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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

South Restaurant, Neutral Bay

Three time's the charm.

After two foiled attempts to visit South Restaurant, it's not until my third attempt that we finally get a table. The difference? Trying to book on a Friday and Saturday night, a week prior. On a Tuesday evening, we ring up on the spur on the moment and get a table with no problem.

Once we arrive, it soon becomes apparent why getting a table can be difficult - the restaurant is tiny, seating less than thirty patrons. A huge mural spruiking Tabasco and oysters flanks one wall. The look is low-key cosy, with Bentwood chairs, red-and-white tablecloths and a view past the counter and dessert cabinet into the kitchen.

Billy checks out the menu

South Restaurant is all about Southern American cuisine, the rib-sticking hearty homecooked dishes I've always had a soft spot for, and not just because of its affinity for everything that is deep-fried. The menu is comprehensive, a journey through the southern states of the USA that includes Bucktown prawns, Maryland-style crab cake, muffaletta sandwiches, blackened fish, jamabalaya and a heart-stopping battered and deep-fried steak described as "country-fried".

House-made iced tea $4

It's a nice touch to see house-made drinks on the menu, and we find the iced tea sweet and refreshing. Housemade lemonade has a sherbetty tang and later, Simon is offered the option of the Arnold Palmer, an off-the-menu drink that is half lemonade, half iced-tea - personally I find it a little too wishywashy in flavour - neither strong in lemonade or tea.

House-made lemonade $4

Fried oysters $3 each

We start with fried oysters, Pacific oysters that are creamy and sweet in a light and crispy golden-fried beer batter. A accompanying remoulade sauce adds a creamy tang.

Hushpuppies Italienne $12

I've always had a fascination with hushpupppies, probably because for years I kept picturing people eating a bowl full of comfortable shoes. I'd first tried hushpuppies at Sweet Mother's Kitchen in Wellington, and feel compelled to try them here too.

Inside the hushpuppies

In fact the name hushpuppies allegedly came about because these fritters of cornmeal and flour were often used to keep barking dogs quiet, thrown to them with the accompanying plea to "hush, puppies".

Despite the cute name, I'm still not overly won over by hushpuppies, the fritter quite dense and mealy, even when dipped in the supplied Napoli sauce.

Fish tacos $4 each

On the other hand, fish tacos are a clear winner. The crunch of batter gives way to a tender ling fillet that is wrapped in a super soft fresh tortilla and rolled with crunchy cabbage shreds, a smear of gaucamole and a drizzle of tartare sauce. A wedge of lemon is squeezed over the lot for extra zing.

Wing-tips $16
Half-an order of Hot Wings and a sampler portion of BBQ rib tips

Hot wings are not overly spicy and we enjoy the celery sticks in the blue cheese sauce. However it's the BBQ rib tips that stop all conversation.

"Oh my goddddddd," Billy moans as he takes his first bite. "This is sooooooo gooooood."

I remain sceptical until I take a bite and then ohhh..... I understand. The meat doesn't just fall off the bone. The bones disintegrate in the mouth as well. The pork ribs are slow-cooked to a melt-in-the-mouth consistency, then grilled and basted with a homemade bbq sauce that is sweet and spicy.

Housemade gumbo $13

Housemade gumbo is a satisfying stew made with chicken, okra and smoked Andeouille-style sausage.

Crawfish etouffe $32

Crawfish etouffe is a complex dish made with chunks of red claw yabby tails in a spicy gravy.

Pulled pork sandwich $16

Feel like a hamburger and fries? In the south, you're better off with a pulled pork sandwich, a spice-rubbed pork shoulder that is slow-cooked for hours and then shredded and simmered with a barbecue sauce.

The teased shreds of pork are tender and succulent, especially comforting when served with coleslaw, a giant pickle and a mound of crunchy shoestring fries.

Best pumpkin pie $11

Whilst Aussies tend to put pumpkin into scones, Americans love to incorporate into pumpkin pie, particularly a favourite for Thanksgiving. The pumpkin filling is light and fluffy with a warming spiciness from ginger and cinnamon.

Cherry cobbler $9

Billy's cherry cobbler is a refreshing contrast between the buttery sponge top and a muddle of sour cherries at the bottom.

Pecan pie $12

The surprise hit of the night is the pecan pie, a dessert I often avoid because of too many disastrous encounters with cloyingly sweet versions. This pecan pie is amazing - a generous layer of toasted pecans on top of a layer of filling that is sweet with molasses, brown sugar and a touch of bourbon. The shortcrust pastry tart shell snaps with a buttery crispness.

It's so good that Simon immediately orders another serving to take away. I'm now regretting I didn't do the same.

View Larger Map
South Restaurant on Urbanspoon

South Restaurant
222 Military Road (cnr Waters Road), Neutral Bay, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9908 5225

Opening hours:
Dinner Monday to Sunday 6pm - 10pm
Lunch on Sundays 12pm - 4pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
American - Counter, Crows Nest
American - Hooters, Parramatta
American - Tony Roma's, Sydney

Ribs - Hurricane's Grill, Bondi Beach
Ribs - Outback Steakhouse, North Strathfield
20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/08/2009 02:17:00 am


  • At 12/08/2009 5:54 am, Anonymous millie mirepoix said…

    ohmygoodness. although I wasn't raised in the South I can claim American heritage (and did a stint at a Southern/New Orleans restaurant back in the day) so this food is very dear to my heart! Fried oysters, pulled pork, etouffee, yum! Shame about the hush puppies. When done right they're really amazing.

  • At 12/08/2009 7:05 am, Blogger JT @ areyouhungary said…

    Oh this place is one of my local faves.I can never go past the buffalo wings!

  • At 12/08/2009 8:20 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Mmm those BBQ rib tips sound to die for! And I love places with house-made drinks, it adds that little bit extra :) I've been meaning to try this place for ages!

  • At 12/08/2009 8:26 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Love those moreish-looking hushpuppies and fried oysters; have heard a lot about Southern US soul food but have never tried it. The gumbo looks good too. Thanks for the review!

  • At 12/08/2009 10:40 am, Anonymous Rose said…

    Oh man. This looks amazing. I've never actually tried any Southern US food before so this is on my list of places to try.

  • At 12/08/2009 11:00 am, Anonymous aptronym said…

    I'm wondering whether I should revisit South for the pulled pork :) I've only been the once, about a month or two after it opened, and it was kind of meh at that point alas, which meant that I didn't think about going back.

  • At 12/08/2009 11:37 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    Fish tacos/rib tips, pulled pork sandwich, pecan pie & iced tea. That would make for one hell of a meal! I'd be happy to have that as the last meal before I die :)

    Have to go back sometime to have more of that pecan pie. Oh so good!!

  • At 12/08/2009 11:46 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    I found the hush puppies tasted like indian Aloo Chop. I quite like it. Yes the ribs!!! OH MY GOODDDDD.... SOO GOODDDDDd...

    sounds like I am turning into G man!

  • At 12/08/2009 12:08 pm, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    You had me at the fish tacos! Omg, I so want to try them! And I love the bright orange colour of the pumpkin pie, actually all the desserts sound pretty awesome!

  • At 12/08/2009 12:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    pumpkin question.
    The pumpkins we use to make pumpkin pie in the US
    are called sugar pumpkins, and they look like small versions of the jack o' lantern pumpkins that we carve for halloween.
    In Aus., what they called pumpkins are what we call squash. I don't think they would make a decent pumpkin pie.
    Any thoughts on this??? I'm even confused.
    --johnny forks

  • At 12/08/2009 1:53 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    I've heard so much about South Restaurant. Gumbo is so good. I had this in New York at a restaurant in Brooklyn. Yum

  • At 12/08/2009 4:39 pm, Blogger Kate said…

    Oh Helen, those desserts look DIVINE! I can't believe i still haven't been when I live just down the road! I have a soft spot for good pecan pie. It was always my number one as a littlely when taken for 'big girl' frothy coffee by my mum.

  • At 12/08/2009 9:18 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    It's disappointing that the hush puppies didn't live up to their curious name. I'm jealous of the pecan pie though!

  • At 12/08/2009 10:36 pm, Blogger Trin the traveller said…

    You make it taste/sound so amazing! And yet, having visited the south (North Carolina) recently, I can honestly say that the food was one of the worst things there. The people were lovely and friendly, but I don't think I had anything that was any good at all. Maybe it's better here, without all the corn syrup.

  • At 12/09/2009 12:02 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mmm I should go back again cos those ribs were PHANtastic! Could easily finish a couple of servings myself hee hee Though how come u guys only got rib tips? And no deep fried steak? That was a challenge haha

  • At 12/09/2009 2:45 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Millie Mirepoix - I've always had an affinity for Southern American-style food and I don't have any American heritage :) I wasn't sure whether the issue with hush puppies was them or me, but I'll keep pursuing them in the hope of finally finding a great version!

    Hi JT - Buffalo wings are great aren't they? I always have a soft spot for the celery and blue cheese too!

    Hi Stephcookie - The BBQ ribs were seriously the best I've ever tasted. Strongly suggest you get there, but a warning that Fridays and Saturdays seem to book out about a fortnight ahead.

    Hi Joey - Definitely recommend you give Southern US food a go. I don't know what it is, but it just screams comfort food to me :)

    Hi Rose - Remember that the South is the home of Southern Fried Chicken - what greater endorsement do you need about the beauty of Southern food? lol

    Hi aptronym - The pulled pork was tasty but it was the ribs and the pecan pie that were my favourite!

    Hi Simon - I totally regret not getting another piece of that pecan pie as well. It was divine!

    Hi Billy - Ahh glad you liked the hushpuppies and lol, I was thinking the exact same thing! lol

    Hi Betty - Desserts are always a highlight! The pumpkin pie was lovely but the pecan pie was out-of-this-world.

    Hi Johnny Forks - Hmmm interesting question. I thought the pumpkin pie tasted similar to the pumpkins we use in Aust, but then I've never made a pumpkin pie :)

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - Oh sounds like you had a great version in NY. I've always wanted to travel to the South and eat all these dishes in their home states!

    Hi Kate - You live down the road and you haven't had their pecan pie? I think I'd be there every night for dessert if I lived so close. lol

    Hi Arwen - I'm not sure if I just don't like the texture of hushpuppies but I'll keep seeking them out and trying them for comparison purposes! The pecan pie was so good - now I'm getting cravings just talking about it. lol

    Hi Trin - I agree that we're lucky in Aust to have such easy access to cane sugar. I haven't been to North Carolina so I can't comment but maybe all the good food is in people's homes? :)

    Hi Several tips - Thank you :)

    Hi FFichiban - The ribs are amazing, aren't they? We were trying to order a little bit of everything and even then we couldn't finish all we had ordered. Ha, I'm curious about the deep-fried steak but not sure if I'm curious enough to commit to ordering it! lol.

  • At 12/09/2009 9:50 am, Anonymous Amanda said…

    In defense of hush puppies, those things in your picture look incredibly dry. One give away is that they have to serve them with a sauce (Napoli???). Hush puppies are served on the side (normally with fish or seafood) like you would a roll or another type of bread.

    Also, the strange texture might be due to the grade of cornmeal available in Australia. In the American South, ours is generally ground much finer than the polenta type cornmeal I've used here in Australia. Maybe they import it?

    As to the question about the varieties of pumpkins here. A pumpkin is a squash (yes, sugar pumpkins too), so it's just about finding an available sweeter tasting variety with a nice texture. I've made pumpkin pie here using Japanese pumpkin (Kabocha Squash in the US) with nice results.

    And I've been to South twice. As well as another commenter, I too found it a bit meh, but I am particularly biased having grown up on the real thing. :)

  • At 12/09/2009 1:12 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    After that review I really have to get myself to South Restaurant ASAP! Mmmm BBQ rib tips and that pecan pie...

  • At 12/10/2009 1:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Amanda,
    thanks for the pumpkin-squash tip. I will try
    a Japanese pumpkin. It's beats paying $10 a can for pre-prepared pumpkin slop from david jones.
    happy holidays!
    "johnny forks"

  • At 12/11/2009 2:04 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Amanda - Good points about the hush puppies. Hadn't thought about the grade of cornmeal either.

    Interesting that there are so many varieties of pumpkin and yes, I could certainly see Jap pumpkin being the perfect candidate for a pumpkin pie!

    Hi Jacq - We actually headed here the other night for a dessert of pecan pie. The full rack and half rack of ribs were also ordered but the consensus was that wing tips were the best!

    Hi Johnny Forks - I've seen that tinned pumpkin puree for sale and omg, it is expensive isn't it? Let us know how your Jap pumpkin pie turns out :)


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