Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Toku Toku: Izakaya ups and downs

It seems that Glebe is seeing a new round of refreshing, especially eateries and bars, which is a most welcome addition. With perhaps a less stressful car parking environment than nearby Newtown and now increasingly more choices, a night out in Glebe is on the up in popularity stakes.

Miso soup at Toku Toku, Glebe Point Road, Glebe
After a Saturday afternoon/evening of drinking, we happened to remember that izakaya in Glebe that's been opening for ages where a Korean restaurant used to be. Well, Toku Toku is finally open and quite expansive from what I could see, with a winding front section, courtyard and upstairs section.

It was nice to discover the restorative properties of hot miso soup after several hours of drinking; though that's not to say that there weren't Asahi beers and plum wines at the table.

The menu is split into salads and tapas, and then sides and "desert". I don't agree with the need to name any sort of share plate 'tapas', but each to their own.

Awesome drinking snacks edamame make, they're also great post drinking snacks while you're starving and waiting for food. (And note: dark room + fuzzy photographer = fuzzy photos).

Spicy edamame
The spicy edamame are a little lethal, especially when the liberal application of Japanese shichimi - a seriously hot spice mix - is accidentally inhaled into the back of the throat.

Salmon carpaccio
The carpaccio comes as a pretty glass plate of raw salmon slices with a citrusy, miso dressing - gorgeously light and fresh.

Rainbow sushi roll
The impressive rainbow sushi roll features sashimi salmon, kingfish and thin avocado slices draped over a futomaki sushi of crab stick. It's devoured with haste although I did note that the dab of spicy sauce on top added an enhancing touch.

Miso wagyu beef salad
The only salad we order is actually pretty impressive. Rare sliced wagyu beef mixes it up with watercress and a tangy miso dressing in a cute pile that's wiped clean pretty quickly among six of us.

Crispy pork belly
The pork belly is on everyone's want list and just seems to be one of those dishes that translates into any cuisine (as well as the next dish). This version is quite fatty with golden skin, and is served with lines of mild mustard and spicy tobanjiang bean sauce to taste.

Spicy soft shell crab tempura
The halved soft shell crabs have a slight spice to them, although it does seem to be a recurring theme through the night's dishes. It's an average rendition of the dish, from my poor memory, but it's still just one of those dishes that everyone has come to love to have on the table.

Toku Toku chicken
The juicy thigh pieces of the Toku Toku chicken is essentially a fancy teriyaki chicken, though rice would have been nice with it but of course noone thought to order it. I remember this last dish being warmly satisfying before realising someone had drained my glass of umeshu. The ups and downs of life, told in an izakaya menu selection.

Toku Toku on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fresh pasta and antipasti heaven at Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar

I could barely contain my excitement about a planned lunch at Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar on the Level 5 food court at Westfield Sydney. Freshly prepared pasta for $15 in the city is worth getting excited about.

Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar, Level 5, Westfield Sydney
As first visited a few weeks ago, a late-ish workday lunch turned out to be a good time for putting orders in – not too busy and lots of food court seating around Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar (not so much in the bar though).

Options abound – in addition to pasta, there are daily specials and Italian mains, including beef involtini, crumbed cotoletto and a roast of the day of lamb of with vegies the day I visited.

The pasta cabinet
In pasta options, “original” pasta types include spaghetti, fettucine, penne and rigatoni while “freshly made” includes lasagne, ravioli (spinach and cheese on this day), conchiglie (shells), pappardelle, strozzapreti, orecchiette and tagliatelle.

Pretty pasta displays
Of sauces, there are amatriciana (tomato, bacon or pancetta and chilli); boscaiola (cream, bacon and mushroom); carbonara (egg, cheese and bacon); gorgonzola; napoli (tomato and basil), pesto; ragu of minced meat and tomato; and aglio olio pepperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli)

Fettucine with boscaiola sauce
A naughty, creamy boscaiola sauce with a long-time favourite of fettucine is my order; not unlike a combination you might find at a suburban Italian trattoria actually. The serving is generous and topped with grated parmesan cheese.

It’s made special with quality strips of bacon and an array of gourmet mushrooms – not a button in sight but plenty of cute, brown chestnut mushrooms and some larger sliced variety.

The pasta is al dente in a most perfect manner with none of that sticking together of noodles that I find happens at home with fettucine.

Conchiglie with gorgonzola sauce
My fellow luncher has opted for shells with a gorgonzola sauce, presumably made with the huge hunk of gorgonzola dolce latte sitting in the salumi and cheese cabinet. The sauce looks completely unfettered with any other ingredient (other than perhaps cream or milk) but looks like it could do with a green garnish.

The sauce is expectedly rich and creamy while the pasta shells are on the very firm side of al dente – a little too undercooked for my liking, though I can’t be sure how conchiglie are meant to be cooked.

The lack of greenery all round strongly encourages us to get a side salad. The rocket, tomato and parmesan salad at a relatively pricey $12 sets some pretty high expectations (the pastas were $13 and $15 each). What we receive, sadly, isn’t quite in line with the excellent value of the pasta, especially with the presence of some soggy rocket leaves.

Antipasti misti
On another occasion, an after-work weekday (non-Thursday) visit sees a couple of us back, up on the slightly tall and awkward black and white striped chairs at the bar, with suggestions of glasses of a Trebbiano and a Sangiovese to go with the antipasti misti plate.

It’s one of the better value antipasti plates I’ve come across, laden with cured meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables, grissini and crispbread – suitable for three grazers, I think.

Antipasti misti - the other side
Standouts were the semi dried roma tomatoes, grilled eggplant, the cheese-stuffed green olives despite being super salty, the prosciutto and capocollo. However, the pickled zucchini seemed just a little too acidic for my, and the wine’s, liking.

Of the cheeses, the grape-skin topped pecorino (I think) is a talking point, while some of the soft cheeses have been somewhat impacted by the juices of the pickled onions – but not so the bitey parmigiano reggiano which is impressively rich with its full flavour.

Despite the official 6.00–6.30pm-ish closing time, the customers keep coming to Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar; most looking like city workers looking for post-work respite in pastas, soups, antipasti and of course, lots of Italian wine. It just a little bit of heaven – in the middle of a shopping centre.

Ragu Pasta & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Asia tripping - part VIII: Hong Kong

This is the eighth of several brief posts of my recent trip to Asia: photos, food and a few thoughts.

Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
It wasn't my first time in Hong Kong, and I know it won't be my last. The vibrant, busy city where English-speakers can still get around, there are cheap-ish goods abound (compared to Australia; not the rest of Asia) and food at any opportunity.

Roast pork and egg noodles on Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
I don't know how some people can have Diet Coke for breakfast and I certainly don't know how people eat fatty, crisp-skinned pork for breakfast. With hoisin sauce and dry egg noodles no less.

Okay, so the pork is pretty good with remarkable layering of fat and flesh, and probably from a much younger, smaller pig than what would be at home in Australia. Not too far off bacon I suppose (and egg in the noodles?) but still a bit much for me before noon.

Fish fillet congee Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Yu pin jook, or fish fillet congee is more my kind of breakfast: boneless fillets of fish in the bottom of the bowl, cooked by the ladling of super hot rice congee on top, and garnished with a few slices of yau tiao, or Chinese fried dough sticks, and some shallots for greenery. For me, this is breakfast in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is all shopping and food. Having already been up Victoria Peak, visited the rather pleasant Kowloon Park and marvelled endlessly at the efficiency of the MTR, there was mostly walking and shopping to be done, interspersed with meals and drinks and snacks.

Katsu don from Ippei-An Ramen & Bar, Miramar Shopping Centre,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
One late lunch in the middle of a glam shopping centre, and shopping day for that matter, we ended up in an authentic-looking Japanese ramen bar that did a late-lunch/early dinner special.

Along with a small bowl of ramen, we received mini bowls of Japanese classics; here katsu don - a few slices of panko-crumbed pork fillet with fried egg and onions on top of steamed rice.

Katsu kare and rice  from Ippei-An Ramen & Bar, Miramar Shopping Centre,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
There was also a small version of katsu curry with rice, just a few slivers of the same crumbed pork in that mild, sweet curry sauce that the Japanese are known for, with a few vegetables.

Tonkotsu ramen from Ippei-An Ramen & Bar, Miramar Shopping Centre,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
The ramen itself arrives as the main, in small, impactful bowls with nori flags waving out the top of the bowl. The tonkotsu broth is creamy white and rich with the sweetness of pork bones boiled for hours.

The ramen noodles are served a slice of chashu roast pork, bean sprouts, shallots and seaweed. The noodles are luscious and just a tad chewy; just as they should be.

Shoyu ramen from Ippei-An Ramen & Bar, Miramar Shopping Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
My preferred shoyu ramen is significantly lighter with its soy based soup, and also features nori, chashu and seaweed, but also bamboo shoots and the kamaboko fish cake with the swirly pink centre.

Cocktails at the Mira, Nathan Road, Hong Kong
The Mira hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui is like nothing I've ever seen before. It's like a designer nightclub with more flashiness and just as many dark, moody areas. We weren't staying there but couldn't resist a drink as soon as the upper, open air bar opened.

It wasn't too busy on an early weeknight evening, giving us as much room and space needed to laugh and be in awe of the psychedelic colours of the light coaster, which lit up our cocktails in a bright double hue every few seconds the glass remained on the coaster. Memorable drinks.

Yum cha selections on Temple Street, Hong Kong
The Temple Street night markets are an attraction for tourists and scammers alike. This is where you can fairly freely pick up a designer copy (although the stalls all seem to have the same stock) and test out your bargaining skills.

For those not so keen on  the latest fake Jimmy Choo handbag, the street is lined with eateries where locals and tourists alike feast on dinner, supper or whatever that meal between the two is. We briefly stopped off at a stall doling out hot yum cha items, like char siu bao, siu mai and beef dumplings.

Grilled (gar?)fish from Temple Street, Hong Kong
The star delicacy though, for those in the know seemed to be freshly grilled seafood - the long, thin garfish-like fish being particularly popular. With skin grilled to a crisp brown, every bit of the oily flesh was picked off by chopsticks and savoured before we returned to the cold night and the cool walk back to the hotel.

More Asia tripping to come in Macau, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Monday, May 23, 2011

All about the bier and food at Pure Bier Fest

What better way to start a Monday morning than with a post about beer. Or bier, should I say. From 9 May to 5 June at all the Bavarian Bier Cafés, it's a celebration of the liquid gold from Bavaria and the Bavarian Purity Laws of 1516, or Reinheitsgebot.

Imported all the way from, essentially, the other side of the world, the 'Pure Biers' at Bavarian Bier Café comprise only four natural ingredients: malt, barley, yeast and water.

Pure Bier flight at Bavarian Bier Café, York Street, Sydney
During the Pure Bier Fest, beer veterans and newbies alike can sample the wares on offer through a bier flight: small sample glasses of three different biers with tasting notes too.

While the very drinkable and relatively light-tasting Stiegl has always been my favourite at the Bavarian Bier Café , I'm impressed with the fruity and wheat-y characteristics of the Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Hell and its rounded finish.

Sounds a bit poncy but I definitely found it smoother than the Paulaner Premium Pils, which was drier with a crisp bitterness at the end of each gulp.

Pretzel on a pretzel stand
The biers go down a too well after a long day and even better with the warm pretzels served with butter. The crisp, browned outers were my favourite part and I couldn't help but think "these pretzels are making me thirsty", especially with the salt flakes baked on top. Thank goodness for the biers.

Sauteed mushroom, speck and butter lettuce salad dressed with raspberry vinaigrette
I wouldn't call the entree salad typical beer food, but knowing well the serving sizes from the venue from previous visits, the salad was a popular choice from the Pure Bier Fest "perfectly matched menu".

Digging through the forest of quite large lettuce leaves, I dug out slices of sauteed mushroom and batons of ham-like speck. This was recommended to be matched with the Franziskaner Pale though I'm not sure that beer and salad are really just strange bedfellows (unless there's soft shell crab in there somewhere).

Beef cheeks slow-cooked in Stiegl Bier served in rich root vegetable sauce with red cabbage and sebago mash
The mains of the "perfectly matched menu" are quite hearty and wintery with beef cheek being a very popular menu choice.

In a dark, rich vegetable sauce (in which parsnip particularly stood out in flavour), the flakingly soft beef cheek didn't have a huge beer flavour, but was so easy to eat with the creamy mashed potato. This was paired with Höfbräu Dunkel, a dark beer which should have made a lovely wintery match.

Chilli and caraway Landsberger sausages char-grilled served with sauerkraut and sebago mash
I didn't try these special sausages (it was my second choice on the "perfectly matched menu" by a narrow margin) but they looked pretty good, served with more mash and sauerkraut, and probably a little less heavy than the other meals.

Lamb shanks slow-cooked in Löwenbräu Bier gravy served with sebago mash and green beans
I went with the lamb shanks, not expecting the two dinosaur-sized shanks that arrived with mash, gravy and an arrangement of green beans. The meat was tender but not to the fall-apart state that I adore.

Lamb shanks paired with Höfbräu Original
There was no finishing of these lamb 'drumsticks', but I did manage all of the beautiful, creamy mash potato. This was matched with Höfbräu Original, which I remember quite well from a Munich trip several years ago.

I deliberately left a bit of capacity for dessert, I guess, for a change and to minimise potential envy issues at the end. And of course, to try the dessert matched bier, Paulaner Salvator Doppel Bock.

The Bock Biers are only available at Bavarian Bier Cafés on tap for a limited time during Pure Bier Fest. Coming in a more than 7% alcohol content, these specialty biers are made for cooler weather drinking and ferment for about three months compared to the average three weeks for the normal biers for that stronger alcoholic, almost fortified kick.

Home-baked apple strudel with vanilla anglaise
I remember the apple strudel being pretty darn good with its flakey pastry and gorgeously layered thin apple slices, enriched here with ice cream and a drizzle of vanilla anglaise.

Open apple tart served with ice cream and cream
The other dessert choice of apple tart seemed to have a very thick base, though upon trying it, it wasn't a dense pastry at all but rather light and cakey. The crunchy edge was especially browned while the apple was light with the ice cream and, strangely enough, a scoop of sour cream which didn't really go at all.

And the Paulaner Salvator Doppel Bock? I found it had fruity undertones and an obviously stronger alcohol taste, and while not horribly jarring with the apple desserts, it had nothing on a glass of dessert wine. Despite what Bier Professor Dominic Dighton from Bavarian Hospitality Group might say, I still don't think beer goes with vanilla ice cream and apple tart - but each bier drinker to his own.

The Bavarian Bier Café's Pure Bier Fest ends on 5 June - see here for the full calender of events, including the curiously named, women's only "Flights in Tights".

Food, booze and shoes was at the Bavarian Bier Café, merrily drinking and eating, courtesy of Zing and Bavarian Hospitality Group.

Bavarian Bier Cafe York on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shirt Bar: Hanging with the suits and shirts

Another week, another new city small bar. I won’t pretend that I don’t like it and I won’t deny that I’m drinking more often – but it’s quality and not quantity.

Shirt Bar is located in the very corporate Sussex Lane; a pedestrian laneway onto which Small Bar spills out, connecting Kent and Sussex Streets behind Erskine Street. On a Friday evening, the suits almost outnumber the shirts; the latter being the ones hanging for sale in half the space that is the retail side of Shirt Bar (brands on sale currently are Ganton, Jensen and Louka & Sabina).

Mojito at Shirt Bar, Sussex Lane, Sydney
The front page of the menu consists entirely of whiskies; and there are quite a few bourbons, rums and tequilas to follow; just one each of gin and vodka; two each of white and red wine, and bubbles; and two Peroni beers. Nothing like a strong hand to guide you towards dark spirits.

Cocktails are limited to two on the menu, but the bar staff were also happy to do a mojito of Havana Club Anejo 7 dark rum and raw sugar syrup, stirred in a short, mint-rubbed glass with soda, lots of ice and mint garnish.

Espresso martini
One of the menu cocktails is the espresso martini – made with FAT Coffee which is served in the café. I’m not a decaf person but after a buzzy morning coffee, I went for the caffeine-free to the endless amusement and chagrin of the barista/barman.

The espresso shot is shaken with vanilla-infused vodka, Illy coffee liqueur and sugar, and ends up in the glass with an airy crema intact. And for the garnish, frothed milk (forgot to ask for skim, but not sure if that may have gotten me thrown out), a few shakes of nutmeg and three coffee beans – a work of caffeine and alcohol art.

For a coffee it was a bit watery, but for a cocktail it had just the hint of alcohol beneath the coffee flavour and creamy top – quite the ideal pick-me-up-and-put-me-down-gently drink for after work.

Olives with grissini

The peckish among us chose from olives, cheese or charcuterie to nibble on. A dainty teacup filled with savoury olives – black and green – of all sort of sizes was just the thing, the miniscule ones just as satisfying too.

The grissini seemed to be home-made and simply fabulous – like miniature, super crunchy baguettes – and so adored that it warranted another order of olives to help down the next round of drinks and shirts/suits watching.

The suits seemed bemused with the shirts on sale as they stood around with their Peronis, while the staff were equally well-shirted and extremely obliging. I’m not a fan of shirts at work, but I’m certainly a fan of Shirt Bar after work.

Shirt Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So very Sydney - part 2 of Westfield Sydney's Level 5 food court

Get your scrolling finger ready for the epic post that is Stage Two of the Level 5 food court at Westfield Sydney, which opened alongside the noise of the Zara store opening around Easter time.

Light tree at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
In the newly-opened area of Level 5 beside the food court space opened in November last year, gourmet eats now extend across the entire floor with impressive offering after offering, more food court seating and a tag as a serious foodies destination.

Dry aging beef at Quarter Twenty One, Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Head up the escalators on Pitt Street mall next to Sportsgirl for the bullet train equivalent straight to the food on Level 5 (rather than negotiate the twisty turns of escalators inside the shopping centre) and you’ll first see Justin North’s corner of Becasse, Becasse Bakery and the ultra-glossy Quarter Twenty One.

Charcuterie at Quarter Twenty One
Be greeted by the fridge cabinet of dry aging beef or house-made charcuterie (including suckling pig prosciutto!), or in our lucky case, Justin North and a glass of champagne.

Justin North in the Quarter Twenty One cooking school
Like a proud father, North shows us around his quarters which include an intimate, stainless steel affair of a cooking school (Cook for the Soul); a gourmet providore sourcing goods from all over Australia and international and local wines (Shop for the Soul); self-catering section of ready-made meals, butcher’s cuts of meat, herbs and other vegies (Feed the Soul); and the new modern European restaurant, Quarter Twenty One (Eat for the Soul).

Quarter Twenty One providore

Quarter Twenty One ready-to-eat and meats

Quarter Twenty One restaurant, Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Quarter Twenty One is the more casual modern European eatery to North’s existing fine diner, Becasse, which is hidden away next door behind a leafy gate after its move from Clarence Street.

Becasse entry hallway
They’ve gone all out on the 25 seater restuarant: after the dramatic, changing-seasons forest/garden entryway, the gorgeous sandstone-walled Becasse reveals itself as a picture of opulence away from the shopping centre hustle with generously spaced velvet chairs and lounges, black leather-topped tables and pink velvet-topped handbag stools.

Becasse dining area

Becasse kitchen
North calls his a “cold kitchen”, all kitted out with Fagor stainless steel but no open flames; thus substantially lowering the heat in the kitchen (Quarter Twenty One has a traditional kitchen; that is, warmer and somewhat less serene). I imagine it also makes for a more pleasant chef’s table experience (seats eight).

Private dining room at Quarter Twenty One/Becasse
North also employs the clever idea of a multi-use private dining room which can be booked for Becasse or Quarter Twenty One – depending on the customers’ preference (and budget).
Mero Mero at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Reluctantly removing ourselves from Quarter Twenty One, we amble over to Mero Mero where a dazzling display of baked goodies gets the mouth watering.

Baked offerings at Mero Mero
Macaron tower aside, there are scrumptious looking tarts and pastries, as well and pre-made sandwiches and coffee. And I highly recommend the lime and cracked black pepper macaron – just don’t inhale the pepper like I did.
Phillip Blanco of Snag Stand at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
At the Snag Stand, we stop in for that quintessentially Australian meal/snack. Here termed a “haute dog”, Phillip Blanco (who is/has been part of Gloria Jeans in Australia, T2 retail outlets, Firefly Wine Bars and Mad Mex) sources gourmet sausages from a range of local butcheries (AC Butchery and Pino's to name a couple) to serve with specially-baked buns for your sophisticated sausage sizzle experience.

Pork and fennel Italian sausage from Snag Stand
For example, the Italian sausage roll I sampled featured a thick pork and fennel seed-dotted sausage, paired with grilled capsicums, onions and balsamic glaze on a brioche roll – and utterly delicious.

Other gourmet sausages include wagyu beef; a veal, parsley and onion weisswurst; chicken and rocket; turkey; Bangalow pork, German bratwurst and South African boerewors.

Chips and dipping sauces from Snag Stand
I think these fried bits of potato are going to give Justin North’s Charlie & Co. chips a bit of competition – super crunchy on the outside and completely fluffy within, they’re complemented by a range of dipping sauces including mayolive (olive dotted mayonnaise), Sriracha mayonnaise, fragrant truffle aioli and curry ketchup that reminded me of Maccas' sweet and sour sauce.
Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
And from one classic Aussie dining option to the next – the huge variety of gourmet pies from Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse.

Kangaroo and red wine pies from Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse
Peking duck, lasagne (imagine: the bottom half a normal beef pie then a sheet of pasta topped with tomato-ey beef sauce and cheese), Szechuan pepper wagyu beef, massaman lamb, and chicken with avocado and cranberry sauce are among some of the more exotic fillings, while good ol’ beef pies, sausage rolls and quiches are on offer too.

Petite pies from Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse
Petite pies are a cute option for trying a few more flavours, or for sharing at events – bigger than a normal party pie with a smaller selection of fillings, but still some of the more unusual ones.
Nick and falafels at Sabbaba, Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Having recently dined at the Newtown outlet of Sabbaba, it was great to see the bright colours of the modern Middle Eastern casual eatery here, also with freshly-made falafels on sample with tahini dip

Sabbaba display cabinet
The baklava display is going to mean trouble for mid-afternoon sugar hits, while this store seems to have a smaller menu than the full store and also pre-made sandwiches and rolls.

Sabbaba salads and vegetables
Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
A definite attraction for the city’s corporate crowd is Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar. For starters, getting freshly made pasta at a reasonable price was pretty much limited to the David Jones Food Hall (and their six seats) before.

Now there’s a genuinely exciting option from the same guys from Via Del Corso Pasticceria e Caffé, also on Level 5.

Wine and cheese platter at Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar
Further to fresh pasta, there’s the wine and cheese or antipasti platter option for that after work tipple and nibble – great on a Thursday night when the shopping centre closes at a later 9pm but just a tad limiting on the usual 6.30pm close.

Cured meats and cheese cabinet at Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar
Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
At Din Tai Fung we watch mesmerised for a few moments at dumpling skins expertly rolled to paper thinness before being stuffed with minced pork filling.

Dumpling skins and filling at Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar
Owner Vera Handoko informs us that each wrapper weighs 4.8–5.2 grams and with stuffing comes in at about 20–21 grams (from memory). Precision food, indeed.

Xiao long bao, or pork soup dumplings, from Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar
Vera goes on to show us how to eat one of the steaming hot soup dumplings properly (and I thought I already knew).

First, with your dumpling on a soup spoon, use chopsticks to pinch a little hole in the dumpling skin and let all the soup run out onto the spoon.

Vera of Din Tai Fung shows us how to eat an xlb
Drink the soup from the spoon, then lightly dress the dumpling with a mix of soy and vinegar sauces (to taste, or 3:1 vinegar to soy, I think Vera recommends), a few shreds of the ginger and consume your way to xiao long bao yumminess.
Asahi on tap at Sushi Hon at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Sushi Hon claims to have the longest sushi train in the southern hemisphere, but that’s probably not so important once you see the sushi and sashimi options to chow down on at Sushi Hon.

Maki sushi from Sushi Hon
It doesn’t seem to be run-of-the-mill stuff, for a refreshing change, particularly if the futomaki sushi take-home pack is anything to go by. 

Salmon sashimi from Sushi Hon
The salmon sashimi taster we’re provided is also pretty unique, with flying fish roe and a secret Sushi Hon dressing that’s at once light and sweet.
9 Marys at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Continuing the trip around the food court world, the Indian options at 9 Marys feature authentic dishes and naan breads fresh from the tandoor oven.

Stuffed mushrooms and chicken tikka from 9 Marys
We’re treated to button mushrooms stuffed with potato and spices, deep fried in an impossibly crunchy chickpea batter, as well as tender and juicy chicken tikka pieces that are bursting with spices.
Thai Riffic at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Ever popular Thai cuisine comes from Thai Riffic, which has a great, long communal eat-in table inside a temple of sorts, with a silver idol at the end overlooking proceedings, or so it seems.

Noodles are the highlight here, where diners can choose a noodle type and a sauce to make a Thai Riffic concoction of their own.

Duck with plum sauce from Thai Riffic
We sample a tasting spoon of duck with salad, the roasted brown duck skin a feature alongside the sweet, syrupy plum sauce; all washed down with refreshing Thai iced tea.
Simon Goh at Sassy’s Red at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
We end the tour (yes, there was an end) at Sassy’s Red by Chinta Ria, where the inimitable Simon Goh greets us like family. And in that I mean endless offerings of food and drink, like a Chinese grandmother.

Chicken lo bak from Sassy’s Red
We start on sugar cane juice of a slightly unappetising green-brown hue but true sweetness, quickly followed by plates of what Goh called chicken rolls and the menu lists as loh bak.

Chewy, deep fried bean curd skins held a filling of minced chicken, tasty but improved with a dab of Lingham’s Chilli Sauce, which Goh insists is a must (a mild and sweet ketchup-like chilli sauce).

Takeaway mee goreng from Sassy’s Red
We also receive paper-wrapped packages to take home – some mee goreng as above, but mine a fabulous “yellow rice” fragrant with turmeric and coconut, highlighted by pickled vegetables and several pieces of seafood – excellent warmed up the next day.

Roti from Sassy’s Red
Goh continues with the food when just a few of us remain: hot teh tarik, then roti sprinkled with sugar followed by a dousing of condensed milk at request.

Sago gula melaka from Sassy’s Red
And then sago pudding with a liberal application of gula melaka, or palm sugar, syrup. This is one of my favourite desserts – probably because of the coconut flavouring (in this case, a pool of coconut milk) as well as the fun, bubbly texture of the sago.

And what a fantastic ending to a few hours of tasting from the newest offerings from Westfield Sydney’s Level 5 – a veritable trip around the (Westfield) world. I don’t think I’ll be short on any options come lunch time, and nor should the queues outside Zara go hungry.

Thanks to all the participating eateries on Level 5 Westfield Sydney, and Liquid Ideas for organising the tastings.

Mero Mero on Urbanspoon Snag Stand on Urbanspoon

Pie by Mick's Bakehouse on Urbanspoon Sabbaba on Urbanspoon

Ragu Pasta & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hon on Urbanspoon Nine Mary's on Urbanspoon

Thai Riffic Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon Sassy's Red by Chinta Ria on Urbanspoon


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