Jonkanoo Canteen at Goodgod Small Club

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

For three years I ran a restaurant inside Goodgod Small Club. Up until last weekend, we were called The Dip and we were one of just three million spots in Sydney with an American diner menu. After a monumental send off, The Dip died and just three days later Goodgod had welcomed a new eatery to its tropical insides.

That eatery is Jonkanoo Canteen, a more casual version of the Jonkanoo restaurant in Surry Hills, which opened at the start of this year with a huge menu boasting dishes from Trinidad, the Bahamas and Haiti. Jonkanoo Canteen’s menu is broken into five categories – all of which feature the word ‘ting’, which is fun for people who like abbreviations that don’t really save any time. ‘Small Tings’ offers fried plantains, jerk wings and oysters – making Goodgod Sydney’s first nightclub where you can enjoy an oyster on the dancefloor. In ‘Jerk Tings’ you’ll find a selection of deliciously spicy and smoky jerked meats, marinated for days in head chef Damion Brown’s secret family sauce. Those looking for something a little more burger-y will be happy with a Cubano or fish torta, found under ‘Bread An Ting’.

All of Jonkanoo Canteen’s dishes go great with their huge selection of Caribbean hot sauces – or you can douse your entire plate in their homemade ‘Jamaican gravy’, which is made in rum bottles with malt vinegar, scotch bonnet peppers, pickled vegetables and rum. It might not be gravy but it goes great with chips (you’ll find those under ‘Small Tings’ as papas fritas).

Goodgod has made sure Jonkanoo Canteen feels extra welcome with a few new licks of paint. The front bar now looks more vibrant than ever, with colourful lights, huge bench seats and hand painted decorations surrounding the dance floor. Next time you’re shaking your butt at Goodgod, make sure you do it with a Jamaican oyster in your hand.

REVIEW: New Star Kebab

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Sydney is a massive city. Like really big – over 600 suburbs make it up. But if you look at our directory, or map out the restaurants featured on other websites, you’ll mostly see the same ten suburbs over and over. Focusing on new restaurants and bars means returning to the same postcodes, as a new pop up pops up where that old pop up used to pop. Sydney’s most popular suburbs open and close their restaurants pretty frequently – while the further away from the city you go, you’ll find restaurants and food vendors who have been around for so many decades that they’ve become an institution. Yet these are the spots that you’ll rarely find on websites like ours that are supposed to direct people to the greatest places to eat in their city.

So from now on we’re gonna start looking at some of the best spots to eat when you’re in a postcode that isn’t 2010 or 2042. I’m talking about 2166, 2142 and 2144 – the last of which is the postcode that we’re eating at today. Fire up your Opal Card, we’re headed out to Auburn for some cheap and amazing Turkish food.

Auburn’s main street is so happening that they named it after themselves, and a common site on Auburn Rd is charcoal smoke billowing onto the footpath. The smoke comes from several Turkish restaurants, and New Star Kebab is in the middle of the three most prominent billows of smoke, in between Sofra Kebabs and Brothers Kebab (further up the road you’ll find the Turkish restaurant Mado, which we’ll write about really soon).

I’ve eaten the mixed shish plate from New Star Kebab at 11am, 3pm and 12:30am. This place opens every day at 7am and stays open until at least 1am every night – busier nights will see it stay open till 2 – and it’s always the same legendary staff behind the counter, serving the same incredible food.

The mixed shish plate is a thing of beauty. Three skewers of meat (chicken, lamb and minced beef, all expertly cooked over charcoal for all to see) sit atop a pile of various salads and a stack of freshly made Turkish bread. There’s a huge oven out the back of New Star that cooks hundreds of soft, fresh loaves of bread each hour. If you watch the dude on the grill you’ll notice that he doesn’t use tongs or an oven mitt to handle the meat – he grabs it with a piece of bread, sopping up all those good juices before smacking it down on your plate to soak up even more of those aforementioned good juices. The salads are great too, as are the grilled tomato and grilled jalapeño – which is usually mildly spicy but one time I couldn’t talk for about three minutes after I was caught off guard by a rogue grilled chilli.

In the instance that you get burnt, fret not – by the counter you’ll see a huge vat of drinking yoghurt, perfect for dousing off rogue spice. Next to it is an equally big vat of a sweet lemon drink, and both of these beverages are served in gigantic mugs proudly bearing the New Star logo.

There’s a lot more to explore and love on New Star’s menu, from numerous delicious vegetarian boreks and pides, to pizzas the size of a child, covered in enough shawarma meat to kill off eleven hangovers. Pull up a plastic seat sometime and breathe in that sweet charcoal smoke.

Where 15 Auburn Road, Auburn
When Mon-Sun 7am-1am
How much $23 for a mixed shish plate, less than $10 for almost everything else
Contact 9643 8433

REVIEW: Brooklyn Social

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Neon lights. Deep fried everything. Old tour posters on every wall. A jukebox blaring out a mix of rock classics you’ve never heard before and rock classics you never need to hear again. Welcome to the tried and true combination that you’ve experienced fifty times in the last few years, but it’s hard to be upset when it’s presented as neatly and as cheaply as it is at Brooklyn Social.

Surely to become the number one destination for awkward first dates, Brooklyn Social is a dive bar without any dive whatsoever, instead offering a huge clean space, colourfully lit by various neons in each corner of the room. The cocktail list is massive, divided into sections named after the different boroughs of New York. The cocktails range from “a slight improvement on a classic” to “this is not a gin sling”. Opting for a big cold pint of Brooklyn Lager might be the better option.

The menu is put together by Chur Burger chef Mikey Canavan and is typical American fast food fare. Onion rings, fried chicken, and a cheeseburger bigger than the SLR that the guy next to me is using to take a picture of it with. No huge surprises – except for how cheap everything is. A big basket of perfectly fried chicken tastes even better when it’s ten bucks.

Brooklyn Social is one of those spots you could take almost anyone, and in this weird area around Central that’s a great thing. Did I need to hear ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as I ate my curly fries? No more than I needed to be eating curly fries in the first place. Come have your next awkward first date here soon.

REVIEW: Afran Lebnan Bakery

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Pizza for breakfast. When you live out west, every day could potentially begin with those three glorious words. My place in Granville is within walking distance of five Lebanese pizza spots – and another ten are a short drive away in Merrylands or Guildford. Lebanese pizzas (aka manoush) are thin, crispy and typically eaten early in the morning. Most of the spots that sell them open at 6am and close before 2pm.

I’ve eaten at every single manoush joint I’ve come across and while the differences between each spot are subtle, they all have their signature touches – or their signature fuck-ups – and after carefully adding and deducting points for each delicious signature or unfortunate fuck-up, I have come to the conclusion that the best manoush spot is Afran Lebnan Bakery in Granville.

Names aren’t really that important to spots like these, making them near impossible to google. The sign outside says ‘Lebanon Bakery’, one of the chefs tells me this place is called ‘Brothers Pizzeria’ and a sign on the outside of the huge pizza oven reads ‘Afran Lebnan Bakery’.

Nobody who eats here cares about the name. They come here for the consistency. They come for the perfectly crispy base on the lahm bajeen manoush, slightly blackened and covered in a thin layer of minced lamb, onions and spices. The plain manoush, a staple of every good manoush joint, goes through the oven with a thick smear of za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix with sesame seeds and olive oil. When it comes out you can cut it up like a pizza, or roll it up with tomatoes, mint and olives.

The spinach triangles are great too, the dough both soft and crunchy depending on where you take your bite, but greatest of all, and this is consistent across all manoush joints, is the price. A plain manoush will set you back two bucks and a spinach triangle is three-fifty. The most expensive thing I order is the lahm bajeen, which is five bucks. Chase it with a fruit juice from a bottle with a loud Arabic label.

Manoush is as delicious as it is mind-blowingly cheap. In this tough post-recession world where a one bedroom apartment costs twice the total of what you and your partner earn over the course of your entire lives, it’s good to know that important childhood dreams like ‘pizza for breakfast’ is a very achievable reality.

Where 29 Good Street, Granville
When Mon-Sun 6am-4pm
How much $2-$5 per manoush
Contact 02 9760 2099

Three Williams’ spring breakfast menu

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

“Oh yeah, the mushrooms are sick!” exclaims our waiter, after being asked how the mushrooms were. It’s the exact answer I needed to hear, as all morning I’d been wanting to put something truly sick in my mouth and marvel at its sickness. Obviously we were ordering the mushrooms.

The apparently sick mushrooms are one of the new-ish options on the recently updated breakfast menu at Three Williams in Redfern. The mushrooms are marinated in balsamic and a little bit of truffle oil (which thankfully does not overpower everything else in the entire cafe) and are served on toast with a big dollop of ricotta. After a few bites it’s clear that our waiter knew his stuff – the mushrooms were pretty sick.

Things heated up when a plate of french toast was placed on the table. A massive piece of crunchy fried bread, surrounded by caramelised bananas, hazelnuts and belgian chocolate. It was decadent, it was rich, it was… sick. Much sicker than the mushrooms. Why didn’t our waiter tell us that the french toast was also sick?

As I finished my impressively pink raspberry and coconut smoothie, I opened my Yelp account and told my fellow Yelpers to beware of the waiter who’ll only tell you that the mushrooms are sick when there are clearly other sick options on the menu too.

REVIEW: Hawker

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

The Summer of 1998. 4:30pm. Gerringong Beach on the South Coast, home to about twenty swimmers, four of which are myself, my Dad and my sisters. I was probably wearing a rash vest. Said twenty swimmers suddenly drops down to five swimmers, who have stopped swimming and started walking towards the shore as quickly as possible. Dad’s ushered his daughters to the sand but left his son Home Alone in the water. Just call me Levin McAllister. I slowly make my way towards them, ignoring their urges for me to hurry with a loveable pre-teen attitude that I’d just developed over summer. Ten metres to go and I step on something. Something, big, slimy and strong. I lift my other foot up and put it down on the same big slimy strong thing. It’s a stingray.

The Summer of 2015. 1:15pm. Chinatown in Sydney’s CBD, at Hawker, the new restaurant by the Malaysian team behind Mamak. Where Mamak serves Malay/Indian eats by way of rotis and curries, Hawker pays homage to the hawker street markets of Malaysia. The best part of a visit to Mamak was watching through the open kitchen at the roti’s being made, and Hawker’s kitchen side views include bread bubbling away in oil-filled woks, pancakes stretched over a griddle and huge wings of fish on the grill. What kind of fish? Stingray.

Hawker condenses the fun and noise of a night market into a clean and open dining space, surrounded by photos of a fun and noisy night market. There’s no rice, but plenty of noodles, found swimming in the sour, fruity Assam laksa or surrounded by prawns and cockles for char koay teow. KL hokkein mee appears on the menu, making Hawker one of the first places to offer it in Sydney. It comes to the table looking promising, the noodles dark with soy sauce and hiding a handful of wok fried treasures within, but is unexciting to eat, a surprisingly bland concoction featuring blackened cabbage as the only standout flavour.

The real treats on the menu are all listed as snacks, the sweet yam bean filled, fresh popiah spring rolls with chilli paste is an absolute must get and the lor bak – a selection of deep fried pork sausages, prawn cakes and taro fritters is as fun as it sounds. The snacks section is also home to the ikan bakar – a.k.a the reason I was terrified and excited to visit Hawker – grilled stingray.

To call it a snack is underselling the ikan bakar by a mile. The bright red triangle of stingray, the size of your plate, is quite daunting at first, and quite difficult to begin eating with chopsticks. It’s best to tuck the sticks behind your ears (ladies LOVE it) and get stuck in with your fingers, tearing into the charred sambal crust to reveal long lines of milk-white tender meat. It’s the kind of spicy fish that goes great with a can of beer, which you can pick up at the bottl-o around the corner. Try to eat it all before someone at your table makes a Steve Irwin joke (if they bring Bindi into it they have to cover the bill).

While the best savoury option is easily the grilled stingray, the desserts at Hawker are definitely worth your time, especially the apam balik, a shell of crispy pancake with crushed peanuts, butter and a small smear of creamed corn, which takes you by pleasant surprise each time you bite into a piece. If you forget to get beers, a jug of cold milo or barley water and syrup is almost as good.

While not as immediately appealing as Mamak, Hawker is worth the visit just to try the grilled stingray. It’s such an unexpected hit that I can’t recommend enough. Before this meal I didn’t realise you could do anything with a stingray besides awkwardly run away from it while wearing a rash vest. Who’s up for a trip back to Gerringong?

Sweet lamb buns at Din Tai Fung

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Depending on who you ask, 2015 is either the year of the sheep, the goat or the ram. Whatever woolly can-eater you choose to honour this Chinese New Year is fine by us, but we’re putting our faith behind the sheep, only because of these super cute sheep buns Din Tai Fung are selling over the next two weeks.

Anyone who’s eaten a xiao long bao dumpling from Din Tai Fung will understand our decision to trust them with our zodiac year. The little sacks of soupy perfection are a gift from god – and after you’ve swallowed a good 12 of them, there’s no better dessert than an adorable spongy sheep bun.

Looking like a Pokemon that so very few of us could be bothered levelling up, the sheep buns come steaming hot, their puffy bodies releasing a river of molten chocolate when bitten into, with a nice chunk of taro in the middle. There’s a small amount of guilt as you bite through its little face, but if you ever wanted to eat a beanie baby, this is as close as you’ll get without actually ingesting cotton.

The wool-less sheep buns are available at most the Din Tai Fun locations for dinner and lunch, from now until the 5th of March. After then you’ll have to wait until next year’s Monkey buns.

REVIEW: The Bearded Tit

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Lately I’ve been storming out of pubs within minutes of heading to the bar. Blame it on me not recognising any of the four thousand beers on tap, or me trying to order something on the menu that isn’t loaded with buzzwords that mean nothing. No, I don’t want a cajun sourdough pulled pork po’ boy slider pizza and even more no, I don’t want to try four tiny glasses of beer that taste like chai served on a wooden paddle. I want a schooner, a bag of chips and I want a pub to just be a fuckin’ pub.

You remember that feeling when you first walked into The Clare Hotel in 2002, frantically trying to decide which gross old couch you were going to spend the next four hours on, nervously clutching a beer you were ready to neck in case somebody came to I.D. you? Or the first time those significantly older mates took you to the Hollywood and you had the late night epiphany that there are literally hundreds of beers that are better than Coopers Green? Those memories come flooding back within seconds of arriving at Redfern’s newest bar, The Bearded Tit.

You may have seen the woollen dicks with tits out the front and thought “I’m not sure if I’m a woollen dicks with tits kind of guy”, but you’ll be quickly won over by The Bearded Tit’s loud and proud aesthetic. It’s somehow no nonsense while being 100% nonsense at the same time. There’s a sense of order in the millions of trinkets and artworks that adorn every inch of the walls. The owners have had this space for two years and I’d wager they spent most of those years deciding which trinket should go where, working out the perfect spot for the boar’s head with a trumpet in his mouth.

There’s no nonsense behind the bar. Three beers flow happily from the tap – Reschs, Peroni and Angry Man Pale Ale – aka you, your mate who works in accounting and your sweet wanker friend who paints for a living. There’s some seriously good cocktails and the menu is made up of bits and pieces you can buy from local food spots. We didn’t see the word ‘artisan’ written once.

The Bearded Tit calls itself a lot of things. A bar, a gallery, a creative space, a happy place. Above all though, The Tit is one thing – a great pub. The kind of place you can enter at 5pm and within what seems like seconds, last drinks are being called and you have three new best mates.


Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Everybody’s had that passionate argument before, screaming at their mates as they drunkenly stumble down Cleveland St, furiously scrunching at the paper bag encasing their longneck. Friendships have been lost over the endless quest to figure out which kebab store is better: Fatima’s or Abdul’s? Which dirty oil, dusty carpet, microwave using Lebanese institution is superior?

Those wishing to avoid that argument in the future can head around the corner, where Zahli recently opened on Elizabeth St. Zahli is clean, bright and modern. It’s like Fatima’s and Abdul’s had a baby who; went to finishing school, got rich and built a mansion next to mum and dads to rub its successes in their faces. The menu boasts ‘modern middle eastern’ but really this means ‘the same food you can get at most Lebanese restaurants but served very nicely on a plate that’s quite lovely’.

All the classics are here – the colourful pickles are great, the hommos and baba ghannouj nice and rich, the fried bread in the middle of the table as addictive as it is immediately replaced once you’ve finished it. The only misfire is the fattoush, which was too chunky and had too much capsicum. The mixed mezza plate more than made up for the fattoush, the ladies fingers, falafel, kibbeh and sambousik are all fresh and light, without that dank, old oil aftertaste.

Mains are where you’ll find a lot of dishes that aren’t found around the corner, among the mixed grill options are mjadra (lentils and rice), samki harra (grilled barramundi with nuts and tahini) and garlic prawns for some reason.

If memories of sitting on the floor at Fatima’s and awkwardly avoiding the gaze of the belly dancer as she knocks your tabouleh off the table have scarred you from returning to Fatima’s or Abdul’s, walk that extra hundred metres and spend that extra ten bucks a head at Zahli.

Boon Cafe at Jarern Chai Grocer

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Like a gremlin doused with water, Chat Thai has been multiplying over the last few years – with locations popping up in shopping centres and food courts. While each new location has stayed true to the O.G.’s mantra of Thai classics done extremely fucking well, their latest venture breaks all the rules (and still does things extremely fucking well).

If you’ve ever eaten a Chat Thai curry and thought ‘this would be insanely good on a sandwich’, sing your praises to the Lord of Holy Basil, because Chat Thai has been reading your mind and has opened their take on a typical Australian cafe. It’s housed inside their brand new grocery store, Jarern Chai Grocer, itself worthy of a long review praising its colourful collection of produce, both local and imported. A stroll through the aisles is the perfect distraction as you wait for your bowl of crab pasta.

What’s that? Crab pasta? At a Thai joint? It’s all par for the course at Boon Cafe, nestled in the middle of the grocery store. By night the cafe offers a traditional Isaan Thai menu – beautiful soups, noodles and curries as good as you’ll find at the first Chat Thai around the corner – but breakfast and lunch is way more fun, when the mother/daughter team of Amy Chanta and Palisa Anderson present a selection of sandwiches, salads and pasta that feature Thai flavours while avoiding tacky fusion label.

Between thick slices of sourdough from Brickfields Bakery, you’ll find thai sausage, pork larb, fermented rice cakes, smoked eggplant relish and a shitload of chilli. These decadent sandwiches immediately stake their claim for the best in the city – and before you start uninviting your friend who pretends to have a gluten intolerance, don’t worry! The sandwiches can be served as rice bowls too!

Swing by for a sandwich at breakfast, then return for a few bowls of pasta at lunch. The pasta comes fresh from Porcorosso and provides a good chew, a nice contrast to the soft rice noodles typically used in Thai food. The kamut fusilli is a highlight, the yellow twists of pasta turning even yellower as they soak up the spicy oil from pork sausage and slide through raw egg yolks.

The level of heat in each dish is a welcome difference from your average cafe, and if you find it a bit much, suck down on one of the house made tisanes – a sweet herbal tea that changes flavour throughout the week. After trying one flavour, you’ll want to return a few times to make sure you get through them all. Add Boon Cafe to the top of the list of restaurants that we’d be perfectly happy eating at for breakfast, lunch and dinner – leaving with a bag of groceries to take home.