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australia & new zealand recs?

australia & new zealand recs?
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  • australia & new zealand recs?

    Post #1 - January 15th, 2007, 5:18 pm
    Post #1 - January 15th, 2007, 5:18 pm Post #1 - January 15th, 2007, 5:18 pm
    didn't find much through the search engine, in terms of a general thread about australia, so here goes:

    i'm heading down to australia for a month in a few weeks. going to primarily spend time visiting a cousin in sydney, but will likely head to new zealand & maybe a sidetrip elsewhere in OZ.

    staying near manly beach & dee why while in sydney, but will be exploring all over the city. would love recommendations for affordable stuff (really, i like just about everything), markets, and anything "can't miss" is always welcome.....

    i'm leaving my job on wednesday & doing some travel, so this is a bit of an exciting trip coming up 8)

    thanks in advance,
    miss ellen
  • Post #2 - January 15th, 2007, 9:50 pm
    Post #2 - January 15th, 2007, 9:50 pm Post #2 - January 15th, 2007, 9:50 pm
    How much do you want to know? Sydney is great, and in addition to lots of fine dining, there is an amazing amount of inexpensive ethnic food. Chinatown is a good bet, but radiating out from Chinatown you can find Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Lebanese, Polish, Greek. Even the arcades (passageways through or between buildings downtown that are lined with shops) will usually have food areas where you can find exotica.

    Of course, seafood is abundant. Doyles on the Beach is a great place for a seafood splurge. It's 100 years old, is a Sydney landmark, and has a great view back across the Harbour.

    A tour of the Hunter Valley is nice, if you fancy wine. It's kind of the Napa of New South Wales.

    Aussie classics, such as meat pie with sauce, are actually becoming harder to find, as Asian and haute cuisines take over -- but I love meat pies, so I'd recommend trying one if you want to know what one of the national dishes is like. It's basically just flaky pastry filled with ground beef, onion, and gravy, but it occupies a place similar to that of the hot dog here, including being served at sporting events.

    If your focus is food, then Brisbane would be a good sidetrip -- try king prawns, tiger prawns, Moreton Bay bugs and Balmain bugs. ("Bugs" are a local crustacean that is kind of like a small lobster.) Or you could head for Melbourne, where there is the third largest Greek speaking community in the world, after Athens and Thessolonica.

    But if you want to see Australia, get out of town. Get up into the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. If you go to Brisbane, visit the rainforest at Lamington National Park. If you go to Melbourne, go see the penguins on Philip Island or get up into the Dandenong Mountains. Or take a trip to Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia: kangaroos, emus, sea lions, caves, rock formations, and general wonderfulness (and whiting and rock lobsters, for your dining pleasure).

    Australia is wonderful -- friendly people, good food, beautiful scenery, interesting history. I presume the cousin will be able to fill you in on some of the many things to do, from Taronga Park Zoo to the Australian Museum to Old Sydney Town (a recreating of Sydney 200 years ago), Kuringai Chase National Park, and everything else.

    Have a splendid time. Australia is amazing and wonderful. (I'm told NZ is, too, but I just haven't been able to pry myself away from Australia yet, even after four trips.)

    Bon voyage.
  • Post #3 - January 16th, 2007, 11:37 am
    Post #3 - January 16th, 2007, 11:37 am Post #3 - January 16th, 2007, 11:37 am
    how timely! I just got back from Australia and have been delinquent in writing up my notes...

    Without giving too much away (I have great pictures that I will share) I would recommend, with some reservation, the legendary Tetsuya's -- the service is outstanding, the food is very good, and the setting is remarkable. But I would second Cynthia's advice -- plan to spend a good deal of your time dining out at small ethnic restaurants. The exchange rate isn't too favorable toward the US dollar these days, and although things are a bit cheaper than, say, NYC, a good dinner will set you back considerably -- as will a mediocre dinner. Asian cuisine of all kinds is actually reasonably priced - similar to what you would pay in the US - unless you go to an 'upscaled' place that would be the equivalent of a Le Colonial.

    There's a fierce drought going on right now as well, which shouldn't impact your eating.

    That being said, Australian fine dining has come a long way. I'd still rather spend my money in Chicago, but it is hard to beat for coffee, great Japanese cuisine, breakfast drinks (fresh passionfruit! yes!), Yum Cha (dim sum), Vietnamese, Malaysian, Singaporean cuisine, and truly great espresso & cafe culture. The wine is also a plus. Some have also told me that the Steak can't be beat...but I wouldn't know as I don't eat the cow.

    More later....
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
  • Post #4 - January 16th, 2007, 12:14 pm
    Post #4 - January 16th, 2007, 12:14 pm Post #4 - January 16th, 2007, 12:14 pm
    I can't be too specific, as I haven't been to NZ in over ten years but Cynthia is right - find yourself a meat pie while you're down there.

    As you might imagine, seafood is awesome down there (I had the best fish and chip EVER from a shack near the Bay of Islands), find yourself some paua fritters, or a maori stew of pipis, paua and seaweed to get really regional. Needless to say, the lamb is pretty darn good too.

    As far as specifics, the places I know that are still around -
    The Shakespeare in Auckland (I lived above it for awhile) is a great brew pub with very impressive beers.

    I had one of my life's greatest meals at the (Formerly) Blackball Hilton - a simple lamb chop and kumara (NZ Sweet potato) dinner after a long hike in the mountains. Formerly the Blackball Hilton has nothing to do with the Hilton chain, nor with Paris or what's her name, hence the 'formerly' was added when Hilton's laywers found the place. The small historic mining town is also home of the Blackball Salami Company. I've been lucky enough to try some of their (smuggled in) Venison salami.

    When I lived in Auckland, I loved going to the Hekerua Lodge, on the island of Waiheke. Just a modest backpackers lodge, this place was host to lots of travelling characters, and once in awhile, a cheap bucket of huge mussels. The Lodge appears to still be in operation.
  • Post #5 - January 16th, 2007, 3:02 pm
    Post #5 - January 16th, 2007, 3:02 pm Post #5 - January 16th, 2007, 3:02 pm
    kiplog wrote:I can't be too specific, as I haven't been to NZ in over ten years but Cynthia is right - find yourself a meat pie while you're down there.

    Oh, yes, meat pies.

    And, sausage rolls, too.

    "On average, each Australian consumes 12 meat pies and another 17 combined pastries, sausage rolls and party pies a year."*

    Hell, I managed to do all of that and a lot more during an eight week stint in Sydney.


    * The article linked features a list of reputable Sydney area pies.
  • Post #6 - January 16th, 2007, 3:57 pm
    Post #6 - January 16th, 2007, 3:57 pm Post #6 - January 16th, 2007, 3:57 pm
    It has also been 10 years since I was down under, so I can't give any specific recs either. Back in the 90s, I spent some time in Melbourne working on a project. I loved that city. If Sydney is the New York City of Oz, then Melbourne is the Chicago. A specialty of Melbourne that I really enjoyed were the charcoal grills. These restaurants were mostly Greek or Balkan in origin and featured wonderful lamb, beef and chicken grilled over coals. As I recall, many were BYOB. Another local dish I developed a taste for was Ribbon Fish (Lepidopus caudatus), which is an eel-like fish native to Southern Australia and New Zealand. It was served battered and fried. It not only looked cool but it was also delicious.
  • Post #7 - January 17th, 2007, 9:32 am
    Post #7 - January 17th, 2007, 9:32 am Post #7 - January 17th, 2007, 9:32 am
    New Zealand is the most stunningly beautiful country I have ever seen. I like Australia as well, but make sure you get to NZ if at all possible, particularly the south island. The two areas for good dining on the south island are both wine regions: Marlborough in the north and Central Otago in the south. A number of the wineries have a restaurant on site, usually with scenic view. Rather than recommend a specific restaurant, I would suggest that you talk to the locals when you arrive. This might be a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but you can't go wrong ordering lamb in almost any decent restaurant in NZ. Have a great trip.
  • Post #8 - January 17th, 2007, 8:37 pm
    Post #8 - January 17th, 2007, 8:37 pm Post #8 - January 17th, 2007, 8:37 pm
    In Sydney get a transport pass, one that allows you to go everywhere on the ferries, trains, metro, etc. It's well worth it.

    There are a couple of Portugese grill restaurants. Check them out. Also, there are several really down-to-earth eateries in the Sydney Fish Market. I just about lived there for a couple days.

    Take the ferry out to Manly, walk down the Corso and stop at the fish and chips shop right at the end of the strip. That's the best f & c in Sydney, according to the local rag.

    If you've got a couple of extra days fly down to Tassie. Hobart is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places in the world. And the best fish and chips in Oz are there on the pier at the Fish Frenzy. Oh boy, what a town! The Saturday morning farmer's market is awesome.

    Brisbane, as noted, is interesting and nice. Up and over the Great Dividing Range to the west is the Granite Belt wine/fruit region and a wonderful National Park that has lodges which are absolutely perfect for a weekend. Brisbane and westerly is, in general, relatively undiscovered, mostly because it's just emerging from a deadly provincialism. It's throbbing at the moment, and uncrowded, because lots of Ozzies don't yet belief in its naissance! A couple of my buds are on faculty at UQ there, and we spent a glorious two weeks with them last Summer. Yee-hah. Any Greek or Asian restaurant in town will be a thrill.

    Oh, man, you are sooooo lucky!

    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #9 - January 19th, 2007, 10:22 am
    Post #9 - January 19th, 2007, 10:22 am Post #9 - January 19th, 2007, 10:22 am
    thanks for all the great replies! i'm getting excited, and it is looking like NZ is going to be a reality......

    on my first day of "retirement", my company calls & offered me a contract assignment out in north carolina, where i'm already heading for the next ten days.

    i can extend my trip (it won't affect my already planned stuff), and go drive around doing 7 site inspections of lumber yards around north carolina, with nothing more than a few hours away from charlotte. get my airfare paid, all my expenses, and a pretty nice paycheck. that is going to allow me to get to NZ & not feel guilty about my spending. i was getting worried with the "peak season" upon OZ/NZ, but what a nice present dropped in my lap!

    i'll be checking back, but wanted to thank everyone as i head off to the carolinas....

    miss ellen
  • Post #10 - May 8th, 2007, 7:17 am
    Post #10 - May 8th, 2007, 7:17 am Post #10 - May 8th, 2007, 7:17 am
    smellen wrote:
    i'm heading down to australia for a month in a few weeks. going to primarily spend time visiting a cousin in sydney, but will likely head to new zealand & maybe a sidetrip elsewhere in OZ.

    miss Ellen, how was the trip? suggestions ?

    FWIW, there is now a VERY cheap fare, business class from SFO or LAX to AKL (Auckland) for less than $1500.

    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #11 - May 9th, 2007, 7:15 am
    Post #11 - May 9th, 2007, 7:15 am Post #11 - May 9th, 2007, 7:15 am
    If Sydney is the New York City of Oz, then Melbourne is the Chicago.

    So true! Melbourne is the foodie capital of Oz. Most of my extended family lives around Melbourne, and I can't wait for my visit in December so that I can spend a Sunday (or two) drooling at the cakes on Acland in St. Kilda. If you're going to Melbourne (smellen, you didn't mention it), I can be more helpful beyond cakes.
  • Post #12 - May 9th, 2007, 9:30 am
    Post #12 - May 9th, 2007, 9:30 am Post #12 - May 9th, 2007, 9:30 am
    I really like the Thursday night seafood buffet at Katsura Restaurant in the Rendezvous Hotel in Auckland, NZ. Really fresh seafood of all kinds. Lots of yummy sashimi as well. Buffet hours are 6:30pm-8:30pm. But you'll see people start lining up at 6pm. It's pretty expensive - NZD$73.50/person => USD$54/person, but worth it IMHO.
  • Post #13 - November 6th, 2007, 9:49 pm
    Post #13 - November 6th, 2007, 9:49 pm Post #13 - November 6th, 2007, 9:49 pm
    kiplog wrote:The Shakespeare in Auckland (I lived above it for awhile) is a great brew pub with very impressive beers.

    I hope to go for lunch in a few weeks, the beers and that open lamb sandwich sound great.

    anyone have recs for seafood in/near the CBD of Auckland ?
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #14 - November 8th, 2007, 2:48 pm
    Post #14 - November 8th, 2007, 2:48 pm Post #14 - November 8th, 2007, 2:48 pm
    sweet willie, while i can't really steer you in the direction of your request, i will alert you to the breakfast spot i found while in auckland.....

    KoKaKo, 494 Parnell Rd, right near the large park in Auckland named the Domain.

    i had a great morning walk from the "shakes", as the locals call it, through the Domain, especially the Lower Woods Walk, and ended up on the doorstep of KoKaKo.

    the write up i read the night before mentioned a small veggie coffee shop, w/excellent organic coffee, and a tasty tofu scramble.

    that tofu scramble, with pan-fried potatoes, and fresh berry smoothie, rivals my other favorite tofu scramble back home, at Lula's Cafe. wow, i still think about it.

    unfortunately, since i was traveling alone in NZ & on a tight budget, i had to revoke my foodie pass quite a bit (yes, i ate at subway...multiple times), but just being in such a wonderful place made me very happy!

    miss ellen
  • Post #15 - November 8th, 2007, 9:08 pm
    Post #15 - November 8th, 2007, 9:08 pm Post #15 - November 8th, 2007, 9:08 pm
    If you go to Perth, or anywhere on the west coast of Aus, go directly to the outdoor food stalls and feast. Go first to the Malay stalls. Your life will be forever changed.
  • Post #16 - December 18th, 2007, 11:35 pm
    Post #16 - December 18th, 2007, 11:35 pm Post #16 - December 18th, 2007, 11:35 pm
    I was in Sydney last weekend and spent some time at the Sydney Fish Market.




    It's no Tsujiki--the Sydney Fish Market sells in one week the amount of fish Tsujiki moves in a day--but the Sydney market is still the second largest fish market in the southern hemisphere. Up to 100 different kinds of fish can be found on its auction floor on any given day. The variety reflects the multicultural demand in Sydney and Australia more broadly. Almost 70% of the fish at comes from New South Wales (NSW), about 25% from interstate (Australia), a few percent from New Zealand and even fewer from Asia. In other words, the suppliers are overwhelmingly Australian. The market opened in 1945, and, at that time, all fish destined for NSW had to go through it (it was de-regulated in 1999). It is now a privately held company with 50 employees who staff the marketplace, cooking school and auction floor.

    I hope someone else will find this funny too, but outside the market is this board with the pictures and bios of the market's founders...

    I was reading the bios and glanced over to the water of Blackwattle Bay and saw this...

    On Monday morning, I rose early to walk to the market and attend the day's auction. (Well, actually, it wasn't that early. I'm on vacation after all.) The auction starts at 5:30am, and I arrived just after 7am. The auction is usually over by 8:30am. The whole thing was much more sedate than I thought it'd be. I thought a fish market auction would be far more raucous than any evening at Christie's or Sotheby's (my limited auction frame of reference), but I was wrong. The buyers on Monday morning seemed very relaxed, chatting with each other at their tables with keypads, drinking coffee. Sometimes, it didn't look like many of the buyers were even looking at the auction board, but they must have been checking it if they were buying anything. (The stopping of the price clock and the request for number of lots happen via keypad in a two-seconod window, so I think the activity was actually just too fast for me to witness anything, even standing in the middle of the buyers as I was.) My guide Tracy explained that there is sometimes yelling if a buyer discovers he's (I only saw men) gotten a bad price. But otherwise, it's the same buyers and suppliers, all pros, every day--it's usually a calm affair.



    I got to go down on the auction floor, which was fun. (I love any activity that involves donning galoshes and an over-sized orange florescent vest.) The floor is divided into three areas: the main area where most of the product (raw and cooked) is kept, the sushi pavilion and the crustacean pen. I have the least pictures of the crustacean pen, which was busy and hard to shoot, but here are a few pictures from the other areas of the floor.

    I thought this was a mirador, but I'm not sure now...

    Don't remember the name of these fish...

    Don't remember what these are called either...

    Live Balmain bugs, aka poor man's lobster:




    Pink ling:


    The sushi pavilion:

    These opah were amazing; apparently, it takes them 15 years to mature to this size:

    Yellow fin tuna that was tasted by a cookie cutter shark:

    I didn't have a lot of time on the floor, so I think some of my better fish pictures come from the marketplace/market foodcourt.

    Tasmanian salmon:


    Red rock cod:

    Tank of king crab:

    Live king crab being weighed for sale:

    Live mud crab:

    Saltwater scampi:

    Red spot whitings:

    Peri winkles:

    Ocean perch:

    Besides the stalls where you can buy fish to take home and cook, there are also plenty of places to eat at the market proper.


    My first lunch of the day was a dozen Tasmanian oysters from Claudio's. I chose the Tasmanian variety because I'm currently obsessed with all foodstuffs from Tasmania, but I wish I would have tried some of the Sydney and NZ oysters for comparison. I could eat oysters all day, every day. Actually, after my visit to the Sydney Fish Market, I think I could have kept pace with Brillat-Savarin...


    My second lunch was a serving of BBQ baby octopus from the Fish Market Café:


    My godmother had lobster mornay and chips:


    Overall, the Sydney Fish Market is a neat place to visit. It's a good introduction to a large-scale fish market, better than Tsujiki, especially if you don't speak or read Japanese like me. I was somewhat numbed by the volume of lobsters, blue swimmer crabs, prawns and barramundi I saw, which is why I think I didn't get any pictures of these things. More of my fish pictures from Sydney can be found here.

    Sydney Fish Market
    Pyrmont Bridge Rd
    Pyrmont, NSW 2009
    (02) 9004 1100
    Last edited by happy_stomach on December 19th, 2007, 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #17 - December 18th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    Post #17 - December 18th, 2007, 11:40 pm Post #17 - December 18th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    While the harbour is breathtaking, and I love the beaches, Sydney isn't one of my favorite cities in the world. Compared to Melbourne, eating is not that great there, and the value isn't good (even farther away from the tourist attractions; for example, I thought the prices at restaurants in Leichardt were outrageous for really mediocre Italian food). Because I always get my Aussie mobile number wrong, and no one can ever reach me, I missed a reservation at Becasse on Monday--still kicking myself for that. One recommendation I can make is for Superbowl in Chinatown. The best dishes are the congees, house noodles and various seafood with chili. I'm sure there are even greater things on the dishes described in Chinese on the walls... Sydney's Chinatown also seems to have a higher concentration of bakeries than other Chinatowns I've visited--good stops for snacks. I've started to like Breadtop, which I think is a Singapore-based chain, which also has stores in Melbourne. One other thing I noted about Sydney's Chinatown were a lot of shops selling mainly expensive dried abalone.

    On my last night in Sydney, my godmother and I saw a movie at the theaters right on the harbor, and we were lazy afterwards to walk very far to dinner. We ended up at the Löwenbräu restaurant at The Rocks--definitely a tourist trap, but the food was decent. Most of the staff seemed to speak German, and there was lederhosen and live music. I wish we had ordered the pork belly, but we enjoyed the fish & chips, sausage platter and apple strudel that we shared.

    41 Dixon St
    Sydney NSW 2000
    (02) 9281 2462

    Löwenbräu Keller
    Corner of Playfair & Argyle Streets
    The Rocks
    Sydney NSW 2000
    (02) 9247 7785
  • Post #18 - December 18th, 2007, 11:52 pm
    Post #18 - December 18th, 2007, 11:52 pm Post #18 - December 18th, 2007, 11:52 pm
    Killer photos.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #19 - August 26th, 2009, 3:35 pm
    Post #19 - August 26th, 2009, 3:35 pm Post #19 - August 26th, 2009, 3:35 pm
    I visited Australia and NZ on my honeymoon earlier this month. As usual a big focus of our trip was the food.

    Our first stop was Cairns which is the city that serves the tourists visiting the Great Barrier Reef.

    Our first night in Cairns we looked for a place to eat on the Esplanade. We had trouble distinguishing between a bunch of similar menus so we got enticed by the specials at Barnacle Bills. These included a crocodile curry and barramundi fish and chips. The fish was fairly fresh but the chips were bland and undercooked and the crocodile was rubbery and overly sweet. Overall it was ok for the main tourist stretch, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Ochre Restaurant
    pictured: Smoked Kangaroo, Emu Pate, Crocodile wontons, and others I can't remember

    The next night we had a reservation at Ochre. We opted for the Taste of Australia menu that indulged our touristy desire to eat exotic foods we can’t get at home. We were very impressed! The dishes were effective at introducing and highlighting exotic flavors and ingredients (emu, wattleseeds, lemon aspen, etc) without appearing too gimmicky or overproduced. Also this menu was seriously a lot of food! We were incredibly stuffed before the wattleseed pavlova came out. Some of the highlights included smoked kangaroo, emu pate, and crocodile sambal. This was a memorable meal and I’d recommend it to any tourist interested in trying some of the ingredients unique to Australia.

    Our last night, we searched around but couldn’t find anything that caught our fancy, so we ended up at the food court on the Esplanade. For 9 dollars you can fill your plate up with typical buffet style Asian fare. Compared to a lot of the rip offs being peddled on the Esplanade, this really isn’t a bad option. The food moves fast so at least you know it hasn’t been sitting around for a while and there is a fair amount of variety. I’d say the food was above average as far as Asian buffets go. There were a number of cheap looking Asian places that interested us (Filipino and Singaporean caught our eye), but they all seemed to only be open for lunch which didn't work with our schedule.

    Our last day in Cairns we happened across Meldrum’s Pies in Paradise on Grafton St. I wish we had found it earlier! The pies were beautifully flaky and filled with tender and juicy meat. It’s an unassuming little shop on a street with a couple other bakeries, but we couldn’t have been happier to walk into this shop. They have a number of awards hanging on the wall, though I’m not sure how reputable those awards are. But I’d definitely recommend this place if you’re in the mood for a quick bite or just a sample of an Australian style meat pie.
  • Post #20 - August 26th, 2009, 3:51 pm
    Post #20 - August 26th, 2009, 3:51 pm Post #20 - August 26th, 2009, 3:51 pm
    From Cairns we flew to Melbourne.

    Our first night we went to Gigibaba in Collingwood. The menu was great with many authentic Turkish meze options I rarely see at Turkish restaurants. We initially ordered five meze and our server suggested that we were probably under-ordering. We figured we could always order more. We quickly realized why the waiter was surprised because the meze were tiny. I have been to many small plates restaurants and these were hands down the smallest “small plates” I’ve ever seen. The stewed beans was enough for maybe four bites (total, not each), and the blue-eyed cod was smaller than a deck of cards. I suppose these portion sizes wouldn’t have been so bad except that the prices were pretty steep, most dishes being $8 and the meat ranging from $12-18. That said the food was really good. The kofte was beautifully tender and grilled and the eggplant was perfectly smoked. Unfortunately the great tastes were over after two bites. Overall I’d say the food was some of the best Turkish restaurant food I’ve had outside of Turkey, but when you’re paying $50 a person for food you expect to get up full, sit at a nice table not a cramped bar, and not have to wave down the waiter to get more bread (they only give you two tiny pieces each time).

    Queen Victoria Market

    The next day we at the Queen Victoria Market for lunch. The market was totally awesome! Our favorites were the Tasmanian oysters, the smoke provolone from one of the Italian cheese vendors, and the Thai chili roasted macadamia nuts. If we had a place like this in Chicago I’d visit all the time!

    Mihn Mihn
    pictured: Laotian-style fried fish

    For dinner that night we needed a quick bite before catching a movie at the Melbourne International Film Festival so we stopped by Victoria St in Richmond (Little Saigon) to get some Vietnamese food. We walked up and down the block a couple times, but all the restaurants seemed to have the same menu. We were hoping to try some uniquely Vietnamese dishes but many of the restaurants appeared to offer typical Chinese fare with a couple Vietnamese options like pho or summer rolls. We decided on Mihn Mihn because their menu featured Laotian dishes that we’d never seen before. We ordered a couple dishes from the Laotian menu and a rice-stick stir-fry dish from the regular menu (over half the menu was stir-fries of different sorts). The Laotian items we had were quite good, similar to Thai but more tomato-y and less sweet. The stir-fry dish was terrible. The vegetables were soggy and obviously frozen and the dish was swimming in grease. We looked around the restaurant and saw that nearly everyone had ordered stir-fries that looked as unappetizing as the one in front of us. There are probably some great Vietnamese restaurants on Victoria St, but we looked for 30 minutes and all we could come up with was a restaurant that did good Laotian food and bad stir-fries.

    pictured: Cecina

    The next day we had a lunch reservation at Movida for tapas. This was hands-down the best meal we ate in Melbourne and probably the best tapas I’ve ever had. Every dish was better than the last, though the highlight was definitely the Cecina. It’s described as “Air cured wagyu beef thinly sliced with a truffle foam and poached egg” and believe it or not it’s even better than it sounds. We spent as much at Movida as we did at Gigibaba but we ate easily twice as much. The service was pretty hit or miss especially when they brought out our last dish 30 minutes after we had finished eating everything else, but when the food is that good I can put up with just about anything (other than miniscule portions).

    Camy's Shanghai Dumpling
    pictured: Shanghai-style fish with noodles, tea egg, and pickled greens

    Unfortunately we finished our trip to Melbourne on a low note. We were in a hurry to get to Etihad Stadium to watch the AFL game so we stopped by Chinatown to eat at the immensely popular Camy’s Shanghai Dumplings. The line was down the street and the restaurant was filled with all sorts of people ranging from businessmen in suits to Asian families. We thought for sure we had found the dumpling restaurant of our dreams. We ordered the scallion pancakes, ten beef dumplings, and a Shanghai-style fish with noodles. The pancakes were like cardboard, the dumplings tasted like the frozen ones we buy in the supermarket (though I’ve had better frozen dumplings), and the noodles were drowning in their cooking water (I don’t even want to describe how bad the fish was). We literally dipped the plain noodles (after shaking off the water) into soy sauce just so we didn’t get up from the meal starving.

    Etihad Stadium
    pictured: Chiko Roll and 4&20 Mince Meat Pie with Ketchup

    We were hungry when we got to the game so we bought a Chiko Roll and a 4&20 mince meat pie and they tasted incredible in contrast to the slop we were served at Camy’s. A lot of people seem to like Camy’s so maybe we just had a bad experience, but the noodles swimming in cooking water was memorably bad.
    Last edited by turkob on August 26th, 2010, 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #21 - August 27th, 2009, 7:09 am
    Post #21 - August 27th, 2009, 7:09 am Post #21 - August 27th, 2009, 7:09 am
    turkob wrote:Movida
    pictured: Cecina

    The next day we had a lunch reservation at Movida for tapas. This was hands-down the best meal we ate in Melbourne and probably the best tapas I’ve ever had.


    Thanks for the reports. Movida is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. You're making me miss Australia and especially Melbourne.

  • Post #22 - September 3rd, 2009, 12:50 pm
    Post #22 - September 3rd, 2009, 12:50 pm Post #22 - September 3rd, 2009, 12:50 pm
    From Melbourne we went to Sydney.

    Harry's Cafe de Wheels
    pictured: Tiger Pie
    We arrived in Sydney around lunch time so we headed over to Harry’s Café de Wheels. Harry’s was an interesting semi-permanent food-truck looking establishment on the water in Woolloomooloo and for some reason it seemed to attract a lot of Asian tourists. We ordered the Tiger Pie and the Hot Dog de Wheels since that seemed to be what everyone else was ordering. The Tiger Pie was a pleasantly flaky pie stuffed with juicy beef stew and topped with mashed peas and gravy. Though we ate a couple better pies over the course of the trip, the Harry’s pie was memorable for its mound of mashed (though only mildly flavorful) peas. The Hot Dog de Wheels was less sweet and spiced than American hotdogs but they made up for it with the interesting mix of peas and chili. The cheese sauce on top was pretty mild and didn’t look too appetizing but it didn’t detract from the taste. Overall we enjoyed the Harry’s experience and I suspect it gets pretty busy at night when people are looking for quick and hearty food to top off a night of drinking.

    pictured: Toro of blue fin tuna, wasabi flowers, seaweed jelly, and acquaculture caviar
    That night we had a reservation at Quay which is ranked #46 on Pellegrino’s of list of best restaurants in the world. The first thing you notice when you enter the restaurant is that every seat in their dining room has either a view of the Opera House or the Harbor Bridge. The views, especially by night, are exceptional and definitely add a wow factor to the entire experience. And the food was just as good the views! We opted for the signature menu which was seven courses. The menu had a very modern feel to it featuring a wide variety of ingredients like aquaculture caviar, edible flowers as part of nearly every course, and even hops. Our favorites were the toro of blue fin tuna served with seaweed jelly and caviar, the shaved squid and octopus with squid consommé, and the jackfruit granita with custard apple ice cream. The meal was well paced, interestingly plated, and used the widest variety of plates I’ve seen outside of Moto. I feel like this was an exceptional example of Modern Australian cuisine and it proved to be an incredibly memorable meal.

    pictured: Tripe
    The next morning we ventured into Chinatown for dim sum (called yum cha in Australia) at Zilver. We got there right at 10 when they opened and got a seat no problem. By 10:30 there was a line at the door and carts were coming by every 30 seconds. Every dish was very good (except for the sticky rice which was kind of a let down but not terrible). The beef tendon was perfectly sweet and soft with a hint of ginger, the rice noodle was soft and moist, and the custard buns were remarkably soft and gooey (mmm, best I’ve had). There was plenty of variety, the quality was good, and it was popular so the food was always fresh and carts were never far away. I definitely recommend Zilver to anyone looking for dim sum in Sydney.

    pictured: Popiah
    That night we had a reservation to the Malaya on King St Wharf. Before dinner we walked around the area and saw that most of the restaurants were pretty empty (Sunday night, cool weather, etc), so we were surprised when we walked into the Malaya and it was packed. Good thing I made a reservation. Malaysian is a cuisine we had never eaten before this trip so we were pretty excited. We scanned over the menu and saw that there was a set menu that served a fairly wide variety of dishes so we chose to do that without looking it over too closely. I kind of wish we had, because in hindsight I think we might have been able to choose better had we ordered ourselves. The first dish, a popiah, was very similar to a Vietnamese summer roll filled with shredded chicken, beansprouts, and vermicelli except the rice paper was thicker, spongier, and opaque. The roll itself was all right, nothing great, but the sauce on it was a very thick, very sweet soy sauce based chili sauce that really overpowered the roll and gave the dish a take-out quality that didn’t match the ambiance or the price tag. The Singaporean style satay was pretty good, but tasted like many other satays I’ve had. The Szechuan eggplant was a huge disappointment. This is a dish I regularly order at Chinese restaurants, but this version used thick hunks of eggplant that weren’t cooked through and were drenched in that sweet soy sauce I mentioned earlier. It also got me wondering why we were eating (poorly prepared) Szechuan eggplant at a Malaysian restaurant. The last dish was the signature Roti Canai which was probably the highlight of an unspectacular meal, though the curry and the roti were pretty much exactly like dishes I’ve had at Indian restaurants in the past, and I’ve had better for a fraction of the cost. At the end we felt like we really hadn’t learned anything about what makes Malaysian cuisine unique and we ate a meal that ranged from bad to mediocre. Like I said before maybe we should have ordered off the menu rather than doing the set menu, but I don’t think I’d recommend this place to someone seeking out their first Malaysian experience. Especially since you can eat food of the same quality for much cheaper.

    Sailors Thai
    pictured: Som Tum (papaya salad)
    The following night (after a long day of hiking in the Blue Mountains) we headed over to Sailors Thai in the Rocks. We arrived fairly late and the canteen (the cheaper and more casual upstairs section) was nearly empty. The dining room downstairs was filled and seemed quite lively, but we were happy to grab a quick bite at the canteen. I read from a number of different sources that Sailors Thai was the best Thai food in Sydney, but from the menu I couldn’t really see what set them apart. However as soon as the food arrived at the table we knew right away we were at a top notch Thai restaurant. The first dish to arrive was the green papaya salad (which I think is called Som Tum). The papaya was perfectly tart and dressed with a mild vinegar sauce that had a slight sweetness and plenty of heat and served with dried prawns that added the perfect amount of fishy flavor to the dish. This was a big cut above any Som Tum I’d eaten before. The next dish was the grilled spatchcock with coconut rice and sweet chilli sauce. The chicken was perfectly grilled (we could hear the cook grilling behind us) and the coconut rice was creamy and soft. We enjoyed the first dishes so much that we had to order the Pad Thai, just to see what it tastes like at such a good restaurant. And we were not disappointed. The Pad Thai was not greasy at all, had the perfect balance of peanuts and fish sauce, and included plenty of dried prawns that gave the dish a depth few other Pad Thais even approach. If I had to find something to complain about it was the menu that for some reason gave in depth descriptions of the dish without actually providing the Thai name. Regardless, if I lived in Sydney I’d definitely come back to Sailors Thai to try the rest of their menu.

    pictured: Roti Canai
    The next day we were heading to the train station so we stopped by Mamak in Chinatown for some more Malaysian food. What a contrast to Malaya! It was quick, cheap, and delicious though not grungy at all. We were seated immediately, served our food 10 minutes after ordering, and out the door in 30 minutes which is exactly what we were looking for and all for under 20 bucks (for two, including dessert). The star of the show was the roti which is made fresh in the kitchen you walk by as you enter the restaurant. The roti was crumpled up like a ball rather than flat and chewy like most other rotis. It was crispy on the outside yet chewy on the inside and was perfectly complemented by the two curries they served next to it. We also ordered the Nasi Lemak since the menu claimed it was the national dish of Malaysia. It was just a mound of rice with toppings scattered around its perimeter. The toppings were good, but the plate wasn’t big enough to mix everything up properly so I just ended up with spoonfuls of anchovies. Next time I’d stick to the roti. Still we enjoyed the meal very much and felt that this was a better indication of what Malaysian food is actually like.

    pictured: Confit of Petuna Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Konbu, Apple, Daikon & Wasabi
    That night we had a reservation at Tetsuya’s which is ranked #17 on Pellegrino’s list of best restaurants in the world. It was fun to contrast Tetsuya’s with Quay since they were pretty different experiences. For one thing, when I was making reservations at Tetsuya’s in January (7 months in advance) they already did not have any tables available for Saturday night and they required a deposit on my credit card. I booked Quay only 2 months in advance, got a prime reservation on Saturday night, and they didn’t ask for my credit card. Whereas Quay features a view of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, Tetsuya’s has an elaborate Japanese garden including a waterfall that is beautifully lit and showcased behind a huge wall of glass. Quay had a normal level of conversation noise in the background whereas the seating at Tetsuya’s was so spread out that the dining room was almost too quiet, and all you could hear was the trickling of the water from the garden. It was a little uncomfortable but I suspect they were going for a serene atmosphere and they succeeded. Tetsuya’s has a 13 course tasting menu and does not provide a menu to tell you what you’ll be receiving since you have no choice. I like to read over the menu and refer back to it during the meal to get a full sense of what I’m eating (sometimes there are a lot of ingredients and it’s hard to remember), so we asked if they had a menu we could look at to which the waiter responded “Are you familiar with day-goost-as-ione?” I took that as a no. It’s a shame because the menu online is different than what we were served and now we have no way to remember exactly what we ate (normally we take a picture of the menu as reference).

    The meal took close to 3 hours and the dishes ranged from very good to sublime (with one exception). I feel like with a lot of tasting menus that the best dishes are usually in the first half and by the end you’re full and uninterested in the main courses no matter how perfectly it’s prepared, but the opposite was true at Tetsuya’s. The first couple dishes were well prepared but a little plain. After the culinary gymnastics performed by Quay we were starting to think Tetsuya’s was a little over-hyped, but by the end of the meal we did not feel that way at all. Tetsuya’s strength is in the fish dishes, and they did a nice job of building the meal up slowly rather than throwing dish after dish of superfancy haute cuisine at you. I have to say, I was impressed by the signature dish. Not only was the smoked trout incredibly fresh and buttery and perfectly paired with the dried konbu crust, but it was a big piece of fish. This was not a tasting portion, but a legitimate cut of fish that the chef was proud to serve his guests. Bravo. Serving it with a fairly plain salad of field greens was a strange choice, nonetheless the trout was clearly worthy of being his signature dish. Other standouts were the spanner crab and the “Lemon Scented Floating Island with Vanilla Bean Anglaise.” There was one dish that neither me nor my wife liked at all. The barramundi served with fennel and an olive tapenade was just not a good mixing of flavors. The olives over-powered the fish and left a flavor in your mouth that was completely out of place in such a elegant meal. Nonetheless it was an exceptional meal that was definitely memorable and, in my eyes, earned its accolades. In contrasting the two restaurants, I’d say Quay is a much more modern experience that uses exotic ingredients and a breath-taking view to provide a memorable dining experience, whereas Tetsuya’s has a more elegant and classic feel and showcases the exceptional talents of the chef’s cooking moreso than simply the preparation of hard-to-find ingredients. Both were great restaurants and I’d recommend either to someone looking for a fine dining experience in Sydney.
  • Post #23 - September 3rd, 2009, 3:27 pm
    Post #23 - September 3rd, 2009, 3:27 pm Post #23 - September 3rd, 2009, 3:27 pm
    The last leg of our trip was in Auckland.

    pictured: Green-lipped Mussels, two ways
    Our first night we went to the Occidental on Vulcan lane. It was pretty busy for a Wednesday night so I’m guessing it gets packed on the weekends. The beer list was lack luster featuring Belgian macrobrews like Leffe and Hoegaarden, but the reason you go is for the green-lipped mussels. We ordered one pot of steamed mussles and an order of baked mussels topped with cheese and spinach. The preparations were mediocre but the mussels were terrific. The mussels were big, meaty, and soft, much larger than mussels I’ve eaten in North America. The sauce on the steamed mussels had very little flavor and didn’t come with bread for dipping, and the baked mussels were covered in melted cheese that was heavy handed but actually didn’t over power the incredibly flavorful mussels. The fries were totally forgettable (the homemade mayo tasted hardly homemade) but they did have an oyster special for a dollar an oyster, and the oysters were fresh and meaty like the mussels. Overall I’d recommend Occidental to someone who is looking for a big plate of mussels for a decent price.

    Auckland Fish Market
    pictured: Kina
    The next day we visited the Auckland Fish Market which was pretty disappointing. We got to see the room where the “Dutch Auction” occurs but since we didn’t show up at 6AM, we missed the festivities. The market itself had only a couple stores and a limited selection, but what they did have was fresh (lots of oysters!). We looked around and finally found a pot of ready-to-eat kina (sea urchin) which was delicious. Overall I wouldn’t go out of my way to see the fish market again, but the kina was a nice takeaway experience.

    Burger Fuel
    pictured: The Fuel
    After the fish market we walked around Ponsonby and had Burger Fuel for lunch. There are a bunch of burger joints near each other in Ponsonby, and I remember reading that we should avoid Burger Fuel, but we wanted kumara fries and beetroot on our burgers, so Burger Fuel was the choice. The kumara (sweet potato) fries were very good but the burger tasted pre-frozen and soggy. The beets actually were the highlight of an otherwise very disappointing burger. Even the bun was stale. We weren’t interested in eating a burger from the other joints because they seemed like typical burgers topped with cheese or mushrooms or grilled onions, something we can easily get at home. But if we had to do it again, we’d get an order of kumara fries from Burger Fuel and find something else.

    For dinner that night we were in Parnell so we thought we’d eat at one of the many restaurants on the street. We looked at every menu on the street twice, but simply couldn’t find a place that excited us (we considered Iguacu but it was just more expensive than what we were looking for) so we landed on Non-Solo Pizza because they appeared to be cooking their pizza in a wood-fire oven. I don’t have much to say other than it was pretty middle of the road. Nothing was great, nothing was terrible. I’d recommend going to Parnell with a specific restaurant in mind, because nothing stuck out.

    Kermadec Brasserie
    pictured: Seafood Platter
    The next night we went to Kermadec (the brasserie upstairs not the restaurant) for dinner. They have a beautiful view of the Viaduct Basin and a nice seafood-centric menu. We opted for the seafood platter that featured a wide variety of cold seafood served with a couple different sauces. The plate included oysters, clams, crab, lobster, mussels, and prawns. The menu seems to be geared towards simple preparations of fresh seafood, and from that perspective our dish was very good. It’s a nice dining room, the service is good, and all the fish was very fresh. However, the overall experience seemed kind of standard, nothing distinctive about it. This may be one of Auckland’s best seafood restaurants, but we just didn’t leave feeling like we had experienced anything special.

    The Fridge
    pictured: Meat Pie
    On the last day of our trip we were itching to have one last great meat pie, so we trekked all the way down to the Fridge. It was totally worth it! It was a Saturday morning and the small space was crowded with kids in soccer uniforms and people picking up a bunch of pies to take home, definitely where the locals eat. The pies were the best we had on the whole trip. We had mince meat with cheese, curry chicken, and a Guinness stew pie, and all were terrific. The crust was perfectly flaky and crisp and the insides were piping hot and gooey. The Fridge was definitely a departure from the beaten path for tourists, and we even got pretty lost on our way down there, but if you’re looking for the authentic meat pie experience, I can’t imagine there are too many better places.

    pictured: Ikan Bakar
    That night we decided to have one more Malaysian meal before we return. We had walked by a small restaurant in Ponsonby called Mutiara earlier in the trip and the menu looked pretty good so we gave it a shot. The highlight was the sweet and spicy curry laksa. The bowl was filled with flavorful broth, chewy noodles, and large prawns. We also ordered the Ikan Bakar which was a tilapia grilled in a banana leaf topped with a spicy curry sauce. The meal was excellent all around, and we definitely felt like we got a good sampling of Malaysian cuisine on our trip.

    Grand Harbour Chinese
    pictured: Congee
    The next morning we had time to get some breakfast before heading to the airport so we decided to get dim sum at Grand Harbour Chinese. The carts were a little slow going by and some items only came around once, but everything we had was great. The congee was piping hot and served with crunchy bread pieces, the shrimp rice noodles were moist, and the ice cream stuffed buns (not sure what to call them) were truly exquisite. It was a great way to end our visit to Auckland.

    pictured: custard apple
    It has a mild, but sweet taste and definitely something worth trying if you get a chance, even though they are pretty expensive.
  • Post #24 - January 16th, 2011, 8:48 pm
    Post #24 - January 16th, 2011, 8:48 pm Post #24 - January 16th, 2011, 8:48 pm
    Heading to New Zealand next month and this thread confirms that food probably won't be the highlight of the trip but I'm grateful for the meat pie and dim sum tips. It will be toward the end of summer, though, so I'm hopeful for some great farmers' markets.

    The New Zealand tourism website lists the nudie foodie cruise as one of the "festivals and fairs" during out visit. Too bad it's sold out!
  • Post #25 - February 25th, 2013, 12:05 am
    Post #25 - February 25th, 2013, 12:05 am Post #25 - February 25th, 2013, 12:05 am
    I've been living in Australia for a few years now and searching through the boards there isn't a whole lot here. I have had quite a few people who know someone coming to visit and have been looking for recommendations so I figured I'll throw them here as I get time.

    Sydney –
    FIX St James – This is probably my go to restaurant being just around the corner from the office. And it’s not a bad place to have in your back pocket. The menu is simple, but with well executed food. While Sydney have some excellent steak houses, my favourite steaks have all been from here. Anything from a 1.2 kg wagyu porterhouse to a 1kg dry aged rib eye on the bone (both to share), they are cooked properly and always delicious. The pastas are always consistent and the smoked eel soufflé has become a signature. They also have a few local cheese, locally cured meats and fresh oysters. While the food is good, the wine list is worth going for alone. An extensive read with a few hundred options there’s always something for everyone. Stuart Knox (owner/sommelier) is more than happy to talk as much as you want about wines and does an equally great job pairing wines with the food. He’s amped up the local wines over the past few years to highlight the NSW region, but has plenty of eclectic imports as well. Not just good food and wine, but some of the best value of any restaurant in the CBD.
    Ms. G’s – This is located in Potts Point. It’s a young atmosphere that every crowd except those that want to have in-depth conversations (it can get a bit loud with the in house DJ). The food is built around young chefs interpretations of different Asian staples. While the majority of the crowd is young, I took my parents there and they had a blast. The food is top notch. The prawn toast is probably the signature here and shouldn't be missed. That along with the duck noodles with XO sauce is something of an umami bomb. I could easily order one of each for myself, but the menu is meant for sharing.
    Rockpool Bar & Grill – I’ll mention this place more for atmosphere than anything else. If you have an endless (and read more as bottomless) money supply, go there. The wine list fits the grand art deco fitout. The wine list stretches deep and prices go just ad far (if not further). It is as typical steak house as you’ll come across, but I never feel quite satisfied after eating here.. I enjoy sitting at the bar for a glass or two and a burger than the main room. I have found that service can be regularly spotty (way to long between courses, courses arrive inconsistently) so order with that in mind.
    Spice Temple – I’d much prefer to eat at Spice Temple which is directly below Rockpool B&G. You enter through a door that is an LED screen of a waving curtain. The food here is very good and a will offer dishes that you won’t necessarily see at restaurants in China town. It’s been very consistent when I’ve been have no problems recommending it to locals and visitors.
    Buzo – Located in the eastern suburb of Wollharra, it’s a great little Italian restaurant with a well-crafted wine list. Around the CBD, there aren't many good mid-scale Italian joints and this one really fits the bill. Good honest food made by some of the best young chefs in the city. They frequently have speciality dinners on Sunday nights geared around a region of food or wine. These are great to sit at communal tables and meet and talk to other people around Sydney who enjoy eating and drinking.

    Wine Bars – The wine scene in Sydney is on fire right now. There are a few small wine bars run by very friendly and passionate people. Having access to some of the best wine regions, these bars search out what they like to drink. There are plenty of opportunities to drink wines that you might not normally come across. My favourites are
    Love Tilly Devine – Located in the back alley, this place boasts a cool ambience and a wide ranging wine list. With usually a page or two devoted to Riesling, this place is all about what the owner and drinkers like to drink. No filler on the list. It’s pretty small, so you might have to wait for a table, but it’s worth it. Wines by the glass will rotate and you won’t miss out on any fun stuff by ordering off the list. Again, the staff are more than happy to suggest a few options if you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re from out of town, I’d say definitely stick to Aussie wines. The good stuff doesn't leave the country, that’s for sure.
    Wine Library – Another great spot for an afternoon drink. The food menu is a bit more substantial here, but again the focus is the wine. A playful list has no problem referencing Ron Burgandy to keep things light. They also pay homage to local wine producers through art on the wall and also letting local wine writers/drinkers/producers create their own page of the list. Talk to these people. They like wine, they know wine and want everyone else to love it like they do.

    Melbourne –
    Mamasita – Despite the rise in Mexican food in Sydney lately, by and large it still sucks. Mamasita in Melboune is the most authentic that I’ve come across. Good tacos (more than just steak, pork and chicken) and good tequila, what more could you want. Whenever I have time for lunch in between meetings or a delayed flight, I will always try to stop here.
    Huxtable – Located about a 5-10 minute cab ride from the Melbourne CBD, this place starts to show you a bit more what Melbourne is like. Melbourne definitely has a different feel than Sydney and branching out into the surrounding neighborhoods shows this off. The bars around the area all have a distinct vibe to them and Huxtable is something that you just don’t see in Sydney. The food is I guess modern Australian and to me at least, that team means it doesn't fit into any major category. Influences usually from asia, but using local ingredients and techniques that just make the food taste good. More often than not, younger chefs cooking food they and their friends want to eat. The wine list here is short, but smart. Mainly local and Aus focued, or at least that’s what I paid attention to. Small plates meant to share, but one of the few where I didn't leave full at the end of the meal.

    Perth –
    Must Wine bar – This is a couple minutes outside the CBD, but again you can start to see a theme here. Food was ok, but I don’t think I’d come here for a full meal. I had a better time sitting at the bar for a few drinks and a few entre (appetizer) shared courses.
    Cullen Winery (Margaret River) – Fully biodynamic winery and restaurant. Everything (or just about) is grown in their garden and picked according to the biodynamic calendar. Not sure if that is the full reason or not, but everything was damn good. Fresh salads, great veg, locally raised venison, some stunning wines in a great location. Book ahead and plan to spend at least 2 hours eating and drinking.

    South Australia –
    Fermentasian – This is located in Angoston in the Barossa Valley. Excellent restaurant with an excellent story behind it. Family run (right down to the mom planting and harvesting the garden), fresh local ingredients and just downright delicious. Worth of the awards it’s received. It’s a nice stop over as you’re exploring the Barossa. Favorite dish was the orange and lavender glazed pork belly.
    Fodder – This is a bit of a trek down to Coonawarra, but the wines from this region and extremely consistent and most likely not available in the US in any quantities outside the mass producers. Again, local fresh food with an Asian twist. But not limited to that. The favorite dish was a pillowy soft gnocchi in a sage brown butter, but what made this something different were the crispy baked salami slices thrown in for contrast. I’ve used this a few times when making it at home.

    Next up I’ll put in my two cents about some of the high end places as well as wine regions/wineries that I’ve enjoyed.
  • Post #26 - July 3rd, 2013, 10:41 am
    Post #26 - July 3rd, 2013, 10:41 am Post #26 - July 3rd, 2013, 10:41 am
    SolitaryChef, thanks for theses recos. I'm leaving tomorrow for a business trip to Sydney, and will be dining alone for the first couple of nights. Do any of these places (or others) particularly well suited for single diners? I enjoy eating at a restaurant bar, for example. Any type of cuisine will do....I'm a pretty adventurous eater.
    "There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk, which is water that’s lying about being milk."
    - Ron Swanson
  • Post #27 - March 25th, 2019, 11:52 am
    Post #27 - March 25th, 2019, 11:52 am Post #27 - March 25th, 2019, 11:52 am
    Went to NZ for 3 weeks in Dec 2018. A few places were memorable for good reasons, others less so. You can get updated reviews on Yelp or other such places, but this is Chicago so we LTH it! Most places are locally owned (not a ton of chains). Also see a note on NZ food and groceries in general, below.

    Best restaurants we visited: (in the order we traveled)
    Amisfield Bistro, Queenstown – Outstanding prix-fixe meal with wine pairings. Try the 2015 Pinot Noir...their best offering. Unfortunately not available in the US. The 2016 is, but it's merely good while the 2015 is GREAT. This is one of the best restaurants in the country, though, so if you can book weeks in advance you’re much more likely to get a table.

    Fergburger, Queenstown. Pick a burger, any burger. Advise going during off-peak times to avoid the lines. We had a late lunch at 3 pm and had a 15 minute wait. It was totally worth it.

    Fergbaker, Queenstown. Like the burger shop but with baked goods. Usually no more than a 10 minute wait, if that. Very, very good.

    The GYC - Glenorchy Cafe and Bar, Glenorchy. We were advised by locals that this was the best place in town to grab lunch. Enormous and very good open-faced sandwiches! If you tour the Dart River or want to see Isengard or where Boromir met his end, this is a good place to have lunch.

    Fat Pipi Pizza, Hokitika – Very good pizza and salads, just off the beach. Be brave and get the whitebait pizza! Surprisingly not fishy at all and quite nice.

    Stella Café, Hokitika—Outstanding breakfast spot. Can't go wrong here.

    The Store, north of Clarence (just off SH1 between Blenheim and Kaikoura). Do. Not. Miss. This. Place. Simple yet outstanding sandwiches, baked goods, coffee, etc. You won’t be sorry.

    Kaikoura Seafood BBQ Kiosk, Kaikoura—very fresh lobster (often referred to by some locals as "crayfish") and other seafood cooked to order in a quaint roadside location. Be prepared to spend some $$$ here as it is not cheap, but it was very enjoyable.

    Twenty Seven Steps, Christchurch—second best meal we had in NZ (after Amisfield Bistro) at about half the cost. Lovely setting, outstanding service. We’ll go back next time we’re in town.

    Black Betty Café, Christchurch—the best breakfast we had, and they take their coffee very seriously here. Worth a visit if you are in Christchurch.

    Decent places, worth considering:
    Sugar Loaf Cafe, Glenorchy...we had only had coffee and baked goods there, and these were good. They are open early in the morning.

    The Coffee Club, High Street, Auckland. Surprisingly good salads for not a lot of money. Good budget stop.

    WGK - Wanaka Gourmet Kitchen, Wanaka. We split a lamb shoulder here, and it was good if not great.

    The Doughbin, Wanaka. Signs in the window boast of award-winning meat pies. Ours were OK. Not sure if they had been sitting for a while before we bought them, or of they had an off day, but if this was not the case, the bar for meat pies in NZ is not very high.

    SnakeBite Brewery, Franz Joseph Glacier. Good local beer. We had some stews that were interesting, if not super-memorable. Not many places to eat here, and what there is seems to be angling for the tourist dollar.

    Lombardi’s, Nelson. Had the advantage of being open for dinner on Christmas Eve and not booked up with reservations. OK if not remarkable food.

    Hans Herzog Restaurant, Marlborough. Very overpriced and very underwhelming prix fixe menu. Our experience at Amisfield (see above) was much, much more enjoyable for about 2/3 of the cost. Also, they didn’t tell us there was a surcharge for dining on Boxing Day until we were paying our bill, which didn't seem fair.

    Gipsy Moth, Auckland Int'l Airport Domestic Terminal. We found the food to be very basic, very average, and very expensive.

    A note on NZ restaurants and groceries: Food in general is much more expensive in NZ than in the US, and most Kiwis do not eat out nearly as often as we are used to doing in the US. Meat pie stands are ubiquitous, and the quality is highly uneven.

    We did AirB&B quite a bit and were able to prepare meals for ourselves to help hold down costs. Of the NZ grocery chains, New World and Four Square are the priciest, with Countdown somewhere in the middle, and Pak-N-Save as the budget end. We only bought wine at a Fresh Choice but my impression is that it’s not as nice any of the others. We stuck with Pak-N-Save and New World due to their high quality. We missed farmer’s markets due to our travel schedule, but would make it a priority to visit them when we return.

    NZ groceries can be amazingly fresh. Eggs with tall, bright orange yolks looked and tasted as if they were just off the farm, and the greens we had in restaurant salads tasted like they had just been picked.

    One final observation: doughnuts are not a phenomenon in NZ. Aside from the Dunkin’ Donuts at the Auckland airport, we saw only one place in Nelson that advertised doughnuts, and it was out of business. So either there is a huge opportunity here or NZ is where doughnut purveyors go to fail.
  • Post #28 - April 9th, 2019, 2:34 pm
    Post #28 - April 9th, 2019, 2:34 pm Post #28 - April 9th, 2019, 2:34 pm
    My wife was trekking in NZ the last two weeks, and visited Fergburger day before yesterday. Verified that it is a VERY good burger, indeed. Do Not Miss.

    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)