A few months ago, developer Lend Lease approached chef Kerby Craig with an offer: “We want you to open a ramen restaurant in Darling Harbour,” they said. The venue would be the flagship signing in the company’s flashy new food precinct in Darling Square, the new neighbourhood being built as part of the NSW government’s $3.4 billion redevelopment of the area.
Craig turned Lend Lease down – well sort of. He and Joe “Chewba” Siahaan (the head chef at Ume Burger), which is known for its burgers that integrate classic Japanese flavours, had other ideas. “I want to do Japanese pasta,” Craig told them.
“They [Lend Lease] were like, ‘What the fuck is Japanese spaghetti?’,” Craig says. “I was like, ‘I understand, but you didn’t know what Japanese burgers were either, right?’”
So, come 2019, Craig and Siahaan will open Sydney’s first dedicated Japanese pasta restaurant in Lend Lease’s new food precinct.
The new destination will open on the bottom floor of the Darling Exchange, an architecturally striking Kengo Kuma-designed building that looks like a hurricane made of wooden ribbons. “They are going to model [the inside] on a Hong Kong or Singaporean hawker market, but done with a really refined design by Anthony Gill,” says Craig.
The space will house different operators (Craig hints at the site also including a well-known patisserie and booze supplier). “You'll be able to grab a bottle of natural wine and some cool beers, grab a uni cream pasta and a cake, maybe some fish, too, and go outside and drink and eat in a nice communal space.”
With more than a year until their venue opens, Craig and Siahaan have a lot of ideas to finalise for their stall, but at this stage it looks as though they’ll do a mix of classic Japanese pastas and a few of their own creations. “I’m super excited about it. We’ll make all our own pastas and all our sauces,” says Craig.
For those who aren’t familiar with Japanese pasta, it’s simply pasta with Japanese ingredients, including spicy cod roe, uni (or sea urchin) and miso. “The cool thing about pasta, unlike ramen, is it can be healthy,” says Craig. “Pasta can be this really hearty rich saucy ragu-type thing that you eat by the fire in winter, or it can be a light spaghetti with just ume and shisho.”
Craig says there will also be a retail element where Ume will sell its weekly pastas and sauces to take home.
Bar Ume’s new restaurant is slated to open in 2019.