When I’m trying to work out where to go for a meal, I turn to my hit list of restaurants to try, built up from personal recommendations and favourable reviews. Right now, the list stands at 28 and growing. I don’t think I could ever clear this list, it seems that for every one I cross off, another five appear.
One restaurant I did cross off over the weekend was Sugarcane, one that’s been on my radar for a while now. Headed up by ex Longrain chefs Kitsana Aunarerom and Milan Strbac, Sugarcane opened last year in Surry Hill’s Resevoir Street. Longrain is admitedly one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney, so I was curious to see how Sugarcane would stack up.
Ironically, Sugarcane is located within walking distance from Longrain. Spanning only 20 or so square metres, Sugarcane is fitted with modest tables and an unassuming, minimalist decor. It is Longrain stripped back, doing away with the formalities, queues and slight pretense that comes with visiting the former.
We came here on a Saturday night before a dessert date with some friends. The restaurant was buzzing, but not at full capacity when we arrived. After taking our seats, Mr. Taste and I settled on the Beef Rendang Curry and the Pork Hock Vietnamese Salad. There was a broader mix of South East Asian flavours on the Sugarcane menu, including influences from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
With only two chefs in the kitchen, the food service at Sugarcane was painfully slow. We waited a good 40 minutes before our first dish arrived and this long wait did burst my bubble of excitement about dining here. With direct views of the kitchen, Mr. Taste and I looked on yearningly at each dish leaving the kitchen bench, hoping it was ours.
The wait did indeed proove worthwhile. Sugarcane’s rendition of the classic Beef Rendang was probably one of the best dishes I’ve had in a long while. The flavours were unexpected and exciting: the sauce was full bodied with a hint of acidity while the meat was pull apart tender. It’s a relatively small serving, but oh so satisfying.
The Pork Hock salad was just as pleasing. It is a reincarnation of Longrain’s caramelised pork hock (a personal favourite) and in many ways, Sugarcane does it better. First, the meat is crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. I’ve had this dish many times at Longrain and more often than not, the meat has been too hard on the outside and dry on the inside. The salad of paw paw, kaffir lime, coriander and mint provides the perfect base for the sweetly acidic dressing. The sauce is almost identical to the one at Longrain, albeit a little too sour for my liking.
While it’s hard to resist comparisons to Longrain, I think Sugarcane offers a breath of freshness that sets it apart from the former. The dishes are well balanced and thoughtfully crafted, not to mention reasonably priced. Sugarcane is the younger sister, who’s setting herself apart and coming into her own.
40 Reservoir Street
# 02 9281 1788
Open for lunch on Monday to Friday (12-2:30pm) and dinner (6-10:30pm) on Monday to Saturday.