It was a little awkward at first. I arrived at KIN by Us in Macquarie Park for a casual lunch only to discover it happened to be the café’s first anniversary. And me, without a gift. How embarrassing.
Thankfully, I was rescued by the cool-casual space, the curiously alluring menu and a damn tasty meal. So, happy anniversary KIN by Us. To help celebrate, I give you this review.
KIN by Us is a project by Shannelle and Uel Lim, who some of you may recognise as My Kitchen Rules alumni, circa 2014. Occupying the corner of Herring Road and Saunders Close, KIN meets the standard Sydney café dress code with its industrial fit-out although the wall full of knick-knacks goes against the theme and provides a welcome point of difference.
The menu is heavily influenced by the couple’s respective backgrounds. Shanelle was born in Sydney to Indonesian parents; Uel was born in Singapore and has lived “all over the world”.
The pair set out to showcase Asian flavours at KIN and, although the café and its menu have evolved during the past 12 months, they have certainly stayed true to their goal. Unique dishes dominate the menu and the Asian influence is clear.
The onsen egg features heavily. Onsen is Japanese for hot springs and the onsen egg describes an egg that has been poached inside its shell… The trick is in the water, which must be between 65 and 70°C.
Of course, you can have your onsen eggs on toast but there are more adventurous options, too, such as: congee (chicken rice porridge, onsen egg, pork floss, Chinese donut), waffle belly (caramel soy pork belly, potato waffle, onsen egg, mushrooms and cabbage) and miso yummy (miso salmon, onsen eggs, sesame spinach, sourdough).
I have little doubt my curiosity will lead me back to KIN—for the yolk porn at the very least—but on this occasion, my order was egg-less.
I started my meal with kaya, a popular snack in Malaysia and Singapore, and now a popular order at KIN by Us. Basically, it’s white toast with housemade coconut jam. Now, I have to declare a conflict of interest at this point. I am in love with coconut and it’s highly doubtful I’d ever say a bad word about it. And I won’t be starting now. This was a simple dish and, for most appetites, I’d suggest it’s definitely a snack rather than a meal, but the jam put a smile on my face and it was a lovely complement to the side of caffeine.
On that note, Reuben Hills is the name behind KIN’s beans and I report with great delight that my soy flat white was delicious and entirely lump free. If that makes no sense to you, I suspect you don’t drink soy milk and have therefore never experienced the injustice of the curdled cup. It’s horrifying.
Not horrifying? The Kincheese burger.
The Kincheese burger, one of two new items on the menu alongside the soft shell crab linguine with Singapore chilli sauce, comprises a double wagyu beef patty and smoked cheese between kimchi waffles with a side of curly fries.
Side note: I’m really loving this waffle thing Sydney’s got going on at the moment. My allegiance has always been to the humble pancake but along comes this intriguing savory waffle situation and I can’t get enough.
Anyway, the kimchi—a popular Korean dish consisting of fermented vegetables, usually cabbage—was subtle, which is intentional, Shanelle told me.
“Infusing the kimchi into the waffle is an idea we were working on for six months,” she said.
“We wanted a light flavour; nothing too overpowering.”
I’m not sure what I thought of the kimchi. Perhaps it was a little too subtle because it wasn’t particularly noticeable, which is not to say I didn’t demolish the burger with finger-licking satisfaction.
It was the waffle/cheese combo that I enjoyed most. That soft waffle crunch melted into the already gooey cheeeeeeese, which must be spelled that way to emphasise my pleasure.
The curly fries were great too because, you know, they’re fries! I couldn’t finish them though. I often think about those little guys that I had to leave behind. I hope they’re in a better place.
There are a few housekeeping matters worth noting:
- You can’t park on Saunders Close so try the opposite side of Herring or one of the side streets. It’s free two-hour parking. Macquarie Park station is an easy walk away, if you prefer not to drive.
- KIN isn’t open on Sundays.
- There’s no air-conditioning. The wide-open entrance means this isn’t usually an issue but on a scorcher, it can be a tad uncomfortable.
Sydney’s love affair with Asian cuisine has been ardent for at least as long as I have walked this earth (and I’m kind of old now). Yet for all the fantastic options, the Asian flavours we adore haven’t really infiltrated the café scene. Shanelle and Uel have plugged the gap and harnessed their passion to deliver on look, feel and—most importantly—taste.
Image credit: Daryl Kong