Here are the Sydney chefs refusing to adhere to cultural traditions. They’re creating exciting and original dishes using a mix of foreign ingredients and techniques.
Lotus Barangaroo – Barangaroo
As the latest addition to the Lotus Dining portfolio (Lotus Dumpling Bar, Lotus at The Galeries and The Resident), Barangaroo’s latest merges contemporary Chinese recipes with native Australian produce.
“It gives me opportunities to create new, authentic Chinese dishes that we twist a bit with the Australian native plants and herbs. They lift the whole dish,” says chef Chris Yan, who previously worked at Billy Kwong, the pioneer of blending Australian and Chinese produce and methods. Take the typically Chinese sticky sauce; it’s mixed with Australian cassia bark for a cinnamon-like flavour.
Double Cross Espresso Bar – Crows Nest
Pasta is no longer just Italian. Crows Nest’s newest Japanese-Italian hybrid cafe serves a new take on mentaiko spaghetti with cod roe. It’s made with butter, cream, milk and chilli-marinated cod roe. “I use a soy sauce and lemon base and we serve crème fraiche and egg on top,” says the chef and owner, Samuel Lee.
Lee looks at food like a mixtape of foreign flavours. “I’m Korean, my wife is Japanese. On our table there’s Japanese, some Korean, maybe Indian, Spanish and Italian. It’s all mixed. I love it.”
Bite, Chew, Drink – Sydney
Unpretentious and uncomplicated, Bite, Chew, Drink serves Korean-American fusion. The menu is full of American-style sharing platters, with Korean-American barbeque. There’s crispy-skin Korean fried chicken, pork belly, and fries with homemade chilli sauce. “There are lots of takes on Thai,” says owner Jae Kim. “We wanted to steer away from traditional Korean and make it a bit more modern.” That’s achieved with a relaxed, fun atmosphere in a space with dark walls and house music.
Ghostboy Cantina at Tio’s – Surry Hills “Ghost boy” is a Chinese term for “white boy” or “foreigner”. Here it references the foreign flavours on this predominantly Asian menu at Toby Wilson’s newest venture. The Latin-Asian inspired Ghostboy Cantina from Dixon House Food Court has moved to Tio’s Cerveceria after its huge success at its pop-up venue. The menu focuses on the signature Latin-Asian tacos that feature duck carnitas tacos with orange and cacao nib, and ceviche toastada with seaweed. Wilson creates his own Mexican-style chorizo, served in a taco with potatoes, seasonal fruit and Thai basil. There’s also a Mexican rice pudding served with malt powder, pad thai-style fried peanuts and dulce de leche.
Goodluck Pinbone – Kensington
Pinbone (Mike Eggert, Berri Eggert and Jemma Whiteman) have opened a Chinese restaurant with a no-frills, BYO vibe serving experimental, fine-dining food. This approach isn’t something Sydney is used to. Cheap school chairs, carpet and a daggy pagoda-like awning (a remnant from the previous venue) make it clear this place was designed on a budget. The team has rethought what you put between your chopsticks with traditional Chinese food that’s subtly blended with techniques and ingredients from other cuisines. Highlights include the steamed wontons with peanuts, shallots and dried chili. And bottle squids stir-fried with chilli, water spinach and a sauce made from squid guts. Then there’s a steak with pickled mustard greens and furikak (Japanese seasoning) butter.
Barzaari - Marrickville The menu here is a mix of modern Cypriot, Lebanese, Greek and Turkish food. Barzaari uses old Cypriot methods and equipment, including a rotisserie for marinating pork legs and lamb shoulders; a wood-fired oven for dukkah-coated prawns, oysters and fresh pita bread; and a sand-filled pot placed over a flame for traditional coffee roasting. Sommelier Dennis Roman from Cafe Paci contributes to the fusion with his wine list. It mixes a variety of wines from Morocco, Romania and Lebanon, creating a perfect combination of Eastern Mediterranean flavours.
Brick Lane – Darlinghurst Darlinghurst’s new experimental Indian restaurant has brought in Joey Ingram (ex-Claude’s and Tetsuya’s) to adapt the traditional Indian menu into something more culturally challenging and unusual. Vaguely Indian-inspired cocktails and gin and tonics accompany fried-egg baps with curry sauce and miniature potato chips; smoked-beef brisket with soft-boiled eggs, curried hot sauce and papadums; and Vietnamese-inspired “naan-mi” with spiced pork belly, pate, spring onions and chilli in naan. If we had to categorise Brick Lane, we’d call it Indian…ish.