The Verdict | Café Paci

By Katrina Meynink
4th Sep 2013

Café Paci, a 12-month pop-up restaurant from revered Sydney chef Pasi Petanen, opened to quite the fanfare. Reviewers and foodies alike flocked to taste his culinary goods, served from the converted former Café Pacifico site in Darlinghurst.

Once past the blinding red façade, and up the dark stairs, the blanket grey warehouse setting is incongruously pretty. This is one of the very few restaurants that won't have you sitting cheek to jowl with neighbouring tables and the experience is refreshing and gloriously private, while not so distant that any collective atmosphere is lost.

There's a set menu. Like it or lump it. There are a few cheffy indulgences, involving a rather obtuse description of dishes, but it is some of the loveliest, lip-smacking food I've eaten in ages.

The menu opens with several 'snacks'. Of note are the carrots with yoghurt and prawn floss. I was silenced. Silenced by the simplicity and gorgeousness, these were carrots fit for rabbit deity. Not in a Jessica Rabbit kind of way, classier than that. More of a Peter Rabbit, dish for the ages and worthy of reprints and fables kind of way. There is no denying it. Pasi Petanen has a way with vegetables.

He grounds the freshness of his menu with rye and hard-hitting dishes, like the lamb leg tartare topped with a smoked capsicum togarashi, and a wedge of cabbage with mussel butter and marrow—that offers the sort of protein heaviness that both confounds and delights. The photato (read future signature dish) is a phenomenal concoction that takes the ideals of "meat and 3 veg" to rarified heights, and is one you should discover for yourself rather than read about here.

Desserts, hands down some of the best I've eaten—the carrot, yoghurt and licorice flavour trifecta had my pupils dilating with every mouthful. The wine list is friendly to the aficionado and merry come-what-may drinkers alike, and the service is equally unobtrusive and slick.

This is dining that is hard-hitting, eclectic and fun.

Café Paci 
Address: 95 Riley Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Ph: 02 9368 7000
Email: [email protected]
Opening hours: 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Image credit: Café Paci 

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