#63: thanh binh

Cabramatta is not too far to go for pho…

I finally made it to Cabramatta the other day, for the express purpose of eating pho. When I get round to going to Vietnam it’ll probably be for the same reason, and I’m not being the least bit facetious.

Walking along John Street in Cabramatta is like being in a mini-version of Asia somewhere. You can peruse vegetable stores filled with fragrant Asian herbs, Vietnamese music stores with the latest in Asian MTV and buy a sugarcane drink on the way. It’s rather nostalgic.

We wandered in and were served by an harried looking guy who continued to speak to us in Chinese although we replied in English. But that’s all inconsequential.

This is the best pho I’ve had in Sydney. My pho tai was packed with tender wafer thin slices of beef and slippery noodles swimming in sweet fragrant broth. With a handful of mint, smattering of chilli and squeeze of lemon it was absolutely glorious. J’s pho with brisket was great as well, with the brisket being tender and well flavoured. Simple food at it’s best.

pho tai

pho tai

shop A, 52 john st cabramatta 2166

everyday 9am-9pm


#62: dining bar musashi

I like this place. Yet another arm of the prolific Masuya restaurant group, it has a nice ambience, and both the quality and price of the food are pretty reasonable. The problem is that it is always crazily busy (it doesn’t take bookings) and you need to be prepared to wait with the hordes for a table.  On several occasions we’ve waited here, gotten too hungry, and ended up eating somewhere down the road…I think we are just impatient people though 😀

Mushashi has the usual staples of sushi, sashimi, donburi and so forth. They also do hotplate style teriyaki/miso dishes, which are good value as they come with grilled meat, some vegetables and a plain onigiri, so it’s almost like a set if you aren’t particularly hungry. I like the chicken teriyaki and miso beef here.



447 pitt st(cnr pitt & campbell st)

ph: 9280-0377

mon – fri (lunch) 1145am- 230pm

mon – sat (dinner) 530pm – 10pm, sun 530pm-930pm

#61: max brenner (revisited multiple times)

one thing I love about Sydney are the array of chocolate cafes available (although, no Koko Black…yet).

There are multiple Max Brenner stores around Sydney. It sells fairly middle of the road chocolate, but there are a large number of items on the menu in terms of beverages and desserts, so there’s something for everyone. Unless (heaven forbid) you don’t like chocolate. And prices are definitely more reasonable than Lindt.

I’ve always found their chocolate a bit too sweet for my liking, but there are a couple of items that I like. These include the waffles, which come drizzled with warm chocolate and fresh fruit, and the Italian dark hot chocolate, which is thick, chocolate-y and not too sweet.

waffles with chocolate

waffles with chocolate


numerous locations around sydney

#60: le pain quotidien

i’m always a bit concerned when a place claims to be ‘a cafe, a bakery, a shop and a restaurant’ rolled into one as this place does. Most places can’t even do one of those decently; four seems a monumentous ask. However, in spite of my misgivings, my experience of le pain quotidien was positive. And despite this being a global franchise and the exterior of the building being a bright, almost avert-your-eyes shade of blue, on entering, this place feels surprisingly homely.

The theme could perhaps be described as rustic french. The coffee was good and comes served in a bowl, which I love. I don’t know why, coffee always tastes different when it’s in a bowl 😀 We ordered the omelette with ham and gruyere cheese ($14.5) and the sugar waffle ($7.5). The omelette was served simply with a small crisp salad and some freshly baked ciabatta and sourdough. It was fluffy on the outside and squidgy in the middle as omelettes should be. The sugar waffle came with a drizzle of syrup and some fruit. Yum.

coffee in a bowl



sugar waffle

sugar waffle


cnr fitzroy & bourke st, surry hills 2010
ph: 02 9360 8460

mon-sat 7.30-5pm, sun 8-5pm

#59: chocolat café

it’s a happy street for dessert lovers that has not one, but two shops under the hand of Adriano Zumbo, the pastry chef who made several guest appearances on the recent Australian series of Masterchef to torture the contestants with challenges of recreating his fantabulous toffee profiterole towers and so forth.

What I don’t understand though is how a pastry chef could possibly be so thin. What is your secret Adriano?

J and I couldn’t decided whether to opt for the cakes in his patisserie or the chocolate café down the road, but in the end we went for the café,  choosing to sit in the sunny alfresco area.

Service was cheerful and courteous. Having just had a massive brunch we could only manage one dessert between us, so we tried the Younger Years on recommendation from several other blogs. This is a chocolate fondant pud, served with peanut brittle ice cream alongside a raspberry crème anglaise syringe. I thought the pudding and ice cream were great, but I found the presentation (in a metallic kidney dish, with a 20 ml syringe filled with haemoserous appearing stuff) rather disconcerting. It reminded me way too much of work for my liking 😀 We resolved to try the patisserie on our next visit.

I think overall, I prefer the understated charm of Boon, which still rates as my favourite chocolate café.

the younger years

the younger years

shop 5, 308 darling st
ph:  02 9810 7318
mon-sat 8am-6pm; sun 8am-4pm

#58: boon – the chocolate experience

i can’t believe I forgot to mention my favourite chocolate café. How remiss of me.

Boon opened sometime late last year (down the road from the hospital, how fortuitous ;)), and has been making a name for itself based on the quality of its handmade chocolates. It is run by the brother and sister team of Alex and Fanny Chan. Alex works out the front whilst Fanny (a Belgian trained chocolatier) sweats out the back making chocolates.  Their chocolates and truffles use a selection of local and international produce, and feature some interesting combinations (in a good way).

Being a compulsive chocoholic, I think I’ve tried nearly all of the chocolates now, and my favourites are probably the balsamico (strawberries and balsamic vinegar) and the kurobiko (sesame praline). They used to have a tonka bean praline which was fantastic, but unfortunately this is no longer available. Some of their creations more closely resemble minature works of art, and it’s almost a shame to eat them.

Upstairs there is a small sitting area where you can try some of their other chocolate creations.  It’s cozy and intimate, and the service is personable and friendly. It’s a world away from the heavy commercialization of places like Max Brenner, Lindt and San Churro. The menu is quite limited, but most of the items we’ve sampled have not disappointed. I often opt for the hot chocolate, which comes with a praline and small bowl of chocolate mousse (good value at $7.5). The Belgian waffles with warm chocolate sauce are good as well.

I’ve been bringing people here for a while now, and they keep coming back. I think that says something. Good things come in small packages.

hot chocolate

hot chocolate



251 victoria st, darlinghurst
ph: 02 9356 8876

sun-wed 12-7pm, thurs – sun 12-1030pm


#57: the book kitchen

brunch for me evokes images of sunny skies, alfresco dining and lazy weekends.

For a long while, this was one of my favourite places to have brunch (okay, well, more like lunch usually by the time I get up on weekends) in Surry Hills. Book cafes are always a winning combination I reckon. Queues, wobbly tables and the occasional grumpy waitstaff aren’t sufficient deterrents for countless hungry locals. The Book Kitchen, as its name suggests, is filled with books, which you can browse through at the communal table whilst waiting for your food.

The single origin coffee is fantastic and the food is reliably good. I particularly like the Angus beef open steak sanga with house made chips and the fig pikelets with vanilla mascarpone.

angus steak sandwich

angus steak sandwich

The best thing is, after brunching here you can stagger across the road into the fantastic but tiny Bourke St Bakery and stock up on bread (and chocolate tarts) for the week.


255 devonshire st
surry hills 2010

ph: 02 9310 1003