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


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

North American

Kickin’ Inn – Petersham NSW Restaurant Review

In February 2020, before the world knew just how bad the COVID-19 pandemic would be, a Kiwi friend of ours suggested HOUSE OF CRAB. Unfortunately we never made it there – it closed in March due to the pandemic – but we did manage to eat at Kickin’ Inn, a restaurant with a very similar concept.

Kickin’ Inn offers a wide array of seafood which is boiled in sauce and delivered to the table in a plastic bag.. Aside from seafood, Kickin’ Inn also offers a small range of vegetable and chicken based sides. While Kickin’ Inn officially bills itself as halal, I’ve recently come to discover that there are varying types of halal and when my Egyptian colleague called the Lebanese owner to ask he found that it was insufficiently halal for his needs. We will need to catch up with him later at a venue of his choosing.

The service experience was generally fine but a bit odd to start. I was the first to arrive at the restaurant, and not 2 minutes into having taken a seat and been given the menu I was asked if I was ready to order. They knew that I was waiting for 5 others but continued to ask us three times throughout the next fifteen minutes our party slowly filtered in.

It was only when we told them that yes, we were ready to order, that they offered to explain the menu to us. I’ve read similar accounts of this extremely strange experience elsewhere online – it certainly makes more sense to me to explain the menu choices before asking if we were ready to order.

L: Whole lobster, R: Moreton Bay Bugs

While the majority of customers ask for the plastic bag to be emptied directly onto the table (covered in a single-use paper sheet), my colleagues shied away from this and ate directly from their plastic bags in black BDSM style gloves.

I had the Moreton Bay Bugs (8 small halves for $39.95) in Sha-Bang sauce (a mixture of Kajun, Garlic Kajun, Garlic Butter and Lemon Pepper sauces) with a mild spice. The bugs were quite small and not very meaty, but the taste and experience of eating food off a table in gloves and a bib was quite a novel one. While each individual bug was not meaty, the combination of 4 bugs did end up being sufficient for an adult meal.

One thing I will mention is that each time our bugs were served (we had 3 servings for the table) we were told that they were scampi. Because of this, as well as the offer to explain the menu once we were ready to order, I didn’t really get the feeling that the guys who worked at Kickin’ Inn really knew or understood what was going on. Especially as we were told that there would be no scampi available that evening.

My colleagues who had the whole lobster with corn and potato ($49.95), served on the elusive “plate” enjoyed their meals too.

I didn’t realise just how huge the Kickin’ Shrimp Martini ($34.95) would be. It is a giant glass bowl of 15 crumbed and fried prawns in Kickin’s special sauce (read: sweet chilli) atop a bed of hot chips and garden salad. I regret getting this. The prawns didn’t taste like they were great quality, and were a bit bitter as they cooled down. The sauce all collected at the bottom of the glass, which meant that the chips and salad at the bottom got very soggy and tasty. I’m lucky I was able to share this with my colleagues, and I would not get it again.

Quirks of service aside, Kickin’ Inn was OK. The serving sizes of the seafood boil was a bit ambiguous and I think that having minimum weights and prices per kg would’ve gone a long way. It just felt too risky to order a “cluster” of snow crab for $54.95 without any indication of how much that could be.

I’m still undecided as to if I will ever go back to Kickin’ Inn. It was an expensive seafoody meal, and I doubt my girlfriend would eve go with me.

4/5 – offers a special experience not found elsewhere

Kickin’ Inn Petersham
82-86 New Canterbury Rd, Petersham NSW 2049
(02) 8668 5857

Modern Australian

Nick & Nora’s – Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

We recently had a late dinner after a run of days at Nick & Nora’s, a rooftop bar on level 26 of the SKYE Suites building in Parramatta. Nick & Nora’s is beautifully decorated inside, with a wide bar backed by an extensive collection of liquor and beautiful amber lighting throughout. The view of the (limited) Western Sydney skyline is equally lavish, and on taking everything in we felt immediately underdressed in our scrubs. Perhaps noticing this, our waitress did her best to make us feel welcome with a couple of flirtatious comments directed at my junior colleague DTC.

A side effect of waiting ten days to write this review is that most items that didn’t stand out at the time are merely forgotten. This baller board ($100) of the chef’s selection of cheese and charcuterie was memorable mostly for the pricing. Whilst in fairness the board is quite large and extensive in its selection and it’s difficult to please everyone, nothing on this board really wowed me.

We ordered three servings of the feed me menu ($55 each) to go along with our giant cheese and charcuterie board. Whilst I normally like to go through each item in detail, most of the elements of this tasting menu were simply not that memorable, though special mentions go to the:

  • Moreton Bay Bug Sliders with cellariac rĂ©moulade and rhubarb sambol in toasted brioche , which were really creamy with an excellent bug to bread ratio. These were a standout of the meal, and probably better than any other lobster or crustacean roll I’ve ever had, not the least owing to the fact that the bug was actually intact and not some minced monstrosity (cf. 101kissa)
  • Crispy Prawns with lime aioli and finger lime, which were large and juicy, and enjoyed so much by my prawn-averse girlfriend that she actually had 2 instead of her customary 0.
  • Tequila Compressed Watermelon, which was just a fun new concept that I hadn’t experienced before.

I think that while we visited Nick & Nora’s as a restaurant, it’s more of a rooftop bar with food as an afterthought rather than a focus. The Moreton Bay Bug Sliders were great though, and at $11 I would not hesitate to get them as takeaway in the future.

Diners: JW, PX, DTC, MC, NAVH,

Modern Australian

Arthur – Surry Hills NSW Tasting Menu Review

Arthur is one of the few – if not the only – Sydney fine dining establishments to be named after an animated aardvark. Located within what looks to be a converted house on a street corner Surry Hills, Arthur offers an ever changing and reasonably priced tasting menu with a focus on fresh domestic produce.

We dined in mid-December 2020 and took the liberty of adding on a few of the essential options to make a full menu at around $138 per head.

Arthur’s Sydney Rock Oysters with grape granita ($5.50 supplement) are on the pricier side for the Sydney restaurant scene. They were fresh, delicate, and of good quality, but we would usually not expect to pay more than $4 per oyster of this size. The grape granita added a new sweet and sour taste that I’ve not had with oysters elsewhere.

Both the bread and butter in Arthur’s sourdough and cultured butter are made in house. The bread had a nice solid crust but was light and fluffy on the inside. The cultured butter was a bit saltier than I expected, but still nice. One of my friends in particular was very keen on this butter, though in general I am more partial to unsalted or more lightly salted butters.

Kangaroo, tendon, and bush tomato tartare (pictured serve for 2)

This kangaroo, tendon, and bush tomato tartare was quite good. I enjoyed the strong tomato flavours, and while one of my colleagues had initial misgivings about the gaminess of the kangaroo he too grew to like it. Kangaroo, for those not familiar, is quite a lean and somewhat gamey meat that can be had at very low prices. While the produce itself is not considered gourmet in Australia, it is certainly rare to have it served as a tartare.

Zucchini Flower, Scallop, Shallot (pictured serve for 3)

The zucchini flower, scallop, shallot was a delicate dish of scallop and shallot stuffed inside a steamed zucchini flower. The flavours were very subtle, so much so that one of my colleagues did not realise there was scallop within his zucchini flower, even after he had eaten it. I think this was quite wholesome and healthy, though agree that the scallop was a bit hard to find.

Calamari, Macadamia, Daikon (pictured serve for 2)

I didn’t really like the calamari, macadamia, and daikon radish. The calamari was raw, fresh, and creamy, and all of the flavours worked well, except for the fact that certain mouthfuls had an unexplained bitterness that I could not reconcile. I don’t know what the bitter elements of the dish were, but they really hurt its quality for me. My partner who ate from a separate serving did not taste any bitterness at all. I wonder if it was an intentionally included flavour or rather a problem with quality.

Moreton Bay Bug (pictured $32 supplement)

The Moreton Bay Bug in carrot and saffron ($32 supplement per bug) is one of Arthur’s house specialties – a dish that persists throughout multiple iterations of the menu. The bug was large and generous, with all non-edible arms and other bits picked off and the cavity opened for convenience of eating. Another slight complaint with Arthur’s QA again here – the quality of meat was a little inconsistent, with some bugs more meaty and others a bit too soft. The sauce had a delicious strong seafood taste, quite similar to the prawn head sauce at Moxhe. We fell into the trap of only ordering three bugs between five diners as suggested by our waiter, but I think we really could’ve gone for one each. They are a high value add-on.

This is a little deep fried dough ball which comes with the Moreton Bay Bug to help soak up the sauce. The dough ball is very tasty, a little bit sweet, and very fresh on its own. I wish we could have had more of these. They’re little donuts.

Grilled kingfish, nasturtium, green tomato (pictured serve for 2)

We returned to the base set menu with the Grilled kingfish, nasturtium, green tomato. The kingfish was really delicious, with a tasty crispy skin and soft flesh with a delicate internal taste and texture. The natrutium, green tomato, and green sauce I thought was a bit unnecessary but in no way offensive. My one complaint with this dish is the miniature size of the serving we got to share between two. It was around one third of the serving our other colleagues received between three. Kingfish is really not an expensive fish and I think a bit more (or even a bit more care in portioning) would’ve gone a long way.

Potato scroll, silverbeet, black garlic (serving for 1 pictured)

The third “bread” of the night was a potato scroll with silverbeet and black garlic sauce. I liked this. It had a nice savoury taste. The sauce which looked like chocolate was not.

Dry aged pork loin (serving for 3 pictured)

The dry aged borrowdale pork loin was really good. The pork had a little bit of crispy fattiness around the edges, and was otherwise tender throughout. The sauce it was served in was full of umami flavours.

Plum, cherry, cultured cream

The plum and cherry with cultured cream was a tart little side dish served with the pork. Not super memorable.


Lettuce was even less memorable.

Bruny island “tom”, apricot, cultured cream

The tart of bruny island “tom” (apparently a sheep’s milk), apricot, and cultured cream ($7 supplement per tart) was really good. The cheesiness and the sweet and sour flavours of the apricot really melded together well. The pastry of the tart was thin and light, yet held its structural rigidity well.

Dessert of mango, raspbery, yoghurt

The dessert of mango, raspbery, yoghurt was phenomenal. The mango and raspberry, with different crumbs dried to different degrees, provided a broad spectrum of sweet and tangy tastes to the yoghurt base. This was widely enjoyed by all colleagues around the table. Really special.

Housemade Wagon Wheel

The final course was this housemade wagon wheel. It was a bit darker and less sweet than the wagon wheels from the supermarket but apart from that not really something to write home about.

We shared a bottle of Ngeringa Uncultured Cider ($50) around the table. It was pretty good, quite dry without much sweetness, but refreshing.

I think that reading through this blog post I’ve indicated a few hits and a few misses, but ultimately the dining experience at Arthur was very good and cohesive with all aspects taken into account. It’s probably been one of our top meals of the year. I would definitely recommend splurging for the Moreton Bay Bug as it is one of the shining stars of the meal.

We paid $138 per person including drinks and it was money well spent. The base price for the meal is $90 per person but doesn’t include oysters, the bug, or the cheese tart.

544 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
0468 991 088