Category Archives: American

LP’s Quality Meats, Chippendale

As many of you will know, we have a resident vegacaquarian in the Napoli household.  This has meant a largely vegetarian diet for the family, with seafood every now and again.   Regardless, the (Not So) Small People are die hard carnivores, and would happily demolish a steak every night of the week if it was presented to them.  So when their birthday rolls around, and a special family dinner out is called for, the request is always for a steak restaurant. “Would you like to try somewhere new or somewhere we’ve been before?” I ask, when the big day is approaching.  “Somewhere new” they say.  So here we are at LP’s which I’ve been keen to try since it opened in 2014. It’s consistently scored a hat in the Good Food Guide Awards.

There’s plenty of wood going on, between the communal tables, the tables, and the long bar, next to which a giant ham is being carved.  There’s a definite saloon vibe, and a cowboy hat or two would not go amiss. We are warmly welcomed and the staff all night are lovely.

I start with the chicken liver pate and it’s a winner. Great texture and flavour. I didn’t appreciate pate till I was an adult, and I encourage the Small People to try some. They don’t mind it. It’s served with some great big chunks of delicious sourdough rye.

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The Marito doesn’t miss out, he starts with an Applewood smoked ocean trout, served with crème fraiche and capers. We are both pleasantly surprised by the generosity of the serve, and it has a lovely delicate flavour.

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He also has an eggplant parmigiana with burrata. It’s not done traditionally but with crumbed slices of eggplant and stacked, which give it some nice texture. The burrata is gorgeous and creamy. The non meat specials change regularly; I notice a week later they have a crab with squid ink and spaghettini and would have loved to try it.

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The Small People start with the sausage of the day, a cotechino. It has a good amount of spice and is really tasty though very rich and good to share.

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Then comes out the 1kg t-bone steak. Beautifully cooked, they demolish it, though they do let me try a little bit.

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On the side we try the potato gratin. The potato is sliced in paper thin slivers, and it’s creamy and buttery and delicious. We also have a green bean and radish salad; when we comment that someone has been a bit too heavy handed with the salt, they replace it with no fuss at all, a very good sign.

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There is no capacity for dessert after that meat-fest; the Small People are happy and on their birthday that’s all that matters.

LP’s Quality Meats, 16/12 Chippen St, Chippendale Ph 02 8399 0929
http://www.lpsqualitymeats.com

LP's Quality Meats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Honolulu, Hawai’i

Honolulu remains a hugely popular travel destination for Australians – in fact I heard so many Aussie accents everywhere I thought we’d taken over the place.  An easy plane ride (well compared to Europe or New York), clean beaches, plenty of shopping and warm weather all year round, what’s not to love?

If you don’t feel like sightseeing, it is a great place to just relax by the pool or beach, cocktail in hand, for a week or two.  Despite the crowds, the beaches are sparklingly clean – you won’t find any washed up Woolies plastic bags or coffee cups, it rather puts us to shame.

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If you do want to get off your beach chair, there is plenty to do. It’s worth hiring a car, driving through the pineapple fields, and checking out the serious surf on the other side of the island.  For those with small people, the Honolulu Zoo and the Sea Life Park are popular; luau’s, though a little commercial, are entertaining.

Having been here before, we didn’t do much sightseeing this time around.  But with the boys a bit older now we thought a trip to Pearl Harbour would be worthwhile where you can wander through the museums and watch a couple of films.  The calculated attack was quite extraordinary in its planning and execution considering the lack of technology and resources at that time. You can then take the short boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial; its all sad and quite touching and nicely done.  I’m not sure why but there were flowers from the Australian Embassy that day.

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We also did the hike to the Diamond Head Monument.  If you’re someone that exercises, you won’t find this too difficult –  I even saw people doing it carrying babies and toddlers on their front or back.  But me, not being one of those people, nearly keeled over.  But there are great views at the top. If you’re there on a Saturday morning, across the road you’ll find the KCC Farmers Markets, where you can grab a shaved ice to cool down.

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It is pretty easy to get around using TheBus (flat $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for kids over 5, whether you travel for five minutes or fifty) or the Waikiki Trolley (flat $2 for everyone); otherwise Uber it.

And where to eat? You won’t struggle for choices, particularly on the main strip.  The Cheesecake Factory is a bit of a Waikiki institution.  The lines are long, the place is loud, the serves are huge – you get the general gist of the adjectives. When we saw that for our group of eight people we had a few cocktails, beers, a mixture of high priced (rib eye steak and salmon) and low priced (fish burger) dishes, that including the tip it was US35 per person, its understandable that there are queues every night. The food is pretty decent and with over 200 items on the menu you are bound to find something.  A particular highlight was  my ahi poke stack – loved it.

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With lots of the flights from Australia landing early morning, you’ll be in search of breakfast.  In my pilates class of all places I heard that Bill Granger had opened up a Bills, so we headed there.  The menu has been Hawaiianised a little, but a lot of Sydney favourites are there, and we enjoy our breakfast sitting on the small terrace.  The fit out looks to me like Miami art deco style and its an airy space.

We also try it for dinner one night.  Our server brings out all the entrees and mains at once, which is a bit odd, but the food is tasty and well priced.

My sticky pork is absolutely delicious, and the schnitzel also gets the thumbs up.

The kids want to try an American Diner for dessert, so afterwards we head down the road to Denny’s, the regular haunt of Jack Reacher.  Looking at the menu, if you’re on a budget and need a big feed and aren’t worried about cholesterol (plus cover your eyes so you don’t see the notes showing the staggering number of calories in the meals), then you’ll like this long standing American chain. The desserts were $4 each or so and just huge.

But the best treats in town are the malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery.  Leonard’s has been making these Portuguese treats since the 1950’s.  You can buy them plain or with a filling – I bought vanilla, chocolate and coconut – go vanilla all the way.  Absolutely gorgeous and all of $1.50.  I did try a few other malasadas during our trip and none were as good as these.

Another treat I loved was this honeydew melon ice block we got at the pool – can we get these in Australia?

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A place that has stood the test of time is Arancino di Mare.  We came here eight years ago and liked it, and found it still to be the same homestyle, casual Italian we remembered.

For a bit of family fun head to Tanaka of Tokyo.  The teppanyaki chefs have some good moves, and in our case some dry wit as well.  Unfortunately the vegetables and fried rice were ordinary, but all the seafood and meats were very tasty and well cooked. There is no food throwing done here like the teppanyaki we find in Australia – it is not considered safe.  We thought it was pretty funny that a country that allows you to freely carry arms thinks its too dangerous to throw an egg.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Il Lupino, which turns out some pretty flavoursome Italian. My wild boar ragu was rich and fragrant.

One night we hop on TheBus to Pier 38 to try Nico’s seafood restaurant. It almost feels like sitting at the Sydney fish markets.  By day you order at the counter and take a number, but at night its table service.  Lots of fresh seafood at good prices.  I saw a ahi poke sampler on the menu and ordered it, for a “sampler” it was huge and I would have been shelling out a fortune for that much tuna in Sydney.

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The clams and tuna steak are nicely done but the battered fish is a winner with a very thin and crispy batter and beautifully cooked fish.

One night we Uber it to Waialae Avenue, ten or so minutes from the main strip. A lot of dining choices here, among them we spot a craft beer place, Vietnamese, a French Bistro, a Chinese restaurant that is heaving with Chinese patrons, and a place called Mud Hen Water which has a great looking menu and is also very busy.  But we’re here to try Town, whose philosophy is “local first, organic wherever possible, with Aloha always”. (Aside and a bit of trivia for you that we learned from Cousin Jay our Pearl Harbour tour guide – Aloha doesn’t just mean hello, it can also mean love.  Trivia two – did you know the Hawaiian alphabet only has 12 letters?).

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The house bread is fantastic.  And we both adore the ahi tartare on top of  a small risotto cake – one of the most delicious things we had on the trip.

It is all tasty, fresh and nicely presented by enthusiastic and friendly staff.  One of the boys has pappardelle and they are silky smooth.

After dinner we walk up the road to Via Gelato. The gelato is handmade and the flavours change pretty much daily. Depending on the day, you might find flavours like ginger lemonade, apple pie or lavender.

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Accommodation

For the first few days we stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, or the Pink Palace as its commonly known.  The beachfront location is great and the foyer is pure Grand Old Hawaii, but the rooms are a little dated and the bathrooms very small.  Views are cracking – we arrived on the 4th of July and it was very busy with a huge regatta about to start.

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If you are staying in the Mailani Tower section, it has a small pool, but otherwise its a shared pool with the Sheraton next door and it gets very crowded and hard to find a seat.  But the kids loved the pool slide which they went on a thousand or so times.  I wanted to rent a beachfront chair ($40 per day, even if you only turn up for an hour), but found out that people rent them like, 25 years in advance (would be nice if the hotel tells people this when they make a reservation) so get in early.

Then off we went to The Big Island and when we came back we stayed at the Halekulani.  Good location, lovely rooms (though a tiny shower and bath), huge balconies, and probably the best swimming pool on the strip. Great breakfast buffet too.  The place is branded to death, in case you forget where you are (I was surprised they didn’t have Halekulani stamped on the toilet paper, it was on everything else) and every night there was a different treat at turndown – one night there was a little book light, which was cool.  But having come the incredible warmth of the staff at the Four Seasons in Kona, I found this place a little snobby.  The gestures were all there, but not the same soul as our Kona stay.

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The Cheesecake Factory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Big Island, Hawai’i

Arriving at Kona Airport, we realise how different this island is to Oahu.  There’s miles of arid landscape, next to miles of green rainforest, both interrupted by somewhat violent yet occasionally beautiful hardened rivers of lava.  Mother Nature has been busy here.  It is very literally The Big Island, and you’ll need a car to explore.  Though a guide tells us that it was once upon a time the small island, growing over time from the eruption of volcanoes.

There is a lot to do here, and in our six days we only manage some of what we’d planned, underestimating time and distances, and wanting too to spend time relaxing at our gorgeous resort and enjoying the spectacular sunsets on the “Kona side”.  Funny that the west side is one of the driest spots in the USA, while the island’s largest town of Hilo (pronounced Hee-lo) on the east, some two and a half hour drive away, is one of the wettest.

The boys want to know if Panulu’u Black Sand Beach really is black, and one morning we set off on the two hour drive.  Its a lovely scenic route of coast, mountain, coffee and macadamia plantations.  In some areas they are trying to promote re-growth of plants, but its a hard ask through the lava.

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There are also a few small strips of shops with interesting antique and vintage stores, as well as this…..

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And yes, Black Sand Beach is indeed black.  Shoes are recommended, as understandably the sand is scorching.  So turtles love it, and there are a few wandering around.  One has laid an egg, and someone has built a little protective barrier around it.

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On the way back we stop in at a bakery for a treat. They do a roaring trade in Lilikoi (passionfruit) Malasadas, their best seller.   But I don’t think they are quite as good as the ones at Leonard’s in Oahu.

We next head to Papakolea Green Sand Beach, the southernmost point of the USA.  You’ll need a four wheel drive and some serious experience in off road rough driving to get here.  Otherwise there’s a group of drivers with suitable trucks and experience in navigating the bumpy terrain.  If you’re game, you can walk the rocky three miles from the car park – it is about an hour walk and a tough one in scorching heat.  Calling it green sand is a bit of a stretch, but the setting is pretty spectacular.  Nearby there is a cove where the sand is in fact green, but without such a dramatic backdrop.

On another morning we check out Hapuna Beach which is popular with the locals.  Easy to access and sparklingly clean, it is lovely for a swim.

In Kailua-Kona you’ll find Hulihee Palace, once the modest Summer palace of the Royal Family.  There is no longer a monarchy in Hawai’i, as the members of the family died out.  One of the larger towns in the island, it is still a fairly low key place.  There is a pier which could easily be turned into another Santa Monica type place, but I suspect it is a very conscious decision for the island not to go down that path.

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After walking around, we make a pit stop at Kope Lani Ice Cream which has some interesting flavours.  You’ll find Kona Coffee to be a popular flavour on the ice cream front in Hawaii.  Like Champagne or Parmeggiano, the rules around what can be called Kona Coffee are very strict.  The beans must come from a very specific area, and they are all hand picked.  The coffee plantations are all small family owned businesses; we met a few of the families during our stay, and it really is a labour of love. I would have loved to buy some of the coffee beans to bring home and support them, but at over US$80 per kilo of coffee, it was a bit of a stretch.

Driving up a mountain one day we stop at Holukaloa Garden Café.  Its almost classifies as in-the-middle-of-nowhere, but we are clearly onto something as very shortly the place is full.  They are all about slow food made from scratch. The glorious tomatoes are from the owners farm and under my fish is a bed of unfamiliar but really delicious greens. The Marito’s generous vegetarian lasagne is topped with a tasty macadamia pesto.

The most awesome thing we do is a helicopter tour of the island.  We debate this one a bit as it is quite an extravagance. But I come across a local magazine with an offer for a good size discount, and the deal is sealed.  The friendly ground staff give us a safety briefing (“please turn your devices to helicopter mode” they deadpan) and our pilot Koji gives us a briefing of our route.  The flights generally go for 1.5-2 hours, and Koji advises we’ll be on the longer end today as there is sniper training going on at the military base that day and we’ll have to go around it – I wasn’t  entirely sure if he was joking or not!

It is a pretty amazing way to look at the island.  Kealakekuka Bay is stunning, and apparently the site of Captain Cook’s death – there is a monument there in his honour.

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Along the way the landscape alternates between thriving green and volcanic black emptiness.

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We pass a 10 mile crack in the ground – the result of a 1975 earthquake.

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We then head towards one of the volcanoes.  This one is currently active, but not dangerously so.  Even though we are a long way up, when the pilot opens a small window and tells me to stick my hand out, it is scorchingly hot.

Continuing around the island, we head up to Waipi’o Valley – just stunning. There are some seriously long waterfalls.

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And then we circle back to Kona Airport.  What a ride!

Accommodation

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hualalai – wow. It was fabulous.   And it wasn’t just the stunning surrounds (I have never seen such amazing frangipane trees)…

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…or the turtles wandering on the shore

…but the warmth and sincerity of the staff, and the fact that they think of everything (“ma’am, would you like me to clean your sunglasses for you?”). At the pool station where you can grab towels, there is not only sunscreen, but goggles, toddler swimming nappies, leave-in hair conditioner, and goodness knows what else.  There are very cute toddler sized sunbeds at the small pool (there are several pools, so it is never crowded). At turndown a locally made ceramic jug and cup are placed on each bedside table with cool water. On the balcony, there is a small hanging rack for your swimmers (why don’t all beach resorts do this?).  And throughout the rambling resort, there are several fully equipped laundry rooms for guests so that you don’t have to return home with a suitcase of dirty washing. The rooms and bathrooms are a little dated, but very spacious.

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Sitting on our balcony, I enjoy this local pineapple soda.

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Our booking comes with quite a large voucher for the restaurants which we make good use of, as they are expensive and alternatives are a ten to thirty minute drive away. Ulu Ocean Grill is Japanese/Asian and it holds its own against Sydney’s Sokyo or Tokonoma. And while the prices are similar to Sydney, the servings are much bigger.

The Ahi Poke (pronounced pok-ee, it is almost a national dish) is prepared at the table and served with taro chips. Sublime.

I adore the kochujang sauce that comes with the crispy calamari, I want to pour it over everything.

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The miso Kombacha is perfectly cooked and the side of corn has a sauce with a kick.

Beach Tree, which serves largely Italian, while expensive, is excellent.

If only it didn’t have to end! Ziplines are popular on the island, but the boys did not weigh enough (you need to be at least 70 pounds) so we’ll need to put that on the list for next time.

Four Seasons Kona, http://www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/
Paradise Helicopters, https://paradisecopters.com/

Ulu Ocean Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bowery Lane, Sydney CBD

bowery (6)Somewhat hidden in the foyer of an office block, Bowery Lane was a welcome addition in 2014 to a part of the CBD which until recently was a little deficient in good casual dining options. The interior is an interfusion of textures – a little concrete, some wood, some leather, exposed bricks – and you can start to drown out the office block surrounds. bowery (3)

Like the venue, the menu is a bit of a mixture too – appropriate since Bowery Lane is named after a street in Manhattan, itself is a melding of cultures and cuisine. For instance there’s a little Italian (burrata, carpaccio); pure NY diner (Reuben on rye, fried pickle), and some Asia (salt and pepper squid, Asian slaw).

The burgers are very popular, in particular the New York cheeseburger with wagyu, bois bordran, Monterey jack, tomato, cos lettuce and onion, served with fries. Considering a lot of the new takeaway burger joints are selling burgers for $10 with $5-$6 for the fries, at $18 this is pretty good value for a sit down table service meal.bowery (5)

I also recommend the tempura soft shell crab burger with Asian slaw; it comes with a delicious miso mayonnaisebowery (4)

On their Summer menu I was fond of the duck confit salad with green beans and duck liver parfaitbowery (1)

The breakfast menu also offers plenty of tempting options. The hotcakes look good (next time) but I tried the poached eggs with smashed avocado, quinoa and feta which was nicely donebowery (2)

There is a little counter out the front for takeaway coffee and breakfast treats, and at the back of the restaurant, salads and hot food for takeaway lunchbowery (7)

For groups there are banquet menus for $55 and $65

Bowery Lane, 1 O’Connell Street, Sydney, Ph 02 9252 8017
http://www.bowerylane.com.au
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Five Points Burgers, North Sydney

I’ve often said that in Sydney, people will travel for food. Armed with a Google Maps or a GPS, we will hunt down that laneway, that side street, the underground bar. Whether it is in the CBD or some suburb we can’t pronounce and have never been to, we will go to extraordinary lengths to track down and try something new. Sometimes it is only one dish, one slice of cake, a certain drink that drives us Sydneysiders in our – frankly occasionally crazy – food pursuits and our willingness to stand in a very long queue.

So when a Heston Blumenthal alumni opens a burger joint in a North Sydney street of largely office blocks that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic and not much other retail nearby, word spreads quickly and I find a ridiculous number of people in a small space and a line out the door. I heard that Eastern suburbs residents even crossed the harbour bridge to come here.

Five Points is the new burger hotspot with Tomislav Martinovic as the “consultant chef”. Yes, TM worked for Heston – and more recently had his own hatted restaurant in Sydney – so I can’t help but wonder if I’m going to get an actual burger or just something that looks like a burger.

Its American style – probably American calories too but what the hell, I contemplate walking back to the CBD afterwards and feel justified in getting burger, chips and a milkshake. Of course I don’t actually do that but it is the thought that counts. Your choices are the Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Being in Sydney I do think they could still throw in a bit of a patriotic ‘Straya burger with a bit of beetroot.

I go for the Bronx Burger – it’s big, it’s juicy, and it’s delicious with the right amount of mustard and sauce so its not just a drippy mess; the bun has a good consistency and is not sugary like some brioche burger buns have been of late. The chips have decent crunch though are underseasoned, and unfortunately they have no slaw available that day to try. The salted caramel milkshake has a proper amount of flavour without being sickeningly sweet.   Despite the queue, my order does arrive reasonably quickly.  I know the next time I’m at Aldi in North Sydney buying the occasional random stuff like a slab of marble or garden gnome with built in lighting I’ll be enticed into trying the other boroughs.Fivepointsburger

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Five Points, 124 Walker Street, North Sydney

Five Points Burgers on Urbanspoon

Papi Chulo, Manly

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Papi Chulo apparently means “pretty boy” or similar in Spanish. Was Justin naming the venue after himself? It’s the Merivale empire’s first move to the Northern Beaches. Looking out over Manly Wharf, the vibe is laid back, the salsa and other Latin American tunes humming in the background. Woodfire, charcoal, and smoking feature heavily on the menu, which is a mixture of South American and the “deep South of the USA” (with a very sideways twist to Vietnam for a salad). Since my better half is a vegacquarian, we didn’t try any of the BBQ meats (and I have had mixed reviews on these from friends with a few disappointed) but the seafood and vegetable dishes we tried were all great.

It’s not perfect, but there is no doubt Justin Hemmes has another hit on his hands.

Summer pea guacamole with tortilla chips. A clever idea using peas instead of avocado – it was fresh, vibrant and had a good chilli kick.

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Grilled corn on the cob, smoked cheese, lime. There was also a sprinkling of paprika. Tasty combination.

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Croquettes mushroom and heidi gruyere croquettes – delicious, but awfully small for $12 – should have been a few more.

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BBQ baby octopus – grilled zucchini flowers, spring onions, soft herbs.  The octopus was wonderfully smokey and went well with the fresh herbs, probably our favourite dish.

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Jumbo king prawns, lemongrass and coconut dressing. Huuuuge prawns! And a great tangy dressing.

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As sides, we got the Curly fries (crunchy but not particularly tasty) and the refreshing Vietnamese coleslaw.

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Not so cool – there is a Papi Chulo burger with the works on the menu, we got a plain cheeseburger version for the offspring, and they charged us full freight for it – $18.

We finished with the warm chocolate chip cookie, vanilla malt ice-cream, butterscotch sauce, macadamia brittle. It’s a rich dessert so good for two to share. Particularly loved the texture and flavour of the macadamia brittle.

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Papi Chulo, 22-23 Manly Wharf,Manly ph (02) 9240 3000
http://merivale.com.au/papichulo/

Papi Chulo on Urbanspoon

SoCal, Neutral Bay

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From the team behind The Botanist in Kirribilli and Bondi Hardware comes SoCal, short for “So California”. So it should be no surprise that the menu is a mixture of Mexican and American classics like Mac & Cheese. There’s also a very tempting cocktail menu and we succumbed.

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Its a pleasant bar space, but there is also a fun outdoor beachy white balcony, which would be great to cordon off for a party.  How would I describe our night here? Relaxed, and casual, a place where you can have a few drinks, chill with friends, and snack have or a full meal. The food is overall enjoyable, but not necessarily of the innovative/blow your mind variety.  Sharing with a few friends, you can eat more than your fair share for $30-$40 per head, and I think that is about the right price point for the standard. The staff were really warm and enthusiastic, and keen to get our feedback on dishes.

We start off with some guacamole and salsa, and a side of Tater Tots.  The guac I’d say is just standard, but combined with the corn and salsa  and a crispy corn chip becomes lively. The TT’s on the other hand, just don’t do it for me and feel like they’ve come from a frozen McCains bag labelled kids snacks – although maybe nostalgia is the intention here.

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The kingfish is beautifully fresh, though the passionfruit doesn’t add enough of the intended acidity, a wedge of lime would have helped.

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One of my favourites of the night are the pulled pork quesiladas with eggplant.  I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to combine pork and eggplant, and its a combination which works well. I could eat a heap of these (and I think I did). If you were meeting a few friends for a drink, and just wanted a plate of something to munch on, this would be the perfect choice.

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We do see a bit of creativity with the cauliflower salad, combined with currants, pistachio, oregano and cumin yoghurt.

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The seared salmon is nicely cooked but the zucchini and walnut salad underneath is too salty.

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And our last shared dish of the night is stuffed squid, clams and kale (yes of course kale, no respectable Sydney restaurant dare be without it these days, I think they’d be blacklisted).  The squid are a little overstuffed and get a little lost, but it’s a decent dish, and the clams are delicious.

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We finish on a high note with a lime panacotta. Pretty to look at, and even better to eat.

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SoCal, 1 Young St, Neutral Bay, Ph (02) 9904 5691

SoCal on Urbanspoon

Bridge Street Garage Bar & Diner, Sydney

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I’ve been eyeing off this place every night driving home for the last few months. Its hard to miss the big neon sign, and the industrial type space through the big windows, reflecting its heritage as an actual garage once upon a time. With an Argentinian chef at the helm, its meant to be an American diner/South American cross. So it is no surprise that meat features heavily on the menu.

There are a few good value banquets which I’d seen on the website, $25, $40, and $60, so we opt for the $25 and order a few extra dishes we like the sound of. Our waitress is friendly and keen, but has no idea they even have banquet menus, and has to go ask someone about them.

We start with the guacamole. It is stock standard, probably slightly too acidic, certainly not as good as Mejico’s, lacking the texture and flavour of the latter.

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The empanadas on the other hand, which come with a beef or corn filling, are done well – a good pastry, a tender beef filling, and a great acidic sauce.

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Buffalo wings are next – Spicy chicken wings coated in a sticky BBQ sauce and served with fresh-cut vegetables and a blue cheese sauce.  I found the presentation of this dish particularly unappealing.  As for the taste, there was a good smokiness to it, but it tasted like sauce from a jar.

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Next off is the Garage Burger – Angus & Wagyu beef patty with lettuce, tomato, beetroot, pineapple, bacon, pickles and sauces in a toasted bun, and hand-cut chips on the side.  The burger combo is a good one, and I polish it off quickly.  The chips are underseasoned though and have no special quality to them, so I leave them.

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Deep fried southern crispy chicken, served with a coleslaw salad and Garage sauce. I didn’t try this so don’t know how it compares to Mary’s or Hartsyard, but my dining companions give it an “okay”.

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Sticky pork ribs. These are apparently slow roasted for over 4 hours, so I expect them to be meltingly tender.  And while the flavour is good, the ribs themselves are a little tough.

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The bill is presented in some part of a motor engine (don’t ask me what part, I’m a girl) and it’s a nice touch.

The CBD really needed something like Bridge Street Garage, but unfortunately I don’t think they quite have the formula right yet and won’t be hurrying back.

Bridge St Garage, 17-19 Bridge Street, Ph (02) 9251 9392
http://bridgestgarage.com.au/

Bridge Street Garage Bar & Diner on Urbanspoon

Hartsyard, Newtown

005 (2)“Theirs is a typical New York hospitality story. He was the chef. She was the hostess”, proclaims the website, and goes on to describe a blossoming romance. Too cute. After dragging her man back to Australia, it was time to start their own restaurant. Fortunately though, owners Naomi Hart and Greg Llewellyn did not go the Bennifer or Brangelina route, or the place could have been called Nareg or Graomi. Naomi landed naming rights while Greg worked the hotplates.

They go on to describe it as an “inner city homestead” and certainly you feel comfortable as you walk in the door and take a seat – its small and cosy, simple wooden tables, a few pieces of art on the walls, and nothing too fussy . But it’s a homestead with surprises, part American soul food and part wild re-invention, with plenty of plating artistry thrown in. There were seven of us that night and we had a good crack at most of the menu, and ate way more than was good for us, but we couldn’t help it.

Note to dieters: go away.

The menu is divided into a “Seed” and “Feed” section rather than your standard entrée and main monikers, but the Seeds were pretty generous and you could make a great meal out of those alone. Actually, make that an excellent meal, because the Seeds were all fantastic. You could devour a bowl of those potato skins, which go beautifully with that tender octopus. And who would of thought of duck rillettes in a jaffle – bought back memories of the Breville Snack ‘n Sandwich maker my mother has hiding in the cupboard somewhere – with a devine cherry concoction plus a great hazelnut crunch. The Po’ Boys – a deep fried oyster with coleslaw and mayo on a delicious muffin – well, they are as good as everyone says. Short of time? Duck in, grab a seat at the bar, have a couple of them with a clever cocktail (such as the Hartyard Manhatten with bacon infused Jack Daniels) and be on your merry way. And how good could a Saturday night at the movies be with a bag of prawn popcorn?

Oyster Po’ Boy on an English muffin, Old Bay mayo, coleslaw
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Fremantle Octopus with potato skins, white corn, piquillo peppers
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Duck Rillettes Jaffle with cherry, foie gras, hazelnut praline
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School Prawn Popcorn with espelette pepper, sour cream, lemon
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We then moved onto the Feeds. My pick of these was undoubtedly the pulled pork which pulled in all the right ways. The cauliflower was also a surprise, cleverly served slab style rather than the usual florets. The fried chicken, while crispy and not at all greasy, didn’t have the punch of flavour I expected but the accompanying glorious country sausage gravy took it where it was supposed to go.

Pulled Pork with maple bacon, yoghurt, apple
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Cauliflower with Smoked raisin, porcini marmalade, queso fresco, pecan
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Fried Chicken with buttermilk biscuit, low country sausage gravy
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Smoked Brisket with pastrami spice, special sauce, sauerkraut, rye
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Ricotta Gnudi with roasted broccoli, pecorino tartufo, chanterelles
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The deserts are charmingly called “Out to Pasture” and I tell you if there was a pasture at the back of the restaurant, at that point, we probably would have gone to lie down in it. But in for a penny, in for a pound. There were four desserts, so of course we thought we would try them all. If you want something more traditional looking, go the Peanut Butter and Banana Sundae; the other desserts took a more deconstructed format and were gorgeously presented. The crowd favourite, and an unexpected one at that, was the pumpkin pie, where the pumpkin took the form of paper thin wafers and the whisky flavoured ice cream provided a great lift.

Peanut Butter + Banana Sundae with pretzel ice-cream, banana doughnut, salted fudge & Pumpkin Pie with rice custard, Jack Daniels ice-cream, spiced pear, pecan praline
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Chocolate and Honey chocolate ganache, dehydrated mousse, sorrel sorbet, crispy quinoa, pomegranate & Vanilla Cheesecake with raspberry cookie dough, lemon ice-cream, raspberry meringue hartsyard dessert2

Greg and Naomi’s love story is undoubtedly one that worked well. Head on over to Newtown and witness the romance yourself.

Hartsyard, 33 Enmore Road Newtown, ph 02 8068 1473
http://www.hartsyard.com.au

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