Paste – Mittagong NSW Restaurant Review

Operated by celebrated chef Bee Satongun and her Mittagong local husband, Paste’s Southern Highlands venue follows Michelin-starred and otherwise successful ventures in Thailand and Laos. While I would argue that the vast majority of Asian restaurants in small rural towns in Australia are mostly visited by accident, Paste holds a distinction for being not merely an afterthought, but a destination.

The Tropical Pomelo Salad ($45) is an somewhat misleadingly named but delicious dish consisting of two slipper lobsters (I believe them to be Moreton Bay Bug) and a few wedges of pomelo in a deliciously rich citrusy sauce. While much of the promotional material for the overseas version of this dish shows the bugs deshelled, our bugs came split in half with shell on, somewhat hurting the appearance of this dish, but at the same time providing diners with the valuable choice of picking their own saucing coefficient. The protective layer of shell meant that the bugs could not possibly come oversauced, but that we were able to decide exactly how much of it we wanted – a touch we found very thoughtful. The de-albedod pomelo portions were fresh and mildly sweet, however they alone were not enough to make this a salad. Given the dominance of sauce in the dish we would consider this more of a regular main than a salad, and would recommend an order of rice to go along with it to soak up all the flavours. Ultimately though I longed for more bug meat at the end of this dish.

I’ve been on a bit of a duck hunt recently, and Paste’s Half Crispy Duck ($44) was my latest attempt at capturing a juicy, meaty duck with crispy skin. While not all of these criteria were fulfilled (I think I just need to go to a standard Cantonese BBQ restaurant), Paste’s duck was truly quite special in its own way. This half duck came bathed in a sweet, clear broth of herbs and aniseed, and while the broth itself soaked through what might have otherwise been quite crispy skin, the interesting and complex flavours imparted by it were more than worth it. The citrus flesh and rind were delightfully fresh, and I particularly enjoyed mouthfuls with them and the contrast they provided against the otherwise herby broth.

The Smoky Southern Crab Curry ($43) was again interesting and unexpected. Unlike the pomelo salad, the shellfish of this salad was completely deshelled, with Australian blue swimmer crab meat on show in the bowl, making it an ideal dish for people who are generally too lazy to excavate for their own crab meat. The placement of the crab meat was again surprisingly thoughtful, with it all lumped together so that not all of it was submerged in the sauce. Not only this, but the meat was even layered so that it was not lost in the sauce as flakes, but safely secured and edible in whole spoonfuls. Magic. Truth be told though I thought that they yellow curry sauce was pretty standard, no more than well-executed, but not so special. It was all in the construction.

Rice was rice but expensive.

The Tamarind Cheese Cake ($23) with jasmine cream was very good. The cheese cake itself was a densely packed bar, again with a lot of citrus flavour. The biscuit crumb was just a little bit salty, and the dessert overall was not too sweet. The jasmine cream, unbelievably light and delicate, contrasted well with the heavy cheesecake. Each spoonful of the jasmine cream was an absolute delight.

These chairs were something else entirely. Excellent comfort with a reclining feature.

I admit this was probably a bit rambly. I wrote it over the course of two night shifts, surrounded by pinging alarms and with inadequate rest. I haven’t proofread it, but if you take anything home from this review it should be that Paste’s food is not only very good, but thought and care goes into not only the cooking but also the plating every dish. Though their prices seem to have increased 30% since they opened six months ago, they remain worth a visit.

Paste Australia (Southern Highlands)
105 Main St, Mittagong NSW 2575
(02) 4872 2277


Scopri – Carlton VIC Restaurant Review

Full disclosure, I’ve had these photos sitting on my computer for the past six months because I’ve been a bit burnt out from Pegfeeding about my Melbourne trip, especially as out-of-Sydney experiences aren’t really why anyone reads this blog anyway. Keen noticers will have noticed that Melbourne reviews have been going up outside of the regular schedule, as they do not form the core content of this blog. I think ultimately the delay is OK though because this is going to be a positive review.

The prelude to our meal at Scopri was us calling an unnamed popular CBD Italian restaurant, confirming that they were still open in the early afternoon, then arriving there about 15 minutes later only for them to gaslight us and tell us they were closed until their dinner service. It is only thanks to them that we were able to have quite a nice meal in a suburban neighbourhood restaurant a little bit out of the way.

The house made bread was pretty good, and complimentary, which made it even better. It was rusty on the outside and gooey and glutinous on the outside, served with some olive oil for dipping.

This Quail Risotto was excellent. It was a daily special so I don’t know how much it was, but whatever it was it was worth it. The sauce was incredibly rich, with a combination of the earthy umami of the mushrooms and the funk of the gorgonzola. The mushrooms were plentiful, and their texture interspersed within the al dente grains made for a good mouth-experience. It’s rare that the protein isn’t a highlight of the dish, and whilst the quail was juicy and also good, ultimately it was the risotto itself that did it for me.

This Agnolotti del Plin ($35) with roasted rabbit, pork, and veal finished in butter and sage was also delicious. The combination of different animals was not weird at all, and only resulted in a very meaty and satisfying filling to each angolotto. The sagey, buttery sauce was divine, and excellent to be mopped up with the aforementioned house baked bread.

The Pappardelle Ragu D’anatra ($35) was a more standard approach to a duck ragu pappardelle, which was tasty and good but not a highlight in view of the high level of excellence achieved by the risotto and agnolotti. But won’t disappoint if ragu is what your craving. This photo is of half a serving of the full size.

This is a good and gigantic tiramisu ($10) that is off menu and asked for specifically.

OVERALL The dining experience was pleasurable. As introverts we appreciated not being interacted with, just as we are sure that the other diners probably enjoyed being looked after more closely by the host. We also liked that each of the mains were split into two servings for ease of sharing, even though we had absolutely just planned to pass our plates around like uncultured animals. A nod from me.

191 Nicholson St, Carlton VIC 3053
(03) 9347 8252


Osteria di Russo & Russo – Enmore NSW Restaurant Review

I am becoming increasingly convinced that Jowoon Oh is incapable of cooking a bad meal. As silent followers of his career ever since we first ate at Casoni back in 2020, my partner and I have been salivating over the perfectly framed overhead shots of pasta and other goodies on his Instagram all year, finally finding the opportunity to consummate things last night.

We started with this free bread and cultured butter. I don’t always have a lot to say about free bread, but this bread was actually different. It had a nice sweetness and fruitiness, reminiscent of a mild raisin toast without the raisins. I think it was delicious on its own, and actually better without the slightly herbed cultured butter. This bread inspired us to buy some raisin toast at the local supermarket on the way home. It was that good. I wonder if we could’ve had more bread. I guess we could’ve asked.

The photos in this review aren’t really good, and as I told our dining partners EH and EC they’re really just here to provide proof that we actually attended, lest anyone complain that I’m slandering them for no good reason (not that that’s going to be a concern here – this is going to be a generally positive review). Despite the poor photo quality, I’m pretty sure this shade of pink was the actual colour of the wagyu tartare ($6 each, 4 pictured). This snack of wagyu and corn on bread was really quite good, with a good synergy between the charred corn, a little bit of fermented chilli, and the wagyu beef. It was served on a tiny quarter of grilled focaccia, which was served warm and oily – a delicious contrast to the cooler meat topping.

I didn’t love the bone marrow on garlic bread with ciauscolo and salsa macha ($26), which I didn’t feel was a particularly cohesive dish. I enjoyed the nice and toasty garlic bread, which had slight hint of the memory of Casoni’s black garlic bread, but didn’t really know how the bone marrow went with or added to the rest of the dish.

I also did not love the chargrilled kingfish collar with blood lime salsa ($26). I find that kingfish collar is often quite fishy, even as someone who does enjoy both fish and kingfish specifically. I didn’t have much of this, but I did enjoy the 11chargrilled lemon as a juice on top of the fish.

This casarecce with spanner crab, sweet corn, caviar, and kombu ($34) was really good. So umami and creamy, and though the spanner crab itself was a little difficult to identify, this didn’t really detract from the experience.

The linguini with Moreton Bay bug, scallop XO, and salmon roe ($38) was also very good. We had this one first, thought it was great, and were blown away by how good the other pasta was as well. We thought that both pastas were on the top tier of pastas that we’ve had in Sydney.

The grilled duck breast with burnt mandarin and freekeh ($39) was probably some of the best duck we’ve ever had. We’ve been known to mostly enjoy Cantonese roast duck, and not enjoy any of the other more Westernised ducks that we eat, but this one was actually very good. The meat was tender, with a crispy and flavourful skin and nice citrus jus. I had actually forgotten that we had ordered this dish, and it was a pleasant surprise when it came.

We finished with the hazelnut semifreddo cremino, nutella, nougat and popcorn ($16), which combined coldness with sweet and salty flavours in a manner similar to salted caramel popcorn.

We had a really nice meal at Osteria di Russo & Russo, enjoying most of what we had, but in particular the pasta. The Korean chefs of Sydney are doing great things in the Italian and French domains, and we continue to follow their careers with interest.

Osteria di Russo & Russo
158 Enmore Rd, Enmore NSW 2042
(02) 8068 5202


Ragazzi – Sydney NSW Restaurant Review

My ragazza and I went for a quick walk-in Sunday afternoon meal at CBD Italian restaurant Ragazzi. That it was a walk-in at 3PM in the afternoon is an important detail to mention, as though the website didn’t list any tables available for reservations, they had plenty of walk-in availability for outdoors seating at the time.

We started with this trevally crudo ($20) with buttermilk, jalapeno, curry leaf, and nigella seed. While the fish used changes seasonally, looking at previous menus I think that there is generally always a form of fish crudo on their menu. This was a great mixture of tangy, fresh and creamy, on some pretty crispy pieces of cracker. Very enjoyable.

A little less convincing was the smoked duck and mozarella croquette ($6), which was good in its fried-ness and creaminess but less forthcoming in its duckiness.

The raw beef, corn and black bean miso with almond ($9) was seriously good. We love a bit of raw beef handled in a safe and appropriate manner, and this particular raw beef was juicy and umami, with good texture and mouthfeel. The mixture of corn and miso was an unexpectedly strong pairing, and the cracker was crispy and delicious also. Our only regret was that we didn’t get two of these, but that did mean that we get to try more different dishes.

The trottole with duck sausage and purple kale ($32) was a decidedly more successful showing of duck than the duck croquette. This was a very tasty, buttery pasta dish with a huge amount of tasty duck sausage, interspersed with crispy and unusually delicious purple kale. The sauce coated and stuck to the pasta remarkably well, making each mouthful a consistent textural and taste experience. This is one of our best pastas in recent times.

Our meal probably should’ve ended there with the great duck sausage pasta, but my partner was keen on the burrata with roasted grapes, pine nuts, thyme and fried shallot ($21) for a bit of dessert. While this was fine, and in fact pretty good, with its mixture of sweetness from the grapes (I think there was some honey as well) and saltiness from the burrata, it wasn’t particularly $21 extra-ordinary. The day I discovered you can buy a pretty good burrata for $6.50 at the local supermarket was the day expensive restaurant burrata was ruined for me.

OVERALL this was a pretty good dining experience. Plenty of The White Lotus chat at the table next to us too. I’d go back.

Ragazzi Wine and Pasta
1 Angel Pl, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 8964 3062

Asian Fusion Chinese Japanese

Supernormal – Melbourne VIC Restaurant Review

Supernormal was our most highly-anticipated meal of our 2022 Melbourne trip, and boy did its expression of predominantly Chinese-marketed-as-Japanese fusion cuisine not disappoint.

We started our meal with this excellent raw bar starter of nori cracker, seared tuna, and bonito ($14 for 2 pieces). The cracker was similar to the tempura seaweed snacks that you can get at the Asian grocery store, but with greater substance and rigidity suited to holding its toppings. The seared tuna was fresh and tasty with a good texture (contrasting to other seared tunas we had on our trip, for example at Lover), and while the topping of ginger was perhaps over-represented, overall both the flavours and textures of this starter were excellent. This was perhaps the most Japanese dish of our pseudo-Japanese fusion meal.

The soy-roasted pumpkin seeds, a complimentary snack, were sweet, savoury and had a great crunch. Good to pass the time between dishes, not that there was much delay at all.

The Hunan-style beef tartare with fragrant chilli oil ($20) was again excellent, with a title reflective of its inspirations. It was fresh and spicy, with a flavour profile highly reminiscent of liángpí (凉皮), but with a rawness that most Chinese people would traditionally not touch. This tartare was one of the better of the many we had in Melbourne, with quite innovative flavouring and good quality meat.

The sesame flatbread with whipped cod roe ($12) was another outstanding showing. It’s almost crazy to think that you could find the Platonic ideal of shāobǐng (烧饼) at this Asian Fusion restaurant that pretends that it’s not Chinese, but that’s exactly what this is. The flatbread was fragrant, soft, and warm, aided by a very generous sprinkling of toasted white sesame seeds. The bread, though excellent itself, was brought to a whole other level entirely by the whipped cod roe dip, which was impossibly creamy and umami. The green oil on top of the dip, for those who are wondering, was explained as the oil of scallion, though to me tasted like nothing. Even if the greenness is just for aesthetics, I don’t think you can walk past this dish. It is a great bread.

As an aside, the diners on the table adjacent to us asked the waiter if roe was a type of sauce, and the man also remarked to his dining partner “I know this will probably scare most people” as their bread arrived. I am glad they are trying.

We interrupt this food review for a photo of Super Soda ($11), a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage.

Though I have much praise for many of Supernormal’s offerings, I must say that the New England lobster roll ($18) was not extraordinary. While the buttery, lightly-toasted brioche bun was excellent, the taste of the lobster itself (presumably the star ingredient) was very mild and smothered by a large predominance of mayonnaise. The bun was quite small for $18, and sharing this roll between two people was ill advised.

The duck bao ($32) with twice-cooked duck leg ,vinegar & plum sauce was very good. The duck leg had a salty and hard exterior with crispy skin, which cracked open to reveal moist flesh within which paired well with the fresh cucumber and tangy sauces. The “bao” of this dish was bao in the same sense as most Western iterations of the word – folded white steamed dough – a form I don’t believe actually exists in China. We found that, given the abundance of duck, a superior topping to bread ratio could be achieved by splitting the “baos” in half. Very good.

Another dish, another focus of Chinese inspiration. The slow-cooked lamb shoulder with eggplant, Yuxiang sauce, crispy garlic with a cabbage salad (small serve, $42) exhibited a strong Sichuan influence, rather than anything Japanese. Though our waiter helpfully suggested this half-size given how much other food we ordered, we found that even this small portion was quite large. The dish was replete in both má and là, with an additional element of tomato or vinegar flavour which was reminiscent of mápó tofu (麻婆豆腐). The lamb had a crispy semi-melted fatty layer atop which made for a good texture, especially combined with the crispy garlic coating. The eggplant was soft and flavourful, being an excellent soak for all of the sauce and juices, while the cabbage salad, seasoned with cumin, was just a bit too weird for me to want to eat it in any large amount. I don’t think cumin cabbage should be a thing.

For dessert we had the peanut butter parfait ($18), featuring a dark chocolate mousse that surprised me with its lack of coldness (I had misidentified it as an ice cream). It was good. It was all good.

For second dessert we got this massive box of Pocky ($2) from the vending machine downstairs. It’s actually cheaper than your local Asian supermarket?

We had a great meal at Supernormal, easily the best of our 2022 Melbourne trip. The dishes were hit after hit after hit, melding familiar Chinese flavours with new ingredients and ways of cooking. My one very significant complaint would be how this restaurant markets itself as Japanese-fusion, with its use of katakana in its branding and promotional material. I feel that, based on the selection of dishes that we tried as well as the wider menu on offer, Supernormal should be considered pan-Asian-fusion at broadest, and honestly probably Chinese-fusion for the most part. I think at the end of the day it’s just unfortunate that it’s harder to convince someone to spend $100 per person on “modernised/Westernised/fused” Chinese cuisine than on Japanese.

Go though, you will enjoy it.

180 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 8688