Descend below York Street to Hustlers, a new Southeast Asian-influenced restaurant, and you’ll find a dimly lit room with bamboo-wrapped booths and a feature wall decorated with playing cards. If it wasn’t for the aromatic scents piping from the kitchen, you might think you’re in the wrong place. But this is exactly the look co-owner Andrew Huynh was going for.
“One of the key memories that almost all Australian-born and native Vietnamese and Chinese young adults can tell you about is at Lunar New Year, gambling at home with friends and family – it’s a tradition that many of us have grown up with and hold dear to our hearts,” Huynh tells Broadsheet.
“These games in our household brought a sense of togetherness. Children and adults, who at other times had difficulty communicating due to language and generational barriers, could laugh and play together while losing and winning each other’s ‘fortunes’.”
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Through designing a space that resembles a “gambling den”, Huynh hopes to evoke warmth and hominess for some, and a sense of intrigue for others. The menu, too, stars flavours from his childhood, as well as those of his co-owner, who is Thai, and their chefs, with backgrounds ranging from Korean to Vietnamese. Expect Southeast Asian-inspired dishes similar to those at the team’s sister diner, Saigon Hustle in Smithfield, but with a few updates.
“We’re showcasing a blend of not only our Vietnamese background, but our Korean, Japanese and Thai backgrounds, too,” Huynh says. “We’ve elevated flavour combinations, techniques and details, down to plating and garnishes.”
The mi goreng is a show stopper, served with garlic oil, a lightly crisped fried egg, and marrow that you scrape from the bone into the noodles. The hiramasa kingfish ceviche (a crowd favourite since last month’s opening) is dressed in nam jim, a salty, sour and sweet fish sauce, as well as coconut cream, sweet cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions. Classic cocktails are combined with Southeast Asian flavours through ingredients like pandan, lychee and a pho-spiced red wine reduction.
There are plenty of hard nods to Huynh’s Vietnamese roots in dishes like Bread & Bo, which is essentially the base of a banh mi (baguette, mayo and pate), and cheung fun noodles, a rice-noodle dish served with king brown, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, from southern China.
While Hustlers is an extension of Huynh’s well-established western Sydney spot, the team is looking forward to showcasing its culinary expertise to the city crowd.
“We’re excited about bringing our own flair to the Sydney city scene,” Huynh says. “We’re here to introduce some dishes and flavours that are going to make a statement.”
LG/24 York St, Sydney NSW 2000
0402 641 929
Tue to Thu midday–3pm, 5pm–midnight
Fri & Sat midday–3pm, 5pm–1am