Time Out Sydney

Voted by the people, for the people

Winner: Cafe Paci

Sydney, you’ve got great taste. That you chose something as forward-thinking and technically brilliant as this pop-up for your People’s Choice Award winner deserves a group bear hug. Bring it in. Paci was meant to have closed already, actually, but between an indecisive landlord and a tidal wave of keen diners they’ve managed to keep the doors open until January. This is chef Pasi Petanen’s place, reborn on the old Café Pacifico site. After hosing it out and painting it entirely grey (it’s got a bit of a post-modern theatrical vibe – you half expect people to drop from the rafters enthusiastically beating drums), the ex--head- chef of Marque reopened the Darlinghurst warehouse with a progressive 11-course- menu. A rye taco is filled with rice porridge, enriched with a sort of buttery egg emulsion, and finished with chopped chives in a prog-Finnish ode to the site’s Mexican party bar roots. Little fingers of cured rainbow trout draped in thin slices of semi--melted pork fat are served as a little snack, along with Petanen’s “raspberry leaf”: a sweet and crisp radicchio leaf, covered in raspberry dust and vanilla. And then there’s the tiny eggshell with its head lopped off, filled with layers of just--warm yolk, an emulsion of salted white chocolate and a dusting of porcini powder. Tick. An individual loaf of dark, sweet, blackened and malty rye and potato bread perfumes the room, coated in sweet molasses and served with a little house-churned butter. Up the tempo with slices of heavily marbled wagyu draped over a tangle of potato noodles cooked in garlic butter, braised enoki mushrooms, a bushel of watercress and a cheek of grilled Meyer lemon. Petanen calls this buttery, slippery, citrusy and crunchy dish ‘photato’ – just like a bowl of Vietnamese beef- noodle soup only, well, nothing like it at all. “In Finland,” says sommelier Zoltan Magyar, “things look romantic but are quite serious.” And when you look at Petanen’s menu with his playful, esoteric take on fairy floss – a soft, fleece--like orb of spun sugar covered in a powder of buttered popcorn – or little pieces of dehydrated pork fat, all crisp and bubbly, covered in dark chocolate and toasted fennel, you can’t help but see just how serious a contender Pasi Petanen really is.

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