District Dining + Gastro Park = Brilliant Sydney Restaurants

Recently I’ve been to two new (well, new for me since moving back to Sydney) restaurants that do have an inkling of the Melbourne charm I do miss. They are District Dining in Surry Hills and Gastro Park in Potts Point.

They have a similar feel and atmosphere – cool and sophisticated but relaxed enough so you can have a loud laugh and one too many drinks (although I’m sure they both do practice responsible service of alcohol) without feeling like the naughtiest girl in the class.

Our table of 7 shared all the dishes – some are designed as share plates, others are mains we shared anyway … we are that kind of family…no-one wants to miss out! We did have to order quite a few dishes to satisfy our healthy appetites although none were a disappointment. Special mentions go to the chicken wings and the roasted lamb dish although these are no longer on the menu as it changes regularly, which I like. Keeps it fresh and exciting!

Gastro Park also changes its menu according to what’s in season. M and I shared a dozen natural oysters (very fresh), scallops with carrot butter – they come seared but we asked for them to be cooked right through which they happily obliged – and the Crispy scaled snapper, smoked potato puree, calamari crackling, ink sauce; washed down with some Grey Goose.

All dishes at both venues were done very well. The warm atmospheres and endearing staff were helpful and attentive but not as though they were also dining with you.

Highly recommend both places but do book – they can get very busy, especially this time of year.

As usual, all the food was devoured before I remembered to take any photos… which is why I’ll never be of the food blogging ilk! Have included some pics below from the websites of these venues.


District Dining: 17 Randle Street, Surry Hills
Sydney, NSW 2010. p: (02) 9211 7798
Gastro Park: 5-9 Roslyn Street . Kings Cross
Sydney 2011 . NSW . Australia . p: 02 8068 1017

Oriental Tea House + Hu Tong = Delicious Chinese in Prahran

There are two fantastic chinese restaurants I’ve tried in the past two weeks. The first was during Chinese New Year and an oasis in flash flooding: Oriental Tea House in Prahran. The restaurant is set in a tea and homewares shop and the dishes are few but precise and a little more expensive because of its boutique positioning.

We shared dumplings, fish, buns and dessert while being treated to traditional dragon dancing. It is wonderfully colourful and very loud with the drums and yes, I am still scared of the dragon and the bald man mask who are integral stars of the show. I think it stems back to my cousins chasing me around our Chinese grandfather’s house wearing the dragon costume many years ago.

The other place is, I suggest, the best yum cha in Melbourne I’ve tried so far: Hu Tong on Commercial Road also in Prahran. It’s one of the fancier (read: quieter, less crowded) yum cha places but still competitively priced. And the quality of the food ranks this yum cha experience above others. It’s fresh and the servings decently sized. We shared 5 dishes, had tea and a glass of wine and split the bill at around $30 per person. And we almost rolled out.

I would recommend both places, probably Hu Tong first but Oriental Tea House is well positioned on Chapel Street and closer to the action.


[Note: pictures to come… I’m having trouble uploading to the computer!]


Kenzan for the Best Shabu Shabu

Both times I’ve been to Kenzan for Shabu Shabu have been amazing. This meal is healthy and delicious and best shared with someone you love…ok, a little over the top but it’s ideal for sharing; if you like the person you’re sharing with then all the better.

The description of Shabu Shabu on their menu is:

Shabu Shabu – Ever Finer sliced beef and vegetables, lightly cooked in a clear broth, served with ponzu & sesame dipping sauces

Having the pot of broth lightly bubbling away at the table as you select your slices of meat and vegetables you would like was almost therapeutic. The idea is that you lightly boil the meat then dip it in the sesame and ponzu (a soy vinegar mix) and eat with vegetables cooked the same way and some boiled rice.

The staff at Kenzan are lovely and the service efficient.

I would recommend Kenzan – it’s a little hidden in the Collins Place complex underneath the Sofitel at 45 Collins St in Melbourne CBD but well worth the visit.


Cook Shabu Shabu at your table or try the sushi bar


Kenzan Japanese Restaurant

Collins Place, 45 Collins Street (56 Flinders Lane), Melbourne 3000
Ph: 03 9654 8933

Tetsuya’s – 529 Kent St, Sydney (And Why We Booked Last April!)

I’ve been waiting for last Saturday night to roll around since we made our booking back in April this year. Tetsuya’s did not disappoint.

C, D, L, K and myself checked into the Meriton on Pitt St – awesome location and comfy apartments – and prepared ourselves for the eleven course degustation we were about to savour.

It was sensational. Tucked away in what looks like a house, we were greeted by attentive, friendly staff who showed us to our table overlooking the Japanese-styled garden and water feature. The atmosphere is like being at someone’s grandma’s house – a subtle ambience brought to life by the energy of the diners.

We started with some cocktails (I had a vodka martini) and began the indulgence with gusto … and this way just the butter whipped with ricotta and truffle!

What followed was a dance of flavours, textures and an experience that I’ll cherish forever, if only for the joy of being with some of my dearest friends experiencing a culinary delight we’ve been anticipating for a long time.

The menu changes seasonally but his signature dishes are a constant. You can find out more about Tetsuya and his famed restaurant on their website: http://www.tetsuyas.com/page/the_restaurant.html

I’ve included some pics so you can see what we ate: kingfish, scampi tail, mulloway, quail, perch, ox-tail, ravioli, beef rib-eye, and desserts aplenty.

We were also treated to a tour of the kitchen and venue – there are a number of rooms available for dining including a more private area for larger group bookings. It was a privilege to meet the chefs and check out their induction cooking technology and decked out kitchens. There is also a ‘chef’s table’ in the kitchen that will be available next year… so we’ve been told… so do enquire if this takes your fancy!

For a special occasion spread over a four-hour fare, I definitely recommend Tetsutya’s. Just make sure you book in advance!

Easy Tiger – 96 Smith St, Collingwood (@easytigersmith)

On Friday night I finally got to the new kid on the Smith Street block, Easy Tiger, for modern Thai fare. The setting is cool, a kind of ‘sustainable-retro’ feel with casual dining in the front window, a communal table running down the left side, and a few round tables of four on the right.

This is local dining for me. I’ve walked past it a few times and have been tantalized by Joyce’s review on Mel: Hot or Not. So, one re-scheduled booking on and we (my fellow diner L and I) were nothing short of delighted by the full flavours and fresh dishes. Also ran into a friend there too who saw my pre-dinner tweet and said she too would be there! (got to love Twitter)

We snacked on spicy Taro Chips – yes, you can think slice and deep-fry anything to make it a ‘ship’! – and I ordered a vodka, soda, fresh lime while L had a beer, just as the rain poured down.

Then we made ‘the food is incredible’ noises as we were blown away by the food. We ate this (*taken from menu):

  • betel leaves with prawn and fresh coconut 5 ea.
  • hot and sour thai beef salad, cherry tomatoes, coriander and fresh lime 24
  • coconut braised beef brisket with pickled cucumber 28
  • chocolate (monsieur truffe) and pandanus leaf dumplings with melon 14
  • sago pudding, coconut jelly and fresh finger banana 14

L and I agreed we would be back to try the rest of the menu but if you only go once we highly recommend these options – all delicious, fresh and packed with flavour but not in a ‘it stays with you all night’ kind of way.

Would recommend some Easy Tiger action but make sure you book if you’re there on the weekend.

Note: I would have taken more photos but, as I’ve said before, I’m a terrible ‘food blogger’ … I get so excited by the food and am so caught up in the culinary experience that it’s usually eaten before I remember to take pics.

Easy Tiger, 96 Smith St, Collingwood +61 3 9417 2373