This is the fifth post in my Eating Down Under series. Other posts in this series include Din Tai Fung, Sydney, Three Fun Food Finds Unique to Australia, Chef's Gallery, and Bentley Restaurant & Bar. This is also the 10th post of I’ve written in May as part of my #21PostsInMay Challenge where I aim to write a new post every single weekday in the month of May. You can see all posts written in May here.
It's easy to fall in love with Sydney.
Within a day of arrival, I was already telling Bryan, "I could totally live here."
The weather is pleasant; the culture is vibrant; and they speak English.
It's also a beautiful city, with large bodies of water everywhere and stunning views of the city.
We were here with the extended family celebrating Bryan's parents' retirement. Bryan had told them that, as a retirement gift, he would fly them anywhere in the world, first class, using his millions of miles.
His parents looked at a globe.
"This is where we are. What is the furthest point from us?"
It turned out to be Australia and New Zealand.
"We have one condition. We want to go as a whole family" they added.
His parents ended up spending 6 weeks down under (after all, they were retired), while Bryan, his sister, and I managed to aggregate our vacation days and stay for three weeks, taking advantage of holidays by traveling over Thanksgiving weekend.
We only had about 4 days in Sydney, so we had to pick and choose our restaurants wisely. Sydney has an excellent selection of Asian restaurants, and we actually had hand pulled noodles one day and my beloved Din Tai Fung another day of our trip. A third evening we ate Cantonese food in Chinatown.
For our final meal, we departed from eating Asian and decided to visit one of the most popular wine bars in Sydney, Fix St. James.
Stuart Knox, owner and sommelier of Fix St. James, admits that his establishment is first and foremost a wine bar, but also a place that happens to served really good food.
Stuart himself is a well-respected sommelier and won the coveted honor of Sydney Morning Herald's Sommelier of the Year Award in 2012. He likes stocking Fix St. James with interesting, affordable, and sometimes unusual wines (like "orange wines").
Tristan, our server and the guy who Stuart calls "my offsider" took great care of us the evening we stopped by. We had a chance to try many, many different wines, which I've summarized below.
We first tried a riesling from New Zealand called Between Five Bells from the Geelong region of Victoria.
For fun, we tasted an unusual orange riesling from Madmen of Riesling. Orange wines are called such because the grapes spend some time in maceration with the skins, thus imparting an orange hue to the wine and adding a different dimension to the flavor.
We also tried a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon called Patina from a region in Australia called Orange (a different kind of "Orange" wine). This one was jammy and dry, with elements of tobacco, smokiness, and raisiny deep fruit. It had lots of legs, and was a bit mellowed due to its age.
Finally, we tried a 2008 dessert sangiovese called Hamilton's Bluff's Dolce Nero. From yet another boutique wine producer in Australia, this wine was sweet, port-like, and paired well with chocolate.
Even though wine is definitely the focus, the food was very good. We started with simple focaccia, which was soft and chewy yet had nice crispy edges.
It was interesting to try raw oysters from the other side of the world. These Sydney Rock Oysters were buttery, chewy, somewhat sweet, and a bit funky. They were smaller than most of the oysters I'm used to seeing on the East Coast in North America.
Our first real course was the Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Salad, which consisted of fresh, summer heirloom tomatoes (benefits of being in the southern hemisphere in November - it's summer!) tossed with their house made ricotta and pesto. The tomatoes were fresh, sweet, and flavorful and overall the salad was delicious.
The Smoked Eel & Pyengana Soufflé was made with Tasmanian cheddar. Tristan recommended pairing this rich, umami-laden course with either an orange wine or the Between Five Bells riesling. The funkiness of orange wine blends into creamy richness of soufflé; the bitter tannins of the wine cuts soufflé.
Ocean Trout Tartare with Celeriac Remoulade was decent, though *just* a tad too fishy for my tastes. The tartness and saltiness of the capers and pickled celeriac salad helped cut the richness of the trout.
One of the best dishes of the night was the grass-fed Australian Beef, Porterhouse, which came topped with a lovely green herb pesto.
Isn't that just the perfect medium rare?
Our first dessert was a simple Frozen Coffee Affogato. We also had a Chocolate Fondant Cake served with vanilla ice cream and a fresh strawberry. We enjoyed this with Hamilton's Bluff's 2008 Dolce Nero, a a dessert Sangiovese that was sweet, port-like with raisin-like notes, which paired very well with chocolate.
All in all, we had a ton of fun trying all these different boutique wines from all over Australia. Tristan was a lovely host and took really good care of us. We also appreciated how the food was really seasonal and locally sourced, everything from the Sydney Rock oyster and the local grass-fed beef to wide variety of unusual, local wines.
Fix St. James
111 Elizabeth Street,