Years ago, Martin Amis wrote a series of short stories about an intrepid band of scientists who used their time machine, the TIOPEPE (Temporal Integrator, Ordinal Predictor and Electronic Propulsion Equipment) to zip around through the quantum continuum to discover what the booze tasted and will taste like in different eras, past and present. In one story, the temporal predictors wind up in the 22nd century, where they discover a group call the Friends of Plonk, dedicated to the study and enjoyment of wine in the wake of a series of “planetary wars” that wiped out most hops, grapes, and winemaking and distilling knowledge and equipment. What Simpson, the lead time traveller, found being served by this group of future enthusiast who had precious little to go on by way of reproducing wine, was, well, less than pleasant: “Simpson drank. He felt as if someone had exploded a tear gas shell in his throat and then sprayed his gullet with curry powder … ‘Interesting, isn’t it?’, the host asked, wheezing and coughing.”
In my quest for a good Reuben in Sydney, I’ve often felt like the intrepid Simpson. The problem is, so many would-be Reubens-makers are like the Friends of Plonk, trying to put together something for which they have only dim references from a far-off land and little or no real experience. The thing they know is that the Reuben is famous, the Reuben is New York, therefore the Reuben must be good. This is certainly the case at Michael Moore’s Reuben & Moore in the Pitt Street Westfield (and oddly, still no real reply to my e-mail of some months ago).
But stop the presses. I thought I had found the best of breed in Sydney at Clarence Street’s Spill the Beans. As good as theirs is, however, I fear they may have been pipped at the post by the new Momo Brasserie on Elizabeth Street in the CBD. Ignore their website, which cutely calls Momo “the Upper East Side’s new destination for a relaxed dining experience”: Elizabeth Street is not the Upper East Side, and Momo’s is no Mortimer’s. Ladies were lunching, yes, but Tom Wolfe’s “social x-rays” were hardly out in force.
Never mind. The Reuben here is fantastic. Made with stacks and stacks of lovingly house-cured pastrami (which you can now, helpfully, buy straight for takeaway to feed your cured meats addiction) and piled high with sauerkraut, these guys get it. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough Russian dressing. But I probably could have asked for more, except that I was too busy chewing. It’s that good.