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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Master, Surry Hills


EDIT: Master has closed

Puffed beef tendons are the new pork crackling. Seriously. Light and airy with a satisfying crunch, there's just a hint of sticky richness that comes through at the end of each one. At Master in Surry Hills, they toss them with haidai, or kombu salt, providing an umami kick of seaweed. It's not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a Chinese restaurant, but chefs John Javier and Jarred Roker are all about adding a fine dining twist to Chinese inspired dishes. Javier has worked at Quay, Momofuku Seiobo and Noma. Roker (who works the floor) is ex-212 Blu, Newtown.

Master dining room

Master opened in August this year on the site that was once Watts on Crown. The space is clean and monochromatic, with downstairs diners scoring a glimpse into the kitchen. You can also sneak a view into the kitchen from the stairs on your way to the upstairs dining level or the bathroom.

The black chairs wouldn't look out of place in a Chinese restaurant and yet there are hidden touches of elegance, like Riedel water glasses. Crockery sticks to the tried and true Chinese rice bowl and plate and yet the speakers unashamedly blare a mix of Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Warren G.

Scallop silk, XO sauce $4pp

The scallop silk is probably the most talked about dish here, and with good reason. It's hard to fathom how they manage to transform a scallop into what look like curls of freshly steamed rice noodles. The secret is rolling the scallop thinly and cooking it in a water bath for 30 seconds. The result is a slippery sheet that has the coolness and bouncy texture of finely shaved squid, drizzled over with the sweet seafood notes of housemade XO sauce. At $4 a pop, it's a cheap ticket to culinary wizardry.

Ox tongue skewer with imperial spice and lemon thyme $6pp

The ox tongue skewers, on the other hand, are a triumph of simplicity. What's more impressive is how these have been cooked, high enough so that the surface has a caramelised glaze, but low enough so the inside is cooked but still juicy.

Puffed beef tendons with haidai salt $5

The puffed beef tendons round out the trio of snacks on offer. We'd heard from everyone that they were so good that we order two plates between three. Sure you could make them yourself, but given the two-day recipe (cook tendons on low for 6 hours, cool, slice, dehydrate for 10 hours and then deep-fry) we're happy to fork out $5 for the pleasure. We polish them off easily in between swigs of Tsingtao beer.

Strange flavour pork neck $16

The rest of the menu has been designed to share, a list of twelve dishes that start at $14 for grilled cucumber, lime creme fraiche and trout roe, and tops out at $70 for black pepper spanner crab.

Strange flavour pork neck is a riff on the classic Sichuan seasoning mix guaiwei (怪味), thin slices of tender pork doused with a dressing that dances between sesame, soy, rice vinegar and sichuan pepper.

Salt and pepper veal sweetbreads $18

There's a lot of admire about the salt and pepper veal sweetbreads, starting with their size. These sweetbreads - that's the thymus gland in the throat - are huge. Just like the ox tongue, these are cooked with impressive finesse, plump and moist against their crunchy battered shell. The dried chillies and liberal sprinkling of Sichuan pepper will get your tongue tingling.

Burnt cabbage with fish sauce butter $18

There's an incredible waft of charcoal when the burnt cabbage lands on our table, the outer edges burnt to a cinder. Inside it's a different story, soft and squidgy leaves dripping with a golden yellow butter sauce that is less prominent in fish sauce than you'd expect.

Roasted squid and snow pea sprouts $20

Roasted squid and snow pea sprouts is another dish of trickery, the squid sliced into delicate noodle-like ribbons. On top is a rich and buttery sauce; on the bottom is a bed of wilted snow sprouts and an Asian-style broth. Mix everything up and just try and stop yourself from licking that bowl clean.

Whole silver perch, pickled green chilli and salted black beans $36

The large protein dishes include the cumin lamb ($28) and the pork jowl with pancakes ($45) but we go for the classic whole steamed fish, a silver perch tonight cooked with salted black beans, pickled green chillies and a mountain of shallots. The fish is so fresh it's decidedly springy, and we drizzle the sauce all over our bowls of steamed white rice.

Counter seating

Congee, pear and coriander $10

There are only two desserts on the menu, although they both read like savouries at first. The congee with pear and coriander is an arresting sight of lurid green and white, looking more like a science experiment than dessert. The sweetened congee has the taste and texture of rice pudding, and although the buried surprise of poached pear wedges computes easily, the drizzle of coriander baffles and intrigues your tastebuds. And yes, surprisingly, it works, a light light number (despite the carbs) that also cleanses the palate.

A roasted potato $10

The arrival of the roasted potato forces everyone at the table to just stare at it in silence for several seconds. It's not really a potato... is it?

Potato skin ice cream inside a tempura shell

Cut open the crisp tempura shell and you'll find a potato skin ice cream that really does echo with the taste of potato. The ice cream is super smooth and creamy and the muscovado crumble does a good job of looking like soil while also providing a welcomed textural crunch.

The potato is just another clever joke by the kitchen, but if you're up for a Chinese food adventure, you're guaranteed the last laugh.


Master Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

368 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8065 0838

Opening hours
Lunch Saturday and Sunday 12pm-3pm (walk ins only)
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6pm-10pm (bookings recommended)

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Chinese - Mr Bing, Chippendale
Chinese - Mr Wong, Sydney
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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/01/2015 06:51:00 pm


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