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Sunday, October 19, 2014

ACME, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney

Baloney sandwich at ACME, Rushcutters Bay

EDIT: ACME has closed

Hot summers, BMX bikes and Sunny Boys. One bite of the baloney sandwich ($8) at ACME and you're guaranteed a flashback to your Aussie childhood. Remember devon sandwiches with tomato sauce on white bread? Head chef Mitch Orr takes you on a trip down memory lane but elevates the experience. That means pillowy waves of wafer thin shavings of mortadella and a dollop of umami-rich housemade tomato sauce jammed into the yawning jaw of a soft and sweet potato bun.

Dynamite light fittings at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Dynamite light fittings

Acme means "the highest point" but it's also the clever acronym of the first names of the four partners involved in this venture: Andy Emerson (The Passage), Cam Fairbairn (The Passage, Pinbone), Mitch Orr (Duke Bistro, 121 BC) and Ed Loveday (The Passage).  And I'm glad I'm not the only one who immediately thought of the Road Runner cartoon either. The dynamite light fittings are a cheeky nod to another childhood favourite.

Table setting at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Table setting

The restaurant is bigger than you'd expect, with a clever seating configuration that maximises all available space. That means flexible counter seating along the front window, at the bar, and around the staircase leading to the private dining room downstairs. There are small tables in the front room, in the alcove facing the kitchen, and in the sunroom out the back.

There's a happy casual feel to the place, but there's also a marked attentiveness to detail. That means beautifully crafted water glasses, glazed ceramic plates and soft napkins in denim blue.

Purple drank beetroot and celery cocktails at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Purple Drank - gin, Campari, Americano vermouth and beetroot $18 and
Celery - rye whisky, citrus and soda $16

They've got ACME beers on the drinks menu (from California, USA), but the cocktails are what catch our eye. The Celery has a wicked kick of rye whisky but I dig the Purple Drank even more, a clever take on the classic Negroni rounded out with beetroot.

Menu at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
ACME menu

The menu has been designed as a series of small plates, so even the most expensive pasta - the squid ink strozzapretti - tops out at $24. They're all big enough to share between at least two people.

We sit down and immediately order the entire snack section. Between the four of us we'll manage to get through eleven of the sixteen dishes on the menu. Who cares that we have a second dinner booked at Berta at 8.30pm.

Pickled cucumber at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Pickled cucumber $4

The snack menu includes all kinds of tasty nibbles. That includes fluorescent planks of pickled cucumber, imbued with the alcoholic fizz of gin and tonic.

Rockmelon and prosciutto at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Rockmelon and prosciutto $6

Reinvention and fun makes its way to all corners of the menu, which is how you'll find yourself biting into juicy blocks of sweet rockmelon coated in a prosciutto crumb. It's the classic salt and sweet combo from your Italian trattoria with the added bonus of crunch.

Fried globe artichoke and chamomile at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Fried globe artichoke and chamomile $12

Fried globe artichokes are the only deep-fried thing on the menu. They're satisfyingly good, their nutty sweetness enriched with dabs of the mayo-like cream on the side, an emulsion that's actually made from chamomile and soy.

Asparagus and brown butter at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Asparagus and brown butter $12

The brown butter served with long spears of blanched asparagus involves mind trickery too. There's a moment of confusion before you realise the brown butter tastes just like salted caramel, transforming humble vegetables into some kind of madcap dessert. The toasted quinoa gives a welcome crunch.

Toast, semi-dried tomato and cuttlefish at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Toast, semi-dried tomato and cuttlefish $12

You could be easily forgiven for thinking that's lardo on toasted sourdough, but it's actually whisper thin slices of cuttlefish. You'd swear that Orr is playing out a series of practical jokes with each dish.

But you get the last laugh really. The chewy slab of sourdough is the perfect carriage for squishy semi-dried tomatoes (made in-house) and the sexy silk sheets of cuttlefish. It's an eye-closing moment.

Beef tartare, walnut and witlof at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Beef tartare, walnut and witlof $20

Beef tartare is the final choice in the snack section. We relish its handcut chunkiness and the crisp ribbons of witlof piled across the top. The surprise inclusion of walnut works so well against the beef.

Head chef and co-owner Mitch Orr at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Head chef and co-owner, Mitch Orr

Mains are all about pasta, a passion that Orr has built on progressively since his pasta degustation events at Buzo. He's adamant about providing exceptional pasta at a budget price. We're not talking mountains of cheap spaghetti with greasy bolognaise. This is about fresh pasta made in-house. They even have their own mechanical pasta extruder to make all kinds of shapes.

Squid ink strozzapreti, octopus and chrysanthemum at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Squid ink strozzapreti, octopus and chrysanthemum $24

I'm a huge fan of the squid ink strozzapretti, striking with its ebony glossiness against a background of blue. There's an awesome chewiness to the pasta twists, jumbled up with slices of tender octopus tentacles, fresh chilli and young chrysanthemum leaves - a vegetable I more commonly associate with Chinese hot pot.

Wholemeal bucatini, goat, nduja and olive at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Wholemeal bucatini, goat, nduja and olive $22

Bucatini usually has a wild and out-of-control slipperiness that makes slurping each strand a dangerous sport, but Orr's wholemeal version gives it a little more weight and substance. The hollow tubes add springiness to the left-field goat ragu, amplified with spicy nduja and salty accents of olive.

Lasagna, mushroom and sheep's curd at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Lasagna, mushroom and sheep's curd $20

The lasagna probably isn't what you expect either. The thick sheets of fresh lasagna are more on the undercooked side of al dente for me but it's hard not to admire the forest of mushrooms piled between each layer. It's a bountiful harvest of shimeji, shiitake, nameko, wood ear and enoki mushrooms; the traditional bechamel replaced with sheep's curd and the entire lot showered with rosemary dust.

Macaroni, pigs head and egg yolk at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Macaroni, pigs head and egg yolk $18

Just as the baloney sandwich seems to be fast becoming the signature snack at ACME, so too is the macaroni, pigs head and egg yolk establishing itself as the pasta favourite. The wide stumps of macaroni are a far cry from the supermarket version, littered with torn shreds of succulent flesh from the pigs head.

Mixing the egg yolk into the macaroni at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Mixing the egg yolk into the macaroni

Mix in the raw egg yolk and you've got Orr's version of Filipino sisig, pasta-fied. It's rich and comforting, the kind of dish you want to savour, slowly chewing each yolk-smothered macaroni tube.

Nashi pear sorbet and rosemary meringue at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Nashi pear sorbet and rosemary meringue $10

Desserts are all about ice cream. We order two of the three but the kitchen sends out the last one anyway. We're glad they did. The nashi pear sorbet is instantly refreshing, covered in smithereens of rosemary meringue.

Malteser ice cream and candied bacon at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Malteser ice cream and candied bacon $10

Ordering the Malteser ice cream and candied bacon is a given, of course. The creamy ice cream has hidden jackpots of smashed up Maltesers, draped in a rubble of candied bacon. It's a impressive rendition, not just because it's salty and sweet, but because there's been some mastery involved with balance. The ice cream isn't jarringly laden with sugar and the bacon isn't harsh with salt.

Jersualem artichoke ice cream and hazelnut praline at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Jerusalem artichoke ice cream and hazelnut praline $10

But the surprise winner of the night is the Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. It's another sweet and savoury combo theme that continues Orr's determination to make you question each spoonful. There's no mistaking the flavour of Jerusalem artichoke in the ice cream, but it's the curls of deep fried Jerusalem artichokes that make you want to eat more, even as your brain sends messages of confusion to your palate.

The savoury kick of the artichoke chips reminds me of khanom mo gaeng, the eggy Thai custard covered with deep fried shallots.

Private dining room at ACME, Rushcutters Bay
The private dining room downstairs

There's not much room here for a post-dinner amble, but staff are usually cool for you to head downstairs to check out the private dining room. It's a stylish set-up, complete with its own private bar.

Make sure you visit the bathroom too, for a Seinfeld-related chuckle or two.

Entrance to ACME, Rushcutters Bay

60 Bayswater Road, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8068 0932

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Italian - Buffalo Dining Club, Darlinghurst
Italian - Pasta Emilia, Surry Hills
29 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/19/2014 02:09:00 am


  • At 10/19/2014 4:08 am, Anonymous Padaek said…

    A classy and elegant looking restaurant! Looks like the folks here really know their food and tastebuds. Wow - learnt many new things here, and the marriage of ingredients/flavours is amazing! Loving spring - asparagus and heart artichokes. Loving the look and sound of the pickled cucumber, beef tartare and cold sweets too. I think Malteser ice cream and candied bacon is possibly the most beautiful thing I've read this week! Lol @ yawning jaw!! :D

  • At 10/19/2014 8:49 am, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    This place looks awesome! A lot more serious than what I expected from the name (yes, I was thinking of the roadrunners and coyotes, too). I love their twist on the melon & prosciutto and the presentation of the beef tartare.

  • At 10/19/2014 9:38 am, Anonymous Bianca@forfoodssake said…

    I vividly remember growing up and hating bucatini - it was always so disappointing because it was so hollow inside. Side note: the Macaroni looks interesting :)

  • At 10/19/2014 1:36 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Omg a bacon dessert! There seems to be heaps of quirky flavour combos - you've definitely got me curious to try it out :D

  • At 10/19/2014 6:23 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    My fiance has been talking about this place for a while - he works just around the corner, and is super keen to go! We may just have to...

  • At 10/19/2014 6:35 pm, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    The face of Bayswater Road is an ongoing progression of entities. There's almost always a new kid on the block every time I decide to venture up there. And I'm loving this! Such innovative food, and thank christ it doesn't have an American inflection.

  • At 10/19/2014 6:37 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    You guys are such hardcore eaters! I love it! :)

  • At 10/19/2014 8:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yum, love good pasta! That squid ink strozzapetti looks deliciousss!

  • At 10/19/2014 8:45 pm, Blogger Von said…

    I was thinking road runner too when I saw the name! haha :) The rockmelon and proscuitto sounds like an amazing combination- I've never really had rockmelon in any way other than by itself! Would love to try the lasagna too- though I would never have guessed that it was lasagna just by looking at the picture!

  • At 10/19/2014 8:50 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I want that mac, pig's head & egg yolk! Ermahgerd malteser ice cream with candied bacon sounds insanely awesome!

  • At 10/19/2014 8:50 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I want that mac, pig's head & egg yolk! Ermahgerd malteser ice cream with candied bacon sounds insanely awesome!

  • At 10/19/2014 10:34 pm, Blogger MAB vs Food said…

    I am loving the creativity of the pastas at Acme. I can't wait to try it myself and your write up gives me something to look forward to. The Squid ink strozzapreti and the mushroom lasagna are definitely on my list!

  • At 10/19/2014 11:23 pm, Anonymous Lori said…

    Acme looks like a place with a sense of humour, can't wait to check out the Seinfeld toilets!

  • At 10/20/2014 1:50 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i want everything but in particular that malteser ice cream with bacon!

  • At 10/20/2014 11:20 am, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Not quite the Looney Tunes menu I was expecting and glad to see no anvils to drop on your head either.

    Food looks really great, love the trickery of the asparagus and 'burnt butter'.

  • At 10/20/2014 1:26 pm, Anonymous Lee Tran Lam said…

    Great rundown! Can't believe you also made it second dinner at Berta afterwards! :)

    Cute observation about the Acme dynamite sticks; I hadn't thought of that before – I guess I was too distracted by the racy George Costanza poster!

  • At 10/20/2014 3:06 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    I've already heard great things about the pasta and baloney sandwich but this is the first I've seen of the malteser ice cream with candied bacon!! Looks awesome

  • At 10/20/2014 5:14 pm, Blogger Vivian - vxdollface said…

    What an exciting menu! I'm going on Wednesday night, can't wait to try it :) real keen on the purple drank hehe

  • At 10/20/2014 5:20 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I know I've said it many times, but I'm a Beef Tartare fiend. Love the look of the vibrant planks of gin soaked cucumber and especially want a silky bed of pasta with wild mushrooms and cheese, right now! Delicious post as always Helen!

  • At 10/20/2014 8:11 pm, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    I'm now having to go there just for the Seinfeld experience. I'm intrigued by the mains tasting like desserts and the desserts tasting like mains - asparagus and artichokes. But it's a beautiful looking restaurant and I love how the menu is all on one page - hate menus that are novels xx

  • At 10/20/2014 9:31 pm, Blogger Mr C @ The Food Diary said…

    Amazing photos as usual, need to check this place out!

  • At 10/20/2014 10:06 pm, Blogger Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said…

    ACME's menu is so versatile, what a delicious place to go :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  • At 10/20/2014 10:34 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    really liked the look of those dishes. prices aren't too bad either. very keen to try the macaroni with pigs head and egg yolk.

  • At 10/21/2014 9:06 am, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    malteaser ice cream with candied bacon!? oh my!!

  • At 10/21/2014 9:36 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Ahhhh how devon, tomato sauce and white bread reminds me of my childhood!! Nowadays I swap the devon for mortadella, add some brie cheese on top of a fresh baguette, YUM. Mortadella takes me back to my Euro trip, I seriously ate mortadella with bread non-stop the whole time I was in Italy. Isn't it lovely how food can bring back such beautiful memories?

  • At 10/21/2014 1:06 pm, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    I bet if I went there, I won't go out without a big fat belly! All the wonderful things you can imagine are what you ordered! I'm intrigued by the brown butter with toasted quinoa. Mmmm....

    Gourmet Getaways

  • At 10/22/2014 9:03 pm, Anonymous Felicia @ Next Stop: Food said…

    Wow everything here is so interesting. Yes please to macaroni, pigs head and egg yolk and rockmelon with prosciutto!!!! :D

  • At 10/23/2014 5:14 pm, Blogger irene said…

    My body is so ready for that macaroni, egg and pig head!

  • At 10/23/2014 10:26 pm, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    Love the look of the squid ink pasta!


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