I dined as a guest of the Truffle Festival; all opinions remain my own. Following an incredible truffle hunt (see my Instagram for the full story), we returned to Tarago Truffles for a 3-course truffle lunch by staff from 3seeds Cooking School. First up was the most delicious cauliflower, parsnip and truffle soup – I went back for seconds (and thirds – shh, don’t tell anyone!). The soup was beuatifully creamy and had a generous amount of truffle inside; enough that you could distinctly taste the truffle itself. This was paired with a slice of bread with truffle butter on top. If you haven’t tried truffle butter before, get on that bandwagon now! The folk at 3seeds really know how to make the most out of this magical ingredient. The second course was the divine portobello mushroom tart, topped with truffle salt. The pastry was so buttery and rich, and the whole portobello mushroom was really plump and tender. Finally, we indulged in a sticky fig pudding, served in a caramel sauce with truffle butter – again, the truffle just lifted all the flavours, while still being present enough to taste. We were also treated to some insider tips on how to make the most out of a truffle; the perfect way to end a truffle-themed day!
3seeds Cookng School, Fyshwick Markets, corner of Dalby & Mildura Streets, Fyshwick ACT, http://3seeds.com.au/
A friend and I ducked in for a quick dinner at Yat Bun Tong on a Thursday night – we were the only ones there, and ordered four fun dishes from the menu (apologies, I didn’t record the prices). I was feeling a bit under the weather, so my favourite dish was definitely the chicken and corn soup, which was HUGE and probably the most comforting thing to eat when sick – delicious. Next up was the prawn toast, which came with four triangles and a bowl of sweet plum sauce for dipping. Whilst not the absolute best prawn toast ever, it was really tasty and had plenty of sesame seeds and great crunch. Dish three was the xiao long bao (10 to a serve), which had lovely, salty soup inside. I found the skins a bit thick for my taste, and the dumpling filling was a tad small, but given the rarity of this dish in town, quite reasonable. By this point we were getting full, but the shallot pancake came out and was again more than I expected. The texture was a bit heavy on the batter side, but we devoured it – really moreish. A really enjoyable spread of consistently good dishes.
Yat Bun Tong, 10-12 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT, no website
Mama’s Buoi sucked me in with its pretty menus – they’re repurposed old-fashioned photo albums with bright covers. Opening them just confirmed that this would be a good experience. I was dining alone for this meal, and the wait staff, while not super fast, were attentive and friendly. I started with a delicious lychee and gin cocktail, which was bright purple and served in a martini glass – I loved the slightly sweet, fruity flavour and sipped it slowly over the course of my meal. To eat, I ordered the Thit Kho – a caramelised pork belly hot pot. Mmm. The serving arrived in a lovely bowl and came with a large portion of steamed rice. The pork was fatty and tender, and it had absorbed the flavour of the stock, making it quite sweet. There was one flavour that I didn’t like amid the mix (might have been bamboo?) but I could mask it with the onion. I really enjoyed the stock, which I put onto my rice, but I couldn’t finish the bowl by a long shot, so this could be a good one to share. I’d love to come back and try their pho and grilled dishes.
Mama’s Buoi, G25 Melbourne GPO, access via Postal Lane, Melbourne VIC http://www.mamasbuoi.com.au/
Ah Bourke Street Bakery, it has been some time! On my last visit I couldn’t go past the soup of the day, and being another wintery day, I just stuck with what I knew (although I had some order envy about Dad’s reuben sandwich, which looked fantastic!). The cauliflour soup came out in a large bowl with a garnish of parsley, chives and pepper, all of which complemented the soup perfectly. Cauliflour soup is something that everyone should try at least once – there’s a lovely creaminess and heartiness that comes from its unique texture, and Bourke Street Bakery knows how to put that flavour on show. It’s also not a perfectly pureed soup, so there’s still some texture in there, and with such a generous portion size, you won’t leave hungry. The soup was served with a wedge of sourdough bread and a little tray of butter (such a luxury!) – it was perfect both by itself and dunked into the soup. I picked the homemade lemonade to have with my soup and it was really refreshing and not sickly sweet. Perfect for a chilly winter’s day.
Bourke St Bakery, Shop 7/19-25 Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay, NSW http://bourkestreetbakery.com.au/
Dining alone can be a strange experience. Some people find it very uncomfortable – I find that if I have something to do (book to read, notes to write etc.), I can eat out alone comfortably at dinnertime. This is what I ended up doing after arriving quite late in Sydney one night for a conference in Darling Harbour. Not much was open, but a quick google threw up Home Thai as a trendy option that was open at 9:30pm for dinner. I waited a while for a table, but was excited to see how much the place was buzzing – always a good sign. I am a sucker for dumplings, and on a cool evening I wanted something warming, so opted for steamed dim sum and a bowl of tom yum goong soup. The plate of dumplings came out with a mound of corriander and drizzled with black vinegar, which suited the pork and prawn mix. The tom yum was fresh but unbelieveably spicy – sadly, but it was a bit too much for me and I needed some rice to be able to eat it – I’d recommend asking for a mild version. Home Thai gets a tick in the solo traveller box!
Home Thai, Shop 1-2, 299 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW http://www.homethaisussex.com.au
I’m not very adventurous when it comes to Vietnamese food, and when I saw the menu at Bistro Nguyen’s, I was overwhelmed by the choice. Whilst my friends had been there before, I hadn’t, so I chose the rare beef pho and young coconut juice as a safe pick. The juice came out in a huge glass with pieces of coconut flesh floating inside – it was sweet and coconutty and I would happily order it again. We sat outside near the sidewalk and chatted while we waited for our meals. Mine came out last and I had to ask for the accompanying bean sprouts, basil and chilli. The broth was quite pale and the beef flavour was weaker than I was expecting (especially compared to the one at My’s), but at lunchtime that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was pleased that it wasn’t an overly salty broth, but I did feel a bit bloated afterwards. Unfortunately the beef wasn’t rare but it went well dipped in the Hoisin and Sriracha sauces, and the noodles were lovely and soft. Next time I’ll be more adventurous menu-wise – Bistro Nguyen’s is a lovely lunch spot I’ll come back to.
Bistro Nguyen’s, Melbourne Building, 1/80 Alinga Street, Civic ACT http://www.bistronguyens.com.au
On recommendation from Snow Crab Nebula, three of us decided to take a long lunch and check out the pho at My’s Restaurant in Weston. I’d never tried pho before moving to Canberra, although now it is one of my favourites and I’m always keen to try it at Vietnamese restaurants. My’s was busy but not crowded, and we were shown to a table promptly. We all ordered the rare beef pho, which came out together with a shared plate of things to add (bean sprouts, lemon, basil and chilli). Whilst the wait was a bit longer, it was considerate of them to bring all of our meals out at once. The beef was indeed just rare, and sliced perfectly thinly – there was also quite a large amount in the bowl. The noodles were soft and chewy, there was plenty of raw and spring onion and, most importantly, the broth was incredibly tasty. I am a huge fan of drinking noodle broths, and I devoured this one, although I did find myself drinking quite a lot of water for the rest of the afternoon. Definitely a new favourite and a must-visit for pho fans.
My’s Restaurant, 35 Brierly Street, Weston ACT, no website
Meeting up with friends for a Gouger St dinner in Adelaide, I picked the new kid on the block – Little NNQ, the outpost of Nghi Ngan Quan. The menu is full of exciting-sounding things: DIY cold rolls, curries, and soups. I ordered the entree sized pho as a starter, which was more like a small main when it came out, full of rare beef, beef balls, onion and noodles. The broth was fabulous and not overly salty, and I was well on my way to full after drinking every last drop. I had the grilled scallops with ginger as my main, along with the orange and kumquat juice, which was served in a mason jar and had a refreshing citrus bitterness to it. The scallops came out with five on the plate drowning in sauce, accompanied by piles of spring onion. Sadly the scallops were overdone, losing their softness to chewiness, but the sauce was spectacular and I ate a lot of it with rice. I would have been disappointed with the serving compared to my friend’s giant bowl of sour soup if I hadn’t had the entree. Verdict? Tasty dishes worth trying, despite imperfections.
Little NNQ, 125 Gouger Street Adelaide, SA, no website