December 23, 2013 by Dan
The first time I was in Sydney (1995), I ate a lot of fish and chips, pizza, and lasagna. The second time I was in Sydney (2001), I ate bagels, fish and chips, and made a lot of Mexican-style backpacker food. This time around…well, things to eat in Oz have become a bit more cosmopolitan. The place has become a paradise of pan-Asian food. And breakfast, also. It’s no longer the land of beans and toast and spaghetti in the morning.
We stepped out of our cab on our first rainy day in town and were happy to see a Laksa joint (called, appropriately, Laksa Laksa) right across the street from where we were staying. We were starving, so…soup and Singapore noodles ensued.
Both were good. Better than any of either than I’ve had in San Francisco (even better than my beloved Lime Tree). So good that I got excited – if that was laksa in a random joint right off downtown, how good could things get?
Then answer, of course, is: pretty darned good. I went out for some variety of noodles and/or soup almost every day in Sydney, and was happy to do so. One of my faves was this place:
To get to the Naughty Chef, go down into the train station, then take another stairway down, then go right. You order at the counter, and a minute later you are given a bowl of pho on a tray. You put hot sauce/lemon (no limes), cilantro, etc. in, then walk down the shopping arcade a few hundred feet to where all the tables are. Somehow this works and nobody gets scalding soup all over them. And the pho? Phantastic.
On the weekend, we ended up only going to one place for breakfast – Mr Mo in Surrey Hills. Why only the one? Because it was just that good – we went for brekkie on Saturday and ate this:
Perfectly poached eggs. Bacon. Thick toast. Arugula. And great coffee.
We woke up on the Sunday with some plans and a bit of time. I looked at our Urban Walkabout map and the Lonely Planet and Yelp, trying to find another spot for breakfast. After about five minutes, I gave up.
“Screw it, want to just go back to Mr Mo?”
Julie grinned and nodded. We walked the fifteen minutes and found a table. The friendly hostess
- Remembered us
- Remembered what we ordered
- Noticed that Julie had left about a half-inch of flat white in her coffee cup, rushed back over to ask if the coffee was OK, noting that “it rained last night, and sometimes that makes the beans a little funky.” We assured her that nothing was wrong, but that we sometimes didn’t drink as much coffee as Australians do.
Australians drink a lot of coffee, by the way.
There were more things, of course. I had this bowl of Tonkatsu ramen in a mall across the street from the office, where the food court was right out of Bangkok. It was a cornucopia of pho and laksa and pad thai and sush and rendang and nasi goreng and…you get the picture.
The soup itself was top-notch: porky and cloudy, with pull-apart tender meat and half an egg that was still just a touch on the runny side. Phenomenal.
And don’t get me started on the Thai food – takeout so flavorful it made me tear up. Or maybe because it was the hottest pad kee mao I’ve ever had in my life. Even in Thailand. And the laksa place where they sell you a bib for $0.30. Or when the woman at the Naughty Chef lectured me for getting grilled pork instead of pork cake on my vermicelli, and gave me a pork cake because it was necessary.
“Next time, pork cake,” she said, wagging her finger.
The last lunch I had was a yom cha feast – what we’d call dim sum in the states. In Sydney, a dim sum is a steamed pork bun, and the meal is called yom cha. Whatever – it’s the same thing we do here, and what we had was just as good as anything I’ve had in San Francisco.
Yum. So much yum.
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