The Wandering Goose

Overall: 4/5

Finding parking in the Capitol Hill neighborhood can be daunting. That is why I prefer to visit the area on weekend mornings – when you are more likely to find a sanity-preserving parking spot within shouting distance from your destination.

On a strip of shops and restaurants on 15th Street is The Wandering Goose, a “Southern influenced cafe” manned by chef Heather Earnhardt. And it is truly a “cafe” as opposed to a restaurant because the dining space is very limited. The interior pays homage to a country general store without falling victim to cliché.

We made our visit early on a Sunday morning to check out the eats, unencumbered by crowds and the need to engage in vehicular combat for a parking spot.

Wandering 2

Hangtown Fry 

Just look at this thing! If health and diet permits, I highly recommend this dish. Fried oysters, pork belly, and poached eggs top a good portion of roasted potatoes. The massive oysters, fried in a buttermilk cornmeal coating, were sweet and briny. The pork belly was cured and tasted like a cross between bacon and beef jerky. The poached eggs were well executed. The roasted potatoes underneath were a touch underdone, but otherwise served as a suitable starch with the other ingredients.

Wandering 1.jpg

Veggie Hash

With seasonal vegetables replacing fried oysters and pork belly, this was the healthy alternative, but not by much. The vegetables included beets, bitter greens, and bell peppers. The beets stood out for me; they were tender and sweet. The eggs and the potatoes were the same as the Hangtown Fry. Another very good dish.

Wandering 3

Fried Chicken Thigh

When I first walked in, I saw a serving of this come out of the kitchen and knew I had to try it. Crispy, juicy, and peppery, the taste and texture felt very close to the Taiwanese fried pork/chicken chops.

Finally, note that the prices are reasonable, but not cheap either. Although Seattle does not lack its share of good places to grab brunch, places with a Southern flair are far fewer in between. With its niche fare and cozy atmosphere, Wandering Goose left me with a favorable impression.

The Wandering Goose

Ramen Kan (Sydney, Australia)

Overall: 2.5/5

Sydney was the final leg of our Australian trip. Much like Melbourne, Sydney is a city of many influences. By then, I was tired and feeling weary from being constantly surrounded by fellow tourists and the enterprises shepherding them.

A craving for ramen led us to Ramen Kan, which had favorable reviews online and was relative close to our hotel. The place is obscure; it is located on the second (or third? or fourth?) floor of a curving block of shops and restaurants. An unassuming sign guides you into a narrow hallway. There, you take a slow and cramped elevator to the restaurant (or walk up a few flights of stairs).

Once you get in, I found a worn, but clean dining area with friendly hosts. The windows by the dining counter overlook Sydney’s Paddy’s Market. You order food from the tablets populated throughout the restaurant.

Ramen Kan 1

Spicy Agedashi Tofu

The tofu had a nice crust and was hot underneath. The dash underneath was interesting because it tasted like tonkatsu broth instead of the tentsuyu broth associated with the dish. The dish was spicy, which I attribute to a combination of chili peppers and Sriracha.

Ramen Kan 2

Tan Tan Ramen

Although meant to be spicy, I found the broth in the agedashi tofu to be spicier. The chili oil had little impact. The noodles were well cooked and chewy. The pork was tender and lean, but otherwise unmemorable. The ramen broth was light and only gave off a subtle pork flavor. Personally, I prefer the denser, oilier versions.

Ramen Kan 3

Karaage Ramen

The broth and noodles were the same as the tan tan ramen, except the soup base seem to have been shoyu-based here. Again, I found the broth to be too light for my tastes. The chicken karaage was fine – crispy on the outside with lean meat on the inside. I did find a piece that was mostly gristle that was unappetizing.

Ramen Kan offers recently priced eats at the cost of atmosphere and refinement. I did not check the operating hours, but this seems like the type of place where I would go late at night as a college student and eat a massive portion of oil and carbs before attempting to study some more. At the end of the day, I was slightly disappointed with Ramen Kan, but that’s ok.

Ramen Kan (Sydney, Australia)

Laksa Bar (Melbourne)

Overall: 3/5

Big cities are always full of pleasant surprises for food. After a day of sightseeing, we looked to grab a quick bite close to the hotel. This led to the unassuming Laksa King in an alley nearby. People were waiting for seats, usually a good sign of decent eats.

Laksa 1.jpg

The interior is simple and clean. The moderate din of conversation will require flexing of your vocal cords to make yourself heard. A great place for a quick, casual dinner. The food is moderately priced, with nothing topping over $15 Australian.

Laksa 2.jpg

Crispy Spring Roll with Prawn and Crab

These were an interesting take on spring rolls. The fried wrapper was crispy and flaky. It was closer to fried taro than flour. The mealy filling had some nice snap from the prawns, but I could not taste the crab. These came out a little cold, which made it less appetizing. The chili/sweet-and-sour sauce on the side did not make much of an impact either way.

Laksa 3

Seafood Clear Noodle Soup

You have seen this before: it is the seafood udon you would find in most Japanese restaurants. A generous portion of shrimp, scallops, mussels, squid, tofu, and vegetables with thick udon noodles and a light chicken/seafood broth. Nothing objectionable, but not great either.

Laksa 4

House Curry Laksa with Soft Shell Crab

When in Rome, right? Curry laksa uses coconut milk as the soup base instead of the sour asam variant. An enormous piece of fried soft-shelled crab accompanies bean curd puffs and two types of vermicelli (along with some vegetables and other seafood that I cannot recall). The broth was sweet with very mild heat from the chilis. The had a very thick batter that made it harder to enjoy the meat underneath. My exposure to laksa is limited which makes me a poor judge of authenticity. Still, I liked the dish and would have finished it were it not for the massive serving.

In the end, this is a joint where your dining experience is primarily defined by how you feel afterwards (full and content). Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Laksa Bar (Melbourne)

The Hardware Société (Melbourne, Australia)

Overall: 4/5

One of the charming aspects of Melbourne are the little alleyways that run through downtown. Restaurants, coffee shops, and bars dominate these streets, attracting significant foot traffic during peak times.I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for the poor drivers trying to navigate both the narrow streets and the flood of pedestrians – though masochism is the only reason I can fathom for turning on those streets in the first place. We watched with morbid fascination a garbage truck trying to make a three-point turn on one of these alleys that felt like a scene straight out of Austin Powers.

But, uh, I digress. Hardware Société (what a pain in the butt to type) is a French cafe tucked away in one of the aforementioned alleys (on Hardware Lane, original). Popular with locals and tourists, and well-regarded for its brunch, we arrived early on a Saturday morning to take see for ourselves.


Note that long lines form quickly after opening, and the compact interior and porch makes the place unwieldy to very large parties.


Poached Eggs with Mushrooms

Looks good, right? It tastes like how it looks. The braised shiitake mushrooms were tender and paired well with the goat cheese spread on the bread. These guys had the egg poaching down pat – the yolk oozed out at the slightest touch. The accompanying greens and walnuts did not add much, but were not a distraction.


Tuna with Roasted Vegetables and Poached Eggs

This was the special of the day. And, like the dish above, it hit many high marks. Roasted vegetables (potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus) rested on a bed of microgreens topped with seared tuna, poached eggs, and homemade tartar sauce. Baguette slices were provided to mop up the yolk. Again, tastes like how it looks, though I did not care for the tartar sauce.


Nutella Cronut

At the checkout counter, I found these in the display case. Against better judgment, I took one of these back to the hotel, where it didn’t last long before it was consumed. A croissant with a touch more doughiness with Nutella, this is not meant for the faint of heart. Also, the sugar coating was overkill.

Overall, Hardware Société lives up to its sterling reputation. Paired with a young and friendly staff, it is a fine place to fuel up in the mornings.

The Hardware Société (Melbourne, Australia)

Cumulus Inc. (Melbourne, Australia)

Overall: 4/5

Melbourne was the second leg of our vacation in Australia last fall. A travel agent promised us that it was just like San Francisco.  Aside from the sudden shifts the elevation, the resemblance was there in terms of energy and diversity.

Melbourne is also known for its food scene. Touted as “Modern Australian”Cumulus Inc. in downtown Melbourne was at the top of list of the places I wanted to try after hours of searching.

The restaurant sits in a centuries-old rag trade building. Classical and minimal, he dining space is spacious vertically, though the tables are tightly packed. My poor jet-lagged wife graciously tagged along, even though she was ready to pack it in for the night.

The menu is designed to be shared small plates, and unless requested, food arrives in random order.











Chilled Green Pea And Sorrel Soup

This was a lot of peas (phrasing, I know). Very bright, sweet, and dense.  The texture was so smooth it almost felt like a custard. The sorrel contributed a slight earthy taste underneath after the initial taste. Commendable execution to extract so much flavor from peas.


Kingfish with Mussel Escabeche

Kingfish is a type of yellowtail amberjack native to Australia and New Zealand. Cured in the briny escabeche, this was sashimi layered over an aioli.  Fish was fresh and buttery smooth. The aioli further emphasized the smoothness, but unnecessary.


Tuna over crushed pea salad

Continuing with the raw fish trend, this was another standout. The dressing on the fish had a touch of vinegar, oil, and soy sauce that complimented well. Also, this place likes peas. Not that I am complaining because they were good. Hard to see from the picture but it was mixed with spring onions to give it some fragrance. A mash-potato like spread, perhaps cream cheese, fanned around the plate.


Soft-Shell Crab Lettuce Wrap

This was one of the most memorable dishes in recent memory. The crab was perfectly prepared. The crunchy crust gave way to memorably tender crab meat. The batter included some pepper powder to give it some heat. The butter lettuce gave a cool contrast. It took some effort not to steal my wife’s portion.

As you can see from the photos, the portion sizes here are not very large.  This is intentional to encourage you to try as many dishes as possible. But, the tab can add up quickly, especially if you add alcohol to the mix.  If you are looking for a hearty, gut-busting meal, you should probably go elsewhere. Otherwise, you can do a lot worse than grabbing a few bites and a drink here next time you happen to end up in Melbourne.



Cumulus Inc. (Melbourne, Australia)