Throughout November and December, McConnell’s ‘test kitchen’, which is located adjacent to Cutler & Co on Gertrude Street, is trialing a dozen or so new dishes destined for a spot on the menu at Supernormal proper when it opens in early 2014. And let it be said, that after sampling some of the contenders, this is one test we’d happily be guinea pigs for.

Design team Projects of Imagination is behind the utilitarian Japanese-inspired fit-out, which - given that Canteen is essentially a short-term pop-up - has been kept fairly modest. The narrow, two-roomed interior features a mix of communal and individual seating, chunky timber furnishings, hot pink neon signage and an atmospheric swarm of softly lit rice-paper lanterns, which hang from the ceiling like little clouds. The signature red cherry branding motif, another nod to the strong Japanese influence, appears throughout too.

Supernormal Canteen centres on super tasty, casual Asian street eats, low-key ambience and unfussy summertime-friendly booze (think sake, shochu cocktails and Asahi on tap), and this is clearly McConnell's most relaxed offering to date. In his words, the idea is “fun, fast-paced and lively”, with a focus on “celebrating summer here [in Fitzroy] before setting our sights on the CBD for 2014” he says.

When it opens next year, we’re told that the permanent venture will also feature a karaoke bar - a telling indicator of the kind of upbeat, unpretentious direction that McConnell and company are heading with the concept.

The current menu is essentially a pan-Asian snack fest of the highest order, and like Golden Fields’ wildly popular lobster rolls before them, we strongly predict some new cult eats in the making at Supernormal. Case in point: McConnell’s pig’s head bao with kimchi cucumber – a revelation of fluffy bao softness encasing golden chunks of tender crumbed, fried pork bits. Enough said? Yes, we think so too.

Supernormal Canteen
53 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Tues to Sat 5pm-midnight (until late December)