Fancy innovation at Cafe Paci

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner at Cafe Paci, which is a pop-up restaurant in Darlinghurst, one of my favourite dining areas. It was started by the head chef at Marque, another dining institution in Sydney, and it will only be around as long as its one-year lease, which runs out sometime next year.  They’ve taken a very minimalist approach, with high ceilings, stark furnishings, and everything pretty much in gray.  Against this backdrop, the food shines even more.  This is some of the most innovative fine dining I’ve had in Sydney to date, and it was just a delight to behold and experience.

As with any fine dining experience, some course are hit and miss.  There were a whole lot of them, and the menu was incredibly enigmatic, describing every course with only a few words. After the obvious dessert courses came very savoury sounding words (which I shall detail in the below photos), so I was feeling rather dubious about the menu until of course the courses actually came out and surprised me in the best way. The snacks that we started off with were amazing, and the desserts completely blew my mind.  A few of the savoury courses weren’t my favourite, but overall I bow down in the presence of true culinary innovation and I would 100% like to return to the restaurant particularly because it is so reasonably priced for so many courses!

IMG_6529From left to right, little crostini that have powdered duck (don’t ask me how) with rosewood jelly on top, asparagus dipped in lemon curd and rolled in poppy seeds, and crispy barramundi skin.  What an incredible opener.  The combination of the asparagus with the lemon curd was particularly amazing.  Each of the bites was so unique and delicious!

IMG_6531Second bit of little opener bites – rye tacos with a rice pudding and chives.  Not a fan of the whole rice pudding concept but man were these amazing.  They were fresh and warm and it was kind of like some sort of Scandanavian mini crepe.  So good!

IMG_6533Incredible round Finnish bread that came with handmade butter and had molasses drizzled over the top.  It was quite heavy hearty bread, and the touch of sweetness over the top made it completely addictive.

IMG_6534Casual little starter salad here, consisting of heirloom tomatoes, ceviche prawns, and dried raspberries.  There was some sort of creme fraiche thing under it which I wasn’t a fan of, but I loved all the other flavours

IMG_6535Here’s where it got a bit much for me: veal tartare with smoked bone marrow and shaved broccoli.  Love the idea of shaved broccoli and the cool texture it adds to the dish…but veal tartare…not so much.  I couldn’t really stomach more than a few bites.  But for more carnivorous people, I’m sure they’d enjoy…

IMG_6536Sadly not great lighting, but this was a fantastic play on a BLT – this was called “bacon, lettuce, and bonito” – there was bacon, bonito flakes, and charred lettuce, with some sort of butter sauce.  I honestly could have done without the butter sauce but the little dab of Meyer lemon curd on the plate was unbelievably delicious.

IMG_6537This was my favourite savoury course and was about as traditional as a funky place like this would get.  It was called “pho tato” and consisted of potato noodles, seared wagyu, enoki mushrooms, watercress, and fried onions.  The potato noodles looked just like vermicelli but tasted like potato, which was really amazing, and the wagyu was perfect.  I also loved the texture the crispy onions added.  Definitely cleaned my plate on this one!

IMG_6538Now for the good stuff.  This was our “pre dessert”, which you sadly can’t really see, but the insides of it were incredible.  There was a carrot puree covered in a Greek yoghurt mousse (so delightfully tangy but also sweet), and in the very center was a tiny licorice cake.  I don’t even like licorice but I loved this.  The combination of all three flavours was just so innovative and I loved the use of carrot in the dessert.  Plus the contrast of white, orange, and black once you broke into it was visually impactful as well.

IMG_6539Omg. One of the best desserts, hands down, that I’ve had in Sydney.  (rivaled by desserts at Quay and Sepia of course, but still…totally in the same league)  This was a double chocolate mousse (be still, my heart) rolled in malt powder over a banana custard with…get this – PARSLEY sorbet.  The photo does not do justice to the brilliant colours of this dish, much less the amazing taste!  I was absolutely blown away by how innovative and utterly delicious this was.  The chocolate was really dark and rich, and the parsley sorbet cut through that and provided an amazing contrast.  Plus, malt and banana?  So many good things in one tiny little package – it packed quite the dessert punch.

IMG_6541So, this course was listed on the menu as “corn and butter” and I was like, ew, who wants that after dessert.  Well turns out it was popcorn flavoured FAIRY FLOSS (aka cotton candy, for you Americans).  But like no other cotton candy I have had at an amusement park…no, this was light as air and not too sweet and melted in your mouth.  What an amazing tastebuds trip.

IMG_6542Similarly, this was listed on the menu as “pork and fennel” to which I was expected a Momofuku like post dessert of pork (semi ew, but potentially acceptable).  These were actually like a modern day take on pork rinds – little pieces of dehydrated pork skin dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with fennel seeds.  I was more delighted by the popcorn powder craziness, but this was also a lovely surprise and I was very impressed by the innovation.

Overall, even though I didn’t love every single course, I would highly, highly recommend Cafe Paci as the go-to fine dining experience of Sydney right now.  I was just blown away by the innovation in every dish and the fact that the meal is $85 for so many courses is a downright steal compared to other fine dining experience in Sydney which are literally twice as expensive.  It was a really enjoyable experience and I would definitely go back!

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