Fusion food gets a bad rap, but if you know where to look, you’ll come across some darn fine Sydney restaurants. If you’re not yet convinced, just reframe the concept of “fusion food” to something more academic, like a diplomatic cross-cultural culinary collaboration. Or something.
Sura by Ku
Talk about big shoes, and filling them. Chef Sangkyu Ku has set up shop at the site of the now retired Claude’s. Comparisons would be futile – Claude’s did classic French, Sura by Ku does modern Asian – but both execute their dishes with finesse. The menu certainly spans ‘mod-Asia’, with a focus on Korean cuisine. The go-to dish are the pork belly tacos, served with the gochujang sauce. It’s a Korean condiment of chillis and fermented beans, and it could very well be the Sriracha of 2015. The Korean flash-fried rice is beautifully presented, with a perfect orb of soft-boiled egg, sitting atop a mound of garlicky kimchi rice and sweet-salty kongjaban soybeans. Sura by Ky wears its new shoes very well indeed.
This is modern Asian with guts. A lot of Sydney restaurants do the softly-softly-contemporary-Asian-with-flower-garnishes thing really well, but chef Dan Hong’s food never whispers – it announces itself rambunctiously in the form of cheeseburger spring rolls and Thai curry jaffles. Even the sashimi gets the Ms. G treatment, and is served with a miso ranch dressing. And we’ve written about it before, so for the sweet love of jeebus, don’t you dare pass up the Stoner’s Delight dessert.
Sydney is a strange beast – some our most sought-after eats are located in monolithic shopping centres, no-frills food courts, and now... Casinos. The Star has attracted its fair share of celebrity chefs, including Viet food champion Luke Nguyen. True to his heritage, the signature dish is the pho, with a 20-hour slow-cooked broth and Angus beef brisket. The rest of the menu has a Chinese or Malay focus, with dishes such as wonton noodle soup, congee and laksa. This is a solid choice for the high-rollers.
Kau Kau Korean Fusion Restaurant
Some words are so delightfully malleable, it’s a wonder why they don’t enter our lazy Australian lexicon. ‘Kau kau’ is a Hawaiian pidgin word that means both ‘food’ and ‘to eat’. A tad Orwellian perhaps, but oh so utilitarian. Kau Kau’s menu transverses the Yellow Sea, serving up dishes from the Chinese migrant community in Korea. Saucy Beijing-style noodles are tweaked with Korean ingredients in the jajangmyeon, a fried wheat-noodle dish doused in black bean sauce. Bulgogi beef is pimped out with bok choy and baby corn, and the spicy seafood soups are worth a look. Like all respectable Chinese and Korean restaurants, on party nights (Friday and Saturday) this joint is open late for kau kau times.
Ah, the grandmaster flash of fusion. The legendary Tetsuya Wakuda does a fine job in his Kent Street kitchen, serving a ten-course degustation that journeys through Japanese food sensibility and classic French cooking techniques. The signature ocean trout confit is apparently the world’s most photographed dish (cue #confit-selfie), but really, all the courses are exemplary in their presentation. At 220 big ones, this ain’t no casual school-night dinner, but hey, think of it as an investment in your stomach.
Ok, so China Doll’s website categorically states that it’s ‘not Asian fusion’, but hey, show us the rulebook on restaurant lists and we’ll tear it in half. Fusion or not, this place consistently turns out some beautiful modern dishes from all over Asia. The Queensland scallops come highly recommended, plump and served simply with a ginger and shallot garnish. Steamed barramundi fillet is served Cantonese-style, with soy, garlic and chilli, and mustard greens – the latter being a delightfully bitter vegetable that should feature more regularly in Asian eateries around Sydney. Refined dishes from various Chinese regions, Malaysia and Japan get a good look in, and there’s a good smattering of vegetarian options too (oh hi there, deep-fried five-spice silken tofu, lovely to meet you).
Sydney’s love of fried chicken ain’t going anywhere soon. Lucky for us, this romance has morphed into a delightful ménage à trois of Korean-Mexican-American flavours at Chicken Institute. The menu promises a quartet of ‘damn good’ chicken varieties including house-style ‘spicy’ chicken; peri-peri, garlic; and sticky glazed chicken... Excuse us while we wipe the drool from our keyboards. The fried pieces of protein heaven come served with a mini banchan of pickled radish to cut through the richness. The Korean fusion quirkiness continues outside the chicken coop in the guise of kimchi poutine, and kimchi paella. Clucking good stuff.
Image: Ko and Co