In a city like Sydney – blessed with more than its fair share of blissful weather and natural beauty – it's odd that more spaces like the palm tree-fringed courtyard of Western Sydney’s new Parramatta Square precinct don't exist. Dotted around the breezy, open square is a host of eateries rallied from different corners of the city (Cicciabella, RivaReno Gelato, Fishbowl), as well as towering residential and (optimistically) office buildings.
LilyMu is one of the few venues in the new precinct which isn't an already-established direct import – but like those other more familiar restaurants, it’s got the benefit of some big names at the helm. The newest brainchild of Ibby Moubadder, the restauranteur behind a hatrick of Surry Hills’ establishments – beloved brunch spot Cuckoo Callay, Middle Eastern fine diner Nour and charcoal chook joint Henrietta – the modern Asian diner represents an inventive departure from the Middle Eastern and Lebanese leaning cuisine of his portfolio of venues.
To call LilyMu pan-Asian might imply a lack of concern as to the regional specificity of the dishes within Asia – but this restaurant, with Fijian-Chinese and Australian chef Brendan Fong (formerly of Mr Wong) at its helm, is aware and calculated to twist your expectations. Unexpected combinations and cookery techniques sourced from nets, strewn wide over Japan, Thailand and China result in complex plates. See the playful interpretations take shape in dumpling form: five blush-pink prawn dumplings are plump, pillowy and served with an unexpectedly zingy Thai-style tom yum dressing. The spinach, shiitake, water chestnut potsticker dumplings play a very different game – they're heartier and richer and come arranged in a circular formation with a lacy, golden-brown skirt of crispness binding them together.
Mie goreng is dressed up in smoky black garlic, but stays true to the street food version's intensely savoury flavour. It's topped with a gooey egg yolk and elevated by the crunch of bean sprouts and leek. Larger plates are curry-heavy: lamb massaman is nestled with Kipfler potatoes and the freshness of Vietnamese mint, and Clarence river king prawns come swimming in a red curry peppered with the light bitterness of betel leaves. In the bo ssam, a spiced and boiled Korean dish, Fong substitutes the traditional pork for a fillet of Wagyu 8+, with smoked eggplant, tomato and baby gem lettuce.
To take advantage of the precinct's open courtyard space, Lilymu's seating spreads across indoor and outdoor with no strict delineation between the two, and no structures as to how you should be spending your time here: take one of the long, communal tables and feast for hours on a tailored banquet menu, or just perch on the bar for a drink.
The Petaling Breeze is a sweet, elderflower-heavy cocktail topped with a tenuous 'aromatic bubble' made of a puff of air – it disappears in the breeze twice before a waiter brings it over. If you're looking for less theatrics and more tang, try the Chow Sour with egg whites and lychee. Or take on the Tuktuk Spiced Margarita for a spice-hit, with Thai chilli, tequila blanco, yuzushu and a healthy dose of passionfruit. There's a 60-count wine list with Australian and European picks, as well as a range of local and Asian beers. All in all, there's more than one reason here to drop by and explore Parramatta's shiniest new square – it's a treat.