House of Crabs, Redfern

I don’t like to eat messy food in public. It is very hard to maintain your dignity and your charm when you are elbow deep in sauce and have organic matter hanging from your teeth. There is also the small matter for needing an industrial strength bath straight after. No matter how much I’d like to think that I’m a lady, there is no escaping the fact that I am a messy eater.

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Seafood Toastie for starters

As with everything in life, there are exceptions to this rule. House of Crabs was my exception.

Taking over the first floor of the Norfolk Hotel, I have wanted to visit this mystical place ever since I’d heard that it opened. Not a den of sexually transmitted disease as its name may suggest, House of Crabs is actually a purveyor of some of the best quality shellfish in Sydney (and very recently, Melbourne too). My main delay in booking a table was that none of my friends will eat crustaceans, either for religious reasons or from personal preference so finding a partner in crime was difficult. The perfect opportunity arose when it came to celebrating a family member’s birthday and a seafood restaurant was required.

We booked in for a Tuesday night at 7pm and though I had worried about the noise level (having heard that it could get rowdy) the place was deserted. This actually suited us just fine as certain family members hate noise and the Caribbean style decor and retro American punk rock music provided enough of an atmosphere. I particularly loved the Forrest Gump quotes.

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The disappointing fish dish

Despite this being a special occasion, I know myself so I dressed for the venue rather than the event. I wore my gym clothes. I sweat in these things so I thought what harm would a little tomato sauce and prawn juice do to them? For those of you who have never heard of House of Crabs, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself “is this girl a wild animal? Why can’t she keep her food on her plate?” Well let me explain, there is no plate.

Although there are other dishes on the menu like pork ribs and buttermilk fried chicken, the main event is the seafood – a choice of six different types from mussels to prawns to king crab, sold in 500g quantities and served in a plastic bag after being boiled with your choice of sauce. The idea is that you empty your bag of protein goodness out onto the plastic table cloth, don a pair of gloves and the apron suppled and hoe on in.

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The bag of deliciousness

And hoe we did and let me tell you, it was delicious!!! My choice was the QLD prawns in the Spicy Malay sauce and it was just glorious. I ripped off their heads, sucked out the delicious meat, pulled off their little armour, devoured their succulent bodies and then finished off by licking the remains to get that rich tomato and oniony sauce. Are you disgusted? I’m sorry but it was so so worth it.

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Crab in a bag

One of my other family members also picked the prawns and was equally satisfied. The birthday boy got the snow crab in garlic butter and enjoyed himself immensely! He couldn’t stop exclaiming how large the legs were and how much meat was inside them. The only person who was disappointed got one of the main dishes – a crumbed and fried fish dish that turned out to be a rather flat and dry schnitzel style of dish. It was a strategic error made in the attempt to keep clean and one which was bitterly regretted.

By the end of the night I was covered! We didn’t linger at the end of the meal. After quick exclamations of ‘Happy Birthday’ we made for our car and spirited on home in search of a shower and a tooth pick. A great night worth getting messy for!

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The state of the table

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Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Usually during the festive period I tend to overindulge. Like most people who love food, I lack any form of self control and home cooked smorgasbords along with with endless cocktail party canapés are my undoing. Add into that a holiday or overseas trip and my gastronomical consumption is astronomical. 

I therefore usually begin the new year in glutton withdrawal, a state of being characterized by sugar induced mood swings, excessive guilt and a new and brutal exercise regime.

This year I took a different approach. Rather than plan an overseas adventure filled with alcohol, fatty foods and sleep deprivation (wonderful as those are), I organised a relaxing week long trip to kangaroo island. It combined all my favorite things: beaches, hikes and tonnes of local produce for exceptional foodie experiences. 

Although there were some sweets and treats such as honeycomb lattes, lavender lollies and home made scones with apricot jam (I’m only human!), the fresh oysters, marron, sheep’s cheeses, kangaroo fillets and salt water whiting ensured that not only were my tastebuds happy, but that my waistline was too. 

Check out some of my favorite food pics below for some of the most memorable meals. What holiday destinations have you travelled to that are lifestyle conducive or do you have a plan to manger your holiday indulgence? 

 

Seafood platter with homemade bread, dips and all the fruits of the sea

  

Marron – relative of the yabbie – boiled and peeled

  

Freshly baked scones – like pillows

  

Whiting with greek salad- light, fresh, delicious

 

Sushi Tei, Sydney

I love dining out. One of the best parts of eating out and about in Sydney is the opportunity to sample the best of a world full of different cuisines without leaving your city, or even your suburb. I always find my most enjoyable food experiences are when I’m eating a meal I can’t or don’t cook at home.

Katsu chicken and Zaru Soba noodles

For me, Japanese food falls into that category. I love it but never make it. As such, I get really excited when a find an awesome Japanese restaurant like Sushi Tei.

Salmon and Avocado Sushi

It was a drizzly Wednesday night. It was dark; I was wet, but then I walked into the warm golden light of Sushi Tei and everything was better.

Located on the corner of Chifley Square and Hunter street, Sushi Tei attracts a broad customer base from business associates to young couples, and is bustling both day and night.

A healthy and delicious salad

Decorated in a modern, earthy, style – the restaurant itself is very large with table seating, together with a sushi bar area as well as long banquet tables out back. You wouldn’t notice it’s size immediately though, as wooden columns and screens have been used to divide up the area and create an intimate space. No matter where you sit, 90% of the other diners aren’t visible, and most of the conversations are muted out. All you hear is a happy buzz.

The giant menu, Alice in Wonderland style.

Like the restaurant, the menu is massive, and I don’t just mean the selection. A multipaged booklet that could double as a table cloth, it requires two hands to turn the pages, and 15 minutes of ‘quiet time’ to determine what to order.

A feast for many…not two

The result? Way, way too much food. It was worth it though. Every item was delicious. Crispy chicken Katsu ($12); and zaru soba noodles ($9) which came with miso soup; together with an avocado and salmon sushi roll ($6), with an immense pile of greens, tomatoes and seaweed which they called the green salad…a steal for just $11, and the mixed sushi platter ($22); an epic arrangement of individual sushi items and six rolled sushi pieces served in a giant wooden platter. This was my favorite.

The amazing mixed sushi platter

The assortment of fish was plentiful and fresh, and the rice was moist, firm and tasty.

At the end of the night, getting out of my seat with my stomach that full was a real struggle. Yep, my life is hard. On the bright side, the rain had cleared, allowing for a beautiful stroll down to circular quay.

Rating: 9/10

Where: 1 Chifley Square Sydney NSW
Why: Beautiful, fresh seafood.
Cost: $3- $35
When: Monday to Sunday, 11.30am- 10.00pm.

Good for kids: No
Take away: Yes – Bento Boxes

Sydney Fish Markets Cooking School

Special occasions deserve special treats, and in my family, that usually means something food related. Last weekend. I was very excited to attend the Sydney Fish Markets cooking school to celebrate a wonderful family member’s birthday. It was an interesting and very fun Saturday night out.

We entered the fish markets in what felt like the dead of night. They were deserted, and I must say, I felt like I was getting a behind the scenes look at a Sydney icon. We were met at the entrance by one of the kitchen hands and ushered upstairs into an area most visitors would never know existed; a massive, multi purpose venue above what during the day is a hustling and bustling marketplace.

The dinner to come

We were all here tonight to learn how to barbecue with seafood, and we learnt that it’s not as hard as it seems. The menu consisted of two main dishes – orange marinated swordfish steaks and seared mussels served with mango salsa. These were accompanied by freshly made hummus on grilled Turkish bread and a green leaf salad.

Creating our side dish

A bit like a progressive dinner, the experience took place in three interconnected rooms: the auditorium, the kitchen, and the dining room.

The demonstration bench

We began the night with a 1 hour demonstration in the auditorium. The room, seated theatre style was ideal. It wasn’t so large as to feel like a university lecture hall, but the tiered seating ensured there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. There were also TV screens set up above a large preparation counter, and a stove area streaming up close footage of the cooking process, which meant that everyone could see everything. All attendees were also provided with their own recipe book to follow, along with and a pen to make notes.

The demonstration was great. We were walked through the entire process, from fish preparation to marinating times, grilling heats to plating niceties, all at an easy to follow pace. Then it was time to try it for ourselves.

Our amazing teacher

Almost magically, a section of the auditorium wall slid open to reveal a large, stainless steel equipped, professional kitchen, one any cooking show contestant would be delighted to work in. Just like an episode of MasterChef, we were split into teams of five to cook both of the dishes presented. Unlike the show though, the prize we were all working for was getting to eat a delicious dinner.

Preparing the bread

After we divided up the jobs required (this included setting the table), we got down to work. These dishes weren’t just made to look easy to cook, they were easy to cook. Soon the air was filled with delicious smells, and everyone was busy madly marinating, pureeing and grilling. The beauty of seafood is how fast it is to cook, and we were all getting pretty hungry.

Grilling the seafood

Throughout the whole process, the highly competent kitchen hands wandered around the kitchen giving friendly advice or assistance where needed. It was really considerate. It ensured we all were on track to end up with an edible feast that we could be proud of making ourselves.

Once each team was done, we made our way through to the dining room. This room was just gorgeous. Set up for fine dining, it was decorated nautical style with fishing nets strung from the ceiling containing hundreds of glowing light bulbs. The bright red walls gave the place life, and the atmosphere of being somewhere truly unique and special.

The spectacular dining room

Each team was assigned their own table, and we sat down together to enjoy the products of our labour, while the staff served us a choice of white or red wine to accompany our meal. It was delicious. The seafood was light, fresh and beautifully flavoured; particularly the swordfish which had really soaked up all the flavours of the marinade used. We were all so impressed with how tasty it all was; how little time it took to achieve, and the fact that it was us who had made it!

Our feast

After a complimentary Lindt ball (or two) and an after dinner coffee, we were all satisfied and ready to go.

We ended the night with a bang. The experience ending just in time for us to wander over to enjoy the fireworks display at Darling Harbour. An awesome end to an awesome night.

Rating: 10/10

Where: Corner Bank St & Pyrmont Bridge Rd, Pyrmont NSW.
Why: Learn to make delicious seafood at home
Cost: $80 per person for a private class of around 30 people
When: Around six times a month on Friday and Saturday nights, or you can schedule your own function.

Good for kids: No
Take away: No