Leading with the stomach

Coming back to Sydney after three years away makes me feel like a tourist in my home city.  As a result, I was looking for ways to explore new areas of Sydney and what better way is there than through culinary explorations of all of its ethnic enclaves.  Oh, and I love eating!

So every month since September, I’ve been organising a group of intrepid food lovers that were willing to travel further west than the CBD in search for a feed.

September food tour – Indian in Harris Park

I asked an Indian colleague where I could find the best and most authentic Indian curry in Sydney.  He immediately responded “It has to be Harris Park”, and I blurted out, “where the heck is Harris Park?”.  It turns out that it is right next to Parramatta, and walking around  the main section of Marion Street we passed Indian sweet shops, grocery stores with Bollywood movie posters stuck on the windows, and many Indian restaurants.

My colleague’s recommendation of the Copper Chimney didn’t disappoint.  Our table of 12 shared several delicious starters, including samosas and tandoori chicken, and a vast array of meat and vegetable curries, such as goat saagwala, lamb rogan josh and curry chicken.  All the curries were relatively mild as I had completely forgotten my colleague’s comment that they make everything mild to cater for us piss-weak non-Indians with sensitive stomachs, and we should specifically request for a spicier dish.

[Photo courtesy of NicCooks.com]

It was a definitely worthwhile trek out west for an Indian feed, and if I was in the area I’d drop by for a curry.  Unfortunately I don’t think they would home deliver the 45-minute drive to Balmain.

October food tour – Vietnamese in Cabramatta

When you mention “Cabramatta” to a Sydneysider, their first thought will be “Vietnamese”, shortly followed by “violent shootings”.  Yes, Cabramatta has been notorious in the past for gun crimes and drug dealing, but hey, if you want to experience Vietnamese food in the heart of Little Vietnam, Cabra is where you go.

I read some good reviews of Tan Viet, who specialise in crispy chicken.  Our group of 14 piled into the restaurant to the curious gazes of the locals, with some people trying out the crispy chicken specialty, and others settling for noodles.  The food came extraordinarily quickly, piled with fresh herb flavours and a waft of pungent fish sauce.  And we didn’t see anything dodgy in the Cabra streets on our early Sunday evening at all!

November food tour – Italian in Haberfield

I debated whether an Italian night out was worthwhile, since the well-known fare of pasta and pizza is pretty pedestrian in adventure terms, however I challenged everyone to order something that they wouldn’t normally eat at an Italian restaurant.  Leichhardt is more traditionally and commercially known as Little Italy in Sydney, however Haberfield has probably taken over the mantle.

A few friends had recommended Dolcissimo in Haberfield for fabulous food, although one had pre-warned me about “the worst service in the world”.  With those low expectations, the ten of us were pleased to have our food arrive within an hour of ordering!  I never cook veal at home, so I ordered the scallopine di vitello all a pizzaiolla, which was cooked perfectly tender and served with a lovely olive and caper tomato sauce.  For dessert, I couldn’t resist a canolo with a creamy ricotta filling, and I am not kidding you when I say that I have been dreaming of canoli almost every day since!

December food tour – Lebanese in Lakemba

Ever since I went to Lebanon in January, I have been slightly obsessed with Lebanese food.  The smoky grilled meats, creamy hummus and baba ganoush, fresh tabouleh and fattoush, and the acceptable (actually, expected) practice of eating with your hands – bliss! And oh, that garlic sauce!

Three unrelated friends of mine recommended Jasmins restaurant in Lakemba, which is home to one of the largest mosques in Australia.  Despite having been warned that there would be a lot of food and there was very little chance of finishing everything, I was completely out of the running after going too hard too early when the bread first came out, with plates of that delicious, light and fluffy garlic sauce, as well as sliced tomato, mint, onion and olives.  By the time our 13 respective mixed plates came, piled with an assortment of lamb shish kebab, smoky grilled chicken, lamb shwarma, kebbe and felafel (not to mention the hummus, fuhl and tabouleh), we were almost full!  Everything was delicious, especially the grilled chicken and kebbe, and I think we all polished off almost every dollop of garlic sauce served to our table.

But wow, what a feast, and I discovered that Lakemba is actually only a 25 minute drive from home, so I can definitely see Jasmins becoming a regular eatery of mine.

The new year will bring lots of new food adventures, with plans for Korean, Portuguese, Turkish, and Croatian to name a few!  So much eating to do.

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