Aru Is the New Technique-Driven CBD Restaurant From the Sunda Crew
It's showcasing ingredients and ancient techniques from the days of pre-colonial trade between Southeast Asia and Australia.
Keen to deliver on the promise that "good things take time", is new Little Collins Street restaurant Aru. The latest, long-planned venture from the minds behind Sunda — including celebrated chef Khanh Nguyen — opened its doors in June, the best part of 18 months after the concept was originally announced.
The 120-seat restaurant will be sticking to its original script, drawing culinary inspiration from those early days of trade between Indonesian seafarers and northern Australia. Aru is named after the cluster of islands on the pre-colonial maritime route that connected this corner of the world, and the restaurant will champion flavours of Southeast Asia, Japan, China and native Australia.
Led by Nguyen, the kitchen's been digging back through the history books to inform the techniques that'll guide the menu — from curing and fermentation; to smoking and cooking over flames. There's a wood-fired hearth, and even an onsite dry-aging room, set to turn out the likes of cured pork and Viet-style duck sausage.
A creatively-charged menu pushes familiar flavours into innovative new directions, backed by those ancient techniques. The traditional beef jerky is reworked using kangaroo, classic banh mi ingredients become the filling of a house-made pate en croute, and a riff on Peking duck sees house-cured duck ham teamed with hoisin, cucumber and spring onion. Snacks and small plates are in strong supply, running to bites like spiced wagyu tongue, mussels with turmeric mayo, and a duck snag sanga finished with leatherwood honey and peanuts.
Deeper in, you'll find plates like a whole John Dory paired with desert lime and seaweed butter, lamb rump done with cashews and river mint, and a clay pot broken rice starring duck fat, sausage and egg yolk. Clever desserts might include kaya and koji waffles, and even a roast potato creme caramel.
Sunda's one-time star dish of babi guling (Balinese-style roast pork) is also making a cameo, elevated with fresh herbs and native Australian sambals. You'll want to be quick for this one, though — there are only ten serves available each day.
Find Aru at 268 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. It's open 12pm–late, Tuesday to Saturday.
Images: Kristoffer Paulsen
Published on June 24, 2021 by Libby Curran