Whilst it might be called fusion or Pacific Rim, the menu here is really owner/chef Danny Parreno’s (ex-La Bodeguita Del Medio) life story in plates. His grandfather moved to Peru as part of a wider wave of Japanese immigration. This goes toward explaining the yuzu and yaki onigiri draped tender octopus tentacles in his Nisei ($15), one of five cebiche headlining his menu. A sucker for citrus-marinated fishes, I tried three (and intend to return for the rest).
Ocean Room *UPDATED*
It seems time flies between Yuzu Lemon Mojitos ($18)! Stopping in for one recently, I was told that Executive Chef Raita Noda’s latest twelve course Tasting Menu ($120/head) is almost up for renewal. I managed to get in and try it late last year; and the moist signature Saikyo Miso Cod ($39) (made on Patagonian toothfish) was a joy to devour! Due to the sheer number of cruise ships docking (and potentially blocking the normally spectacular view) this February Raita is running an 8-Course Tasting Menu for $65/head (normally $95).
What do they eat in The Black Lodge, Agent Cooper? Head Cheese ($15)! Let’s rock! “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.” Spiralling into Twin Peaks flashbacks in this red-draped room just enhances your late night (2am kitchen) dining experience. Alcohol helps; starting with a Chameleon ($16) throw-down of smoky mezcal, all-spice dram, lime and ginger beer.
Hot on my list of butchers I’d like to try is Alexandria’s latest meat wholesale outlet store - Wrights the Butchers. My mouth has been watering as I’ve been pouring over Clayton Wright’s weekly email updates. His impressive product list includes the Rangers Valley Beef that recently had me cooing in the hands of Gastro Park’s Grant King at a recent review. You’ll also find Berkshire pork, La Ionica chooks, White Rocks veal and milk-fed lambs from Flinders Island. I’ll be heading over for a proper reconnaissance soon…
First things first: there are Crickets ($6) on the menu. They’re crunchy, dry and salty, and unless you’re Mexican, they’re nothing but a novelty wrapped up in bravado (and garlic). Let’s move on. The food here is serious - it's definitely not your typical Tex-Mex joint. The Tacos ($5) are probably the best in town. The cactus tacos with cabbage and roast pepper and tamarind mayo are to die for.
IN 1954, the Pina Colada was pioneered at the Beachcomber Bar at the Caribe Hilton, Puerto Rico. So if you’re searching for summer in Sydney, perhaps a Hilton Pina Colada will hit the spot? Hotels of course, are the great inventors of many of the classic cocktails, which is exactly why I like to frock up and explore their bars. Colin Tam, head bartender at Zeta Bar has a preference for “classic drinks” such as the Tom Collins - “refreshing, with many different flavours, the botanicals/herbs in the gin, with lemon and sugar - is a simple tasty drink.”
SUCH GOOD COCKTAILS, so much love, it was hard to leave. International Playboy bartender, Jamie Bancroft has taught the team well. “She stirred it in ice which is gorgeous,” my mate Sam whispers “I haven’t seen that since my grandparents made drinks. Look how beautiful the lemon twist is inside.” First up I’d had a splendid Mezcal Martini (bartender Tristan’s suggestion) while Hayley mixed my mate’s classic. I observed her free pour.
The Botanist Kirribilli
Taking an atypical expedition to the north side of the harbour, I set out at dusk to observe a rare species: the Kirribilli wine bar. Rumoured to be the only one operating, I entered carefully, scoping the darkened layout under the cover of leaves, before proceeding to the only remaining table in the loudly buzzing room. The natives, it would seem, have adopted this bar rather wholeheartedly.
ALL THIS TALK about fresh, seasonal and local has extended to cocktails. Each day Bulletin Place Bar hangs up a new selection on butchers’ paper, inspired by the fresh produce from fruit and veggie man Matt Brown. When we drank our way through the day’s list, Ketel One Detox changed my mind about the ubiquitous drink: good vodka, and freshly squeezed apple juice was uplifted by cucumber (and for just $10.)
“Do you love it already?” I hear Megan say at the next table. Later she coos: “it’s a guilty pleasure,” about another dish. I’m here for the cocktails (all $17.50), starting with an Enmore Collins, where Tanqueray Gin is gently underpinned with house made ginger syrup, lemon juice and fresh mint. Terrific. But after overhearing Megan’s excitement, I reckon I should eat. She’s right: the duck rillettes with peaches, foie gras and duck fat toast, are heavenly.