Directory

BLUE GINGER

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian

It’s hard to believe this smart, red-lacquered restaurant has been in Balmain for 15 years already. In that time, Les Huynh’s inventive southeast Asian cuisine has won the hearts and bellies of the inner west. Favourite dishes such as fried eggplant stuffed with prawns and pork with garlic chilli sauce $16 are to Balmainiacs what pies and peas are in lesser suburbs. Showing a Vietnamese heritage, bo luc lac (another perennial) is wok-fried black Angus beef in a black peppercorn sauce lightened by a tomato and watercress salad $30. Banquets begin at $48 a head and there’s a page of noodles, a dessert plate and a more-than-adequate wine list.

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EFENDY

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish

Chef-owner Somer Sivrioglu presides over the kitchen of this handsome restaurant whose walls are hung with historical Turkish scenes. On the plates are traditional Turkish dishes, such as imam bayildi, stuffed eggplant $25, alongside Somer’s informed inventions such as a mezze of Efendy salata with wild rocket, fresh figs, feta and hazelnut $10. Kuzu tandir, a seven-hour slow-roasted shoulder of Bultarra saltbush lamb $25, is terrific, as is a dessert of Maras icecream with Turkish fairy floss and Antep pistachios $12. There’s also a mezze bar for sipping and grazing, featuring about 24 mezzes $4–$12, which can be teamed with wines from the excellent selection or a huge array of Turkish drinks, including a number of rakis. And don’t forget their wonderful weekend breakfasts.

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FINOLA'S

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish,Irish,Bistro

What’s a terrific Irish chef doing in a bowling club? Cooking terrific Irish-accented food, of course. Plus there’s nothing dingy or stale-smelling about this bright, airy, friendly club. Finola Healy is one of Balmain’s favourite daughters and it could be because of her braised beef and Irish stout pie with a crispy pastry lid $18.50 — or could it be the starter tart of goat’s cheese with tomato, olive and basil pesto $14.50, which isn’t very Irish but is very good? You’ll notice a theme in the menu here and it isn’t anything fancy and convoluted; it’s simple, well-cooked dishes made using good produce, such as crisp-skinned salmon fillet with potato gratin, creamed leeks and lemon butter $28.50. Speaking of lemon, finish with the legendary lemon tart and you won’t go away hungry. To be sure.

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INDIAN PALACE

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish,Irish,Bistro,Indian

Heating up the citizens of the inner west since 1984, Indian Palace shows the dedication of owner Narinder Rahal to his faithful customers in touches like crisp white tablecloths. An extensive menu of dishes from across India begins with tandoor offerings such as fish $16.90 and a tandoori platter $13.50. Patiala goat curry $19.90 is reputed to be the best in Balmain bar none and Goan fish curry $23.90 is a well-spiced delight. Vegetarians are well catered for with 10 selections, including the aloo gobi of cauliflower and potato and fresh coriander. The banquets begin at $38.90 for enough food to mollify a Maharaja and there is a dizzying array of condiments and flatbreads.

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LA BOHEME

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish,Irish,Bistro,Indian,Modern European

We applaud the fact that middle and northern European cuisines are coming out of the shadows: we note a resurgence of German, Polish and, as is the case here, Czech and all the others. To experience the big, bold flavours of the cuisines of these countries in elegant surroundings, this place serves an extraordinary range of food, wine and beers from breakfast to dinner. You like schnitzel $19.90? Build your own on Wednesday and Thursday nights. How about duck? The house specialty, golden roasted duck (one quarter $21.90, one half $28.90) comes with sauerkraut, red cabbage, dumplings and potatoes — we’re hungry just thinking about it. But go and experience the hospitality and heartiness of the food. There’s now a fully licensed bar and bistro in Woolloomooloo (see the website).

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NEW STAR

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish,Irish,Bistro,Indian,Modern European,Vietnamese,Asian

Hidden away in an arcade and attempting to please all with Chinese as well as Vietnamese offerings, this is a good simple Cheap Eat if you stick to the main game: the Vietnamese offerings. Pho $8.50 comes with a good stock, and fish with lemongrass and chilli $9.20 is pretty good, too. The stuffed pancake $11 is a good standby, as is barbecued pork with vermicelli, fish sauce, mint and bean sprouts $9. You get the picture. If you are going to stray into China, the sang choy bow — chicken pork prawn or tofu $10.80–$13.30 — is a good choice. It’s not a bad place to dine alone and there  always old mags to read while you munch. 

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POMEGRANATE

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish,Irish,Bistro,Indian,Modern European,Vietnamese,Asian,Thai

This is, we think we’re right in saying, the first solo outing for Eric Sudarja, former business partner of Sydney’s most influential Thai chef/restaurateur Prasit Prateeprasen. And a very fine place it is, all dark wood and cool quarry-tiled floors in an old sandstone building. It’s more Thai-ish than pure Thai, with traditional and modern dishes on display. Balmain rolls, deep-fried crabmeat and minced pork wrapped in tofu $10.50 are not, we’re sure, from Bangkok. But pad thai $18.50 is, and a better version you’ll go a long way to find. Check out the specials on the backboard and pander to your sweet tooth with such delights as kanom bai teuy, caramelised coconut and palm sugar crepe served with coconut icecream $11.50.

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ROSSO POMODORO

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish,Irish,Bistro,Indian,Modern European,Vietnamese,Asian,Thai,Italian

Pizza via USA this ain’t. It’s about as autentico Italiano as you’ll get in Sydney. And when it says Italian mozzarella, know that it means made from buffalo milk. The menu begins with stuzzichini, which means little nibbles to begin: bruschetta all’aglio pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs $8.50. There are only three pasta choices, one the housemade lasagne $16.50. Other than that, it’s a choice of pizze rosse — made with tomato sauce — or pizze bianche — without. In the rosse camp, a diavolo comes with tomato, Italian mozzarella, salami and capsicum; among the bianche is the gorgeous gorgonzola, more Italian mozzarella, gorgonzola, ham and mushroom $18.50. And if you still crave crust, how about a calzone alla Nutella $18.50?

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TERIYAKI BOY

Cuisine: Asian,Southeast Asian,Turkish,Irish,Bistro,Indian,Modern European,Vietnamese,Asian,Thai,Italian,Japanese

Here’s a suburban favourite that has received accolades from some Japan-savvy eaters and which does indulge in a few modern twists on old favourites, such as wasabi Caesar salad $10. All the greatest hits are here, too, all done well, including agedashi tofu and nasi dengaku (grilled eggplant with sweet miso), both $10. Crab or prawn steamed or deep-fried dim sum (that’s what they call them), $12 for three pieces, are also highly fancied, as is the selection of sushi $20. Service is a feature of this place and, if you do go back, you and your preferences will be remembered. An eccentric characteristic of this decor-free place is the way it advertises its complimentary dishes on the blackboard: example, “bite of the week asazuke” (pickled cucumber) $0.

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