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February 26, 2019, Sydney, Australia

Belly full of memories

Alan Yuen bonds with his father over their love for food as they savour the delights of Sydney’s culinary scene

Alan Yuen

For Dad and me, food is an integral part of travel.

The most vivid memories of our holidays are of amazing meals. Dad introduced me to new foods wherever we went, challenging me to venture beyond my comfort zone.

Food is our language of bonding. In fact, our frequent subject of conversation, even when we are not eating, centres on food. We would be discussing where to go next for our next bite or recounting delicious memories of past meals.

For all our adventures together that made my childhood so wonderfully memorable, I was eager to return the favour and take Dad on an unforgettable trip.

The destination I picked: Sydney in Australia.

Glorious memories of food
I remember the taste of oysters when I first visited Sydney in 2009. It was at Doyle’s, a popular seafood joint at the Sydney Fish Market. The oyster’s slimy texture almost made me gag, and the tentative sips of wine I was allowed to have did not help either.

But this time last year, Dad and I were gobbling up the oysters plucked from the Tasmanian coast. And we washed that down with white wine. Between slurps and sips, we reminisced about our family holidays — and the memorable meals we have had on the trips. As we explored Sydney’s streets, our conversation gravitated towards the pork knuckle we had in Germany two years ago.

We had gone to Rothenburg in the Franconia region of Bavaria during our first father-and-son trip. I recalled ordering pork knuckle from the first eatery we chanced upon as we were very hungry. I thought it looked like a typical tourist trap so I did not expect the food to be outstanding. But surprisingly, the pork knuckle was mind-blowingly good.

Today, we still remember the beautiful sound of the crackling as we took our first bite, sinking our teeth into the tender meat under the crispy skin. But since this Sydney trip was the first holiday I planned, I wanted a meal that would trump that pork knuckle. So I scoured the web for restaurants to take Dad to, hoping to find a new place we can rave about for years to come.

The perfect grill
I narrowed my options to Firedoor because at the helm of the kitchen is Chef Lennox Hastie, who spent five years mentoring at Asador Etxebarri in the Basque Country.

Asador Etxebarri, which has been voted into 10 editions of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, has always been high up on our foodie bucket lists. When I told Dad about Firedoor, his eyes lit up.

At Firedoor, we were seated facing the open kitchen — front row seats to the chefs at work. The heat was palpable.

Less than three metres away were burning logs over which most dishes were cooked.

Everything was grilled to perfection.We nodded in unison as we savoured mouthfuls of an incredibly gelatinous Murray cod head, and squid served with charred green tomatoes and squid ink sauce.

But the winner was the beef. Chef Hastie’s pièce de résistance is a rare breed of Angus ribeye — prized for its high levels of marbling — that had been dry-aged for 192 days.

The steak, seasoned with nothing more than salt, was easily the best piece of meat I have tasted.

As Dad and I relished our meal in silence, I could sense that he enjoyed it as much as I did.

Sure enough, when he found his voice again, he declared: “This is easily the best meal of the year.”

 

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