Prawns on rice cake with caramelised sugarcane $4 each
I admit that I'd been a little nervous.
A hip restaurant interior, a menu that traverses the gamut of South East Cuisine and a website that is all fancy Flash graphics and hip schmoozy soundtrack. These are the things that make me wary on approach to Sugarcane.
The Surry Hills restaurant is not without pedigree, headed by ex-Longrain chefs Milan Strbac and Kitsana Aunarerom. Is it wrong to feel nervous? Why do I have a compulsive disdain toward stylish Asian food but will quite happily accept fancy European?
Mirvettium, Moocow and I head to Sugarcane for a pre-movie dinner on an early week night. It's quiet in the early evening but by 8pm the place is full. Polished floorboards do little to absorb the din of conversation and the clang of cutlery on plates. The colour scheme is decidedly mint green, with light from the backlit jelly bean shapes mounted to the wall. The bare surrounds and the blob-shaped "windows" make me think I'm in Fred Flinstone's house in Bedrock. The view into the open kitchen provides plenty of entertainment, particularly when the woks at the back sporadically erupt with spectacular flames.
Our starters, prawns on rice cake are visually impressive. A petite disc made from deep-fried rice holds a curl of peeled prawn and an impossibly high mountain of shredded kaffir lime, coriander leaves and chilli. We carefully manouever them from plate to mouth. The crunch of the rice cake is the first pleasure, followed by the sweetness of the fish sauce dressing and the lift of kaffir lime leaf and coriander. The prawn seems a little lost in amongst the flavours but the chilli has just enough heat to tingle the tongue and whet our appetites.
Crispy fried river trout $26
with mint, coriander and roasted rice with lime and chilli dressing
Crispy fried river trout is a whole fish flayed open and deep-fried. Beneath the golden and crisp exterior, the flesh is soft and moist, refreshed by a chilli dressing and a tumble of mint leaves, coriander, and shreds of chilli and carrot. A snowstorm of ground roasted rice adds a pleasing nuttiness to the dish.
Stir-fried green vegetables $15
A mix of kang kong water spinach, snow peas and asparagus form the serving ouf our stir-fried green vegetables. The greens are a good mix of tender water spinach against the crunch of snow peas and asparagus. A sprinkle of deep-fried red shallots adds decadence.
Stir-fried crispy pork hock $26
with baby corn, snake beans and chilli jam
And then the stir-fried crispy pork hock, fatty cubes of pork goodness that seem perfectly deserved when accompanied by a health-giving abundance of green beans, baby corn, red capsicum and the zing of more kaffir lime leaves.
It's another dish that is a touch too much on the sweet side, although there are plenty of flavours going on in the dish.
Sugarcane tube for presenting the bill
The menu, which draws on a broad spectrum of South East Asian cuisine, includes pad thai, Wagyu beef rendang, crispy skin chicken with blood plum sauce, Malaysian-style duck curry and a salad of marinated lamb with green mango.
A length of sugar cane, used to present the bill, is a cute way of reinforcing the restaurant name. Perhaps the name is a fitting one. We leave satiated, and a little sweeter for it.
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Sugarcane - South East Asian Cuisine
40a Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 1788
Lunch Monday to Friday 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm-10pm
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1/11/2010 03:37:00 a.m.