Sydney’s Junk Lounge, which sits above the Cruise Bar at the International Passenger Terminal, has this week introduced a new menu to its Asian-inspired dining experience, providing a wider selection of dishes to be enjoyed from 5pm to late, Wednesdays to Sundays.
Behind the changes is chef Patrick Haney, who operates the kitchen for both the Junk Lounge upstairs and the more casual dining you’ll find in the Cruise Bar downstairs (Fish and Chips et al.). Hailing from San Diego, it’s fair to say that on either menu you’re going to find fusion dishes, with Japanese flavours a big focus of the Junk Lounge menu – but look out for the odd American influence too, particularly on the menu downstairs (he points to the fried chicken in particulate).
Haney has been head chef since December 2015, a position he took on just four months after coming on board as sous chef when Junk Lounge first opened after a refurbishment of the venue. Back then, the menu was more diverse than what they came to serve in more recent years; a simplified menu that focused primarily on skewers and dumplings. But between the meals the staff made for themselves, and the dishes that helped launch the establishment, it’s clear that the reduced menu was never going to be enough for Patrick or his team. And indeed, that’s what this new menu is welcoming – reinvigorated dishes from the past, and new dishes that have inspired the kitchen in recent years.
Taking a seat by the large windows, the Junk Lounge is both intimate and expansive, with comfortable seating and flair inspired by the “junk” trading ships of Asia. All this accompanied by a beautiful view of the Opera House and Circular Quay on some days, and a front on look at a cruise ship on others (naturally the former is preferred).
While the new menu is bringing a wider expanse of options to customers, the Junk Lounge knows their dumplings and skewers have worked – and they have no intention of taking them off the menu. In fact, there are new additions here too. The pulled pork dumplings are a highlight, braised for six hours and served with a spicy vinegar dip they make in house; their dumplings being hand made in the kitchen too. The Pork Belly skewers, meanwhile, with their take on a plum sauce, are a must off the skewers menu.
The wider menu does remain largely focused on sharing; but some dishes will be harder to share than others. The nori-wrapped beef with freshly foraged mushrooms is one that you’d fit on the harder side – best for a party of two, the beautiful cuts of beef are served with white fungi mushrooms, with an earthy purée, which is so good you’ll struggle to share it. The earthy texture of the purée may throw some as an accompaniment to what is essentially a steak, but the flavours are extraordinary.
The Seared Sesame tuna is another new addition, though based on a dish that debuted with the initial launch of the restaurant some three years ago. The tuna, which has a beautiful, light crunch to its coating, is served with gochujang purée, which you might expect on duck or pork rather than tuna (almost like a hoisin), but it pairs nicely. Also presented on the beautiful plate you’ll find wasabi mayo, aioli and fish eggs. I recommend getting a little bit of everything in any bite – though honestly the tuna is so good you would happily eat it by itself.
Moving onto the mains, the table grilled snapper is not just a delicious, healthy dish, but also an experience in its own right, as they prepare the meal at the table; turning the fish for you before serving it over soba noodles with a dashi seaweed stock broth, with vegetables, soy, sugar, ginger, chili and more adding to the flavour. We were told they plan to change this dish in the months ahead, with a “fish of the day” replacing the snapper – so they can experiment with different fish, fresh from the markets. To say the least, Chef Patrick Haney was passionate about getting locals to eat a wider variety of fish.
All of this was washed down with a couple of cocktails. First, on the left, is the Rhubarb Fiji with Johnnie Walker black, honey water and rhubarb shrub and rhubarb bitters.
But it was the Sensei Sam, on the right, which proved the highlight, with ketel one, frangelico, lemon juice and vanilla syrup with freshly cut pears. A meal in its own right, make sure you leave room for a couple. And don’t forget dessert, too.
This mound of chocolate mousse was among the finest mousse I’ve ever had, served with microwave cakes and yuzu on a thin piece of a chocolate. Of course this dish and everything in this piece is but a taste of the impressively diverse and experimental menu, which is available now.
Junk Lounge (Cruise Bar)
Located at the International Passenger Terminal at Sydney’s Circular Quay, Junk Lounge is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm to close.
For a look at the menu and more details about the dining experience at Junk Lounge head to their official website: https://www.cruisebar.com.au/junklounge/