How many restaurants are there in Sydney? Far too many to count. Sure everybody’s talking about the amazing Mexican cantina in Surry Hills, or the spectacular two-hatted bistro in the city. But what about the neighbourhood restaurant which quietly churns out quality food every night, without even a mention in Good Food?
Wooden Spoon Bar and Restaurant slots into this category. There’s no chef’s hat, no celebrity chef and a lack of press clippings. Sometimes, it’s nice to get away from all that.
We arrive to sample a five-course degustation ($56pp) at Wooden Spoon in Cremorne. The restaurant is hardly in an ideal location, plying its trade on the roaring Military Rd near the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace. Ordinarily I can imagine parking would be a problem but there’s no such issue today; nobody has snatched the on-street parking after the evening peak hour.
As you walk inside, the chaotic nature of Military Rd disappears. The front of the restaurant is clearly focusing on the “bar” side; a long bar with wooden-backed stools for customers to perch with their drinks, some lounge chairs and tables. We are led to the rear of the venue, where there are more tables within a beautiful space.
To reaffirm my manliness, I order the strawberry and cream cocktail ($17), which is served in a martini glass. The Sailor Jerry rum certainly makes itself known in the glass, with the strawberries and cream flavour not rising to match it. I did enjoy the strawberry cream float on the top of the drink…similar to sherbet.
To start, the kitchen brings out the pan-seared scallops, ox tail sausage, pea and lemon puree with apple and pork jus. It’s served with a spoon in a glass, which I found rather awkward to eat. Sure I can pop the whole scallop in my mouth in one go but where’s the fun in that? With that being said, the scallop was seared nicely and there was a balance of acidity, sweetness and savoury with the condiments.
Probably the best dish of the night followed in the zucchini flowers with a salt cod and potato brandade, tomato and vanilla fondue, whitebait and lime crisps. I loved the stuffing of the flowers; it wasn’t a carbohydrate party inside and the salt cod was subtle but enough to make me sit up and notice.
The two types of dumplings we gobbled next were good, but I wished I had more than one of each. The Peking duck and bamboo dumpling with ponzu came out on top for me but the prawn, scallop and chive with Roast chilli and palm sugar syrup wasn’t too shabby either. The dumpling pastries were perfect.
To finish, the two meat dishes came out on the one platter, which on one hand was quite a relief given our hunger, but I feel it would’ve been more sensible to bring them out one by one. I liked the mini beef mignon, green lentil and speck ragout and a shiraz and mustard emulsion sauce. The ragout was clever and provided a nice comparison against the tender beef. I wasn’t too sold on the emulsion but it definitely grew on me with each bite.
The confit pork belly, butternut squash and toasted cumin puree and pickled leek and apple salad looked great on paper but didn’t live up to expectations. It was still enjoyable but the pork was chewy and not falling apart as easily as I would’ve liked. Perhaps my mind (and stomach) was itching for pork belly with crackling? It still tasted good with the puree.
Livia Wang, owner of Wooden Spoon, is one of thousands in Sydney. She’s an honest restaurateur, and together with her team, has built up a reputation as a neighbourhood favourite. The degustation is affordable and has high-quality fare. It’s not a hatted restaurant, but then again, it certainly doesn’t try to be.
-shiitake and stuff dined as a guest of Wooden Spoon Bar and Restaurant.