The best type of shopping trip, I say, is one that involves feeding my stomach. The new Westfield Sydney may well be littered with stores, but I tend to bypass the bottom levels and head straight to the top - the dining levels.
Level six plays home to the newest set of culinary tenants: Spiedo, Xanthi, Chat Thai and Chinta Ria... Mood for Love. We were invited on a level six dining tour recently, involving a progressive lunch that hopped from one restaurant to the next.
Veal and pork-filled casoncelli $31 and
We start at Spiedo, the bright and airy Italian restaurant headed by Alessandro Pavoni of Ormeggio at the Spit. There's a relaxed vibe about the place, and the open kitchen provides plenty of appetite-inducing entertainment.
Lumache alle erbe e crema di patate ($20) is the first dish to arrive - a huddle of braised organic snails with silverbeet nestled in a lake of smooth and creamy potato puree. Devoid of the usual drowning of garlic butter, the earthy flavour of the snails is much more noticeable, but they've been cooked with such care, the snails remain tender.
Veal and pork-filled casoncelli is drizzled generously with burnt butter, but it's the deep-fried sage leaves and crunch of crispy pancetta that proves most addictive.
The Brescian slow spit roast is a marvel to behold as we slowly pull apart the layers to find pork ribs, pork scotch fillet, quail and duck. The exterior surface has been glazed in a sweet marinade, and despite the menagerie of animal proteins, each is equally succulent.
We move onto Xanthi for mains, hit with a succession of Greek dishes sent out by head chef and owner David Tsirekas.
Barbecue haloumi $10, Greek salad, zivana tsipouro and fried calamari $9
It's my second visit to Xanthi and there's much less of a lunchtime crowd than during dinner. It's easy to forget you're in a shopping centre with the billowing drapes overhead and drapes that stretch across the back wall.
We dabble our way though a series of ouzomezedaki, or small sharing plates, that include a vibrant Greek salad littered with fat cubes of fetta, thick slices of barbecued haloumi cheese, and tender rings of deep-fried calamari covered in stripes of lemon ouzo mayonnaise.
Barbecue smoked lamb cutlets
Somehow we find room for lamb cutlets - cured, smoked and then barbecued - and slices of spit roast lamb that are deliciously fatty and tender.
Lamb from the spit $36 for 250g
Pork belly baklava $18
And despite our flagging appetites, the signature pork belly baklava is quickly demolished. Shreds of pork belly are sweetened by a paste of date and pistachio and then wrapped in layers of flaky house-made filo pastry. A date and mastic sauce has been dolloped on top, but it's the planks of bubbled pork crackling that everyone has their eye on.
Head chef and owner David Tsirekas at the pass
It's not often you find a comprehensive dessert menu in Asian restaurants, but Chat Thai has you covered. There's a whole parade of street snacks on offer, with many available to takeaway.
Chat Thai open kitchen
Just like the Campbell Street outlet, there's a hive of activity out the front, with chefs juggling the production of dumplings with manning the grill and pounding som tum papaya salad with a mortar and pestle.
Saar koo pbraak mohr sago dumplings with pork and peanuts and Khao geip pbraak mohr blue butterfly pea infused rice dumplings filled with pork and peanuts;
Dessert stretches across three stages. My stomach is threatening to do the same thing.
If there's one thing that characterises many Asian desserts, it's a love of starch. Dumplings made with sago and blue butterfly peas are stuffed with a mix of caramelised pork and peanuts that blurs the line between sweet and savoury.
Sticky rice with mango is much more familiar territory, and the purple-blue rice is wondrously vivid, tinted by the use of blue butterfly pea flower.
A small bowl of warm coconut soup holds wild black rice, cubes of cooked taro and thin shavings of fresh young coconut. Khanom buehng are most intriguing: folded wafers spread with palm sugar meringue and salty sweet strands of candied duck egg yolk.
Shop 'til you drop? I think we just did.
Grab Your Fork dined at Spiedo, Xanthi and Chat Thai as a guest of Westfield and Tourism NSW.
View Larger Map
Westfield Sydney - Charlie & Co Burgers
Westfield Sydney - Quarter Twenty One Cooking School
Westfield Sydney - Xanthi, Sydney
Westfield Sydney - Level 5 Stage One Tour
Westfield Sydney - Level 5 Stage Two Tour
Haymarket - Chat Thai
15 comments - Add some comment love
10/13/2011 12:08:00 am