AU ABROAD

Sunrise Asian - Elizabeth Bay (Sydney)

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Widely referred to as a "Chef's Secret", Sunrise Asian is a name well known amongst the A-list of Australia's kitchen-heads; from Neil Perry to Peter Gilmore, some of the country's finest have been regulars to Fiat Malaniyom's business for years, relying on him and his team to source hard-to-find produce and rare native ingredients from around Australia, many of which have been used to create some stand-out dishes at restaurants like Quay and Rockpool. It then comes to no surprise that Sunrise Asian's brand new stand-alone restaurant in Elizabeth Bay is attracting all kinds of attention from food lovers across Sydney, doubling as a store for fresh Asian groceries, pastries, and various other produce.

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Outside of a popular market stall at Moore Park's Entertainment Quarter over the past few years, this is the first time the public have really had full access to Sunrise Asian and it's coveted produce, and it's the first time Malaniyom has brought in a Head Chef to use these ingredients in inventive, and imaginative dishes. That Chef is Fiona Hatchett, who is best known from her stint as the Head Chef of Jimmy Liks for the past 13 years.

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Together, Malaniyom and Hatchett have reworked the former Blancharau restaurant on Elizabeth Bay Road (about a 10 minute walk from Kings Cross station) into a straight-forward, 49-seated eatery that, while nothing overly impressive in terms of design, offers a comfortable, uncomplicated space for a meal any time of day.

Half of the restaurant looks like the premium Asian grocery that it is, while a mix of long and small tables sit opposite the counter. You'll find various produce on and off the counter, including breads, baked goods, Byron Bay Coffee, and more. Accents of pink and white are painted throughout the space, signifying the brands primary colours. It's a strange look, but one which works for a hybrid store-restaurant.

The menu is fairly comprehensive, with a whole heap of interesting sounding combinations that you are unlikely to find elsewhere in Sydney. On the shelves you'll find produce like saltbush, sweet leaf, freshwater chestnuts, Thai apple eggplants, scud chillies, ice plants, and banana leaves, and on the menu names which stand-out are sea succulents, hog plum leaf, butterly pea & coconut rice, and rare shikaki leaf. Food lovers will dive right in with excitement, but the more casual diners might approach with caution, in which case, let me assure you, though ingredients may sound unfamiliar here they are all handled well and often the most memorable parts of each dish.

Because most dishes here are a bit out of your ordinary, it may take a while for the kitchen to prepare each so if you're strapping down for a set menu (which is the recommended way to go here) then be prepared to wait awhile between each course.

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Their current set menu starts with Blue Swimmer Crabs with finger lime and long leaf coriander, served on a large wasabi leaf from Tasmania. It's fresh and creamy, with a powerful hit of spice that creeps up after the crab has melted on the tongue, long and lingering; make sure you have a full glass of water.

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An early highlight is the Aromatic Roast Duck Pancake ($7) with green mangoes and pickled heirlooms, an interesting, bright purple roll that's strong, sweet, and crunchy with a dark, thick house-made sauce. I could have easily ordered up seconds or even thirds of this starter, bringing in an unusual take on the classic duck pancake, helped along by the fresh produce used.

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Even more memorable is the Crispy Rice Cake with Red Curry Lobster (Headline Image), something that will hopefully be included on the regular menu in the new year. It's topped with pickled Thai shallot from Northern Territory and sea succulents from South Australia. The sea succulent is salty and tangy with a really interesting texture that plays with the soft, slightly mushy red curry lobster that's incredibly rich in flavour and frangrance.

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Up next is another new dish, the Grilled Scampi Salad with small seed lychee, hog plum leaf, pineapple, and a strong dressing of turmeric, chilli and lime. The long, soft chunks of scampi meat were grilled just enough to give it a slight smokey, juicy flavour, balanced against the very refreshing cubes of pineapple and lychee. It may not look as pretty as the rest of the courses, but it sure kept the quality at a consistent high.

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The fifth course is Grilled Fresh Sweet Bamboo Salad with torch ginger, kaffir lime, and black garlic, all topped with coconut cream dressing, again continuing the interesting layers of flavours on display while also bringing in the focus on aroma as well. Each course had a very strong, very distinctive aroma that would serve as a nice preview to the complex taste, adding greatly to the whole dining experience.

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Rustic Tom Klong Soup of snapper, pickled chestnut mushrooms from VIC, and rare shikakai leaf from NSW comes next, thick, earthy, and dark with a powerful, tangy taste that soaked into the beautiful, thick snapper flesh. This was the last of the seafood dishes.

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Roast Goose with blood plum sauce, crispy noodle, cumquats, and jade stem lettuce is the most divisive of the ten causes, again relying heavily on the necessary tangy sauce that covered the dark meat, benefiting from all the various textures on the plate but a bit too jarring when considered with all the other courses. Still, it's hard to fault just how vast the set menu here is, and even if goose isn't to your taste (it's often hard to get used to) Sunrise Asian dress it up enough to get it over the line.

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Much more enjoyable is the Rendang Curry of Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks, served with new season wild ginger shoot, morinda leaf, and a very interesting, brightly coloured butterfly pea & coconut rice. This was a revelation, and perhaps the juiciest, softest beef cheeks I had all year, beautifully tender with a well balanced, slightly spicy curry to mix up with the sweet rice.

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Of course, dessert has to be just as impressive as the savoury fare here, and Sunrise Asian don't disappoint with two very valuable desserts, both focusing on sweet, fruity flavours. First, there's the Tapioca Pearl Pudding layered with honey gold mango cream, toasted coconut, and soursoup sorbet. The sour dollop of sorbet is best used to balance out the sweetness of the pudding, which has a very pleasing note of mango throughout.

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Even more impressive is the Lychee & Raspberry Jelly with white chocolate mousse, lychee granita, and torch ginger. It's no secret that lychee is one of the most popular tropical fruits used in Asian desserts, with an addictive, sweet, acidic taste that lends well to red berries, and it's mixed in well with the jelly that sits underneath a layer of deliciously creamy, smooth white chocolate mousse. Your best off eating this one slowly and savouring it as the granita could easily give you a strong case of brain freeze.

Essentials:

  • Crispy Rice Cake with Red Curry Lobster
  • Aromatic Roast Duck Pancake
  • Rendang Curry of Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks
  • Lychee & Raspberry Jelly

Sunrise Asian

Address: The Encore Building Shop 1, 21 Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay NSW 2011
Contact: (02) 9332 2844
Website: www.sunriseasian.com.au
Hours: Tuesday 10am-7pm; Wednesday-Saturday 10am-9pm