Fireworks over Sydney harbour

Earlier this month, Sydney Harbour hosted naval boats from all around the world as part of the Royal Australian Navy’s International Fleet Review. The event was held to commemorate the centenary of the Navy’s first arrival into Sydney Harbour, and thousands of people flocked to vantage points all around the harbour to see the boats sailing in through the heads.

On one of the final nights, a spectacular fireworks show was staged, with several barges in the harbour setting off simultaneous displays of colourful sparks. I am biased of course, but I truly believe that there is no better backdrop for fireworks than Sydney Harbour.

sydney at night

It was my first time trying to photograph fireworks, and after doing a little bit of research, I knew that I needed a sturdy tripod and an exposure of around 1 to 2 seconds. Another article mentioned focusing manually, since the automatic focus would find it very difficult to find a focus point.

The result was a lot of duds, some of which were over-exposed at first before I pulled back the shutter speed. Others were poorly timed with the setting off of the fireworks, so I didn’t capture the full explosions. Many weren’t quite as sharp as I’d like. It’s rather difficult trying to manually focus through a tiny little view finder!

These were some of the better ones.sydney fireworks sydney fireworks

After around half an hour of fireworks display, the air was thick with smoke, but it beautifully reflected the colours in the air.sydney fireworks smoke

Sydney puts on a good show, doesn’t it?

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Food truck streetfest

Food trucks have been well established in places such as New York and London for a while now, but are still relatively new in Sydney.  Therefore, there is a still a huge novelty factor about them for Sydneysiders, which meant that the Food Trucks United Streetfest was always bound to be an insanely popular event.

food trucksThere were around eight different food trucks, offering tasty dishes such as jaffles (that’s a toasted sandwich, for non-Australians!), Mexican, steamed buns, pasta, and sliders.  No matter which food truck you wanted to try, each one had a very lengthy queue of hungry diners.

The great thing about this sort of food truck festival is that you can sample a variety of different things from each truck.  That does equate to a lot of queueing, but it was well worth it.  We tried a lovely, fresh kingfish ceviche in lime and chilli with crispy tortilla chips, and a very indulgent lamb belly with Asian salad served in a soft brioche bun from the guys at Eat Art Truck.

lamb belly on brioche

The Tendulkar, butter chicken jaffle, from Jafe Jaffles was also a winner.  You can never go wrong with the humble jaffle, in my opinion, since it’s a wonderful carrier for any leftovers.

To round off the “main course”, we shared a very messy chorizo hot dog, and a sweet, wagyu chilli con carne nachos from Agape Organic.

food trucks collage

With summer around the corner, I have no doubt that there will be more food truck festivals in the months to come.  It will be a great opportunity to gorge myself on all the other deliciousness on offer!

Whoever came up with the food truck idea deserves a Nobel peace prize.

Taste testing at Eveleigh Farmers’ Markets

Like any good foodie city, Sydney has loads of great farmers’ and growers’ markets that pop up all over the place on the weekend. One of the most popular is the Eveleigh Farmers’ Market, which is on every Saturday morning from 8am.

In the past, this part of Eveleigh was a huge railyard, where Sydney’s suburban trains went to sleep at night. All the big sheds are still around, with most of them being converted to exhibition and conference facilities. This bustling little market stands still in the original rustic, style compared to the other shiny, renovated buildings around it.eveleigh marketseveleigh markets

There are lots of stalls selling a rainbow of fresh veggies and fruit, pastries and bread, colourful blooms, olive oils, cheeses, and even whole lambs. I couldn’t help but linger at the Eumundi Smokehouse stall to ogle at all their fresh and smoked sausages. The owner has been driving down from Eumundi, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, to the markets in Sydney every week for something like 15 years!  That’s dedication.eveleigh marketseveleigh marketseveleigh marketsOne of the things that the markets is known for is the pork buns at the Billy Kwong stall.  We catch a glimpse of chef Kylie Kwong manning the bun steamers, and wait patiently with scores of others for our steamed buns, topped with a dollop of scarlet red chilli sauce. The pork was sweet and very tender, and the bun itself was also sweet and soft. This meant that it felt like we were eating bite after bite of soft, sweet mush. Not bad, but probably a bit overrated.eveleigh markets pork bun

A much more successful tasting was a delicious steak sandwich, from which stall I forget now, as well as the cut of steak. I must have blissed out in beefy goodness. The steak was juicy and tender, with a lovely beefy flavour. The stall owners were also more than happy to load up my sandwich with more sweet, caramelised onions on request.eveleigh markets steak sandwichUnfortunately for us, we were on the motorbikes heading down to Wollongong for a day ride, which meant we weren’t able to stock up on goodies.  Oh well, an excuse to go back again another time!

 

Samurai Japanese Cafe, Balmain

Japanese has to be one of my favourite cuisines.  What’s not to love about delicious ramen, fresh sushi and sashimi, crisp tempura, slippery udon, or their general love of deep fried food and a slathering of mayonnaise onto anything and everything.  Japanese food is not just a feast for the tastebuds, but a feast for the eyes.

One of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Sydney is Samurai Japanese Cafe, in my very own suburb of Balmain.  Coming here without a reservation is a lottery, with the tiny restaurant booked out most nights.  It’s a popular place for locals, but people also come from afar for Samurai’s delights. Friends of mine will regularly do the 1.5 hour hike from the Central Coast just for dinner, before driving home again.Samurai Japanese BalmainSamurai Japanese BalmainI’ve been here on countless occasions now, and have some very firm favourites that never fail to impress and satisfy.  I cannot go past the crispy salmon rolls – a fresh, salmon roll, drizzled with a mild wasabi mayonnaise and topped with crunchy, fried noodles.  It’s a fantastic mix of textures.

Samurai Japanese Balmain

The nasumiso entree is a serving of juicy eggplant, stir-fried with a sweet sauce.  Sometimes I find the sauce a little too cloyingly sweet, but I love eggplant so much that I will still polish this off.Samurai Japanese BalmainTeriyaki chicken is always a hit, especially with children.  The tender chicken pieces are fried to a lovely golden crisp, before being tossed in a sweet teriyaki sauce.

Samurai Japanese BalmainThe beef and asparagus may not have a particularly creative name, but it’s one of our regular highlights.  The slices of caramelised beef are wrapped around tender, steamed asparagus, artfully arranged and presented in a square stack, and served with sweeter-style sauce and wasabi mayo.  When the sauce and mayo is combined, its creaminess just lovingly coats your tongue.  It’s so good that, sometimes when we’ve finished the beef and asparagus, we’ve asked for a bowl of rice just so that we can savour all that delicious sauce.

Samurai Japanese BalmainOther dishes that I would recommend are the tender scotch fillet pieces in the kakuni, the incredibly light agedashi tofu, and the crisp, pan-fried ebi gyoza that are soft and juicy.

The desserts are also worth exploring if you aren’t already stuffed to the gills.  From time to time, they have a special dessert roll, that looks like a sushi roll but is actually a soft sponge filled with wasabi, red bean and vanilla ice cream, and frozen strawberries.  Very inventive!Samurai Japanese Balmainsamurai sesame ice creamSamurai is a fantastic local eatery, which will become one of your firm favourites.  The service is polite and friendly (always the Japanese way!), and although it’s not a cheap and cheerful joint, it’s not over the top expensive either.  Just be sure to book before you go so you aren’t disappointed with being turned away.

Samurai Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

Birthday lunching at the Bathers’ Pavilion, Balmoral Beach

The best thing about celebrating a partner’s birthday is that it’s the perfect excuse to take them out for a special dining experience, since you get to benefit too! (Actually, it was the second best thing.  The best thing was seeing his face when he saw his birthday present, a Tap King draught beer dispenser, in action.  If only Lionel Richie was really in your fridge…)

The White Russian had his birthday last weekend, so I took him to the Bathers’ Pavilion at Balmoral Beach for lunch.  It was a gorgeous spring day; warm with blue skies, and a notable smile on the faces of everyone strolling along the promenade.  We weren’t lucky enough to score a table right next to the window, but were close enough to admire the beautiful views across the harbour towards Manly and North Head.bathers pavilion balmoral beach

We opted for the 8-course degustation ($135, or $195 with matching wines), since it was too difficult to choose between all the dishes on the menu.  Plus, it was a special occasion after all, so definitely an excuse to splash out.  We started out with warm crusty bread, served with discs of salted and unsalted butter, and a terrine amuse bouche.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

The cured salmon with radish and pickled melon squid ink crumble was a lovely mix of textures.  The crumble didn’t taste overly squiddy, but leant a nice crunch to each mouthful of salmon, whose smooth oiliness was offset by the sweetness of the rockmelon and watermelon.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

The bay leaf-smoked chicken was very subtle in flavour, verging on bland, but was a good carrier for the sweet date puree, yoghurt, and heirloom carrots.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

A Japanese-inspired kingfish dish was a hit, with the meaty fish being paired with wasabi butter, grilled mini rolls of savoy cabbage, dehydrated green apple, and ricotta.  There was only the merest hint of wasabi though, and I would have liked a bit more punch, but not everyone loves the bite of wasabi as much as I do!

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

Normally, the ravioli is filled with sea urchin, but on this occasion, we were served lobster ravioli.  It was finished with a mushroom consommé, which was deep, earthy, and meaty, but still a good complement to the lobster, not overpowering it.  There were also a couple of slices of chewy abalone, the first time I’d seen abalone on the menu of a non-Chinese restaurant.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

The meatier dishes on the degustation menu were a silky, tender squab (I did not know that a squab was a young, domestic pigeon!), and a sweet, moist grilled lamb loin with baby fennel and pencil leek and sweetbreads.  The WR commented that the crispy lumps of sweetbreads were like eating fried balls of fat, which was not a bad description of these creamy balls of deliciousness.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach bathers pavilion balmoral beach

Our cheese course consisted of a rich and creamy serve of Tarwin blue served with muscat jelly and crisp parsnip chips.  My weakness for cheese was thoroughly indulged with this course, and the sweetness of the muscat jelly cut through the richness of the cheese.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

We finished off our meal with a chocolate croquant, an indulgent hit of chocolate creaminess on a croquant base.  There was a buffet of complementing flavours, which made dessert a fun taste test of chocolate with raspberry sorbet, roast pepper sauce, orange foam, mint jelly, chilli powder, and passionfruit curd.  The WR received birthday wishes from me and the restaurant staff.  I think he was mightily chuffed.bathers pavilion balmoral beach bathers pavilion balmoral beach bathers pavilion balmoral beach

A wonderfully relaxing lunch by the beach, with friendly service, and the birthday boy feeling suitably special.  The food is enjoyable, even if it’s not spectacularly memorable, but the dining experience with the gorgeous view still makes it a worthwhile visit.

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