Food waste in the hospitality industry is a recognised problem, and it's estimated that up to 250,000 tonnes of food are thrown away by Melbourne restaurants each year. Chef Dennis Yong (Sunda, Amaru, Tulum) is using new wine bar Parcs to address this issue – without sacrificing either quality or flavour. Parcs sits an intimate 25 people and is owned by Adi Halim (Hotel Windsor, Aru, Sunda).
The snacky small-dish menu consists of dishes composed of 70 per cent food excess from Halim's other venues, along with Melbourne institution Lune and wholesalers Market Boys, Hunted & Gathered and Citrus Prime. This dynamic enterprise addresses the food waste problem with skill and passion, creating one of Melbourne’s most innovative and exciting menus in the process.
Yong says that his primary interest has always been in fermentation, and he recalls memories of creating ferments in his bedroom. Koji, which is a grain or legume that has been inoculated with a fermentation culture, is his preferred method. Parcs even has a fish tank in the restaurant kitchen with a large SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that is used for the in-house kombucha and fresh oyster topping.
This passion for preserves doesn't come as a surprise when looking at the Parcs menu, as you can see the technique peppered throughout. Its opening plate of ferments and preserves encapsulates the venue's vision in a few delicious mouthfuls. Daikon radish pickled with leftover red wine, pickled pumpkin with allspice and a sauerkraut-like slaw are a triumphant parade of flavours and textures.
The youtiao (Chinese doughnut) with a Jerusalem artichoke paste and crunchy sunflower seeds is a moreish, savoury titbit that introduces diners to the Asian flavour profile that runs throughout the menu. Already established as their signature dish, the 'umami e pepe' is a delightful twist on the Italian classic (cacio e pepe) that contains miso made from leftover bread. It's a deeply savoury and peppered dish, with a rich sauce that coats the firm noodles.
The menu is vegetarian-friendly with only one red meat dish currently available – a sustainable kangaroo with treacle sauce and fermented natives. A vegetarian highlight is the fermented radish with curry leaves, charred radish, pickled green papaya and orange kosho dressing with feijoa leaf pesto. It is imperative that you eat each aspect of this dish as one for a creamy, juicy and vibrant bite that packs a flavour punch.
The menu is designed to share, and due to the smaller servings, if you’re visiting with three or more you can easily tackle the full menu. Dessert is not to be missed, and it's currently a brioche miso ice cream made with leftover Lune croissants along with a poached pear that has just the right amount of give. Wash all of this down with the extensive wine menu, or enjoy Yong’s housemade kombuchas – though as some of these are unpasteurised, designated drivers be wary.
Yong wants to change perceptions and remind guests that offcuts and scraps aren't dirty words – try reading Parcs backwards! Such is the short-sightedness of food excess. Ingredients are discarded through over ordering, aesthetic imperfections or trimmings not being conducive to menus. Yong is taking these items and turning them into dishes that will rival Melbourne's greats. At Parcs, you can smugly tuck into delicious fare – knowing that you’re doing your bit to reduce Melbourne's food waste.