Petersham to Sydney Olympic Park to Kangaroo Pizza

Today, I was alone while journeying through Sydney.  Sam was busy with a conference for work , so I decided to take the opportunity to hop on a train and check out the Sydney suburbs.  I rushed into the Town Hall train station, jumped on the Inner West train, looking back only because the only seat available was facing the back of the train.

My first stop brought me to a little Portuguese community called Petersham.  I jumped out of the train and left the smell of the train, to an open air station with one exit.  I followed a few people around, and just looked at the interesting home architecture and the crazy water tower that stood up on a hill behind the homes in the area until I found New Canterbury Road.  This was an interesting little block, I walked with some old Portuguese ladies, who were all too happy to say ‘hi’ to their friends as they crossed the street.  Why were these ladies so happy?  I was just about to find out.


Sweet Belem

I looked inside this shop and saw three elderly people drinking coffee and sharing stories like old friends should.  I knew this was my place.  Looking at the bakery window, I see cakes, buns, and then I see it.  The sun was shining through the window right on the golden tarts as if it was calling to me.  The custard looked firm, yet moist, and the crust looked like hundreds of tiny crunchy flakes ready to break off and melt in my mouth.  “I’ll take one Portuguese custard tart and a latte, please.” “Eat here, or take away?” the young barista asked.  “Eat here,” I said hastily, something like that shouldn’t wait unless it was absolutely necessary.  It didn’t take long for my latte and tart to come.  The latte itself was pretty standard fare, so I won’t say too much about that.  The custard on the hand, was everything I explained and then some.  The egg custard was tasty and not too sweet, the crust was buttery and flaky, and the little sprinkle of cinnamon added that little bit of goodness that brought this over the edge.  I ordered one to go, and picked up one last bit of goodness before heading to Darling Harbour.

Traditional Portuguese Charcoal Chicken

It was getting close to lunchtime and I had to bring something extra good with me to meet up with Sam.  Across the street from Sweet Belem was a huge sign that said Traditional Portuguese Charcoal Chicken.  I ran inside and ordered a quarter chicken.  The woman at the counter asked, “Tangy or Spicy?”, my mouth watered and I said, “Yes.” “Sir, sir, please choose one.” “Both please.”  “That I can do.” I watched as she chopped up a quarter of a chicken, and brushed the Tangy sauce and then brushed the Spicy sauce, and placed it in a foil bag and in a plastic bag.  Oh man, the smell was wonderful!  I rushed back to the station and hopped on the Inner West and got off at Town Hall.  I sent Sam an email that I was at the Convention Center.  We sat in the mall close by, and we opened up my goody bags.  The chicken was still warm, and on the first cut, was still juicy.  The taste that really makes it is the Piri Piri sauce.  Garlic, butter, chillies, and citrus hitting all my tastebuds.  This is definitely something I will have to look for in San Francisco.

Sydney Bicentennial Park

After lunch, I decided to hop on another train towards the Olympic Park.  The train from Darling Harbour is the Northern Line, taking it from Town Hall to the Concord West Station.  I could have continued on a special train to the Olympic Park station, however I wanted to walk through Bicentennial Park towards the Olympic Stadium and Aquatic Park.  Upon entry into the park, I found families having picnics and organizations running events on really large fields.  I decided to follow this businessman and and jogger further into the park towards what looked like a huge tower.  A handful of people were just strolling through the park or exercising, and no one was climbing to the top of the tower.  I saw a staircase, and decided to make the climb.  The view from the top was mediocre at best.  No wonder there was no one else climbing the Treillage Tower.  I had a view of the park I walked through, a river, and the city line… oh and Ikea!

Sydney Olympic Park

In the year 2000, the Summer Olympic Games were held in Sydney.  The Sydney Olympic Park is quite a sight.  I checked out the Aquatic Park, ANZ Stadium, Allphones Arena, and the grand Sydney Showgrounds.  The coolest thing I saw there was the Monster Skate Park.  There was a group of Japanese tourists learning how to skateboard by Australian skateboarders.  After a while, I got a little lost and ended up at a convention center with a lot of loud music, and a guy shouting encouragement and numbers.  I peeked inside and saw a bunch of people punching the air and jumping around.  Ah, a sign said, “Train the Trainers.”  And seeing the fitness level of the people inside, I realized I was at a fitness trainers seminar.  Definitely not what I was expecting.

Bourke Street Bakery

After walking around for about 3 hours, I decided it was time to return.  While sitting patiently on the train, I remembered hearing about a bakery in the Surry Hills area.  Bourke Street Bakery is about a mile from the closest train station, Central Station.  The walk is pretty nice, you walk through Ultimo into Surry Hills.  The style of the homes in this area seem Victorian with some a lot of metal fences.  I thought they were pretty unique and interesting to look at.  The people here reminded me of Noe Valley in San Francisco, a lot of young families, hipsters and dogs.  I finally reached Bourke Street Bakery, and waited in a 4 person line.  By the time it was my turn, the clerk was pretty rude. “What?” “I’d like two Lemon Curd Tarts please.” “You want what?” “Two Lemon Curd Tarts.” Rolls eyes. “$9.” Hmm… it doesn’t sound that rude when I type it out, but trust me, I felt like I wasn’t wanted.

The Lemon Tarts were pretty delicious.  Lemon custard surrounded by a flaky crust.   How can you go wrong?  First bite you crack the crust a bit and let the lemon custard goodness attack your tastebuds with that sweet, tangy cream.  Despite the rude clerk, I would still make the trek here to try their other pastries.

The Australian Pizza

After bringing that second tart to Sam, we headed out for dinner.  Sam had asked her Australian coworkers about a good place to try Kangaroo and Crocodile meat.   I was pretty excited to try Kangaroo.  The place is called The Australian Hotel” and is located in The Rocks.  We entered the bar/restaurant and asked for a table for two.  The server just told us to pick a seat anywhere that’s open, so we found one by a window away from the bar.  After sitting for about 5 minutes, I noticed a sign that said, “Please order all drinks and food at the bar.”  So, Sam went over to the bar and made our order of Pepper Kangaroo Pizza and Salt Water Crocodile Pizza.  The crust on both pizzas is thick.  Definitely, not the fancy thin crust that we’re used to with Napoletana pizzas.  The Kangaroo is marinated in pepper and sliced thin on top of a bed of roasted capsicum and cranberries.  The Crocodile is also thinly sliced but is on a bed of thai basil and coconut cream sauce.  Croc meat tastes like fish and chicken marinated in mud, not my favorite.  Kangaroo was tough and gamey, and I can tell they marinate it in Pepper to add some taste.  The staff at Australian Hotel is very friendly, but I would definitely want to try some of the other stuff on the menu next time, i.e. Roast Peking Duck Pizza!

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A Little Bit of Everything on Day 3 of Sydney

We managed to cram a lot of things into day 3. We started off at the Sydney Fish Market. Raw oysters and salmon sashimi for breakfast? Yes, please! After about a 20 minute walk from Darling Harbour to the Pyrmont district, we were at the fish market. The fish market itself is pretty small with 8 or 9 stalls. The most famous is Doyles, but it was closed by the time we got there which was around 11am.

Sydney Fish Market

After pacing the isles back and forth, we finally decided on a dozen Sydney Rock Oysters, 4 chili prawns and one fried soft shell crab from Nicholas Seafood. We also grabbed a small container of tuna and salmon sashimi from the stall next door (can’t remember the name) and a liter of orange juice from the stall in the back (highly recommend). Then we feasted, first starting with the oysters. These oysters were much different than the sweet ones from the Bay Area. They were much creamier with a slightly bitter after taste. Still tasty, but I would prefer Hog Island Oysters over these. The salmon sashimi was extremely fresh and had the texture of butter, while the tuna was slightly mushy. I’m assuming tuna isn’t something they import every day. The prawns were the filler of the meal. These big guys were stir-fried in Thai sweet chili sauce with shells and all. Really tasty, but we were pretty full at this point. Last but not least was the soft shelled crab. We did some research prior to visiting the fish market and all of the blogs warned us to stay away from the fried foods. About every stand in this market sold fried seafood, assuming that they used day old fish. But, the crab looked so delicious with its little jalapeno on top that we couldn’t resist. After the first few bites, I understood the warning. The soft shell crab was so battered and deep fried, oil kept collecting in my mouth with each bite. We quickly washed down the oil with our very fresh orange juice and moved on to our next destination.

Manly Beach

We headed over to Circular Quay to take the Sydney Ferry to Manly Beach ($14 round trip). The ferry ride is about 30 minutes and you’ll get great views of the Harbour and the ocean. There is also a Sydney Fast Ferry that can take you there in 18 minutes, but we opted for the former. The beach was beautiful and completely packed with locals and tourists. We only spent about an hour here because I had to work a bit (yes, this was a work trip for me). There’s a 5 minute walk from the ferry station to the beach and all along the way are cute little tourist shops selling Ugg boots and t-shirts with “Manly” on them. It was a little funny to see Ugg boots all around Sydney (even the convenience stores!) in 70-80 degree weather. On our way back to the ferry, we stopped at Copenhagen for some ice cream. I got the passion fruit and K got honeycomb. Honeycomb ice cream is bomb. I “secretly” wanted to eat all of K’s ice cream in addition to mine. Notice how I mentioned secretly with quotation marks?

Sydney Aquarium (Darling Harbour)

So, I checked into work at the convention center for a few hours and realized that we still had time to stop by the aquarium in Darling Harbour since it closes at 8pm. With an hour to spare, we purchased 2 tickets and headed inside. At first, I was a little underwhelmed. The exhibits looked temporary and like they needed a deep cleaning. Seahorses here, jelly fish there, frogs over there. Been there, done that. Then, we came across a giant room with a giant pool in the center. What’s this? After a closer look into the water, I noticed the silhouettes of sting rays, manta rays and… a shark fin? The room was called the Shark HQ. We hung out at the top for a while to take pictures of the predatory sea animals then realized that we could go under the tank! There are 2 tunnels that go through the shark tank – tunnel 1 had some sharks and the sting rays, tunnel 2 has the much bigger, scarier version of everything in tunnel 1. They had 7-8 foot great white sharks! SO cool. The best part was that it didn’t force you to move down the tunnel with one of those people movers like at the SF Aquarium in Pier 39. K and I spent most of our time in here trying to take silly pictures of us and the sharks. The last section was another large pool with fish in front of you, on top of you and under you. I think this aquarium did a great job of capturing what it’s like under water without really being underwater. I saw schools of fish floating around, a leopard shark, and other fish native to Australia. The aquarium’s most famous fish, the sawsharks, were in this tank too. They actually looked kind of lazy, but the description says that it kills its prey by slashing its snout (which is covered in teeth) back and forth until they can eat. Pretty scary guys…

Dinner at Yee King (Chinatown)

For dinner, K and I headed to Chinatown and ate homemade noodles at Yee King. We wanted to eat at Chinese Noodle Restaurant which is famous for their handmade noodles, but they didn’t take card. One thing you’ll notice in Australia is most places do not take credit cards. Debit cards are a new thing for them, so that’s accepted everywhere. Credit cards, on the other hand, are not widely accepted and if they are, the vendor will most likely charge you a credit fee. Okay, back to Yee King. K and I ordered the Dan Dan Noodles and a plate of pumpkin coated with a salty egg batter. The dan dan noodles were soupy and coated in loads of dry chili flakes. Their homemade noodles had a great texture – chewy, firm. And, it had that great handmade noodle look to them. The pumpkin wasn’t very good. The batter was a little too thick than what we’re used to and tasted like old oil. This dish is much better in SF.

Whew, that was a long day. The next few days, I had to work, so K will be posting about his adventures.

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Pure Gluttony on Day 2 of Sydney, Australia

There has been no shortage of eating on this trip. Even as I write this post, I am bursting at the seams. Diet starts when I return. I swear…

Early Monday morning, K and I headed for Circular Quay to grab a ferry to Taronga  Zoo.

Meal #1

On our way, we each grabbed a personal pie for breakfast at Pie Face, an Australian fast-food chain restaurant that has been taunting me since I arrived. K got a breakfast pie filled with scrambled eggs and sausage and I got one filled with chicken and mushroom. The pies sound better than they taste. Dry and flavorless is what I would describe them. I was disappointed since the pie took up a good portion of my stomach and I still had tons of eating to do.

After the short delay, we were back on track to Circular Quay. We purchased a ferry/zoo combo pass (Zoo Express) for $50 per person. It was a little overcast that day, but the skyline of the Sydney Harbour was still picturesque. We stood out the back of the ferry and took pictures like there was no tomorrow, as did everyone else on the ferry.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at Taronga Zoo. This zoo is amazing! The animals were so alive and happy, completely opposite from the zoo in San Francisco. You start by taking a gondola to the top of the zoo and work your way down. There are about 9 areas of the park each dedicated to a series of animals – seals, giraffes, koalas, etc. The best part of the zoo was the gorillas. They were hilarious! There was a sign outside of the gorilla pin stating, “The gorillas are getting used to a new adult gorilla that has recently joined the group.” And after watching them for several minutes, we immediately figured out which one of the gorillas was the new kid on the block. The poor adult gorilla was being picked on by the 2 younger gorillas!

Meal #2

While there, we split an order of fish n chips from one of the stands. It what you would have expected purchasing food from a stand at an amusement park. Frozen, mass produced.

Meal #3

When we got back to Circular Quay, we walked over to the Woolloomooloo district for the Tiger Pie at Harry’s Famous Pies. Now this combination is the strangest combination I’ve ever seen. This Australian favorite is a personal beef pie with a scoop of mashed potatoes and a heaping scoop of “mushy” peas. All that topped with gravy. We doused a couple of their sauces on the pie and dug in. It’s an interesting mix. Tasty, meaty, salty, heavy. It was pretty good, and I’ll probably grab another if I ever come back to Sydney.

Meal #4

At this point, I have no idea why we stopped at the Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar at the Westfield Center. But, we did and ordered 3 golden lava buns to snack on.

Meal #5

After killing some time at the mall and in the hotel room, we headed out for dinner at Mamak, the most recommended restaurant from my Australian coworkers. Mamak specializes in Malaysian food. Sydney seems to have a great representation of really good Asian foods because of its proximity to the native countries. With a fully packed restaurant and a line out the door, it was obvious this place had it going on. Luckily, K and I were seated right away. We ordered the Roti Canai, the chicken satay and fried chicken with coconut rice. To drink, we order 2 hot frothy milk teas. The best meal of the day by far. The roti is much different than the one back home at Banana Island. It was soft and chewy with a little bit of crunch on the outside. It came with 3 dipping sauces – mild, spicy and a little dab of shrimp paste. The chicken satay was uh-mazing. 6 skewers of really tender, juicy chicken with a giant bowl of sweet peanut ginger sauce for dipping. There was obviously way too much sauce for the amount of chicken, but we managed to consume it all somehow. Last but not least was the fried chicken and coconut rice. I have never had a piece of fried chicken like this. The coating on the outside was orange and extremely thin and crispy. The inside was flowing with juices. Oh gosh, I hope I can find this meal back home somewhere.

At the end of the day, I did not want to look, smell or talk about food for the rest of the night. Tomorrow, was a new day.

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Greetings From The Future

Sydney Day 1

I’m writing this post Monday morning in Sydney, Australia. K and I are still very jet-lagged having been on a flight for 15 hours and changing our clock 18 hours ahead. But like we do on any trip, we fight our droopy eyes to see the world.

We’ve kept it pretty low key so far. No scheduled itineraries prepared for this trip. We’ve decided to keep Sydney an eating tour. Of course, we’re going to see the Sydney Opera House, the zoo, aquarium, and possibly some beaches. But, from what we can tell from Sydney already, it is a very diverse city. And with diversity comes food.

K and I are staying in Darling Harbour. This area seems to be a recent development to Sydney. It has an aquarium, a convention center and a bunch of other tall buildings. We dropped off our bags and walked about a mile and a half to the Sydney Harbour to check out the view.

We then headed over to the Sydney Opera House for their hour-long tour. It’s about $50 per person, but we found 20% off discounts in one of the tourist books from the hotel. The tour is highly recommended. You’ll learn about their Danish designer Jørn Utzon and the controversy behind the construction of the building. From there, we we took a quick stroll through the Botanical Gardens.

By this time, our hotel room was ready, so we headed back to our room to clean up a bit. We stopped at the Queen Victoria Building, one of the many shopping centers, for a latte and a cookie called a Melting Moment. Man this cookie was amazing. It was 2 English shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with a light lemon cream. To this minute, I’m still thinking about when I can go back for another.

Before we even left for Sydney, we knew we had to eat at Din Tai Fung for dinner on our first day. Din Tai Fung is a world famous Shanghainese restaurant serving the best soup dumplings you’ll ever taste. In addition to that, we ordered the spicy, tangy wontons over noodles, pork and vegetable dumplings, spinach with garlic and a golden lava bun for dessert. The dessert was a surprise. I’ve had the sweet egg custard buns back at home in SF, but this one was entirely different. The center was a glorious golden salty egg ooze. It tastes better than what I just described. Trust me.

It was about 6pm after we finished dinner, so we walked back to the Harbour to take some night time shots. Enjoy!

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