Nov 11, 2022 Metro Eats
In the last couple of years, a specific genre of comfort food has overtaken the kinds of recipes that appear on our feed – a tasty-enough ubiquitousness. But, after a couple weeks of non-stop spreadsheeted dining out, I find myself thinking the most about the intense tingly heat of a heavy-handed serve of fresh birds-eye chilli on a banh mi; about the tartness of pickled mussels; the spiky bones of a coral trout wedged in between my teeth. It reminds me of the joy in the food that takes longer to love.
I wrote this piece on learning to love durian a few years ago that never saw the light of day, but I like thinking about durian and how it occupies a space of comfort for some people, like my parents, who grew up eating it and most recently travelled from the North Shore to South Auckland to pick up a pack of premium frozen durian someone was selling online, and a space of complete disgust for others. I dug up the piece (are we all determined to hate our past writing, forever and ever till the end of time?), which describes me basically attending a durian boot camp of my own making, forcing my tastebuds to adjust to the taste. At the time, I was having mini crises every day writing about food and identity and race in such regularity, and mining my personal cultural life for content was the natural state of things. Even so, I feel it made one good point about food: while it has no inherent moral value, sometimes forcing yourself to like something that a lot of white people hate is worth it, for a fleeting sense of superiority. Lol.
When I first put it in my mouth, my first reaction was akin to when you walk past a pile of rubbish in the summer, bracing yourself for the inevitable stench. I instinctively recoiled. Hating it felt like destiny. But I spied my dad digging in across the table and thought about my recent ancestors looking down upon me and shaking their head in disgust at their Westernised grandchild. Pushing forward and taking another bite, I tried to narrow my attention to its taste. Creaminess, a rich indulgence, slides across your mouth and almost coats it, completely overwhelming your senses. Once your mind picks apart that initial “bad smell taste” we expect, other flavours come through, sweet and custardy and caramelly. Just slightly bitter. I ate more and more of it, telling myself that I like it. I spoke it into the world as I ate my way into dirty-socks breath. With the power of the mind, and stubborn, persistent exposure, it worked.
Now I genuinely do like durian. Surprise, surprise: taste-buds evolve and some stubborn preferences can be moved. Sometimes certain narratives are pervasive enough to mould your perceptions and likes and dislikes without any conscious realisation, stops us from even putting it into our mouth – or encourages us to heap it with praise. Just think about freakshakes, inarguably the worst trend of the decade. We all entered a fugue state, blindly loving something that is objectively disgusting and no one likes anymore. And, well, that’s on media.
And that’s on media!
p.s. Scroll down for a quick Sydney summary.
Pop along to a pop up Fundraiser tomorrow night, from 7pm onwards at No. 7. Flour Power will feature cakes, shortbread, cocktails and wine.
There’s a Zi Sweet pop-up at Kind Stranger this weekend and next weekend (13 / 27 November), which is a chance to try a slice of one of their ornately designed cake without splurging for an entire one.
Madame George is expanding soon and wants some photos to hang in its new space. Take some photos in and around Karangahape to submit to the competition, done in collaboration with Film Lab next door.
Pomona Deli is hosting another Supper Club this Sunday – a spring banquet. Tickets are $80.
I’m hearing reports (e.g. multiple videos on TikTok) that the line for the creme brulee crepes at Uncle Tetsu’s in Rosedale is crazy at the moment – someone said they waited 40 minutes before the store opened, then an hour to get the crepe once she ordered. If you like a line, try your luck.
A new restaurant in St Kevin’s Arcade, Underground Bistro, is set to open soon, featuring a pescatarian-based menu (that’s seafood), natty wines, and beers. The logo is inked by Carly Black, who also did Pici ’s across the way, and a little doodle featured on a light box at new noodle bar Aigo (up next).
Aigo Noodle Bar by David Lee is open now, next to Mexicali on Ponsonby Rd. We were invited to try some of its food, which is unapologetically Korean with a few other influences here and there (e.g. tteokbokki is tossed in a cacio e pepe sauce, sujebi is served with a thinner, smoother form of hand-pulled noodle). My favourites were the aforementioned sujebi, which might just because I really like eating doughy things, and the sundaeguk (blood sausage) which I’d only ever had before in hangover stew, but here is served in rounds, crisp, and with ssamjang romesco.
Savor’s opening a new Italian restaurant in the Viaduct called bivacco. Looks like it’ll be all-day, and serving “unfussy Italian built from locally sourced ingredients.” The previous head chef of The Grove , Ryan Moore, will be heading up the food.
Sid and Chand Sahrawat’s new restaurant, Kol, is open in Ponsonby now, where MooChowChow used to be (pink and green-edged villa). Yet to try it, but will report back once I manage to get in! Food cooked over fire, cocktails.
One of my favourite Malaysian restaurants in Auckland, Treasure Kitchen , is now also open in Greenlane (530 Great South Rd).
* Particularly recommended
Ho Jiak, Haymarket
Saint Peter, Paddington *
Baba’s Place, Marrickville
La Salut, Redfern
Ragazzi Wine and Pasta (Note: went here twice) *
Cairo Takeaway, Newtown
Marrickville Pork Roll, Marrickville (Yes, it’s good, I promise – don’t listen to the bitter locals. The Marrickville one is way better than the one in the city) *
Chaco Bar, Potts Point (Get the chawanmushi)
Din Tai Fung
Charcoal Fish, Rose Bay (The fish and chips here were surprisingly not good. The fish gravy is not good. But the tuna “cheeseburger” was very tasty.)
Firedoor, Surry Hills (Of Chef’s Table fame. While perfectly fine, I probably would give this a miss in favour of some of the other places on my spreadsheet that I missed out on.)
Lode, Surry Hills (Note: my favourite, the pain au chocolat was especially very good and we went here four times) *
Baker Bleu, Double Bay
A.P. Bakery, Surry Hills / Newtown *
Black Star Pastry (Watermelon sponge cake)
Bourke St Bakery, Surry Hills
Artificer, Surry Hills
Single-O, Surry Hills (Oat milk cold brew on tap)
Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills
Ona Coffee, Marrickville (Note: this is for people who really like specialty filter, I spent $16 on a cup here and the range does go up to $32).
Stitch Coffee, Ultimo
Reuben Hills, Surry Hills
Note: If you want a double shot coffee in Sydney, you have to say you want it… “strong”.
Email if you’d like access to my full spreadsheet of things I wanted to try, but I was especially sad about missing out on Lankan Filling Station, Sang by Mabasa, Ester, Wan and Top Ryde Baker’s House.