Flying to Australia, Qantas Food, The Sydney Airport, Hello Perth and Dinner at Lalla Rookh

I can’t believe I’m about to do what I’m about to do. After 26 hours of travel (with 20 hours of flying), I’m finally in my hotel room capable of going to bed–it’s 7:52 PM on Monday night in Perth, it’s 3:53 AM Sunday night/Monday morning in Los Angeles–and here I am editing pictures and writing a blog post about everything that’s happened so far. I must be mad! But no, readers, I do this for you…because I figure if I’m going to have an adventure to Australia, you should get to hear all about it. So let’s start with the lentil soup.

Remember I told you I was going to make Craig a big pot of lentil soup to eat while I’m gone? Well I did and here he is adding pepper.


That was Friday night. On Saturday, we had a whole day and evening to kill before taking me to L.A.X. at 9:30 for my 11:55 PM flight. We ended up walking around Atwater Village, walking around Los Feliz and eating dinner at Umami Burger. Then, at 9:30, it was “sayonara” and there I was at the international terminal:


There were tons of news crews outside Terminal 3 because of the shooting on Thursday. It was kind of surreal to be so close to that.

I found the Qantas counter and got in line:


Here’s where I started getting excited: I was really going to Australia. I was about to get my boarding pass.

My boarding pass procured, I made my way to the gate and discovered that the L.A.X. International terminal has all kinds of awesome places to eat at (including an Umami Burger which we’d just had for dinner). But look, Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack:


There’s also a Border Grill on the way. I need to fly internationally more often.

Our flight boarded on time. The plane was humongous and every seat had its own entertainment center featuring an impressive assortment of movies to watch. Once we were in the air, I started watching “The Social Network,” though it jammed a few times and I had to restart it. Towards the end of the flight I watched “Julie and Julia” and really, really loved it, even more than when I saw it the first time. Made me really appreciate Nora Ephron’s artistry.

I’m debating whether to show you the airplane food. Does anyone ever really want to look at airplane food? The whole point of airplane food is that you eat it because you have to eat it but, just as quickly, you want to forget it. But Qantas made a pretty decent braised beef Provencal, so here it is:


I skipped the coleslaw (there was something weird about it) and had only one bite of the dessert. In case you’re keeping track, this was my second dinner but I ate it as a survival strategy.

Lots of dozing happened for me after that dinner (I made sure to have red wine, my version of a sleep aid) and that’s the best trick to a long, long flight: sleep as much as you can. Somewhere near Australia, this breakfast was served (I could have had a hot frittata, but eggs on a plane skeeves me out):


I ate the muffin, which was warm, and a few bites of pineapple but stopped there. I figured I could have food at the Sydney airport (oh, I was traveling to Perth via Sydney in case I didn’t make that clear).

And lo and behold: there I was at the Sydney airport. I was in Australia! I’d completed the first part of my journey.

Off the plane, I was surprised to find an elaborate customs process that involved filling out a form, having a woman stamp it, then–and this was the kicker–waiting for my big suitcase which I then had to wheel myself to a new check-in counter. My suitcase took forever to come out so, sadly, I missed my flight to Perth.

The old me would’ve freaked out about that but I knew I’d be fine: I figured there’d be another flight to Perth pretty soon after and there was at 1:45. This was 10:30 in the morning so that gave me a few hours to kill in the Sydney airport. I rode a shuttle to my terminal and then did some exploring.

First, places to eat. I got a kick out of the meat pies here:


I think Burger King needs to sue these people for stealing their design:


Ultimately, I decided to grab some food here because it looked the most decent:


I finally had a chance to order a Flat White which is what Australians drink instead of lattes. I think it has more milk in it? Not sure. But here’s mine and it was yummy:


I also had a smoked salmon sandwich on a baguette which didn’t change my life or anything but I enjoyed it which is saying something for airport food.


The book store was fascinating to poke around because I’d never heard of any of these bestsellers:


And I didn’t recognize any of this candy:


Or this guy on the cover of a cookbook:


Amazing how much you can soak in a new culture at an airport bookstore.

Pretty soon my flight to Perth boarded and on the plane I watched “Muriel’s Wedding” on my iPad and however on-the-nose that may have been, it made me insanely giddy to be spending time in Australia. And poof: the plane landed and I was here.

Why am I in Perth? In case you missed the memo, I’m speaking at a food blog conference this upcoming weekend but for the next few days the nice people of Perth are showing me all around. Tonight, though, I was on my own and I was grateful for that because I was so insanely pooped.

A driver drove me to my hotel and I took a quick shower. Then I re-read an e-mail from Matt The Abstract Gourmet (he’s the one who invited me to Perth for the conference in the first place; so thanks for bringing me here, Matt!) that suggested some places to eat near my hotel. The one that sounded the best had the weirdest name: Lalla Rookh. Matt promised that they had excellent pasta and Italian food and that sold me right away.

You may be thinking “Italian food for your first meal in Australia?” but turns out Italian food is huge here; in fact, according to several things I read, Italian food is bigger in Perth than anything else. My driver to the hotel even said something similar.

So I started my walk seeking out Lalla Rookh. It was a nice walk along St. George.


It feels so amazing to have your feet on the ground and to have real air to breath after so many hours in the air. Check out the Perth Concert Hall by day:


Here’s a Government House I passed:


And kangaroos! (Well, sculptures.)


I kept looking for a street called Barrack (that was easy to remember) but somehow I totally missed it and kept walking and walking. The sites were nice to see:


Retracing my steps, I kept looking for this restaurant and couldn’t find it. Thankfully, I logged on to Perth Free WiFi on my phone and got an actual address for the place (I was just going off a quick search on Google maps) and realized the restaurant was underground.


There it is, behind the escalator.

I arrived around 6 and the restaurant itself was totally empty (though the bar was pretty busy). A waitress curiously asked if I was just one and when I said yes she showed me to a table facing the kitchen.

The hunger inside me was pretty fierce because I ate that salmon sandwich at the equivalent of 9 in the morning Sydney time which is 3 hours later than Perth time so many hours had passed without food. Here’s the menu:


And here’s the glass of white wine I ordered (a Friulian blend):


The menu had this really sweet chef’s tasting menu for $55 a person on it that looked really great–a few appetizers, some pasta, an entree and dessert–but the waitress told me I couldn’t have it as just one person. She seemed really weirded out that I was eating alone (or maybe I was just projecting).

No matter. I knew what I wanted. I started with an asparagus salad with pickled artichokes, a poached egg and tonnato sauce underneath:


This was absolutely wonderful. So terrifically balanced and smart. Each component really sang out and the tonnato sauce was creamy and tangy and made everything even better. I was way impressed.

But the piece-de-resistance was the pasta that I ordered: spinach and ricotta ravioli in a fig sauce made with chicken stock, walnuts, montasio cheese and Parmesan grated in the center.


This was truly a masterpiece. I’ve never had anything quite like it. The best way to describe it is like a cheese plate in pasta form—think of the fig spread you might eat with a tangy white cheese and you get the idea. Though that doesn’t account for the spinach, which adds a great earthiness. Apparently, this dish is the chef’s signature dish (the waitress told me that and then the guy who served it to me said the same thing). Well, the chef should be very proud of this signature dish: it’s a real winner.

And speaking of real winners, I feel like a real winner right now because I actually completed this post without falling asleep. Here’s a pretty sculpture I saw on my walk back to the hotel:


And here’s the Perth Concert Hall all lit up at night.


My eyes can close at last. Tomorrow it’s off to the races at 8:30 AM, but for now, I’m off to the land of dreams.

33 thoughts on “Flying to Australia, Qantas Food, The Sydney Airport, Hello Perth and Dinner at Lalla Rookh”

  1. Karen in Dallas

    Very exciting. Word of advice. Do not eat the vegimite. Horible, nasty stuff.

    Your photos seem to show a really clean city, like no evidence of dogs on sidewalks, no spit out gum etc. True?

    1. Stephen, Perth, Noongar Boodja

      Tutt tutt, Vegemite is an Australian institution , millions of us gre up on the stuff and still love it. Some like it spread lightly on toast, I prefer it spread on thickly. Not to be missed. You can cook prawns on a barbecue , using Vegemite as a baste as well. Yummy!
      You must try it

      1. Karen in Dallas

        I know! That’s why you guys talk so funny, “mate”. :-D. I’m just teasing you, but none the less I can’t stand the stuff. Sort of like a lot of Aussies hate peanut butter.

        1. Aussies hardly hate peanut butter… you must be thinking of some alien race known only to Texans.

          As an Australian who moved to California, I have to say that on average Australian cities are far cleaner than American ones. Less smoke/smog in the air, cleaner sidewalks, MUCH less litter.

          Adam, I hope you get a chance to visit the bush and get some bush tucker. There’s nothing quite like Australian pub food. The south-western corner of Australia is one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hot spots, so you should definitely see things there. And definitely get some yonga. SO delicious.

          1. Karen in Dallas

            LoL Nicole :-). While I live in this God-forsaken place now, I am not from here! I’m an army brat who has lived in NY. MD, VA, GA, KS, CO.,CA, WA., Germany, and here. I’ve had many Australian friends that I’ve met both thru the Equestrian world and the Veterinary medicine world. I have absolutely nothing against you and your fellow countrymen. But you are truly the only Australian I’ve ever heard who likes peanut butter ;-). It’s of no matter whatsoever. I was just impressed as all get out over how clean it looked, like everyone cared and was proud, you know?

            Adam, wow and amaze them!

            1. Natasha Stewart

              Haha I can’t say (as an Australian) I know any Australians off the top of my head who don’t like peanut butter… well expect for my nieces… but they don’t like anything. ;)

              I definitely think this is a myth that needs to be quashed. Maybe that’s why companies don’t bother to market peanut butter goodies like peanut butter cups and pb m&ms to us! :(

  2. I stumbled on your
    Perth post, while cruising the net. I am in Perth and found your observations amusing. make sure you get out of the city and see something of the real beauty of Noongar Boodja. And make sure you taste some yonga (kangaroo). It is magnificent food

  3. The “elaborate customs process” you described is commonplace for international arrivals in most countries, including the US. You will likely experience the same process at LAX when you come home again!
    Enjoy the trip, hopefully you get the chance to see some more of the countryside before you head back.

  4. Great to hear you are in OZ!! Most of the chocolate in your picture from Sydney airport is New Zealand’s stuff! Lol. Make sure you try Tim Tams!!!

  5. Try Whittakers. It is a New Zealand chocolate. If hunting for Australian chocolate – try Koko Black in Claremount. Especially the Chai Tea one!

  6. Love the comment about the Flat White, Australians always complain overseas when they can’t get it. We get serious about our coffee. Many australian’s drink lattes as well, the main difference between a latte and a flat White is the amount of foam, lattes are meant to have 1cm while flat whites have as little as possible. Flat Whites also come in a cup while lattes come in a glass. I will admit though that they are practically identical when served in a take away cup ;)

  7. You’re making me homesick :(
    Coffee, chocolate, mags, pretty cities, good food (well not including Hungry Jacks/Burger King). Australia is the best. I had to giggle though…people don’t eat alone, it’s just not accepted. Here in Japan I’m struggling with the opposite, it’s really acceptable to eat out alone.

  8. You’re making me homesick :(
    Coffee, chocolate, mags, pretty cities, good food (well not including Hungry Jacks/Burger King). Australia is the best. I had to giggle though…people don’t eat alone, it’s just not accepted. Here in Japan I’m struggling with the opposite, it’s really acceptable to eat out alone.

  9. Welcome to Australia!! Glad to see you enjoyed your first restaurant meal. Coffee at Sydney airport is very mediocre, so just wait till you taste the coffee at a decent cafe! We live north of Sydney, and never come across crocodile on menus here on the east coast. My hubby ate crocodile for the first time when we were in the Northern Territory recently, and he loved it! So if by chance you see it on the menu in Perth, give it a try! We used to live in Sydney and never saw it on the menu there, it must just be a Darwin/Kakadu thing.
    Enjoy your trip!

  10. A. The chocolates you show in that photo are NZ’s greatest chocolate, made by a company called Whittaker’s. You gotta try some, especially the Hokey Pokey.
    B. The guy on the cover of that cookbook is one of the big judges (in all senses of the word) of the Australian Masterchef, which is far better than the US version.
    C. Enjoy being in our side of the globe!

  11. A. The chocolates you show in that photo are NZ’s greatest chocolate, made by a company called Whittaker’s. You gotta try some, especially the Hokey Pokey.
    B. The guy on the cover of that cookbook is one of the big judges (in all senses of the word) of the Australian Masterchef, which is far better than the US version.
    C. Enjoy being in our side of the globe!

  12. Hahaaa! Ah, I love your observations of our city. This is my first stop-in at your blog Adam… looking forward to hearing you speak tomorrow :) I think someone’s already explained the Burger King/Hungry Jack’s issue in the comments section, so I won’t double up… but interestingly, I’ve never heard of Lalla Rookh (despite living in Perth all of my life!). I think I need to try that fig pasta. Great post!

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