Saturday, December 29, 2012

G is for: G'day Mate! {Australia, Part I: Sydney}

Seasons greetings....happy holidays...and a thousand apologies.

In the short time my blog has been in existence, this is by far the longest I have gone in between posts. More than three weeks. Almost a month. It's embarrassing.

But as excuses go, I think mine is pretty solid (other than the fact I'm using one in the first place). I was out of the country. For two weeks. And this wasn't just your run-of-the-mill jaunt to Mexico. We're talking a 14 hour flight, a 19 hour time difference...we're talking Australia.

To summarize, it was nothing short of amazing. But those who know me well know I'm horrible at summarizing. And with that...I kick off Part I of my Australian adventure.

The catalyst for me taking this trip (other than the fact I was in desperate need of a sunny vacation), was the pending nuptials of my friends Jenna and Ben (more on that in the next post). And while I have traveled alone in the past (Paris in 2002...probably the most depressing place to travel alone), I preferred to share this experience with someone. I'm so lucky my mom agreed to tag along! (Or as they say down under..."Mum.")

We started our journey with three days in Sydney. By far one of the highlights was not only admiring the beautiful Opera House from all angles...but actually getting to see a performance inside of it. Swan Lake has been sold out for awhile, but I discovered they release 10 standing room-only tickets right when the office opens in the morning, and we snagged the final two spots (only $33 versus $175+). It was breathtaking! If you have a chance to visit Sydney, I definitely recommend seeing a performance there.

I also recommend checking out the Opera Bar, regardless of whether you're attending a show. It has a gorgeous view of the bridge, and the place is hoppin' right before a performance (and after for that matter). It's a great scene, often with live music, perfect for people watching, socializing and taking in the view. (And speaking of the bridge...I also suggest walking across. It's an inexpensive way to get a great view of the Opera House and the harbor.)

Another must-do activity in Sydney (especially if you're there in the summertime) is to check out one of the gorgeous beaches. Bondi and Manly are the most popular...we chose Manly since you can take the ferry (which features a stunning view of the bridge). We also made the short and scenic walk to Shelley Beach and even spotted a few water dragons along the way. On the main beach, you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas...and we definitely took advantage of this as we collected some of our first souvenirs...Australian sunburns. :)

Since this is, afterall, a *food* blog...I now present some of our best meals during our stay in Sydney. One of our favorites was actually our very first meal there. On my friend Danny Fay's recommendation, we visited Wine Odyssey in the historical area known as The Rocks. One of the things on my "list" while in Oz was to try kangaroo...and sure enough, Wine Odyssey was featuring kangaroo sliders. Perfect! I've heard that kangaroo can be a little tough and bland, but these were mixed with a perfect blend of herbs and spices and topped with bush tomato chutney, beets, marscapone and Gorgonzola cheeses. I loved, loved, loved them...along with the crispy potatoes that accompanied the mini burgers.

Mom ordered one of the lunch "journeys" which featured a trio of yummy fish tapas. We also got a poached pear and creme brulee for dessert. As you might imagine, Wine Odyssey also serves a really nice array of Australian wines...including a sparkling Shiraz I really enjoyed. We liked this place so much that we decided to end our trip here as well with dinner on our final night in Australia.

I was also eager to try one of the really high-end restaurants Sydney has to offer. We ended up choosing Aria because of the amazing panoramic view, and the recommendation of my friend Jenna. (I was also interested to try Quay, but they were completely booked through February and there was a huge cruise ship blocking the view anyways). We were extremely impressed with Aria, and I think we must've had the absolute best seat in the house!

If you go, I would recommend the special pre-theater menu. It's a little cheaper than the regular dinner menu, and you just have to eat between 5:30 and 7:00 (or after 10:00). It's perfect if you have theater tickets because the restaurant is just a stone's throw from the opera house, and they will make sure you're done in time to make your performance.

We each had a two-course meal ($72), and then added a dessert to share at the end. They started us off with a wonderful little amuse bouche of mushroom soup topped with hazelnuts. For my starter (or "entree" as they call them there), I got the Peking Duck Consumme with duck dumplings, shaved abalone and mushrooms. It was very good, but my mom's was the winner. She got the burrata with charred baby artichokes, golden beets, sourdough toast and shaved white truffle. Oh. My. God. While it was probably one of the prettiest dishes I've ever seen, it was also outrageously creamy and delicious and I was lucky she shared with me. :)

For our mains, mom got the seared salmon with white asparagus, farfalle and tomato "fondue." I debated between the lamb and the beef...but eventually went with the char grilled sirloin with summer vegetables, bone marrow and a salsa verde. Everything was as gorgeous as it was tasty. We also ordered romano beans and truffled mashed potatoes (heaven!) as sides and were positively stuffed by the end of the meal. Even so, we just had to order dessert and they also brought out some truffles and a few other treats to send us on our way.

We noticed a heavy Thai food influence in the city, and since Longrain was also a favorite of Jenna's, we decided to check it out for lunch. Another thing I noticed in seems like reservations are almost required at most of the popular places, so make sure you plan ahead, even at lunchtime. We were lucky to get squeezed in at Longrain right when they opened for lunch. (They also have a casual space...called Shortgrain...if the bigger restaurant is full or too expensive for your tastes).

I definitely recommend trying one of their cocktails...they are exotic, delicious and strong. (And expensive. In fact, I noticed most cocktails in Australia were really pricey...often around $16-$18). For food, we especially loved the "eggnet" ($33). I wasn't really sure what this was when I saw it on the menu, so I asked the server. His response: "It's a net. Made of egg." Haha...well, it's true. Just look at it. The eggnet was draped over a mixture of prawns, pork, peanuts, bean sprouts and sweet vinegar. We ate it over a heaping bowl of brown rice. Everything was wonderful...but a's pretty expensive, especially for Thai food.

As you can see, we definitely enjoyed some amazing meals during our time in Sydney. But our most memorable one didn't come at a fancy restaurant, it came at the home of Gary and Amanda Taylor, with help from the lovely Terry Brooks. Gary and Amanda are the parents of the groom, Ben, and Terry is Jenna's mum. At the wedding, they insisted on having us over for dinner when we came back through Sydney a few days later. Terry bought heaps (that's what the Aussies say) of seafood from the fish market: shrimp, salmon, tuna and oysters on the half shell. We also had baked oysters and grilled steak with a peppercorn sauce and salad. Gary and Amanda had wine to match with each course, and we dined al fresco on their deck looking out over the city. Most of was so nice to just sit and chat and feel like we were at home in a foreign city.

Part II of our trip included a trip south of Sydney for the wedding, as well as a trip north of Sydney for wine country (and me driving...scary). Click here to read all about it. (And click here for Part III)


  1. "at home in a foreign city." As you travel more, you'll further realize how nice that is. Very glad to hear You had a great time (so far)... sounds like the food was scrumptious.

  2. Thank you for sharing! Great blog. -Dan

  3. Great post. My wife and I went to Sydney in 2009 for our honeymoon and loved it. Most people don't know how spectacular the food and coffee scene is down there, and I'm glad you're spreading the word.

  4. Good to hear you had fun!!! Can't wait to read more!!

  5. "Entrée" is from French, and it means "entrance". The USA is probably the only country in the world that mis-uses this word to mean "main course". (This is a personal pet peeve... much like your dislike of bell peppers.)

    I'm going to look up all of these restaurants to figure out what to try during my brief visit to Sydney later this year. Well-written.


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