I have been fortunate enough to experience some incredible food in some amazing locations around the world. Although each experience is unique and special in and of itself, here are just five of the most notable dining adventures I have enjoyed.
Nobu, Honolulu, USA
In September 2018, I spent two weeks in Hawaii, travelling between Honolulu and Maui. Since even before I arrived in the USA, I already had a B-line mapped out straight to Nobu in Honolulu. Well, let me tell you – this was a dining experience unlike anything I have ever known.
Nobu is famous world-wide for its high-end (indeed, world class, perfectly executed) Japanese cuisine. With restaurants in major cities around the world, Nobu could be considered a house hold name amongst food enthusiasts. I really could write about my Nobu affair for pages, but I have exercised uncharacteristic restraint by recounting only three of the best dishes.
Our night at Nobu Honolulu exceeded every expectation and dream I ever had. The first knock-out dish we had was the Black Pepper Cod with Balsamic Teriyaki, served with deep fried lotus chips. This dish took Cod so tender it melted on tongue impact, and shot it through an entirely new realm of culinary excellence with a salty-sweet teriyaki sauce that gave me a savoury satisfaction I doubt I will get to experience again. And who doesn’t love a deep fried lotus chip that balances the tender and salty fish?
Another deliriously gratifying dish we savoured over was the Bigeye Ahi Poke Nobu Style – cubes of Ahi tossed in a dressing of light soy, sesame and miso. The entire ordeal of this plate was nothing short of excellent – perfectly balanced and restrained tones that produced a trilogy of sensations; sweet, savoury and acidic. The nod to each of these pillars of taste in perfect unison gave way to an explosion of mouth-wateringly delicious fish whose unassuming perfection was a pleasure to eat.
The final dish I am thrilled to relive through these words is the Squid ‘Pasta’ with light garlic sauce. At first, the presentation of this dish seemed somewhat kitschy and cliche – using slices of Squid as pasta noodles. But you could then imagine my rejoice when the Squid was so tender and perfectly cooked that I might very well have been eating fresh pasta noodles. The Squid itself was immaculately seasoned with salt and red pepper which really left it to its own devices in terms of allowing the seafood essence to shine front and centre. However, the light garlicky sauce that accompanied the Squid and crunchy winter vegetables pedestalled its natural flavour to new heights – I really can’t find any other words for this except sheer deliciousness.
I will never forget my Nobu night and feel so blessed to have shared such a once-in-a-lifetime experience with my parents on what was the trip of a lifetime.
Ice Bergs, Bondi, Sydney NSW
Sydney’s Ice Bergs in Bondi boasts one of the most spectacular vantage points offered by any dining establishment in the country. The sea-side tables provide a front row view of the October whale migration which I was fortunate enough to behold.
A pre-lunch champagne or cocktail on the ocean balcony is a must upon arrival, and really the first instance that the impressive expanse of ocean that befalls you really makes itself known. Both times I have dined at Ice Bergs, we have had the tasting menu with matching wine – the first time because we had never eaten there and wanted to see what was good and the second time because the first time was unbeatable.
The first of many standouts that will call me back to the Ice Bergs dining room again and again is the organic rice, Blue Swimmer Crab with Saffron and Orange. Ordinarily I am not a lover of shellfish but the Blue Swimmer Crab meat in this dish is the most expertly chosen element to compliment the saffron rice and lobster bisque. This meal is deeply savoury with influences from land and sea – the organic saffron and rice brings the saltiness of the seafood back down to Earth in each exultantly pleasurable mouthful. Paired with Friulano, an Italian white wine, this plate would be on the table at my last supper.
You also mustn’t over look the Black Angus 150 Day Grain Fed, 500g Boneless Rib Eye steak from the a la carte menu, which is served with Olsson’s sea salt and table-served condiments of garlic mash and Parmesan peas (pictured below). The first thing to consider is that the meat is cooked to divine perfection (whatever style you like it – I’ve had it medium-rare and my dining partner had it well done). However, steak or no steak, I could eat bowls-full of the garlic mash alone, which is whipped to a cloud and overflowing with flavour. The peas as well, are soft pops of sweetness followed through by the bite of the Parmesan. All three in unison are what dreams are made of.
Cable Bay Vineyard, Waiheke Island, Auckland NZ
I have such a soft spot in my heart for this destination because the memories I made there are magical and I find myself returning to the sunny lawn at the crest of Waiheke Island again and again, in my daydreams. Although famed for its vineyard and world-class wine selection, this captivating destination also boasts a menu to die for.
The first of several wonderful meals I enjoyed at the picturesque dining room of Cable Bay Vineyard was the Taupo Lamb served with Jerusalem artichoke, orange and fennel. My recollection of this dish resounds in my mouth and my heart many years after I first ate it – its pure understated elegance is unforgettable. The lamb is mouth-wateringly tender and sings in angelic unison with the accompanying flavours of orange and fennel which give a citrus tone to the lamb, adding so much flavour to its perfect texture. In addition, the Jerusalem artichoke provides a crisp textural element which evens out the succulence of the lamb. All round, a magnificent plate of food I still yearn for.
The second cullinary pièce de résistance served by the Cable Bay Dining Room was the Ceviche Verde with citrus, herbs, capsicum and crostini. This piece sharply snaps the palate into focus with its citrus profile. Beneath the bold citrus introduction lies more subtle tones of herbal refreshment offered by the capsicum and herb reduction. At the centre of all these notes is the ceviche which is serenely tender and mellow. The mouth feel of the fish is only the mere suggestion of substance as the ceviche evaporates instantly onto the tongue, leaving behind the complete joy of the herbal-citrus combination that remains. After all, the salty crunch of the crostini brings you back down to Earth and ready for a dry white wine to continue the pursuit of citrus tang this plate of food leaves you begging for.
Billy Kwong, Potts Point, Sydney NSW
Billy Kwong’s in Sydney’s Potts Point has been a long standing powerhouse of Asian-Australian fusion. With its menu’s emphasis on naturally, sustainably and organically sourced ingredients, its no wonder Billy Kwong’s success has endured.
The most recent time I dined at Billy Kwong’s the first of two major stand outs was the salt bush cakes. These dumplings are salt bush tangles encased in a buttery hand-made dough which gives an intense cycle of flavour – from sharply salty, through to a buttery chewiness, all of which is rounded off by the freshness of the salt bush you are left with in the throws of the final chews. These cakes are indescribably delicious and I often find myself wondering about them, dreamily.
The second standout, the main event if you will, was the deep fried duck served with a Davidson plum reduction, cinnamon and star anise. The meat of the duck is mouth wateringly tender, but the flash-fried duck skin gives a succulent crunch, all of which is snapped into focus by the warm and sweet plum sauce with the slightest suggestion of tang. Perfectly balanced and deliriously tasty with Kylie’s vegetable fried rice.
However, this review is bitter sweet – I recount my enchanting dining experience at Billy Kwong at the same time as its head chef, Kylie Kwong announced in January 2019 that the restaurant would be closing its doors to make way for a new ‘concept in food’ lead by Kylie.
Whatever that new venture may be, I am beyond excited to try it when it opens!
Nilgiris, Neutral Bay, Sydney NSW
The refined offerings at Nilgiri’s are nothing short of artworks. An explosive combination of spice, flavour and culture, the dining experience offered here makes this restaurant one of Sydney’s best Indian cuisine establishments.
The menu uses conventional principles of Indian food (spices, curries, grilled meat) and launches them into a new stratosphere of textures, flavours and pleasures. Far from traditional, but always respectful of its origins, the menu at Nilgiri’s is innovative, inventive and irresistible. The crowd-pleaser is the Murgh Makhni, which is a vibrantly flavoured and coloured tomato-based curry with grilled chicken and fenugreek. This butter-chicken inspired dish is exquisitely restrained and refined to produce a charmingly elegant plate of charismatic delight. Put simply, the Murgh Makhni takes the humble butter chicken and turns it into a plate of food fit for Indian Royalty.
The second noteworthy dish at Nilgiri’s is the South Australian Tandoor smoked Pink Ling fish with paprika, carom seeds and coriander chutney. At first glance, this dish is captivatingly beautiful – boasting bright orange and green colours that immediately place the diner’s eye at the centre of this fragrant plate of seafood. The fish is fork-tender and rustic with an intense smokey flavour that is deep and moreish. The menthol soothing balm of the coriander seeds and coriander chutney is at first taste subtle, but then crescendos to its peak when the spiced carom seeds hint at the underlying heat. This dish is beautiful both to eat and to behold and I loved every minute of it.
I really hope you get a chance to experience the sensations I have been fortunate enough to at these amazing food destinations. If you do, send me the photos so I can relive my own memories there.
⊗This is not a sponsored post and I have not received financial benefit of any kind for the comments made in this post. This post is only an expression of my first hand experience and opinions.