Author: James O'Brien

Forty-something from Sydney, Australia. My passions include: radio (my job), travel, genealogy, music, art, theatre, food, wine, and learning Swedish.

Ichibang - Surry Hills

Good Japanese in Surry Hills – Ichibang

Even though I’ve often bought takeaway from there, and even though I live about fifty metres from Ichibang, I’ve never actually dined there before. But I was feeling somewhat lazy (you know, Friday night), and I’d reached the point (nine o’clock) where I could either choose to eat or simply go to bed hungry. I chose the former.

As it was reasonably late I chose two entrees: a squid tempura dish and some sushi. The sushi was absolutely fantastic. It was beautifully prepared and tasted great (which is what you want from Japanese food). The tempura was okay, though I hasten to add, I always think tempura is a bit of a disappointment: it always sounds like a good idea, but I’ve never been excited when it arrives.

The service was good, fast and efficient: though when ten o’clock came around I note there was a bit of pressure to get out the door as quickly as possible. I’d have happily stayed a bit longer, sipping on a glass of wine and reading my book, but the message was clear: it was time to go.

By the way, have been meaning to post this link for a couple of weeks, as the journalist Esther Han had actually asked me if I would be interviewed for it. I’d written a blog post in 2008 about how I’d overcome the “stigma” of dining alone. Largely due to timing, we never actually did the interview, aside from some email contact. It’s a nice little article.

Franco & Franco Flowers

Street Gardens

One of the really interesting trends which has emerged recently in Surry Hills is the “street garden”. By this, I mean restaurants with small trollies of herbs on the street outside their establishments. Franco & Franco (on Crown Street, Surry Hills) has been doing it for a few months with a variety of herbs, and even some root vegetables. I snapped this photograph tonight, showing their latest contribution, some gorgeous flowers. It’s a lovely trend, breaking up the concrete and bitumen otherwise dominating the landscape.

The Chaser at Giant Dwarf

The Chaser’s Empty Vessell at Giant Dwarf

“Twenty years ago”, I told Ronni Khan from Ozharvest, “I worked at Coles New World, and one of my jobs was to document the shrinkage, and to make sure the bins were locked so people couldn’t steal food. Is that still the case, or are the supermarkets now on board? Who do you still get resistance from?”.

She knew exactly what I was talking about: shrinkage is what the supermarket chains refer to and what they mean is food they throw out, and indeed, many still have a policy of locking up their garbage bins to avoid so-called “dumpster dining”. She said with the exception of ALDI, the supermarkets “say they’re on board, but they’re not really, and we could use your help in convincing them to help out”.

In asking the question, I was mindful of an earlier comment from Julian Morrow that questions should be “more than just a statement about your own life, seeking affirmation” (or words to that effect). Having worked in the media for a long time, I’m conscious of how badly constructed are the questions of some journalists. They often asked closed questions to establish facts which could have been established differently. The best questions are usually those which seek to establish fact, but then gain further insights, and of course, they shouldn’t be questions which elicit the answers your already know. I think my question did all of those things (I hope), even though it was a double-barelled question.

Ronni is an interesting character, and so is Greg Combet, and so is Jeremy Moylan. Jeremy is an activist who famously pranked the media recently, Ronni is the founder of an organisation which feeds homeless people with food otherwise thrown out by restaurants, and Greg is a former ACTU boss and federal minister.

Greg was very much in “book selling mode”, as he has recently published an autobiography, focussing on his life generally, but more specifically about his years in the Rudd/Gillard ministry. Like a bunch of people – Gillard, Swan – he’s in reflective mode about the years of the Labor Governments, and in particular, about the impact of the dysfunctional relationship between members of the ALP. The only really interesting anecdote from him was about how, in front of Bob Hawke, he described Bill Kelty as the greatest president of the ACTU. “Bob looked pretty uncomfortable”, he said, but then argued it’s usually harder to be the President of the ACTU when you have a Labor Government in place”.

I’ve been to Giant Dwarf only once before, but enjoyed it very much. For about twenty bucks, you have an hour or two of great entertainment and interesting conversation. I suspect it’s the space where The Chaser team are trying out some new ideas for television programs. The space has been on my mind once again in the last week – at work, we’re planning to hold an event there – and so I decided I’d pop along to remind myself what it’s like as a venue. I’m also a fan of the work of The Chaser, so it wasn’t like it was only for business reasons.