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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

David Tsirekas' Perama Pop Up at Plunge No. 46, Summer Hill

Octopus hanging in the backyard for David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Giant octopus tentacles hanging in a backyard in Sydney's inner west? It's just a day in the life of Chef David Tsirekas, the creative force behind Greek restaurants, Perama in Petersham, Xanthi in Westfield Sydney and Kefi Greek Tavern and Souvlaki Bar in Kingsgrove. Looking at pics on Instagram on one thing, but knowing you'll soon be eating that very octopus, quietly soaking up the sun in Sydney's red brick suburbia, is another.

Dining room for David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Dining room at Plunge No. 46

Tsirekas is in the final stages of his next big project - the 130-seater Greek restaurant 1821, opening up on the former Vault Hotel site on Pitt Street in the CBD. Until then, he's popping up at restaurants all over the place, reprising a few Perama and Xanthi classics, as well as testing out a few dishes for his upcoming restaurant. 1821 is a significant date. It's the year that the Greek War of Independence first began.

We booked in for his second-last dinner at Plunge No. 46 cafe in Summer Hills last weekend. We paid $65 per head for a five course dinner, with a single sitting starting at 7pm. The room fills quickly, a mix of locals, Tsirekas fans and a large table of family friends.

Taramasalata, tzatziki and bean dip at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Taramasalata, tzatziki and bean dip

Arriving to a table already set with nibbles is a nice touch. It feels like we've arrived at a wedding reception as we discard coats, survey the room and then get distracted by the food.

On the table is a trio of dips. Taramasalata may only be blushing with the barest of pinks but there's a pungent kick of salted cod roe that is intensely satisfying. Milder on the palate is tzatziki, a zingy cucumber yoghurt spiked with garlic. The bean dip is soothing too, with a light and fluffy texture.

Warm flat bread at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Warm flat bread

A board of warm flat bread provides the ideal carriage for dip consumption. The wedges of flat bread are soft in the middle with a slightly toasted surface. They're easily torn apart, bending at will to pick up as much dip as possible.

Greek salad at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Greek salad

We also tuck into a Greek salad, simple and fresh with a bounty of tomato, cucumber, olives, capsicum, red onion and feta, dusted lightly with dried oregano.

Skouras aghiorghitiko Greek white wine at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Skouras moscofilero-roditis, Greece 

There'd been a oversight of bookings that night and the day prior, my friend had been asked if we'd be happy to sit at the bar instead of a table. We'd agreed and on the night the three of us are led to a small floating table that would probably be more suitable for two. Plunge owner Hesham El Masry is warm and welcoming, immediately apologetic for the booking mishap and offers us a bottle of wine on the house. I've never met El Masry before, and Tsirekas doesn't know I'm dining tonight, so it's a genuine act of goodwill that takes us by surprise. We stick with the Greek theme for the night, choosing a Greek white that is unexpectedly light and fruity.

Vromiko loukaniko sausage with barley, red peppers and onion at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Loukaniko sausage, barley rusks, roasted red peppers, onions, tomato and egg

Vromiko means dirty in Greek, and the next mezze of spicy loukaniko sausage is a jumble of ingredients that Tsirekas lately confesses is the perfect cure for a hangover. The juicy seared slices of sausage play off against the sweetness of roasted red peppers and onion; the hunks of toasted bread soak up all the sausage fat and the puddle of tomato sauce at the bottom. It's the kind of dish you'd cheerfully eat for breakfast, lunch or tea.

Octopus hanging in the backyard for David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Octopus drying in the sun in @dtsirekas' backyard

There's a reason why the Greeks dry octopus in the sun. It means that when the octopus finally hits the grill, there's less chance of water escaping and causing the flesh to steam rather than sear.

Barbecued octopus at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Barbecued octopus on an orange and capsicum sauce

It's quite surreal to have the barbecued octopus served to us, knowing it had been hanging in Tsirekas' backyard only two days before. There's are distinct crunchy kind of chewiness to it, no doubt a result of the sun drying. The smoky char on the tentacles is incredibly fragrant, and the bed of orange and capsicum sauce on the bottom is silky with a mellow sweetness.

Lentil and potato file pie at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Lentil and potato filo pie

The lentil and potato filo pie is so tasty I'm fooled into thinking this is meat-based at first. It's perhaps a little heavy on the salt, but its heartiness works well, lightened by a dollop of minted yoghurt. The layers of filo pastry are golden brown and flaky.

Seafood kokoretsi in the making for David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Seafood kokoretsi in the making, instagrammed by @dtsirekas

Instagram also gives us a preview of Tsirekas' seafood kokoretsi, his own twist on the traditional kokoretsi that wraps up lamb offal in lamb intestines.

Seafood kokoretsi with salmon, lobster, prawns, scallops and groper at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Seafood kokoretsi
Salmon, lobster, prawns, scallops and groper roll wrapped with octopus

The seafood kokoretsi is a luxurious feast of salmon, lobster, prawns, scallops and groper threaded onto a skewer and wrapped up with octopus legs. It's a bit like opening a Christmas present, as we uncover each disc of seafood. The octopus legs are incredibly tender too.

Lamb buried in the soil for David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Lamb kleftiko buried in soil, instagrammed by @dtsirekas

Kleftiko means "to steal" in Greek. It's also the basis of the word kleptomaniac. The classic kleftiko lamb dish is so named because when the Greeks were fighting the Ottomans they'd hide in the mountains, steal lambs to eat and cook them in clay pots hidden in coals under soil so the smell wouldn't give their hiding place away.

Most chefs these days use an oven but Tsirekas keeps it old skool by burying his lamb stew in soil.

Lamb kleftiko slow cooked in the soil at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Lamb kleftiko

The result is a plateful of meltingly tender lamb, cooked in red wine, tomato paste, olive oil, celery, onion and tomato. It's ideal winter comfort food.

Tulumba with cinnamon and nutmeg custard at David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill
Tulumba with cinnamon and nutmeg custard

Dessert is a refined take on tulumba, usually piped into short lengths, deep fried and soaked in a sugar syrup. Tsirekas' version tonight is more like a donut ball, served with sour cherries, honeyed walnuts and a cinnamon and nutmeg custard.

Tsirekas does a generous lap of the dining room after service. He's surprised but delighted to see us in the room, and infectiously excited about opening 1821. The dining room will be on the first floor. Downstairs will be a dedicated vodka bar!

David Tsirekas' Perama pop up at Plunge 46, Summer Hill

Tsirekas is completing his final run of pop-ups in Sydney before he heads to Orange and Melbourne. Limited seats may be available. Contact the restaurants directly below if you'd like to make a booking.

July 15 - Carmel's, Wareemba, Sydney - Pop Up Chef
July 16 - MUMU Grill, Crows Nest, Sydney -  MUMU Goes to Greece
July 18 - Plunge No. 46, Summer Hill, Sydney - Perama at Plunge
July 24 - The Agrestic Grocer, Orange - The Winter Feast
July 25 - The Agrestic Grocer, Orange - The Winter Feast
July 27 - Hellenic Republic Kew, Melbourne - David in the Kitchen
July 28 - Hellenic Republic Kew, Melbourne - David in the Kitchen
July 29 - Hellenic Republic Kew, Melbourne - David in the Kitchen
July 30 - Hellenic Republic Kew, Melbourne - David with George Calombaris

And in Plunge No. 46 newsEl Masry is about to open a falafel bar on Enmore Road across the road from Enmore Theatre. Can't wait to check that one out too!

Plunge No. 46
46 Lackey Street, Summer Hill, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9799 9666
10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/15/2015 12:10:00 am


  • At 7/15/2015 4:59 am, Anonymous Padaek said…

    The octopus and the lamb especially look wonderful and delicious!

  • At 7/15/2015 12:38 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    i loved xanthi and kefi's, cant wait till he is back with a permanent venue!

  • At 7/15/2015 6:27 pm, Anonymous Tania | My Kitchen Stories said…

    Oh wow you lucky thing Helen. what a great dinner. And OMG I didnt know you could do that with Octopus

  • At 7/15/2015 7:24 pm, Anonymous kiki@mykikicake said…

    Yum, that Octopus looks fantastic. Love his modern take on Greek cooking!

  • At 7/16/2015 8:53 am, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    Now there's something I've never tried - hanging octopus from my clothes line in the backyard! I do hate to be squashed when I'm dining but how lovely that there was not only an apology but also a complimentary bottle of wine - that's excellent service. Greek cuisine is one of my favourites xx

  • At 7/16/2015 5:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    what a way to start the day - a photo of hanging octopus! Funny too - given that I was thinking of asking for suggestions of where to eat these critters when in Sydney next (other than at a sushi train waiting for the octopus sashimi to come past again...and again!

    ps I meant it about wanting to know where else to eat Octopus in Sydney

  • At 7/17/2015 12:50 am, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    So creative! And those octopus are in a Sydney backyard? Would love to sample his dishes, especially the octopus and that filo, and the list goes on...

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  • At 7/17/2015 8:28 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    That bbq octopus looks sensational! So sad I missed out on this pop-up. Love David's work!

  • At 7/17/2015 9:50 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In a Greek restaurant, isn't a greek salad just called a salad?!?!

  • At 7/22/2015 4:57 pm, Anonymous missklicious said…

    the hanging octopus looks a tad creepy, but looks absolutely delicious in the cooked dishes!


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