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Cheapie Lunch (Under $20)

Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar

When I lived in Melbourne, I loved having after-work pasta dates at Grossi Cellar Bar. The casual yet cosy (not to mention convenient!) location, the simple but refined menu, and the comfortable prices made it just about the most ideal location for a mid-week date. Unfortunately, the Sydney pasta scene has so far failed to thrill me, and two years later, I’m still trying to find that place for a quick bowl of good pasta. When I first came across Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar, I was actually pretty reticent to try it. Being a food court restaurant, I wasn’t convinced at how authentic the experience would be, regardless of how much Italian they include on the menu. What finally…

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Banh Cuon Ba Oanh

I love restaurants that do one thing, but do it well. And when it comes to Banh Cuon Ba Oanh? It’s all in the name. For the uninitiated, banh cuon is a wonderful little Vietnamese dish of steamed and rolled rice noodles, not unlike the ones you get at yum cha. But instead of being served with tea as a mid-morning snack, banh cuon is traditionally served for breakfast, though you’re certainly welcome to have it for dinner here, if you don’t find yourself tempted away by the other home-styled northern Vietnamese dishes.

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Al Yasmin

It’s been literally yonks since I’ve had a good Middle Eastern meal, and as I’m only a few weeks away from moving out of Sydney’s southern suburbs – one of the best locations for no-frills Lebanese food in the city – I was keen to use that time to check out some of the more popular restaurants in the area. And if you prowl a little around the internet, you’ll see that Al Yasmin is a name that comes up frequently on the best-of lists. Having expected a cramped, fluorescent-lit space, the reality came as a pleasant surprise. Not only is the space brightly lit, clean, and spacious, it even had some rather pretty paintings of desert scenes hung along…

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Tontaro Honten Ramen

Another day, another bowl of ramen. And up for review today is Tontaro Hoten Ramen, the relatively new venture by Jun Toyoda, whose artery-clogging ramen at O-San has a bit of a cult following. Though I’ve been told that Tontaro is a step up from the food-court setting of O-San (having never been myself), the set up here is nevertheless very no-frills. The blond wood panels a sparse, canteen-like space, and everything is pretty much self-serve. I do however appreciate the individual seats lining the edge of the restaurant, which makes solo dining a much less awkward situation if you’re bothered by that sort of thing.

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Faheem Fast Food

I love it when my sister comes up from Melbourne to visit. Not only is she great fun, she also provides the perfect excuse for me to try out places that I normally wouldn’t visit, usually due to health and/or price reasons. And today, the plan is to have a huge Indian/Pakistani feast at Faheem’s Fast Food. Calling Faheem’s a restaurant would be a stretch; it’s barely even a canteen, with its rows of Formica tables squashed into a tiled room with zero décor. Service is strictly limited to three points – when they take your order, when they bring out your food, and when you head up to the ancient register to pay. But ambience and hospitality is not…

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Oppen

I find it a bit hard to get excited over brunch these days. As much as I love the indulgent weekend ritual, it does start feeling a little same-same after a while. And paradoxically, this is actually exacerbated by how infrequently I have time to go out on a Saturday morning. When I do finally get around to it, I tend to expect the world from my brunch, and end up getting quite disappointed if it doesn’t live up to my hopes. Thankfully, I had spotted Oppen a few weeks before I was due to come back to Melbourne for Christmas, and was rather keen to try out their Scandinavian take on brunch.

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