What happens when you let some young, fine-dining pros do whatever they want? They create a new precedent for casual dining. With restaurants such as Nomad, Ester, and Cho Cho San, Sydney’s new wave of simple, ingredient-driven mid-range restaurants has been welcomed with open arms. Jarred Roker and John Javier are the next to join the ranks with their newly opened restaurant, Master.
“I always had an idea to open up a Chinese-influenced restaurant; to see what we could do with the training I've had at fine-dining restaurants and apply that to a casual restaurant,” says Javier, whose experience includes stints at Quay, Noma and Momofuku Seiobo. Although Master is inspired by Sydney’s many old-school Chinese takeaway joints, Javier and Roker are both keen to avoid any tags of authenticity. “We’re trying to create our own style. There are a lot of traditional Chinese elements throughout our menu but we're still putting in as much effort as any fine-dining restaurant.”
Most of the dishes are incredibly simple but playful takes on a central idea or ingredient from Chinese cooking. Javier proudly mentions a cabbage dish he invented with his sous chef and old Momofuku workmate, Richard Borg. The cabbage’s outer layer is burnt into a thick crust; it’s then roasted with the charred exterior acting as a protective layer to hold moisture and add a smoky flavour to the vegetable’s flesh. When it comes out it’s smothered in a fish-sauce-and-butter emulsion. “Most of our menu is like that. Sometimes it can get convoluted putting all these different layers and elements into a dish when it tastes just as good having just three ingredients on a plate.”
Another dish, made up of only roasted squid and snow pea sprouts, appears like a simple bowl of noodles. The cumin-encrusted lamb comes bare with only a dipping sauce of garlic and shallot puree. A dessert, labelled intriguingly as roast-potato, is a take on deep-fried ice cream and combines roasted potato-skin gelato within a tempura batter that’s so crisp it audibly snaps. It’s the kind of precision and creativity you’d expect at one of the restaurants Javier formerly worked at, but done without the price you’d find at Sydney’s top end.
The food is well matched by We Are Tribe’s interior and a playlist full of ‘90s hip-hop. The whole venture feels unmistakably youthful and it’s no surprise to hear Roker list the ages of everyone involved and not hear a number over 30. “We wanted to use younger up-and-coming people, even the designers have just opened their own business,” he says.
368 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8065 0838
Tue to Sun 6pm–10pm