It has been a good dozen or so years since the Prick first alighted at Kingsford-Smith and it’s fair to say that all things considered and to borrow a phrase, Sydney been berry berry good to me. That said, one picks up some peculiar habits living here so long.
Like, for example, regularly contemplating giving one’s local council vote to the Greens on the theory that despite being fairly insane they remain the best bet to stop some shonk from throwing up a twenty-story flatpack apartment block next door. (What was the old line about capitalists selling the commies the rope they’d eventually be hanged with? Yeah, that.)
And then there are restaurants. In a town of four million people, but with only a million or so clustered in the sort of inner-west to inner-east orbit where there’s a critical mass of diners to support such things, the honest truth is that no matter how vibrant our economy we can only sustain so many nice restaurants. Yet we flit around like teenage magpies off their Ritalin looking for the next big thing when we should focus on nice joints down the road and giving them our trade and custom for years.
The Pricks are as guilty of this as anyone, and admittedly this little blog habit doesn’t help. Thus even though we have a really great one-but-should-be-two hat restaurant just down the hill from Stately Prick Manor in Sixpenny – the subject of one of this site’s earliest reviews – it was not until we got an email inviting us to a special Sunday lunch cooked by a guest chef that we decided to give the place another burl.
Silly, right? But there’s that novelty thing again. (Oh, and that invitation to lunch? It came with a bill happily paid at the end – don’t get the wrong idea, this ain’t that kinda food blog).
The chef was Nic Wong, a guy who’s been all over town from Rockpool to Billy Kwong, but the big draw was the news that he dives for his own sea urchin – about which more later – and word is he is about to hang out his own shingle over in Potts Point.
The Sixpenny experience remains very Sixpenny, even with someone else on the pans: It’s the same clean Scando-Sydney design, and the service is that same really charming affair where chefs and servers all have a go and everyone’s up for chat and you kinda want to say, hey, pull up a chair and get on this really great riesling, it’s a stunner, mate!
So what of Wong’s cooking? Well, good – really good. A baby shower followed by an engagement party the previous day may or may not have left Mrs Prick feeling a bit tired and emotional but a glass of Champagne and a whole series of pitch-perfect Asian-influenced early-Sunday arvo bar snacks set things right. If in his new place Wong only served snacks like fried kipflers with Japanese green pepper and crumbed (with scales!) mulloway and sweet grilled baby Asian octopus and skewered teriyaki-ish chicken wings with a heaping great ice-cream scoop of rendered and whipped chicken fat (!) for dipping (!!) and milk buns with kombu butter (!!!) we really would cab over after work for beers and nibbles a realistic once a fortnight.
But it wasn’t all izakaya-style snacks; the kitchen turned out some great proper plates of an afternoon. A cut of David Blackmore wagyu done on hibachis in the kitchen was pure and beefy and backed up by fresh wasabi leaves, which in and of themselves reveal themselves with every crunch with sweetness and heat and horseradishy pepper. There’s an ultimate Japanese-influenced Bloody Mary just waiting to be made in all of this.
A vegetarian plate of pumpkin and glazed chestnuts with raw chestnuts on top makes the second actually good stand-alone non-meat plate of food we have in as many days A piece of hapuku comes simply steamed, gingery with mushrooms and bits of seaweed.
And then of course was the sea urchin. Apologies for working blue, but these may be the sexiest things to come out of the ocean, all salty and silky they were and are – in the words of a long-forgotten writer – like going down on a mermaid.
As expected, sommelier Dan Sharp teed up some great and unexpected pairings (including a sweetish, out-of-far-left-field Romanian rosé), the best bottle being a magnum of 2011 Salomon Undhof Kremstal DAC Reserve ‘Von Stein’ Grüner Veltliner shared around the room, at least one of which will destined for the cellars here if we can shake enough change out of the sofa.
Desserts were, well, hits and misses, to be honest. A sort of passionfruit cannoli encased in white chocolate was yummy on its own, though a very Asian dessert of some sort of shaved ice and set almond milk was just confusing and texturally all off, like eating a breast implant just out of the fridge. Fortunately, a morsel of a light sour cream cake with lemon curd and green tea powder saved the day, along with a couple of generous slugs of Calvados.
The moral of the story? Nic Wong’s a helluva good chef and we look forward to following him in his adventures. And Sixpenny’s a helluva good restaurant where anyone within shooting distance should become a regular, time and resources permitting.
Pictures for the visually-minded
once I can get them off the damned phone below: