Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Catching Bugs in Harbor City - Sydney Australia

Sydney and seafood go together like surf and sand. Few cities do it quite so deliciously: light-asair fish and chips, oysters with a squirt of lemon, butter-poached scallops, and barbecued tiger shrimp. This harborfront city has a passion for all saltwater treasures, including the Balmain bug, a clawless crustacean with stacks of flavor, best eaten in a warm Sydney sea breeze.

Don’t flinch when you see Balmain bug on the menu of one of Sydney’s stylish seafood restaurants. This creature is in fact a type of lobster; its flat shell, five sets of legs, and armored body have earned it the “bug” moniker. Shy, retiring types during the day – tending to bury themselves in mud or sand – Balmain bugs emerge only after dark to scoot around. Despite their name, they don’t hang around the bay with the other arty residents of Sydney’s upmarket suburb of Balmain, but are mostly caught swimming off the coast of New South Wales. This means they’re supremely fresh off the boat when they hit the briny Sydney Fish Market. Steamed, poached, pan-fried, or char-grilled, they’re delicious drizzled with fennel vinaigrette, daubed with aïoli or pesto, or smeared in citrus butter.

Left Downtown Sydney and waterfront with the Opera House If you’ve a yen to tour a lobster pen, set foot in a sashimi pavilion, or scrutinize shellfish shuckers, book an early morning tour of the fish market (6:55 am), or alternatively, soak up the atmosphere in the harborside city. Explore the historic Rocks precinct, a cluster of sandstone alleys and courtyards dating back to convict times. It’s an easy walk from here past the colonial architecture of Macquarie Street to Hyde Park Barracks, one of 11 Australian Convict Sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Downtown Sydney and waterfront with the Opera House
Sydney is an outdoorsy city that begs to be explored on foot. Strike out along the cliffs from Bondi Beach via Tamarama (dubbed “Glamarama” for its fashionable vibe), Bronte, and Clovelly to Coogee Beach – the sea views are glorious. Or make the trek from Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach, through bushland, past historic buildings, former military bases, and spectacular harbor vistas. There’s plenty of open-air summer entertainment too: catch a movie under the stars, soothed by a sea breeze, at St. George Open Air Cinema at Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, or take in a free concert by the Sydney Symphony at Parramatta Park or the Domain. This huge site on the edge of the city’s business district is next door to Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens – one of the world’s best – which itself hosts theatrical and artistic events.

The vast Makishi Market in the center of Naha sells all kinds of foods, including some unique to Okinawa

Best Places to Eat Balmain Bugs

Flying Fish

Peter Kuruvita is a predawn regular at the Sydney Fish Market, and whenever he sees Balmain bugs, he swoops on them. They immediately sell out in his slick restaurant, Flying Fish. Head chef and co-owner Kuruvita grew up in a world permeated with fresh spices and flavors – he was born in Sri Lanka – and his menu perfectly reflects this. He serves the tender, sweet bug tail with a black pepper curry leaf sauce, a sauce of ginger, chili pepper, and shallot, or simply with salt and pepper.
Sometimes, too, he boils them up to make a deeply flavorsome bisque. Sri Lankan curries made with kingfish or butternut squash and shellfish from the restaurant’s live tank are popular alternatives. Flying Fish, with its old working wharf-meets-designer loft style, might be hard to find, but once settled in this harborside gem, it’s hard to drag yourself away.
Jones Bay Wharf, 19–21 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, Sydney; open noon–2:30 PM Tue–Fri, noon–3:30 PM Sun, 6–10:30 PM Mon–Sat;

Juicy Balmain bugs, simply and quickly pan-fried with saffron

Also in Sydney
Diminutive and decidedly relaxed, Fish Face (+61 2 9332 4803; moderate) in Darlinghurst serves the best of Australian seafood, much flown in from around the country. Balmain bugs appear, sometimes in a salad with fennel and watercress, or whipped into an addictive mousse plumping out homemade ravioli in a bisque-like sauce made from the roasted shells, garnished with deep-fried shrimp and leek.
Also in New South Wales
Elegant Zest (; expensive) on NSW’s North Coast is delicious proof that great food isn’t restricted to the big cities. Glenn Thompson, head chef and owner, is a master of flavor combinations. His crispfried zucchini flowers filled with Balmain bugs and sautéed bugs with goat cheese gnocchi are both to die for.
Other Seafood in Sydney
Slurp Sydney rock oysters and dig into fresh snapper pie with views of the city’s skyline at The Boathouse (; expensive) as rowers skim the waters of Blackwattle Bay and fishing boats bob in the near distance. Catch a ferry to Watson’s Bay to reach Doyle’s on the Wharf (www.; inexpensive). This familyowned institution has been serving up seafood since 1885; try the carry-out beer-battered fish and chips and eat them on the beach or in the shady local park.
Cooking Classes
With so much local expertise in seafood, Sydney is the perfect place to hone your cooking skills and cook up a fishy feast. Sydney Seafood School ( at the Sydney Fish Market can show you how best to prepare anything with fins, shells, or tentacles. Its classes, which range from evening sessions to weekend workshops, are led by top chefs and take place in an auditorium featuring walls covered in Icelandic fish leather. Down-under food guru Simon Johnson’s Talk, Eat, Drink classes ( in Alexandria’s Providore’s Market feature gifted chefs demonstrating their varied skills. You can sample the dishes, quiz the cooks, and even take part in the cooking.
A Day in Sydney
Sydney is dominated by its iconic harbor, and the foreshore abounds with culture and commerce, from the cobbled lanes of the historic Rocks to the celebrated Opera House and the ferry hub of Circular Quay.
MORNING : Walk around the forecourt of architect Joern Utzen’s Sydney Opera House and gaze upon its concrete sails. Saunter around Circular Quay and take a guided tour, complete with hard hat and harness, up that other city icon, the Harbour Bridge.
AFTERNOON : Follow the shoreline through the Botanic Gardens to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair and survey the harbor, then on to the Andrew (Boy) Charlton, a glamorous public pool that begs a dip.
Drop into the NSW Art Gallery and its 11,000 works.
EVENING : Hop on a ferry to Taronga Zoo, Balmain, or Manly Beach, just to ride it back again to see the sparkling city lights. Head up to Australia Square for a cocktail in the Orbit Lounge Bar on the 47th floor. It has 360-degree views and revolves – very slowly.
Getting to Sydney Australia
Sydney Airport, 5 miles (8 km) from downtown, is served by major international airlines. Rail and bus services link airport and city.
Where to stay in Sydney Australia
The Kirketon (moderate) is an oasis in the lively Darlinghurst area.
Ravesi’s (moderate) has a relaxed Bondi beachside vibe with a shot of chic.
Establishment Hotel (expensive) is a sleek place to indulge your rock-star fantasies.
City Host Kiosks are at the Town Hall, George Street, and Circular Quay (corner of Pitt and Alfred Streets);

1 comment:

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