Chinatown's Punch Lane is getting some serious action this month, first with the opening of Joseph Abboud's modern Middle Eastern restaurant Bar Saracen, and now with the group behind the Hotel Windsor launching a new Southeast Asian eatery, Sunda.
It opens Tuesday, April 3 in the block behind Longrain, which was previously an empty lot used as a car park. The Halim Group has recruited chef Khanh Nguyen to oversee the kitchen — he hails from Sydney, where he's completed stints at Cirrus Dining, Mr Wong, Bentley and Noma Australia. The menu will focus on Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese cuisines, combining rich, bold flavours and some lesser known ingredients with Australian produce and modern cooking techniques.
Think share dishes like Vegemite curry (yes, we had to double-check that too, and, no, we don't know what it tastes like yet) served with crispy roti, grilled baby corn served in the husk with fermented beancurd, or cured kangaroo tartare that combines elements of Thai-style larb with a Vietnamese bò tái chanh (rare beef salad with lime dressing) — it's served with smoked egg yolk over butter lettuce and toasted rice. Nguyen's unusual take on the Indonesian specialty otak otak combines silky parfait with spiced crab meat and is served with finger lime, chilli and sambal condiments and homemade puffed rice crackers.
On the drinks side of things, sommelier Brad Hammond has curated a concise wine and cocktail list that can stand up to the menu's bold flavours. The list favours smaller winemakers and more aromatic wines that pair with Nguyen's fragrant spices.
"We have worked closely to complement the distinct flavours on the menu," says Hammond. "The modern take on the cuisine has allowed us the opportunity to pair unique beverages other than the lighter, aromatic ones that you usually associate with Asian flavours."
An eatery at this address has been a long time coming — it was previously announced, way back in 2016, that chef Adam Liston would open Honcho in collaboration with the Halim Group, but the venture was then scrapped due to ongoing building delays.
Designed by award-winning architect Kerstin Thompson, the fit-out transformed the former car park by taking inspiration from the streets of Southeast Asia. Standout design elements including a woven, steel mesh exterior that filters sunlight by day and seems to glow by night. The two-level venue centres on an open kitchen bar surrounded by small, intimate dining spaces.
Sunda opens on Monday, March 26 at 18 Punch Lane, Melbourne. It'll be open Tuesday through Thursday 6pm till late, Friday from noon till late and Saturday from 5.30pm till late. For more info, visit sunda.com.au.