Socials- Sydney Staycation 2019

You don’t have to always spend the big bucks and go away to have a good time on vacation- enter Sydney Staycation 2019!

With our bunch of friends, we weren’t able to find a mutually available weekend to getaway up or down the coast, so we made sure that we all blocked out our calendars for a Friday night and the consecutive Saturday – and this is what we got up to:

Friday night dinner

Korean BBQ @Jang Ta Bal  

L1, 73-75 Liverpool Street, Sydney

After work we all converged on Jang Ta Bal, a Korean BBQ joint known for their use of white-hot charcoals to heat your hotplates thus ensuring your food had a ‘smoky’ tinge.

We ordered a pretty impressive spread of meats to be barbequed (Wagyu beef, marinated and unmarinated non-wagyu beef, and marinated chicken), selection of mushrooms, and a great variety of pre-cooked Korean classics. My favourites were the marinated chicken- they were very tender (thanks to our group’s designated cooks) and tasty. While my favourite dish from the kitchen, was the Japchae glass noodles- imagine instant ramen noodles with a bit more of a spring to them, and it was served in a tasty sweet and salty sauce. Mmmmm.

As we were a group of 12 catching-up, the Korean BBQ concept i.e. cooking for each other and sharing all of your spoils, added to the fellowship of catching-up with friends! And part way through the meal, for an unexplained reason, the waiter gave us all a can of complementary soda each, ranging from Cokes to Calpis- which was pretty crazy as that’s a $36 RRP of freebies! And the entire meal totalled to only $460 which wasn’t bad, $38pp after tips.

Friday night dessert

Desserts @Darling Square Precinct

And after our tummies were filled with savoury treats, it was time to fill our second stomach with desserts! I have to admit, I love love bringing people back to the space which used to be the old Entertainment Centre, as I love hearing people’s surprise in finding here the newly developed Darling Square Precinct. It was after 8pm but all of the shops were still open in the laneways, from the food vendors to the non-food vendors. It had a real Asian night-market vibe about it all! And after checking out the laneways, we went off in our different directions to find and meet each of our own sugary cravings. People came back with purple rice and yoghurt drinks from Yomie; bubble tea from Bubble Nini Tea; and gelatos from Messina. We were one of those who returned with gelato- Apple pie bounty (scoop 1) and PBJ (peanut butter and jelly – scoop 2). Surprisingly two scoops in a cup was quite large and well portioned, so $6.80 for 2 scoops was quite good value actually, when shared between two. The apple pie had large chunks of crumbed biscuit base, while the PBJ was peanut butter, toasted bread and jam – but we didn’t find any pieces of bread in our scoop though.

And we sat under the trees, under the stars, enjoying our various sweetie treats. And then we parted company at 9.30pm, to do it all over again tomorrow!    

Saturday lunch

Vietnamese @Phu Quoc

Cnr John Street and Hill Street, Cabramatta, Sydney

As our Sydney Staycation 2019 continued on to the next day, we all met up at Strathfield station and trained it to Cabramatta. Talk about 30 minutes on a train and being transported to another country!? I think getting out to Cabra was the cheapest ticket to an entirely different world!

If you’re adventurous, just go down every alleyway, poke your head into every arcade and shop, and you’ll find something which catches your attention at every turn! Just as long as you keep your bearing’s and can always find your way back to the train station, you’ll be fine! There are food shops everywhere! From the best sit-down Vietnamese restaurants you’ll ever find in Sydney, to snack stores, bakeries, drink vendors, and fresh produce markets! And oddly there were heaps of pharmacies, toy stores, mobile phone accessory stores and jewellery stores, methinks more per square kilometre than anywhere else in Sydney!

And when we were hungry (although we had eaten so much the night before) we touched down at Phu Quoc for lunch.

Just when you think that Phu Quoc only serves all the usual Vietnamese staples you can find at any other Viet restaurant- just peer closer at the menu or check out their specials, and get ready to find dishes you’ve never heard of! For me, I’d never had the stewed beef in tomato soup with bread roll (bahn mi bo kho – $13.50), and my wife had never tried the pork leg, prawn, tofu, and blood jelly noodle soup (bun rieu – $13.00).

OMG, just when you think it’s the usual Banh Mi roll, so that you’d better dunk it well in the soup as it’s going to be dry? Think again! The bread roll which accompanied the stewed beef in tomato soup was next level! It was crunchy on the outside, but so soft and fluffy fresh on the inside! And it had been brushed with oil before it was baked, so it was oily and greasy, but oh so tasty! I could have easily eaten it all by itself, without dunking in the soup. However there was so much thick tasty tomato soup to soak-up that I just had to dip, before I devoured! And eventually when I got to the chunks of stewed beef, I found it to be so soft and tender- it didn’t take much chewing to breakdown the meat in your mouth, and it had nice melty tenderous veins! Mmmmmmm.

My wife’s noodle soup was tasty as well, with large chunks of pork leg, 2 large squares of pig’s blood, a king prawn and tofu. The noodle was vermicelli, and it came with a plate of fresh vege (bean spouts and cabbage) and a lemon, salt and pepper dipping sauce. *Drools*.

Saturday dessert

Desserts @Kayson Sweets

Shop 4, 59-61 Park road, Cabramatta, Sydney

And after lunch and walking around some more, searching for various snacks that we had once consumed in Vietnam, or recalled from a long-ago childhood trip to Cabra- we satisfied those sweet tooth cravings with a Durian and Avocado smoothie ($6.00 med, $7.00 large) from Kayson Sweets. And a box of green mango with accompanying pink salty, sour & spicy dipping salts from a street side grocer.

Then it was back on the train, back to Strathfield for the evening portion of our Staycation. But the one thing which stuck out to us whilst on the train was that, how easy and close it was to get to Cabra by public transport! We will definitely come back in the near future, and not allow another 10 years to pass before we do so.

Saturday night dinner

Dinner from Metro One and Taste of Shanghai


And then we converged on one of our friend’s homes and played board games and card games (devouring some of our Cabra purchases), and just when we thought we couldn’t possibly have dinner as we were too full from 2 days of eating? The messaging of hunger pangs from our stomach to our brain override any thoughts of restricting further calorie intake! So we had to meet those needs by ordering snack packs and gozleme from Metro One in Ashfield, and dumplings from Taste of Shanghai Burwood – delivered to our door courtesy of UberEats! And as we ate, chatted, and played games with each other, it marked the end of an epic 24 hours of eating and the end of Sydney Staycation 2019! If aspects or the entire experience has piqued your interest? Just follow our gastronomic journey, as you have all the details now to replicate our 2-day feast! Bon Appétit!

Socials- Farewell at Capriccio Osteria- Leichhardt

Exciting times, as we use our 011 Socials post category for the very first time! We will reserve this #tag for our ‘little group outings’- positioning these posts differently from our  regular restaurant reviews and  Exploring Sydney posts, as we’ll cover some of the details to the lead-up (why we decided on what we did) and viewing the experience from the point of view of a group, rather than always just being my wife and I. Therefore from these posts, if you’re planning a group catch-up or a family outing with grown children and their kids, you’ll have a rudimentary road map to follow if you’d like to replicate the experience. 

In our circle of friends, over the past couple of years we’d had the pleasure of 2 Canadians join us as they do their post-graduate studies, and sadly one by one they have been going back home to their fair Maple land. *Sad look*. Thus as a group, when planning a mini farewell, the suggestion of having lunch in Leichhardt popped up, as we learned that since being in Australia, our adopted Canuck hadn’t tried an authentic Italian meal in Sydney. We all readily agreed, as for the majority of us we hadn’t been back to Norton Street in quite some time, so it felt like a bit of an adventure for all of us!

Performing a search on Zomato for a highly rated Italian restaurant in Leichhardt, Capriccio Osteria stood out from the rest, and after reading a handful of positive reviews, I was sold! Making a table reservation is advisable (better safe than sorry) and after a quick phone call a week in advance, we had a table for 11 all locked in!

For anyone who might be reading this post who isn’t a Sydney local, Leichhardt is Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’ (although no one actually calls it that). Historically the main commercial strip of Leichhardt (Norton Street) was lined on both sides with Italian eateries, but as we drove down Norton looking for parking, we did notice that a number of Japanese restaurants had moved in, so it was a little different from how we remembered it to be.

Perhaps the lack of parking in the area deters some visitors to Norton Street; knowing this, we had decided to car-pool as it was going to be easier to find parking for 2, than for 5 cars.  Capriccio is located pretty much dead centre on Norton street, so approaching it from either end didn’t make much of a difference. One hour metered parking lines most of Norton St, while if you don’t mind a short walk, FREE 2 hour parking can be found on the side streets. We scored one of these spots and Capriccio’s was only moments away, located just a few shops up from Bar Italia (if you’d like a reference point).  And after being greeted by the friendly staff, we were shown upstairs to the second floor which they probably reserve for functions and larger groups. **Note: The stairs are quite steep and narrow, so if that may be an issue for anyone in your party, please let them know when you make your reservation.

On this Saturday, we had the whole entire second story floor to ourselves! So that gave us the liberty to be as raucous and vocal as we wanted, not worrying about other diners as we got more and more lubricated on our bottles and bottles of table water…….Sorry! We’re Chinese!

As a group, we pre-planned our approach, deciding that we were each going to order a main for ourselves, and a couple of plates from the ‘designed to be shared’ portion of the menu.

For shared plates, we ordered 2 servings of the Porcini & Taleggio Arancini with roasted garlic aioli (5 pieces) – $16.00; and 2 servings of the Chicken wings with pickled celery & ‘nduja mayonnaise (6 pieces) – $16.00.

For mains, my wife and I ordered the Saffron Fettucine with vongole, mussels, garlic & parsley- $30.00 for me; and the Red Pepper Pappardelle with Duck rage & sugar snap peas- $34.00 for my wife.

And as we were chatting and joking around, our shared plates soon arrived!

“Italian food with an Australian twist”, is the tag-line on Capriccio’s website’s home page, and I can see why. Both the Arancini balls and chicken wings were served with either an aioli or a mayo dipping sauce which methinks is the Australian twist, but if you want to keep things autentico, you can always choose not to dip.

The outside of the Arancini balls were crunchy, and after puncturing the crusty outer shell, inside contained the gooey arborio rice (btw- at what point do you stop calling it rice and refer to it as risotto?…..that is my existential thought of  the day…..). The aioli added an extra flavour profile to the cheese-y balls, and they were the ideal size as starters.

Porcini & Taleggio Arancini
(Ooops, we’d already started eating before remembering to take a photo of the dish!)

The Chicken wings were rubbed in a tasty spiced seasoning, and cooked over wood fire which gave it a hint of smokiness. The flavour was a combination which I couldn’t quite place, but it was really really tasty indeed!

Chicken wings with pickled celery & ‘nduja mayonnaise

And being typical Asians that we are, no one wanted to claim the final wing (2 servings =12 pieces, and we were only a group of 11- Judas couldn’t make it today, something about receiving payments from business associates….*Shrugs*); so we were stuck with the Asian dilemma of everyone being too polite to take the last- so we had to break the dead-lock with a completely unbiased game of deduction. Yeah, all the eliminating categories were purely chosen at random. *Nods*. It’s only Asians who can make something positive, feel like a punishment. Heheheh.

And now that our blog is common knowledge among our friends, they all lent us a hand (or lenses) with the pics, snapping pics of their mains and uploading them to our group chat on WeChat, so we and the Chinese government both have a photographic memory of our lunch time together! BTW, Wenjie, your pics were the best!

So not wanting to waste any pixels which are occupying bytes in the cloud, here we’ve uploaded as many of our glamour food pics for your retina’s pleasure.

Squid Ink Spaghetti with blue swimmer crab, chilli and basil! (Sorry we didn’t include any of our group pics, due to a few smiles marred by blackened squid ink teeth ….oh so embarrassing! “Why didn’t you tell me? What kind of friend are you!”…..Jks Jks. I’m just teasing, squid ink pasta doesn’t make your teeth go black).

Here’s one of the Tomato Corzetti with QLD banana prawns.

Here is some pics of the Saffron Fettucine, the most popular dish of the day with 5 of us ordering the bonanza of shells!

And the last of the pasta line-up was my wife’s Red Pepper Pappardelle! …….Hey? Is that one of Peppa Pig’s Friends? (Our group of 11 ordered 4 of the 5 pastas on offer, the only selection which didn’t get a nod from us was the veg option (Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli)).

Historically we rarely go out for Italian, especially for pasta, as I’m of the belief that I can cook-up a pasta dish 75% as good as what the restaurants put in front of you. And because my home-cooked meal costs substantially less, naturally we don’t go out for pasta. So what did we think of our $30-$34 plates of pasta?  (BTW, for that price you can buy like 10 packs of dried pasta, feeding at least 40 people – granted, that’s just plain pasta). But at a minimum of $30 per plate, we were hoping for something out-of-this-world!

And my goodness, the handmaid pasta (argh! Auto-correct, you’ve got to stop doing that!) not only met our expectations, but it exceeded it! My Saffron Fettucine was twice as wide, and thicker than any fettucine I’ve ever had in the past! It had this super al-dente-ness to it, my teeth enjoying bouncing off their springiness! If my jaw could dis-locate, my teeth would have happily been performing back-flips in my mouth- they were having so much fun on their pasta trampoline! And the sauce! OMG! The sauce! Although it was simple, a clear oil-like sauce, but it was full of flavour! On its own it tasted 100% of mussels and garlic, you could tell that a form of shellfish had spent considerable time sitting in a reduction to create this flavoursome sauce! And there were plenty of mussels and pippis served in their shells per dish, so much so that towards the end I was palming them off to my wife to finish.

I took a bite of her Duck ragu which was ok, but not as flavoursome as I thought it could have been. She commented that as a protein it resembled more like stewed beef, than of duck. While her Pappardelle (an even wider sheet of pasta) was also al dente like mine, and her tomato based sauce was full of duck flavour…ducky ducky me-wife so lucky!

In the end, could I replicate this level of pasta at home? No freakin’ way! No store bought pasta (dry or fresh) could ever be that al dente, and no way could I make a sauce that full of flavour (without spending half a day and more than 30 bucks on ingredients). And it was clear that they were using premium produce, which was deserving of the premium price. So although they were $30 plates of pasta, they were well worth feeding only one, to the disappointment of the 39 others who had to go hungry (although this can really only be done on occasion).

And when our empty plates and shell bowls were cleared away…

…We put through orders to the kitchen for desserts and coffees! Affogatos ($9), and house-made ice-creams (Mango & Coconut, Roast banana and peanut brittle, and Dark chocolate and hazelnut) – $5 per scoop.

And as our timed parking wound down to 0, we finished up the last drops of our coffee and said our goodbyes. We’ll miss you Diane! Don’t forget your Southern hemisphere friends when you’re back in Canada eh!

**Notes: Capriccio Osteria is a restaurant in the Entertainment Book (25% off, up to the value of $45). And there are some ‘sweeteners’ if you elect to pay cash!

Although our after lunch plans were rained-out (a planned walk around the Bay Run), we’ve decided to come back another time to properly explore all that there is to see and experience on Norton Street (probs next time we’d come by light rail, so we don’t need to constantly keep a watch on the time due to timed parking).

If you haven’t been to Leichhardt in a while, I think you’re long over-due for a re-visit either in the day or night.  Methinks organizing a group-outing or a catch-up with friends over some delish Italian food, is just what the gastronomic doctor ordered to de-stress from your everyday life!

Capriccio Osteria- Saturday 16 March

PH: (02) 9572 7607

159 Norton Street, Leichhardt NSW

Mon-Thurs 4pm – 10pm

Fri-Sat 11.30am – 10pm

Sun 11.30am – 9pm


As we gradually compile a more extensive roller-deck of explored suburbs and recommended restaurants, we’ll start to organise some socials to bring together intrepid foodies for a day-trip into the Sydney interior.  

So please keep an eye out on this category for Social dates and locations.