There's no denying it. Sydney is currently riding the wave of an American food obsession. Pulled pork. Hot dogs. Nachos. Sydneysiders have taken up snacking with the hunger of a growing teenager.
The Dip, hidden within the bowels of the GOODGOD nightclub, has all your cheese-laden carbohydate cravings covered. The former La Campana site is barely recognisable, converted into a dark and cosy bar with neon lighting.
Behind The Dip you'll find Andrew Levins and Bianca Khali. Levins, a successful Sydney DJ who co-founded the Heaps Decent music label to support underprivileged youth, is not a qualified chef. It was his legendary weekend barbecues, involving feasts of slow-cooked pulled pork and American-style hot dogs, and the egging on of his chef mates that prompted him to make the leap into a commercial kitchen.
The ordering counter
Levins' casual approach is perfect for the style of food, and the people ordering it. The menu is brief and approachable, with most options easily shared between friends. It's also visually well-designed, with clear descriptions and fonts that echo the American diner theme.
Tonight is my second visit, after attending the opening night launch party several weeks before with 250 other guests. Afterwards we'd joined the silent disco in the danceteria out the back, a surreal experience involving personal headphones and the option of switching frequencies between two in-house DJs.
Sol Mexican beer
There's no table service here, but it's only a short walk -- and wait -- at the bar for beers. Food orders are taken at The Dip counter at the opposite end of the room, with payment made upfront.
A couple of Mexican beers quench our thirst as we wait. Punch jugs come in a variety of concoctions, including the Pat Cash Coolah (organic Vodka O, green coolah and lemon rounds), Cherry Moon (cherry cola, Mt Gay rum and red glace cherries) and the Wild Combination (sake, black raspberry chambord and apple juice).
Salsa fries $7
Hand cut steak fries with fresh tomato salsa and white cheese
Between the six of us, we manage to cover most of the menu, particularly when Levins sends out a couple of complimentary extras from the kitchen. The salsa fries are the first to arrive, hand cut fries covered in tomato salsa and shredded white cheese. It's a combination I'd failed to appreciate at the launch party, mostly because the salsa falls off as soon as you pick up a chip. I get frustrated like that, but then I also naturally recoil at the thought of deliberately making a crunchy chip soggy.
The grilled watermelon salsa is hard to dig out of its petite metal container, and few people realise it's watermelon until I point it out on the menu. It's a little over-macerated to the point of being soggy, but we do enjoy its smoky sweetness.
Handcut steak fries
Handcut steak fries are more to my liking, served with a pot of cheese sauce that is perfect for dipping.
Pulled pork nachos are the perfect marriage of carbs, fat and protein: crunchy corn chips smothered in tender shreds of slow-cooked smoky pork and laden with a river of molten cheese. There's a generous serve of pork on the nachos, and the tomato salsa, barbecue sauce, lime cream and pinto beans add contrast and texture.
Southern smoke $12
12 hour smoked pulled pork sandwich with bbq beans, apple and cabbage slaw and spicy bbq sauce
The pulled pork is also piled into sandwiches, a soft flour bun holding a huddle of pork, barbecue beans and a refreshing scoop of slaw made from shredded cabbage and apple. The mixture is saucy and a little messy, but good fast food should always leave you with messy fingers and a dribble of sauce down your chin.
Apple and cabbage slaw $6
We believe in a balanced diet, and order the apple and cabbage slaw, and the grilled greens as some form of fat-clearing penance. The slaw is quite mild on its own, and the grilled greens feels more like an Asian stir-fry with a surprise but welcome appearance of caramelised brussel sprouts.
Lev's Dawg $12
Smoked kosher hot dog with chipotle mayo, fresh tomato salsa, grilled yellow peppers and American mustard on a steamed bun
Lev's Dawg is one of the closest American-style hot dogs you can find in Sydney. The smoked hot dog has a char to the skin, jammed into a soft brioche bun with tomato salsa, finely diced roasted yellow capsicum and a squiggle of American mustard across the top. It's worth the visit just to sink your teeth into this.
Ice cold guac $10
Sweet avocado ice cream, strawberry salsa and waffle chips
The popular toffee apple has now been discontinued from the menu leaving only two options for dessert. The ice cold guac is much less intimidating than it sounds - in fact we struggle to detect much avocado flavour in the promised sweet avocado ice cream, finding a yoghurty tang more than anything else.
Cookies n Cream $10
Salted caramel ice cream between two chocolate molasses cookies with hot chocolate fudge
Cookies n cream, on the other hand, always pleases. It looks like a simple ice cream cookie sandwich but it's the salted caramel ice cream in the middle that is deliriously addictive, simultaneously sweet and salty with a buttery richness.
Levins in the kitchen
If you poke your head into the kitchen window, you're bound to find Levins. He may look serious at work, but he's also the master of the photobomb.
Levins says hi!
Good food, good friends and beer. Goodgod, what more could you ask for?
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Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Blue Plate Grill, Neutral Bay (American chilli dog, buffalo wings and pumpkin pie)
Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst (American tater tots and fried chicken)
Stitch Bar, Sydney (American hot dogs)
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7/04/2011 01:55:00 a.m.