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Name: Bécasse
Address: 204 Clar­ence Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9283 3440
Type: Res­taur­ant
Cuisine: French/​European
Open­ing hours: 12:00 pm-2:30 pm (lunch, Monday-​​Friday); 6:00 pm-10:30 pm (din­ner, Monday-​​Saturday)
Price: $120 (degust­a­tion); $27 and $45 (à la carte entrée and main respectively)

There is no doubt that Bécasse is one of the stars of Sydney fine din­ing, almost bey­ond review for an ama­teur as myself. Famil­iar and unfa­mil­iar ingredi­ents are brought together in every dish with immacu­late exe­cu­tion and present­a­tion. This is food that is as beau­ti­ful to look at as it is beau­ti­ful to savour. I must say that some of the meat­ier dishes may come across as being a little under­whelm­ing, but this is purely because of the heav­en­li­ness of some of the other dishes; dessert here is some­thing you can’t have enough of! As for ambi­ence, Bécasse is a place well-​​suited any time a little bit of soph­ist­ic­a­tion is in order. From the eleg­ant but not too pre­ten­tious din­ing room, you can see the chefs deftly apply­ing their mas­ter­ful craft, as you go through this culin­ary journey.

You can prob­ably tell from my descrip­tion that we had the degust­a­tion, although they also have a decent à la carte selec­tion. I think I will let the pho­tos speak for them­selves, for which many thanks are due to Daniel Tse.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

Salad of heirloom tomato

Salad of heir­loom tomato

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Name: Ju Ju
Address: Kings­gate Shop­ping Centre, Shop 320, Bayswa­ter Rd, Kings Cross (a short walk from the train sta­tion)
Phone: (02) 9357 7100
Type: Res­taur­ant
Cuisine: Japan­ese
Open­ing hours: 6:30 pm-11:30 pm (Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, Thursday, Sunday); 6:30 pm-1:00 am (Fri­day, Saturday)

I’ve never been to Japan, so it’s hard for me to com­ment as to the authen­ti­city of the exper­i­ence I had, but Ju Ju, a Japan­ese res­taur­ant a short walk from Kings Cross rail­way sta­tion, has cer­tainly found a way to dis­tin­guish itself in Sydney: as you enter, you are asked to take off your shoes, and at your table, you rest your behind on the ground on cush­ions. It’s all a rather nice thought, but there are good reas­ons — for me any­way — why I might not want to expose my feet dur­ing a meal. Let’s just say it has the poten­tial to con­fuse the palate.

We had heard that the sukiyaki is worth a try, so we ordered that. For $39 (serving two), the sukiyaki comes with sliced beef, noodles, tofu, two eggs and a good selec­tion of veget­ables, all of which you cook your­self hot-​​pot style in the soy-​​based broth. While the quant­ity of food wasn’t a prob­lem (we had some leftovers), I was a little dis­ap­poin­ted at the meat-​​vegetable ratio, and while the end res­ult was tasty (albeit slightly too salty), I can’t say it was any­thing out of the ordin­ary to jus­tify spend­ing $19.50 per per­son. (The other mains on the menu were about $10–15 per per­son: we should’ve ordered those instead.)

“Kung Fu Panda” was play­ing silently on the flat-​​panel mon­itor next to the table — repeatedly — and com­bined with the extens­ive use of wooden decor (and the menu con­tain­ing a good deal of Engrish and WordArt), I wasn’t blown away by the present­a­tion either. Tak­ing your shoes off might be novel for some, but it doesn’t do it for me. It’s also a karaoke bar — at $1 per song — but we didn’t give that a go. Maybe with flow­ing alco­hol, song, dance and some other dishes, it might have been a more mem­or­able experience.

Con­clu­sion: Com­pet­ent Japan­ese food, but noth­ing spe­cial, and out of the way if you have no other reason to be in Kings Cross.

Food: 6/​10
Ser­vice: 5/​10
Ambi­ence: 6/​10
Value for money: 5/​10
Over­all: 5/​10
(what do these num­bers mean?)

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Name: Great Cen­tury Res­taur­ant
Address: 23 Green­field Parade, Bank­stown, NSW 2200
Phone: (02) 9796 3366
Type: Res­taur­ant
Cuisine: Chinese

I’m sure it has been said that while one of multiculturalism’s great products is the great vari­ety of res­taur­ants we can choose from in Sydney, the Chinese res­taur­ants here are gen­er­ally quite lack­ing. If you’ve been to Hong Kong or else­where, the choice on offer in Sydney seems down­right ped­es­trian, and even if you haven’t, rude waiters and mediocre food are not uncom­mon tales.

The Great Cen­tury Res­taur­ant has had many a name over the years, but there has always been a Chinese res­taur­ant of some descrip­tion in the pink build­ing on Green­field Parade in Bank­stown for as long as I have known. While it has never been any­thing to sing home about, we always enjoyed hav­ing fam­ily din­ners there because we would get sea­food or some­thing else that grandma couldn’t throw together herself.

Unfor­tu­nately, it’s not quite the same any more. Now, vast amounts of uneven sticky-​​tape adorn the walls, hold­ing up spe­cials typed up onto pink sheets of paper — not quite the soph­ist­ic­ated look. The fish tank, the staple of a Chinese res­taur­ant, has been moved from its prime pos­i­tion near the entrance to one of the corners. Some of the waiters were rather cas­u­ally dressed — I’m sorry, but that’s just not on.

Waiters push­ing you to order never quite set the scene right. So we ordered, and we sat around for a while. We drank the com­pli­ment­ary arrival soup; it was lack­ing in com­plex fla­vours, feel­ing as though it were watered down or boiled with insuf­fi­cient ingredi­ents. Then we sat around for a while. Then one dish came. It was scal­lops with veget­ables — pass­able, if it weren’t for the fact that it was luke­warm. Some­thing gave me the hint it had been sit­ting around for a while.

So we ate the scal­lops, and twiddled our thumbs for a while, then the rice came, and then we twiddled our thumbs for a while some more. It’s a sure sign something’s wrong when grandpa got up to get the teapots refilled him­self. Not that the tea was any­thing spe­cial either.

The Pek­ing duck was prob­ably the high­light of the meal — a tan­tal­ising slither of duck skin wrapped in a pan­cake with a scal­lion, drenched in sweet noodle sauce. Luck­ily for me, there were extras and I couldn’t wait to grab myself a second help­ing. There was a little more fat than I would have liked, but hey, that’s what you get with duck.

Then, things mira­cu­lously sped up and the dishes star­ted pil­ing in; sud­denly the paucity of food turned into a feast. The fish was a bit chewy but the main con­cern was the oyster sauce — oyster sauce, I think, goes well with few things, and that fish wasn’t one of them. The noodles were soft and a pleas­ure to gulp down, but they were drenched in sauce. The crispy skin chicken looked like it had been hanging around for a while, and the rest of the duck meat came on a plate — not presen­ted in any appet­ising way, and it was pos­it­ively unap­pet­ising with the strange-​​tasting sauce that accom­pan­ied it. I love duck with taro, but there just wasn’t much duck and hon­estly, that taro didn’t taste very much like taro. We also had shark fin with some kind of veget­able — for­tu­nately, such a dish is always bound to be a crowd pleaser.

After the casually-​​dressed waiters cleaned away the plates and bowls, com­pli­ment­ary dessert in the form of sliced oranges and cook­ies were served; I didn’t have the oranges (I could smell the sour­ness from a metre away) but the cook­ies were nice, except that I don’t think they should have had a soft centre.

In gen­eral, I often find that the com­pli­ment­ary dishes a res­taur­ant gives away impact quite a bit on how I per­ceive them; how­ever, in this case, they should prob­ably worry about the mains first. The place just reeks of an atti­tude that they just don’t really care very much about you, or the food.

I’m just glad I wasn’t the one paying.

Food: 4/​10
Ser­vice: 4/​10
Ambi­ence: 5/​10
Value for money: 5/​10
Over­all: 4/​10
(what do these num­bers mean?)

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