After cooking in Chicago for years, chef Ryan Poli took off to stage at restaurants across the country and around the world. He rediscovered his passion for cooking as well as an arsenal of new ingredients and techniques. He is now the chef at The Catbird Seat in Nashville.
Heading to the other side of the world for a 5-day food tour seems crazy to some, but to me it is pretty normal. We took a week's vacation at The Catbird Seat, so I bought a ticket and 40 hours later was on the other side of the world. Having spent four months in Australia staging and traveling, I was pretty set on what needed to be done to maximize my time on the ground. Seeing some old friends at the Noma pop up was one of the main reasons I was there, but I also wanted to eat at some new places that had opened in the last year. For sightseeing, Bondi Beach is a must. It's great for watching surfers or just people watching. It's one of the most famous beaches in the world, and it is not too far from the city. Another fun thing to do is to walk around the opera house and get a picture by the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Yeah, it's touristy, but you’re a tourist—so go with the flow. And Surry Hills is a cool neighborhood just to walk around and do some shopping. There are loads of boutique shops, art stores, coffee shops and restaurants. On the stretch of Crowne Street, there are a bunch of thrift stores which are great to find old 1980s skateboarding shirts and other weird, fun stuff.
Creamy Burrata with Shellfish Stock: Automata
First on the list was Automata, a restaurant by chef Clayton Wells (formerly of Momofuku Seiōbo) that opened just after I left Australia last July. I was totally blown away by his flavors. The restaurant only serves a 5-course tasting menu and it might be one of the hardest reservations to get. That night, there was burrata cheese injected with a shellfish stock—one on the most unique and delicate flavor combinations I have ever eaten. The creaminess of the cheese and rich shellfish flavor paired really well together. House-made blood pudding was a showstopper. And I had some great sake with the meal.
Awesome Spanish Mackerel & Cucumbers: Silvereye
Silvereye restaurant was an anticipated opening from former Noma chef Sam Miller, with his chef de cuisine, Tom Halpin working in tandem. These two are putting out their take on what they learned over the years with some interesting Australian ingredients. It's a great spot to have a three hour lunch if you are in the mood. We sat down and just let the guys cook for us… smart move on our part.
Amazing Cabbage with Uni Butter: Master
Another new place that opened in the last year is Master, a modern Chinese restaurant in the Surry Hills neighborhood. John Javier, coming off a few years working at Momofuku Seiōbo, is cooking some incredible dishes in a very unassuming neighborhood place. Just walking by, you would never know this little restaurant is pumping out some of the most creative Chinese food I have ever eaten. The burnt whole cabbage with uni butter was amazing.
Killer Crab with Macadamias: Sixpenny
Sixpenny is my favorite restaurant in Sydney. Chef Daniel Puskus spent some time in Chicago and NYC staging and has really made a name for himself in the dining scene in Australia. The small restaurant sits just outside the city but a quick train ride gets you to the quiet neighborhood. It’s a hard reservation to get, and they only serve tasting menus, but it's totally worth it. I especially loved a crabmeat dish with macadamia milk and shaved macadamia nuts.
Best Coffee: Bourke Street Bakery
This is one of the best coffee shops in Surry Hills. Its pastries and meat pies are amazing.