Winner: Paper Bird
Smart casual may be a confusing dress code, but we know it when we eat it. It’s in a bowl of pippis that have opened their little pearlescent shells to be anointed with a juicy umami-bomb of XO sauce and a litter of green onion with a hot puck of fried bread to soak up the broth that remains. A wedge of soft, sweet Chinese cabbage, cooked until it’s almost translucent and bathed in a rich, chickeny schmaltz, also adheres to the theme. But it’s a Trojan horse, delivering concealed pockets of spanner crab meat between its layers in the most delicious of tricks.
A great casual diner has you considering a return visit before the bill is paid for this one, and Paper Bird is a double threat to your savings account because they also do brunch. Sure, all the cool restaurants are doing it now, but where else can you get a shallot pancake given savoury cred from shiitake and draped in jamón so that it looks like an impasto still life? The banchan you love at barbecue restaurants is reimagined here as a salad of pickled fennel, shredded lettuce, sesame seeds and a soft boiled soy-marinated egg. A little digging reveals a hidden payload of dashi-spiked cream, exposing this salad as a calorie smuggler. What chefs Eun Hee An and Ben Sears are slinging out of a tiny kitchen in what was once a fashionable bakery is nothing short of miraculous. And it’s also the most dynamic, exciting Korean food in the city.
We also love...
The fried chicken is gone, vegetables have a starring role and things are lighter and brighter at this refreshed Newtown diner.
Is there ever a day you don’t want to sit at the long trestle tables and demolish a smoked chicken? We didn’t think so.
It’s the best fish in Sydney, hands down, which is why this 34-seat Paddington restaurant is always rammed.
This smokehouse is taking its cues from a lot further east than Texas, which is why your chicken katsu is smoked and your pork ribs are marinated in honey and soy.