days 5, 6 & 7 down under: fine dining in Canberra and an unexpected bus ride through the countryside

June 21st, 2017

On Wednesday I had new students come in to my course and they were a super lively crew!  There were more of them this time and they had big personalities which made the day fun.  As usual, we ate through the day: scones in the morning, hot lunch in the middle of the day, and afternoon tea.

After work Wednesday was the first time since I arrived in Oz that I didn’t have plans after work, and I wasn’t bothered by it at all!  I had some work to catch up on, blog posts overdue to write, and a restaurant downstairs that came recommended by locals.

It was called Lilo Tang, a contemporary Japanese restaurant at the base of my hotel. Unfortunately their tasting menu, which looked delicious, was for a minimum of two people so I had to order from the a la carte menu.  I was a little disappointed in the selection but was able to find some interesting options.  Everything was done by small plate so I ordered three for my meal.

I started with the chicken and pork belly yakitori skewers.  These were delicious but such a tiny portion.  There was no hope for sharing that dish and it seemed like a tease for even one person.

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I then ordered Japanese sauteed vegetables which were small broccoli and greens topped with bonito flakes that almost danced as they melted with the steam of the vegetables.  Very tasty.

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The best (and special) appetizer of the evening: waygu beef with burrata cheese.  The burrata just melted on the plate without needing any heat at all.  The waygu was fall apart tender.  That was a delicious plate.

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I went back up to my room at the end of the meal still slightly hungry but satisfied for certain.

June 22nd, 2017

I woke up Thursday morning and decided to get breakfast at the hotel.  It was quite pricey but worth it– it was a proper Aussie breakfast, complete with a little vegemite!  The breakfast is served on the top floor of the hotel overlooking the city of Canberra as it wakes up and the fog rolls over the treetops.

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My last day of the course was the best one of all.  We even ended the day with hugs, exchanging of information so we could get together again, and a very happy instructor!

As a last hurrah in Canberra, my coworker had planned a nice meal out at Akiba, a posh yet hipster small-plate Japanese restaurant in the city center.  Darcy had talked about this for the entire time I’d been in Oz, and most of my other coworkers who had made the trip were also treated to the delight that was Akiba.

We arrived Thursday night and Darcy and his wife, plus Nick, Ale and Rafaela joined as well.  We sat outside under heaters at a nice long table.  I was beyond excited for all of the food I was about to enjoy and almost laughed out loud when I read the first option on the menu: “Just Feed Me”.  This was the chefs choice of their 8 most popular dishes so we didn’t have to go about choosing one by one.  I was SO down for that!

I also saw that they had SOMERSBY!  I hadn’t had any since Sweden and I missed it, so of course I had to order myself a bottle.  Tastes like home.

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There are way too many dishes to name and show, but I will point out the ones in the Just Feed Me from the menu above:

  • Kingfish sashimi (very tasty)
  • Pork belly bun (**OMGOMG THIS**)
  • Prawn and chicken dumplings (very tasty)
  • Kimchi pancake (the only of 8 that I didn’t care for)
  • King prawn fried rice (this was really delicious)
  • Beef short rib (totally fall off the bone tender, mmm)
  • Chinese broccoli (a little strongly seasoned but good)
  • Lemon tofu cheesecake (super good!)

Pardon the quality of some of the following pictures– I was hungry!!

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The meal was insanity.  So good, so creative, so filling.  Its a MUST VISIT on your next trip to Canberra! :)

June 23rd, 2017

I got up at the crack of dawn to check out of my hotel and make it to the airport by 6AM.  My flight was scheduled for 8AM but I got there early enough that they got me on an earlier flight.  Sweet!  Except… there was a lot of fog.  A LOT.  It had been foggy most mornings that week, but it usually burned off by 8 and there wasn’t an issue.  Not Friday morning.

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I got a flat white and a muffin and settled in, not knowing what the weather would do to flights out of Canberra.

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There were 5 flights leaving from Canberra to Sydney before noon, and only the very first one got out.  The rest of us were delayed over and over for three hours and then cancelled completely, but no one told us the flights were cancelled.  One woman happened to check online and it had been cancelled for over 45 minutes, but no one at the airport knew.  I desperately wanted to lay down and take a nap on these big, soft pillows….

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I know weather is not anyone’s fault, and for two solid hours no flights were departing OR landing in Canberra, but it was still a huge bummer.  I was just feeling so lucky that this flight was the short one to get me started on holiday in Sydney, not the one taking me to a connecting flight.  Most people missed connections and one woman missed her cruise which left from Sydney Harbour that afternoon at 2PM.

Only those who threw an absolute temper tantrum got rebooked on flights, but not everyone could because those afternoon flights were still on as scheduled.  Instead, the answer from Qantas was: you shall take the bus.  I’m thankful that there WAS a bus option because Sydney is just over a 3 hour drive from Canberra.  But by the time we finally got buses arranged, retrieve our checked bags which were on planes that weren’t going anywhere, and physically load up, it was already 1:30 in the afternoon.  I had wasted 6.5 hours already.  Qantas gave us some water and provided “catering” for the drive.

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On the bright side, I made a few more Aussie friends and we made it safely to Sydney by 5PM.  The drive through the bush was really pretty so it certainly could have been worse.  I lost an entire day (of 3) that I had to explore Sydney but I was better off than some other travelers for sure.

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When I finally arrived in Sydney, I took the Link train to the center of the city and found my hotel. It was a quick train and saved me quite a bit of time (and money!) than taking a taxi or an Uber from the airport.  Looks a little like DC traffic here!

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I stayed at the Radisson Blu Plaza hotel which was nice but too expensive for a low maintenance traveler like me.  Unfortunately I was put on the first floor with the “view” of a nasty parking lot.  But I didn’t spend much time in the room anyway so it wasn’t a huge deal.

I decided to drop my stuff and go walk around Circular Quay, one of their downtown areas on the water with several wharfs and tons of things to see.  I had lost all light at that point as sun had set about 5 but I was able to get some beautiful shots of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House all lit up at night.

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I found dinner at a small Thai resto inside of the Gateway which is an indoors restaurant area.  It was called Chat Thai, and it had some decent food for reasonable prices.  I got my classic, Pad See Ew, and a Napoleone pear cider. The cider was delicious!  But absolutely nothing beats Somersby so… 😊

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I had a huge full day planned for Saturday, so even though I got to Sydney one week later in my vacation than I had anticipated, I was still confident I could see everything I wanted to see.

Stay tuned for a monster post about the Blue Mountains!

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