Shucking Oysters in Sydney

Have I told you why Sydney is among my top 3 cities anywhere? Well, there are a number of reasons. But a mildly sentimental one is the fact that I got news of being promoted to the Big P in KPMG while on a business trip there. And I recollect a small party thereafter at the Sydney Harbour that involved slurping down a large number of Oysters, very lightly laced with the mildest of lime juice. Very nice.

And when I was not being cruel to aquatic fauna, I also spent time eating in the various restaurants ringing Sydney harbour. I even recollect hitting an Indian joint – if I remember right, it was called Zaffaran. Mildly pretentious but decent enough food.

Coming back to Oysters, one of my residual ambitions in life is to figure out how to shuck oysters. Google tells me that this is a lot more involved than I thought. So I better start soon.

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Peking Duck in Dixon Street

Dixon Street is the heart of Sydney’s Chinatown. And with Carolynn, a Singaporean-Chinese as a guide, I landed up at a family-restaurant for a meal. We shuddered at the start – literally. Apparently, right under the floorboards of the restaurant was this massive exhaust fan which boomed & rattled a portion of the floor. So we shifted.

The Peking duck was fine (incidentally, click here to see an earlier post with an interesting Peking Duck video). The first course was the crispy skin, served with just the right amount of meat underneath. The second course was a bit different from the usual – the rest of the duck was served up in an interesting concoction of bean sprouts.

And I was told that, “for an Indian, you are ok with chopsticks” – which was a bit of a relief, considering the number of man-hours spent on training.

Sydney is among the 10-odd china towns I have been to – it is one of the cornier lists I keep. Carolynn who travels a hell of a lot on business, tells me that San Fransisco is probably the best Chinatown in the world. So that is one more objective for me.

Here is another Chinese food video I found on Youtube – this time of Fried Squid Balls being made in Sydney’s Chinatown.

Online booking : Travelocity vs HotelClub

I booked all my hotels online, sitting at my desk in Bangalore, for my recent Australia trip. 2 hotels in Sydney on Travelocity and one place in Byron bay on Hotelclub. Here is the analysis.

The great thing is about Travelocity is that they have an India site, with prices quoted in INR. I have a suspicion they also have “Indian” (read : cheaper) prices for a few hotels to attract the Indian market. Also, it was comforting to have a Delhi/Gurgaon phone number to call if needed. The booking was smooth – even the second Sydney hotel I did just 3 days before stay. But when I landed up at the second hotel (Oaks Maestri Towers, in Sydney), the reception informed me that thy had no record of my booking. One serious negative strike against Travelocity. Fortunately, they had vacant rooms and I got a a free upgrade. But this will make me do some double-checking with the hotel the next time I use Travelocity. I would say Travelocity gets a 70% approval rating.

HotelClub had a few options for Byron Bay, whereas Travelocity had practically none (in fact Travelocity did not have Byron bay listed as a separate destination). The booking process on HotelClub was smooth too and there were no hiccups in getting the booked accommodation. But of course, HotelClub is not a India site & does not have an India contact centre. Also, I would have liked it if HotelClub could have had a few more options listed. On the whole, HotelClub gets a 75% approval rating from me.

Unnatural Act

Hungry Jack’s as the name suggests is the trencherman’s fast food. Get a massive bite of beef in a bun and off you go. Except, I didnt go. I decided to commit that most unnatural of acts – sit in an early 21st century fast-food counter in Sydney, Australia & reflect.

The experience was a bit like meditating underneath a moving train – at best an acquired taste. A steady stream of gaunt, famished faces walked in, rapidly chomped and walked out, all in a blur.

So, after a half hour of training I gave up. Modern capitalist society, as Paul Theroux mentions somewhere, practises various forms of natural selection on the reflective. Hungry Jack’s is clearly part of the conspiracy.

Great hamburgers though.