Bondi’s Mamasan has opened the doors to a Surry Hills outpost of its popular Taiwan- and Japan-inspired eatery. Only two months old, the Crown Street version was a natural next step for owners Adam Hunt and Gemma Lin after six successful years in Bondi. “We were looking around in Surry Hills for an underground bar. This is much larger than we planned – but the building was so quirky that we fell in love,” says Hunt.
It began when a terrace on Crown Street collapsed. The rebuild was conducted by architects FJMT (responsible for the Surry Hills Library next door), and the resulting building is a three-and-a-half-storey terrace that Hunt and Lin turned into a multi-level bar and diner. The narrow stairs lead up to a mezzanine-level bar with its own shrine to the god of drinking, Ji Gong (a Chinese monk known for breaking Buddhist practices by drinking alcohol, eating meat and having relationships with women).
On the top floor the ceiling is hidden by hundreds of white cherry-blossom flowers, and a central table holds a four-metre-high Japanese maple. Past the kitchen, in the basement dining room, an abandoned 80-year-old fishing boat has been remodelled into a sushi bar. The decor is truly eclectic; tiny tables made from slabs of tree trunk sit in the upstairs bar; train tracks line the walls in the basement, gigantic light bulbs from fishing boats hang above the sushi bar; and Japanese pop-culture novelties are scattered around. Hunt and Lin's personal touches are everywhere – from the table that Hunt made out of old pallets, to the tiny ghosts handmade by Lin (to encourage rain) that dangle from the maple tree's branches.
Then there’s the food. Inspired by Lin’s childhood spent in a remote Taiwanese fishing village and in Japan, the chef has created a punchy pan-Asian menu. Tapas dishes include puffy tempura popcorn fish made from top-quality sashimi offcuts; beef dumplings handmade by Lin; and edamame dressed in garlic and pepper. From the barbeque section, try the chilli Mongolian lamb; seaweed-wrapped grilled Japanese rice balls; and Taiwanese barbeque quail with quail eggs. There’s also gleaming, fresh sashimi; hot-stone bowls of bibimbap; and miso salmon on glowing embers.
Drinks include Sapporo and Asahi on tap, a hefty list of sakes that Hunt is happy to walk you through, premium Asian whiskies, cute cocktails and wines including plum wine. All this and there’s live music on Sundays.
Mamasan Surry Hills
403 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9331 8881
Mon to Thu 5pm–12am
Fri & Sat 11.30am–12am