you a white plate with your steak. Then you walk outside where there's a stainless steel charcoal grill and some picnic tables. Above the grill they have cooking directions: for a t-bone, 5 minutes on each side for medium, etc.

 

I ordered a t-bone, so I cooked it about four minutes on each side for medium-rare. It came out pretty accurate. This, of course, isn't super premium beef, but it was quite good. At $32 it's a great deal, especially by Sydney standards. And it's probably more likely to come out at the correct temperature when you cook it yourself. :D

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Pendolino is an upscale Italian restaurant in the Strand Arcade, off George Street. It's a strange location - the third floor of a shopping mall that's closed and desolate not long after dinner hour.

I walked in and was greeted by the maitre d' with a "buona sera!" in an Australian accent.

The food will not blow you away, but it's good and pretty well made.

Three oysters to start - this is the second time I've ordered oysters on this trip. I've decided that I don't like Australian oysters that much. They're a bit smaller than the North American oysters, and have a more "fishy" flavor, which I find a bit off-putting. (Unless both places served me bad oysters...)

The appetizer was a tuna tartare napoleon with garum dressing. It was tasty, and a generous portion, although it was really overdressed.

The main was your standard mixed seafood spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. They didn't manage to elevate this common dish to greatness, but it was a very good version.

Dessert was a gianduja souffle with whipped cream and creme anglais. Good finish.

The place was pricey - the above, plus a glass of wine and some tea, came to about 120 AUD.

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