Sunda is the ambitious Punch Lane restaurant that launched under star chef Khanh Nguyen back in 2018. While Nguyen is no longer at the helm, the menu still takes cues from Asia’s Sunda region – a catch-all term for countries on the Sunda continental shelf, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Head chef Nabil Ansari (Firebird), who was part of the original Sunda team, stays true to that ethos. Ansari’s offering includes a dry jungle curry served with idli (rice cakes made with a fermented batter of rice, lentils and fenugreek seeds) and a turmeric-and-coconut jasmine rice with confit anchovy. Plus, he kept the Sunda classic pie tee pastry thimbles (a Nyonya tart that was a staple of Nguyen’s menu).
Ansari, who is originally from the state of Maharashtra in western India, also incorporates elements like sambal hijau (also known as sambal ijo, a green chilli paste from Indonesia). He’s passionate about creating sambals and pastes the traditional way, hand-pounded with a mortar and pestle.
The fit-out, a collaboration between Kerstin Thompson Architects and Figureground, feaures rough brickwork, internal aluminium scaffolding and plywood accents clearly reference a construction site. The room has a restrained energy – you won’t have to yell to make conversation. Downstairs, there are small tables for individual groups and coveted spots at the bar. Upstairs, there’s a roomier mezzanine where you’re encouraged to drop in for cocktails, wine and snacks.
The French-Italo-Australian wine list looks beyond rieslings and other crisp whites usually paired with Asian food. Local highlights have included Commune of Buttons’ pinot noir, Cullen’s cabernet merlot and Jamsheed’s Illaj syrah.
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