Wild Edibles, NYC

Address: 535 Third Avenue

Cuisine: Seafood

This has to be one of the most bizarre restaurants I have ever been to, and I guess I was warned. It’s been rated by Zagat as the #1 Seafood Market but I’m not sure what this means for it’s restaurant – the seafood produce is good?

It’s bizarre because it’s not sure what it is. Is it a seafood market (shop), bar, or fully-blown restaurant? The location is dividied into thirds to accommodate each business ambition! Then, there is the colour-coding – an ethical legend allowing customers to choose what they eat: Greean, Yello, Red indicates the population of a particular fish and the ethical fishing method. Conscience eating?

Ian K and I, both Aussies, comment that produce in NYC will never compare to that of Sydney. But alas, he had forgotten I had just spent 3 months in Sydney. We both have a glass of Sauv Blanc and order the Scallops. Scallops are big, sorry huge, in NYC. Like most things, they’re fattened up but I’m not sure how or why. The meal is OK but strange on all fronts and I’m not sure I’d visit again, unless the well-meaning and sweet manager does something to define what the place is intended to do/feel/say.


Huong Xua, Sydney

Address: 180 Cabramatta Rd Cabramatta, NSW 2166. Phone: 02 9755 0388.

Cuisine: Vietnamese.

Unlike many other food cultures, Vietnamese has a distinct thing about a place making one dish well. Yes, it’s an age old thing called “specializng” but I see it lost among the food world, especially in the Asian corner. While many restaurants strive to have a laundry list of everything that’s good, or rotate their menus according to seasonal produce, or even have specials that the introduce to try out new things, my favourite Vietnamese haunts do, normally one, at most two dishes better than anywhere I know. And these places have me coming back year, after year, after year.

I have one for Com Tam (broken rice), one for Mi Ga Da Don (crispy-skinned chicken with egg noodle), one for Com Tom Can (Prawns stewed in row and tomato over broken rice. My favourite for all of dishes Bun Thit Nuong va Cha Gio(vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls) and my favourite place to have this is a Northern Vietnamese place I call home – I mean, Huong Xua.

Imagine… grilled pork with the tastiest and stickiest marinade, flame grilled, all juicy and sweet. Spring rolls with the wrapping that is crunchy and paper-like that sticks to the back of your teeth, and filled with pork and crab? These over freshly cooked vermicelli with my favourites of lettuce and Ti To (perilla leaf) and eaten with a dousing of Nuoc Mam (fish sauce) – not the southern kind, really sickly sweet, but rather more subtle and plain, just as the Northerners like it.

My favourite dish is a special because the Spring Rolls are extra – but for $12 to feed two people, I will never complain.


Nam Bo, Ho Chi Minh

Address: 283/C145 Cach Mang Thanh 8, P. 8, Q. 10 (District 10)

Telephone: +84 (0) 8 3863 2309/3862 2569

The business card reads “Lang Nuong Nam Bo” (Southern Grill House), “Gia Binh Dan” (affordable, local prices), “Tren 100 mon nuong…” (Over 100 grilled dishes).

This place gives you an indication of the volume of people in HCM. It’s huge. It’s noisy and bustly, smoky and fragrant, and houses hundred of familes eating away at the many grilled and non-grilled delights the place has to offer.

We are 8 people – the Singaporeans, their Australian passport-holding boyfriends, me and my Dad. We are a big group which means we can try lots of things. Yum.

As is customary with things in HCM, whatever is on the table when you start is for you to eat/use/drink. If you do, you pay. If not, you don’t and some other table down the track gets your unwanted goods. Our table has Bia 333, coconut coated peanuts, pickled fruit and quail eggs (these look fresh). Miss Gay and I indulge our desires and start to peel away only to reveal it’s an fetal egg. Aghast (she already told me no to inards and the like), we abandon them and urge Mario to “be a man” and try one. After a little bit of arm-twisting, he peels the shell away to reveal a amniotic sack thing, wraps a Vietnamese mint leaf around it, closes his eyes and “vo’s” (pronounced “yo”) it. “Tasty if you don’t think about it”, he proclaims.

And then the real stuff comes. Ga Nuong (Grilled Freerange Chicken) in dig-in size pieces are delivered and silence commences as food is devoured. Good starter, but a mere tease for what’s to follow. The Heo Sua (Baby/Suckling Pig) we see on a spit and roasting as we enter, is now on our table. A tasty little piglet we happily and easily give up our conscience for – a tasty little thing with delicious moist meat, and thin crackling with minimal fat, is the highlight of the night! Follow this up with Ca Nuong (Grilled Leather Jacket Fish) we eat wrapped in a medley of fresh greens including my favourite Ti To (Perilla Leaf) and dipped in a mix of salts and lime, or fish sauce. Next we have the Tom Nau Nuoc Dua (Live Prawns Cooked in Coconut Juice) flambeed spirits…

When we thought all this was enough, out came the finale, which perhaps that forgot about after such an earlier big meal. Banh Hoi voi Thit Nuong (Vermicelli Cake with Grilled Beef) was it and was perhaps the least enjoyed of all, perhaps due to the volume of everything else earlier.

I think we all had favourites from this place – be it the Heo Sua (Mario), the Leather Jacket (Eric), the vibe and smiley staff (me) or perhaps the poor guy/maitre’d who had to wear the silver chiffon Ao Dai (me, again), and in part, the fact that it was out of District 1 – sorry guys we ended up hanging around here otherwise.

Given a return trip to HCM, we would all definitely go back.

I heart this place. And am hungry thinking about all the good stuff we ate.


Sticky, Sydney

Sarah laughed. “You’re going to be sticky in Surry Hills”.

I didn’t quite know what to expect. Probably because I hadn’t been to Table for 20, and had only peeped through the window to only see rows of tables. Have never really seen it hustle and bustle.

The event is Shane’s, Marc’s and Leo’s birthday, but we’re also celebrating the day Geoffrey goes public with young Michelle.

There are a couple of drinks I try at every bar – drinks I use to gauge the quality of the mixologists (such a NYC wank word). So tonight I have a Negroni followed by a Frangelico Sour.

Negroni – I love. I think I’ve had it every week for a year. This one is clean, really neat and not bitter like the ones that try to make it as bitter as can be. Strange seeing as all the ingredients suggest it would be otherwise.

Frangelico – an old favourite. A guy at the bar, Tom, suggested I have a sip of his Whiskey equivalent and I was sold. Not too sweet, not too sour, not thick, clean, and just about perfect.

I rate the cocktails. I loved the NYC-esque bar environment. Exposed brick, live music, comfy lounges and chairs and little pocketed area. A totally non-Sydney bar which is what Sydney needs.


Fratelli Fresh/Sopra, Sydney

I can’t tell you how many times I have been to this place, and with whom, and how many hours I have spent eating and drinking the day away. I do remember one occasion where I spent a good 4 hours with 3 girlfriends do nothing but chatting away and devouring most of what was listed on the chalkboard menu.

I can’t tell you how many years it’s been open or when I started going but I know that when I discovered it, I feel in lust. And now there are two locations, Waterloo and Potts Point, where I can go.

Downstairs Fratelli Fresh is a little mecca of the finest of Sydney’s produce. Bread, meat, fruit and vegetables, cured meats, cheese… and then upstairs there is really only a couple of things – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pasta, pasta sauces, salt – and all of it well.

The real beauty is when all the good produce comes together in a magical list of clean, fresh, richly flavoursome, and healthy food that allows you, and makes you want to eat, and eat more. It’s all seasonal stuff but there are some staples that never go away, and should never be taken away from anyone who’s eaten there before. I forget what pastas there are but they’re done simply and magically – lamb ragu, bolognese ragu, perfecto. Today with young Shaun I had the Risotto with Roast Duck and Corn and we shared some Stuffed Zucchini. I’ve had everything from a White Anchovy Salad (sold downstairs), Cured Meat Plate, Caprese Salad.

I actually don’t think I can remember everything else in the blurr of the good food. I recommend you go. And if in Waterloo and in need of a location for an occassion, grab that little back table for 15 or so of your bestest friends.


North Bondi Italian, Sydney

I come from an Asian background. All we do, is eat and when we do, the only way we know how, is to share – regardless of where we are. Give us degustation, Chinese, Italian, pasta or soup, and everything else that is hard to share, and we do it.

So when looking for a place to do this, that provides a view of why so many people (from the UK) call Sydney home, and provides fresh Sydney fare, there is not better place than North Bondi Italian.

This place is great because you can stroll right up from the beach in your boardies, thongs and even bikini, they serve food and drink with a big fat smile, and because no matter that you’ve been in NYC for winter and have a glowing white tan, you can look good. Oh, and did I say mention those summer cocktails go down a treat. Lee W – I think we did one, two or three… or was it a pitcher of Pimms with something or other?

The food is simple. Lots and lots of basics done with fresh produce and done well. Nothing overly ground-breaking here in terms and tastes and flavours – just a great place to share good food. (For the really magnificent stuff and perhaps a non-big group special occassion, head up the street to Sean’s Panaroma for dinner for something to knock your socks off).

I’d go back again. Because it’s at the nice end of Bondi and there are beautiful things to watch everywhere.


Single Origin, Sydney

Coffee. The best I’ve had. Actual flavour. Not like that black water that people like in that city I call home. Not like the stuff you get palmed off at places where they have “baristas”. This is the real sh*t. Roger, the sh*t that rocks.

Zack S, you told me you had the best coffee at your home after having it shipped from some crazy place to your Pasdena home? I bet you it isn’t. So much so I’m going to buy you some beans and send it your way. Then we can have a discussion.

But seriously. This place is good. I can have two, or three in a sitting because it tastes so good (and then walk away with a mild case of the shakes). Also try their food. I especially like how they manage to make all that good stuff I’ve been eating, in a 1mx3m “kitchen”. Sarah (little sis #1) and I have had cured salmon with radicchio salad, and the caprese salad and it was to die for. Matt C and I had different types of nougat. Mamma and I have done the lamingtons and fruit cake.

It’s my local that’s a 20min drive from home. It’s gotten even better with more seating and alcohol. Gotta love you Clover Moore.

I’ll be back after being there today. Tomorrow, and the next day and possibly another 10 times before I go back home.

Hi to the charming boys that run the place, and the girl with the eyeliner tricks I am deeply envious of.


January 2018
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