The chef nominates his favourite Asian eateries in Australia right now, including one that comes with some personal history.
Like the idea of beers, saké and stick food in the one space? Chaco Bar, a small yakatori restaurant in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, does amazing grilled food. You could go for the chicken crackling – skin folded over a skewer and grilled until it’s smoky, soft and crunchy all at once – or the beautiful raw starters. But owner and chef Keita Abe is also the boss of ramen; it’s Tokyo-level stuff. The broth comes in four flavours: fat-soy, fish-salt, yuzu-salt or, my pick, chilli-coriander.
Made to order
Melbourne institution Flower Drum serves arguably Australia’s best Chinese food. Years ago, I mentioned feeling like crab and noodles to finish dinner so the kitchen cooked mud crab with ginger and shallot, plus crunchy noodles to soak up the flavours. It was one of the greatest dishes ever – they call it “mud-crab noodles Neil Perry”.
For top laksa, head to Malay-Chinese in Hunter Street, Sydney. The coconut flavour doesn’t overpower the soup and the salt and heat are perfectly balanced. I love the tender chicken with an extra dollop of sambal – it’s killer-hot. Although you can expect big weekday crowds, the staff are experts at handling the hordes so you’ll only wait about 10 minutes.
From the kitchen
One of my favourite Korean places in Sydney, Danjee is a large restaurant that’s split in two: you can either eat barbecue prepared by the kitchen or cook at a little hotplate at your table. Stick to the kitchen. The heat and smoke from the massive charcoal barbecue make the food so much more delicious. I love the bulgogi, Wagyu rib and pork belly but try the yukhoe: thinly sliced raw beef with pear, cucumber, pine nuts, egg and a sweet soy dressing.
Full steam ahead
At Shandong Mama Mini in Melbourne, there’s a strong case for the pork-belly steamed bun, fried chicken wings and shallot cake but really it’s the dumplings you go for, especially the mackerel dumplings. A specialty of China’s Shandong province, the fish is puréed into a light, fluffy mousse then seasoned, wrapped and cooked, pot-sticker style, to perfection.
Top image: Flower Drum