Exciting and experimental Chinese food from some of Sydney's best chefs in a cheap and cheerful suburban shopfront.
Sydney is so full of beautiful restaurants the attribute has almost become a requisite for a new establishment to be deemed any good. So it's nice to be reminded that fine food from experienced chefs doesn't have to be served up in bespoke dinnerware on marble tables while sitting on custom-made chairs in a shiny just-refurbed space.
At Good Luck Pinbone — the latest long-term pop-up from Pinbone chefs Jemma Whiteman and Mike Eggert — the plates are plastic, the tables cheap and the chairs look like they've been raided from a year eight classroom. They've taken over an old Japanese joint on Anzac Parade and, aside from giving it a new lick of paint, have kept it much the same. There's even a Hills Hoist in the backyard.
If the combination of the clothesline and the suburban Chinese restaurant vibe sparks nostalgia for shitty sweet and sour pork and fried rice, know that, fortunately, you won't be indulged. You can visit your childhood town for that. The menu here is Chinese-ish, but it's nothing like the food served at the places your parents took you for a night out. You'll probably find it's also unlike any of the food you've eaten in your recent adult life either.
Unless of course you've eaten macadamia custard somewhere else recently. No? At Pinbone, the eggy mixture — which is more like panna cotta than custard — comes topped with a mound of three types of warm peas. This, for me, is a requisite order; it's a necessary fresh green accompaniment to the other meatier, richer dishes.
If you've been to China, you'll jump on their most genius of simple dishes, stir-fried potato. At Pinbone, the dish — which is essentially a bowl of gloriously oily grated potato — is served with bean sprouts for a watery crunch, pork mince for extra flavour and a hint of miso ($18). It's matched (if not surpassed) by the eggplant sambal ($18); the eggplant is caramelised to Koala levels, which is cut through with a mound of coriander and bits of black fungus (an acquired textural taste). These are excellent dishes. Order them both.
They alone are reason enough to pop into Pinbone on your way home from work, and that's before you get to the bigger carnivorous dishes. There's a few surprises in there — like the grilled snapper wings that come with jalapeño and lime, and the pork katsu that comes with fish roe — but it's the sirloin steak that is really memorable. In a similar school to that of Neil Perry's Asian steak at Eleven Bridge, this one comes neatly covered in a blanket of furikake seasoning and sitting in a bath of butter ($31). It serves as a spectacular dipping sauce, and I recommend dipping and dousing everything on the table in it. The Chongqing crispy spatchcock ($33) is also good, especially with the addition of chilli peanuts, but it's got nothing on the steak.
No dish on the menu is over $40, so there is a tendency to over-order. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. We'd never advocate food waste, but the friendly folks here will happily pop your leftovers into a takeaway container for you to make everyone jealous with at lunch the next day. Oh, and it's BYO.
While you shouldn't come to Pinbone expecting an aesthetically incredible experience, it is a polished one. The space — which is rented on a short-term lease, meaning Good Luck Pinbone won't be around forever — might take you right back to your first memories of dining out, but the food certainly will not. However, if you're looking for nostalgia, get a Milo ice pop for dessert.
Published on March 09, 2017 by Lauren Vadnjal