While the rest of us were winding down for the summer holidays, Sydney’s hospitality scene was revving up. Since early December we’ve added a whole bunch of sterling venues to our eating and drinking roster – some of which we reckon are likely to become staples. There’s lasagne pie, an out-of-the-ordinary ramen, and a bar with a Roaring Twenties aesthetic that promises fancy soirees. It’s going to be a delicious decade.
The original Totti’s in Bondi became an immediate favourite when it opened in 2018 – and we have a feeling Bar Totti’s its CBD spinoff, is going to have a similar impact. The Mike Eggert-headed eatery, which opened earlier this week, brings the dishes that made the Bondi original a hit to the Ivy precinct. The hallmark puffy bread is a centrepiece, and here it’s served with more than 20 antipasti options – scallop crudo, ’nduja and house-made burrata with optional caviar among them.
While Eggert and his team (which includes Jake Ahrens, who has worked at other Merivale venues Ash St Cellar and Uccello) are pumping out Totti’s classics, they’re also keen for the CBD iteration to have its own identity. So, they’ve created a series of daily – maybe even hourly – specials. The standout? According to Eggert it’s the soon-to-be-served mushroom timballo – essentially lasagne in a pie – made from hand-rolled egg pasta, parmesan, butter pastry and porcini cream. He tells us he refers to it as the “carbzilla”. There’s also a solid drinks menu which, like the original, features a litre carafe of Negroni, as well as a range of non-alcoholic and seasonal cocktails.
Chaco Bar used to push out both yakitori and ramen from one tiny Crown Street shopfront. But late last year its owner Keita Abe decided to separate the two concepts, converting the original shopfront into Chaco Ramen and moving Chaco Bar to a new space in Potts Point.
Before, you could only eat Chaco’s ramen at lunchtime from Friday to Sunday. Now, it’s available for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesday. And while Abe hews to traditional Japanese methods for creating yakitori, his ramen is a little more off-kilter. Expect unusual creations such as chilli coriander with poached chicken; scallop, yuzu and John Dory; and a vegetable ramen made with tomato broth. During summer there’s even a climate-appropriate cold ramen.
Over at Chaco Bar 2.0 things are a little more traditional. Expect Fukuoka-style charcoal-grilled skewers of chicken thigh, hearts, gizzards, liver, pork belly and lamb shoulder. The yakitori is served alongside tsukune (Japanese meatballs served with a semi-boiled egg), fish roe-topped rice bowls and gyoza. Like the original Chaco Bar, both venues are dark, moody and made for fun times.
The Cat’s Meow
Just in time for the repeal of the lockout laws comes The Cat’s Meow a handsome Oxford Street bar inspired by The Great Gatsby. Located in a beautiful sandstone corner building, it channels a Roaring Twenties aesthetic, lavishly decorated with emerald-green marble, gold and royal blue accents, and art-deco-style patterns.
The easy-drinking cocktail list includes sips such as the Kill Bill (berry-infused sake, yuzu, Campari and Cointreau) and the Chicago Amnesia (a sour made with rum, lemon juice and egg whites). There’s also a food menu that leans heavily on classics from a variety of eras. Expect prawn cocktails with mustard foam, and croque monsieurs with truffle bechamel. What we’re most excited about, though, are the planned soirees: “We want to throw the best parties people have ever seen,” owner Henri Azzi tells Broadsheet. “There could be snake charmers, burlesque, masquerade.” And did we mention the secret champagne room? It’s hidden behind curtains and it’s a mandatory phone-free space – so what happens there stays there.
Sydney has gained a fair few Japanese joints in the last year or so (new Chacos included), and Nakano Darling is a worthy addition. The relaxed, izakaya-style eatery opened in the Darling Square dining precinct at the end of 2019, led by the team behind popular Crows Nest diners Yakitori Yurippi and Tachinomi YP.
At Nakano Darling the gyoza (dumplings) and karaage (battered and deep-fried chicken) are made from scratch – and there’s a “secret” menu, written in Japanese on the back of the regular menu. After you’ve knocked back your share of Suntory whisky, soda highballs or Japanese beers, head to the karaoke room and party salaryman-style.