Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

A Bite to Eat

To some extent the food wonders of my trip to Australia are a result of my being in the middle of cities, but not entirely. I don't think, for example, that even in NYC any shopping street inevitably has a few bakeries selling individual custard tarts. Mmmmm.... custard tarts, in all their eggy milky goodness, sprinkled with a bit of nutmeg. I feel like Lionel in As Time Goes By, which of course means that the custard tart availability is more an English thing than an Australian thing. But I don't care, I love those custard tarts.

It's certainly not an English thing, though, that there are countless and various Asian noodle shops just everywhere you look. There are even some chains. In general, in Melbourne and Sydney, there is such a wonderful assortment of Asian restaurants that I find myself overwhelmed by the choices and wind up going to one of the many fine Italian cafes instead and ordering things like fettucine with prawns and macadamia nuts in a cream sauce, or linguini with king prawns bacon and chilli (by bacon they mean something like panacetta in that dish). Of course I order a nice big red wine, Pepperjack Shiraz or Battle of Bosworth Shiraz. Or Fifth Leg, when I can tolerate the sexual reference of the name, although that's actually a blend of three red wines.

But speaking of Asian street food (were we?), in these cities I mention, even unto the far suburbs, there are tremendous numbers of fastfood sushi places (again, including several chains). Nice prepared trays of sushi, sort of like you get in supermarkets now in the US but a tad cheaper and a bit fresher. That's kind of interesting, but what they have that you don't see in supermarket sushi are many different large unsliced nori rolls (for a couple of bucks each) so that you can order (fastfoodlike) a pressed duck nori roll and a tunafish nori roll and a california roll and you've got a pretty big lunch there.

Oh, I was also speaking of tiger prawns, which makes me think of king prawns because today I made my way back to the Sydney Fish market and for only about $2.50 I bought five cooked king prawns (giant things, caught wild, sweet as sweet can be) which I ate with the local version of "cocktail sauce" (sort of like Russian dressing) and they were yummy. I also bought a dozen assorted oysters for about a buck each but, disappointingly, they were mostly a bit briny for my taste. Just like the oysters I had at the Melbourne Oyster Bar last week.

The Melbourne Oyster Bar is an oppressive fancy tuxedoed-waiter too much cloth on the table old-fashioned fancy restaurant that I went to last week because it was less than half a block from my hotel and they had balmain bug on the menu. Balmain bugs are hideous little sea creatures that look like a cross between a lobster and a horseshoe crab. They are sometimes known as Moreton Bay Bugs and sometimes just bugs. They were available cooked and uncooked in great abundance at the fish market, but then again absolutely everything was available in great abundance at the fish market.

At the Melbourne Oyster Bar I had Moreton Bay Bug meat panfried and served with lobster bisque and puff pastry. They tell you it tastes like lobster, but it's a little bit sharper and saltier. Plus I ate an absolutely delicious seafood chowder with chirizo and lentils. The lentils were scattered in the soup like peppercorns, and in the middle of the bowl were two ginormous mussels, surprisingly tender and impregnated with the flavor of the sausage-infused broth. To accompany this I drank a glass of Scarpantoni Unwooded Chardonnay. It was the "Unwooded" that tempted me, of course, since I once had a tasting experience with various French Chordonnays that were wonderful and subtle and not strangely sweet and I knew this had potential.

Oh, here's something else about the food here: I don't eat hamburgers much at home, but I just love them here. You get them in the cafes, with chutney. You get them at backyard barbecues. I love them. I want more. At lunch at a pub by the Victoria Market in Melbourne last week I had a "Scotch filet burger with tomato, tasty cheese, bbq sauce, and carmelised onions". Plus a bitter salad (the ubiquitous rocket/arugula) and beer. Beer beer beer. You've got to go to the back cabinet at a bottle shop or to the Dickens pub in Melbourne to get what I consider good beer, as the pubs/hotels serve a better-than-Millers assortment but not what they call "real ale" in England.

They use pumpkin a lot more here than I'm used to, and I love pumpkin. Pumpkin and pumpkin-based soups are a staple at the cafes, and all the Italian restaurants serve pumpkin ravioli and the Indian restaurants offer varous pumpkin dishes. At dinner with Glenn and Sophie last week I had a bowl of Thai-green pumpkin soup and I wanted more and more and more of it. But as I say, I generally love pumpkin soup anyway.

Here in Sydney I begin my days with Declan's breakfasts. Poached eggs and bacon and toast and fruit and cereal and coffee and orange juice. Huge omelets filled with beautifully cooked small-cut bacon and mushrooms and other goodies. This morning I asked for a slightly smaller meal and I got perfectly cooked creamy scrambled eggs on English muffins and toast and I was happy as could be.

I type this from King Street in Newtown, a street lined along the course of many many blocks with many many restaurants. It's my last night in Sydney. I wonder what I'll eat.
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