Devon on Danks, Devon Cafe & more

Written by Brian (@brhinos), Sydney

Devon Café is a place that organically markets their business very well. If you haven’t been to one of their cafes (Devon Café in Surry Hills or Devon on Danks in Waterloo), you’ve probably heard about the chefs in the kitchen or seen some of their inventive dishes on Instagram.


Peaches ‘N Dream with Carman’s Kitchen new Almond, Pecan & Maple Cafe Granola, vanilla and honey yoghurt, poached peaches, edible flowers and honeycomb. A limited edition special from Devon Cafe last year. Check out the recipe on Carman’s website.

The owners – husband and wife team, Derek and Noni, have filled their cafes with some serious talent with the likes of Zach Tan (the pharmacist-turned chef with Bistro Guillaume on his CV), Jacqui Ektoros (Guillaume at Bennelong), pastry chef Markus Andrew (Adriano Zumbo and Le Cordon Bleu) and their barista, a former trainer at Toby’s Estate.

With the vision of offering affordable fine dining food with top quality coffee, the Devon Café journey began in 2013 in Surry Hills, followed by the Waterloo based Devon on Danks in 2014. Devon Café is now developing a site in Barangaroo which is set to open by September with a corporate spin to the food.

Here’s a quick run through of the food on offer by venue.

Devon on Danks

Affogato is one of my favourite treats to order at brunch. What’s not to like about a good quality coffee plus some creamy ice cream. Rotating the flavours of their ice cream, the flavour of the day was salted caramel. It was pretty good but the vanilla ice cream version (see Devon Cafe below) was even better.

Devon on Danks is known for their Donuts and Cronnies (Cronuts) and just one look at them and you can see why. They are positioned right next to the cash registers, it’s just not fair having to stare at them while waiting in line to pay.


The Yogi Bowl – mixed quinoa, yoghurt, grains, puffed amaranth, seeds, nuts, goji berries, chia & fresh fruit

I loved the way this Yogi Bowl was put together. It had elements of fine dining plating yet was made out of simple breakfast ingredients (with a twist). Felt like I was eating indulgently but in actual fact, it was just good old fashioned healthy eating at work.


The Corned Beef Cubano was pretty darn spectacular. Grilled cheese melt with crunchy rye bread, silverside corned beef, cheese (manchego and gruyere), pancetta & pipparas.


The Manny P Burger

One taste of this Burger was all I needed for it to become not only my new favourite item on the Devon on Danks menu but all Devon establishments! Sensational flavour profiles induced by Annatto spiced fried chicken fillet, chilli mayo, fragrant herbs & pickles. #mouthgasm.

Devon Cafe

Conveniently located a stone’s throw away from Central station, you can usually find this place at brunch time with the long queue out front.


This was the affogato I was referring to earlier, this time made with vanilla ice cream. I felt so supercharged after having a double shot, I am starting to think I should have one every morning. Definitely a contender for best affogato in town.


If you’re feeling peckish, I highly recommend the Portuguese seasoned fries. They’re very moorish.


I’m not usually a fan of eating fish in the morning this King Salmon fish cake is making me reconsider. Served with lime mayo, watercress, cabbage, herb salad & a poached egg.


Breakfast with the Sakumas

The signature dish with miso grilled king salmon, a smoked eel croquette, 63’ egg, radish petit salad & kewpi mayonnaise. Good dish but I’m an eel fan and that croquette was to die for.

This Fried Chicken burger didn’t quite pack the same punch as the Manny P burger but the kimchi and Fried Chicken was an interesting combination. Served with brussels sprout kimchi slaw and gojuchang sauce.


If you didn’t think it’s possible to be seduced by food, think again. The seductress this time was the Cookies ‘n Cream. Cinnamon muesli based cookie, strawberry and violet gel, raspberry cream, fresh raspberry & fleuilletine cream.

Devon by Night

Devon on Danks also used to host Devon by Night, dinners held during the evenings of Wednesday through to Saturday. As of March 16, the dinner service was stopped (with talks about potentially relaunching) but here’s what you missed out on.

(Top left moving clockwise)

1. North Eastern Malay Style Charcoal Chicken (Ayam Percik) marinated in spiced coconut milk
2. Hakka Style Malaysian Pork Belly bun with taro
3. Korean Steak Tartare – Tajima eye round 9+, sesame, egg yolk, nashi pear
4. “Nasu Dengaku” – Japanese eggplant braised in butterscotch & sweet miso ice cream, kinako, panko & sesame crumble
5. Tropicana – fresh mango, freeze dried lychee, coconut sago, galangal granita, mango sorbet.
6. Aunty Yulia’s Beef short ribs, Indonesian sweet soy, tomato and basil sambal belacan

Having visited all of the Devon establishments, if the goal of the cafes was to provide fine dining at reasonable prices with great coffee, I think they’re doing a pretty good job of achieving it. Have enjoyed eating at these places and can see myself becoming a regular.

Devon Cafe, 76 Devonshire St, Surry Hills NSW. Ph: 02 9211 8777

Devon on Danks, 2 Danks St, Waterloo NSW. Ph: 02 9698 7795


Favourite food from Mamak and discounts at Hawker Malaysian

Written by Brian (@brhinos), Sydney

This post is a mixed bag so in summary, here’s what you can expect:

  • My favourite food from Mamak
  • How to get a discount at Hawker
  • How to get free food at Hawker

If you wind back the clock a few months ago, I posted on  my visit to Hawker Malaysian. I love dining at both Hawker, and sister restaurant Mamak as they offer authentic Malaysian cuisine for reasonable prices. The Sydney Morning Herald seems to agree as it featured both restaurants in their 2017 Good Food Guide as Sydney’s Top 50 Cheap Eats. As a tribute to Mamak, I thought I’d share my favourite food from their menu.

Note: I’ve listed these by section of the menu (starter, main, dessert) with my dishes of choice pictured first.

The starters


Roti Canai – Pictured in the top right and served with two curry dips and spicy sambal sauce. Honourable mention to the four flat pieces of roti (roti telur) which essentially the same but cooked with an egg in the middle.


Grilled Chicken Satay – Served with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce. We ordered the Beef Satay as well but the chicken was a lot better in my opinion.

The mains


Nasi Lemak – Fragrant coconut rice served with sambal, peanuts, crispy anchovies, cucumber and a hard boiled egg. You can have it as above or choose to add extra protein. I usually always add a piece of Fried Chicken, which leads me to my next choice:


Ayam goreng – Malaysian-style, crispy skinned fried chicken, marinated with herbs and spices.


Mee goreng – Spicy wok tossed hokkien noodles with eggs, prawns, fish cake slices and fresh bean sprouts.


Kari kambing – Spicy lamb curry slow cooked until tender.

The desserts


Ais kacang – A concoction of red beans, corn, grass jelly, rose-syrup and sweetened milk on a mountain of shaved ice.

Roti tisu – Paper-thin, extra crispy and served tall. Served with ice-cream.

Roti bom – An indulgent roti served thicker, richer and sweeter than the savoury original roti canai.

How to get a discount at Hawker

After dining at Mamak recently, I went to the counter, paid my bill and discovered something unexpectedly at the bottom of my receipt: A discount for 10% off at Hawker! Next time you dine there, don’t forget to keep your receipt. Redemption instructions below:


How to get free food at Hawker

Check out the post I wrote about how I managed to win a Feast for Two at Hawker.

Note: the June competition is currently running and closes at 12pm, Friday 17 June 2016.


Hawker, 345B-353 Sussex Street, Sydney. Ph: (02) 9264 9315

Mamak, Sydney (Chinatown, Chatswood) & Melbourne
15 Goulburn Street, Sydney NSW 2000. Ph: (02) 9211 1668
1-5 Railway St, Chatswood NSW 2067. Ph: (02) 9411 4411
366 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000. Ph: (03) 9670 3137



Dinner at Panama House, Bondi

Written by Brian (@brhinos), Sydney

Moving to the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney has made for interesting times, exploring the new area for local gems. I’ve found which of the many chicken shops has the best chicken and chips and also which has the best cheesecake. Although I’ve still got a lot of ground to cover, there’s been one place that has been impressive every time I’ve dropped by. Panama House.

Opened in 2012, Panama House is owned and run by the same team behind the nearby Corner house. Anthony Kaplan (The Shop & Wine Bar) and chef Brent Mills (New York’s Sweetwater Tavern).


By night, Panama House has an intimate but trendy atmosphere

Serving Central American styled dishes, Panama House is open practically all day, every day and depending on what time of the day you arrive, you’ll have a different menu at your disposal. It can roughly be divided into three groups – breakfast (til midday), lunch (12pm – 5pm) and dinner (5pm onwards). Although there is some overlap between menus, there are some items that are only exclusive to each group such as the Corned beef hash brown (breakfast), the Panama Cheese Burger (lunch) and the Twice Cooked Ribs (dinner). This post is all about the dinner service.


The sides

The Beetroot and carrot slaw, House cut fries and Fried Brussels sprouts can be seen above. What’s missing is the Black lentils and grilled chorizo sausage.


I always say that putting chorizo in a dish is almost cheating because it’ll instantly make any dish taste good but sometimes you’ve just got to do it. I don’t eat legumes very often so I wasn’t overly astounded by this dish, even with the chorizo.


House cut fries

Fries on the other hand, is something I eat a little too often and I have to say, not only are these served in generous portions, but they are also really good. Crispy and very flavourful, they almost don’t need the chipotle mayonnaise either.


Fried Brussels sprouts, mint & mustard dressing

Brussels sprouts fall pretty low in the vegetable chain for me but these Fried Brussels Sprouts lift them high up the rankings. Rich and incredibly tasty, this recipe would make even the naughtiest of kids enjoy them.

The mains


The King prawn and spicy chorizo “Risotto” caught our attention with the quotation marks. After the dish came out, it was evident why the punctuation was used as arborio rice was substituted with pearl cous cous to give the dish an interesting spin. The texture of the cous cous was great and it was a visually stunning dish, however, the flavours were clean and subtle.

The Patagonian scallop ceviche (pictured left) was served with avocado puree, jalapeño, pickled cucumber, dill, radish and charred corn. It was fresh but felt like it needed something punchier.

The Char grilled Kingfish collar (pictured right) was served with artichoke spice, shaved fennel, orange and coriander. It was a cut of the fish I wasn’t too familiar with but is essentially the strip of meat directly behind the fish gills up to where the fillet begins. There’s not a lot of meat in the collar but it’s regarded by some as the best part of the fish and I can see why.The meat I ate was nice and tender but personally, I prefer a boneless piece of fillet.

I’m a sucker for corn so I was always going to enjoy the Charred sweet corn. The charred flavour was great and the jalapeno & garlic butter, smoked chili salt, Manchego cheese and lime was a nice touch.

We followed this with the dry aged steak of the week which is chosen by the butcher and served medium rare with chimmi churri, lemon and watercress. Unfortunately, it wasn’t particularly well seasoned and was on the dry side.

Saving the best for last, this next group were the pick of the mains.


These Southern Fried Calamari were fantastic! Tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside and served with a nice chipotle mayonnaise. If there’s one thing I seem to order every time I dine here, it’s this dish. It’s so good, I always forget to use the sauces. This time I made an effort and they’re worth a mention. Ranging from mild to super spicy, the mild pineapple & coriander is pretty great and the red and spiciest of them will set your mouth on fire.

The Fajitas are served with flour tortillas and a plate of chilli beef, pulled chicken, beetroot & carrot slaw, spiced black beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Relatively simple but very tasty too.


Twice cooked ribs served with harissa, black sesame & hazelnut dukkah

These ribs were pretty fatty but where do you think flavour comes from? The meat was so tender it practically fell off the bone. With the added crunchy texture of the dukkah and the intense flavour of the harissa made this one of the best dishes of the night.


Fish of the day was Ocean trout served with charred lemon and smoked eggplant. It was well cooked, had a nice, crispy skin and was packed with flavour. Up there with the best dishes on the menu.

The desserts

This part of the menu isn’t so much Central American desserts but don’t let that stop you. It’ll be well worth your time and calories.


Banoffee Pie

Biscuit base built up with layers of caramel, banana and whipped cream topped with grated chocolate. No matter how much I complain I’m too full for dessert, this annoyingly addictive pie always seems to find it’s way to my stomach. One of the tastiest Banoffee Pies in town.


Cheese cake of the day – Caramel & Peanut Butter

Along with the Banoffee Pie, the Cheesecake is a slam dunk of a dessert! These are house made and the flavours vary but on the last couple of occasions I’ve ordered this, it has been the Caramel and Peanut Butter. The first time I tried this, arguably was one of the best cheesecakes I’ve had in my life. The second time I tried it, it was good but wasn’t the show stealer it had been the previous time. Whether there are minor deviations in consistency, the message is clear, that Panama House really knows how to make desserts.

In the handful of times I’ve dined at Panama House, I’ve managed to work my way through most of the menu and the last two times I’ve dined there, I’ve ordered the exact same thing (see recommendations below). Although there’s still a number of places I need to visit, I’m find it difficult to imagine there are going to be many local places better food than this.

Twin Discoveries recommendations: Southern fried calamari, Twice cooked ribs, Fried Brussels sprouts, House cut fries, Banoffee pie, Caramel & Peanut Butter cheesecake

Panama House
251 Bondi Road, Bondi, NSW

Ph: (02) 9365  0839

Mon-Wed 7am–10pm
Thur-Sat 7am–11pm
Sun 7am–1opm




Ume Japanese Restaurant and chef Kerby Craig

Written by Brian (@brhinos), Sydney

If I had to pick one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, it would probably have to be Japanese. I love fresh fish, wagyu beef, smoked eel, ramen… the list goes on. So it didn’t take much convincing for me to make a booking at a hatted Japanese restaurant.

Ume Japanese Restaurant earned One Chef Hat in the Good Food Guide in 2013 and as held it for four consecutive years. The restaurant is headed up by owner & chef, Kerby Craig who’s journey, although impressive, hasn’t always been an easy one.


After being kicked out of school, Kerby’s journey into hospitality started with a first year apprenticeship at the Rozelle restaurant of Tetsuya Wakuda (of Tetsuya’s fame). This became a remarkable training ground which Kerby also worked along side Martin Benn
(now, owner and chef of the Three Chef Hatted Sepia Restaurant).

After leaving the country to work for pestigious restaurants in London and Canada, Kerby returned to Australia as a Chef de partie at Koi (restaurant is now closed, not to be confused with Koi Dessert Bar). Kerby was quickly promoted to Head Chef and soon enough, earned One Chef Hat. To mark this achievement, Kerby got a chef’s hat tattooed on his neck – a trademark which has served him and his restaurant well at Ume.

Fast forward to June 2012 and after being in debt and facing the challenges of getting a new restaurant off the ground, business received a solid boost after being awarded the chef hat.

The Drinks

The drinks on offer are nothing less than impressive. If you struggle to make decisions, it’s best to ask the bartender to make it for you. There’s an very comprehensive sake list and a good selection of Japanese themed cocktails. Being a whiskey fan, my decision was made as soon as I saw “Suntory Yamazaki”. Unfortunately, the aged single malts were out of stock so I settled with the Distiller’s Reserve.


Yamazaki whiskies shot to prominence when it was named the “Best Japanese Single Malt” (25 y.o.) at the 2013 World Whisky Awards and also, when it won the World Whisky of the Year award.

It was a good drop and the service was impeccable. My Yamazaki glass came accompanied by a DIY kit of ice balls and water. It was the best way I’ve had whiskey served to me and the way I think all quality whiskies should be enjoyed.

The Food

With a focus on Japanese cuisine using fresh, local, produce that is both sustainable and in season, I was excited to see what was on offer. An a la carte menu is available during the week but Friday and Saturday nights only offer a set menu. $74 for 5 course and $96 for a 7 course. We sign up for the 7.

The first course that came out was the Sweet Potato & Oyster Mushroom Nagano Style Dumpling. Different in shape and texture to the more common Japanese gyoza, the sweet potato shone through and contrasted the mushrooms well. These were fantastic and drove me to the decision to add Nagano to my travel list.


Next came the Queensland Baby Tiger Prawns on top of Somen Noodles, Ichiban Dashi Tsuyu, Tonburi.This is where the menu started to teach me a few things on Japanese cooking. Somen is type of noodle made out of wheat flour, much like udon but much thinner in diameter. Ichiban Dashi Tsuyu is the Japanese broth (using Kombu/Dried Kelp and Katsuo/Dried Bonito Flakes) the noodles are resting in. And Tonburi is the garnish, essentially seeds from a herb that are known for having a texture similar to caviar. Clearly my knowledge of Japanese cuisine needs some polishing that only a foodie trip to Japan can fix. Back to the food, the prawns were fresh, the dashi flavourful and the crunchy tonburi is a great touch to add an interesting layer of texture.


Part of the fun of fine dining is witnessing the food transformed into edible pieces of art. Colours, textures, flavours. The next dish comes out and it becomes clear that the portions are going to be small, intricate and punchy. Miso Braised Free Range Pork belly, egg yolk sauce, Kabu ( Japanese term for turnip). I liked the rich egg yolk sauce but I think the dish would benefit with crunchier crackling.


The Kingfish Sashimi was next and reminded me how blessed we are to be living in a country where fresh seafood is so accessible. The Kingfish was incredibly fresh and nicely complimented by the Wakame (seaweed) sauce,  Housemade Yuzukosho (Japanese seasoning paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt) and Shiso (asian herb).


Course five was 9+Blackmore Wagyu, Shimeji (mushrooms), Onsen Tamago (low temperature egg), Sukiyaki (thinly sliced beef) sauce, Asparagus and Chives. This was hands down the best dish of the night and was one of the most flavourful ways I’ve ever eaten Wagyu Beef. It clearly didn’t hurt having such a high marble rating on the Wagyu beef.


One of the best parts about Japanese cuisine is how meticulous the presentation can be & how a seemingly ordinary collection of ingredients can be transformed into something much more. Quite a party of vegetables on the plate. The guest list included: Sesame Roasted Cauliflower, Fried Jerusalem Artichoke, Roasted Baby Onion, Dashi Braised Carrot, Buckwheat Custard, Sake Lees (residual yeast) Vinegar Dressing. It was tasty although I didn’t quite understand the synergies between the vegetables.


It was time for the final course. Dessert! Houji-cha (Japanese green tea) Pastry Cream Rolled In Sesame cake, Sake simmered Blueberry, Pecan and Aero Chocolate. I loved the way this was put together. The ingredients went well together, complimenting the rich chocolate and synergizing well with refreshing flavours.

Overall, the portions were small but the dishes demonstrated a deep understanding of Japanese cuisine and culinary techniques. I love how fine dining shows how far and wide the culinary world stretches. Japan is definitely calling! But if you can’t afford the time or the ticket, a visit to Ume may help you think you’re there for a few hours.

Twin Discoveries recommendations: Wagyu Beef, Houji cha pastry cream, Nagano dumplings

Ume Japanese Restaurant
478 Bourke Street
Surry Hills

Tuesday – Thursday: 6pm – 10pm
Friday – Saturday: 6pm – 10.30pm – Set menu only