Eastside Kitchen draws inspiration from a number of fertile food scenes: New York's high-end steak houses, Japanese cuisine's reverence for seafood and the buzz of Hong Kong dining. That might seem like a lot to work into one venue, but the Kensington Street restaurant does it quite seamlessly. The nicely lit space brings to mind the industrial style of lower Manhattan's Meatpacking District, while a Japanese binchotan grill takes pride of place in the kitchen. Executive chef Stanley Wong is himself fresh from a stint in Hong Kong, and has brought with him some key staff and a whole grab bag of good ideas from the city's dining scene.
Seafood is tackled with creativity, as in the trio of plump oysters ($16) which come alternately topped with a plum salsa, a raspberry vinaigrette and a lemongrass sorbet. Each variation makes the right move in seeking to complement rather than overwhelm the oyster. Another seafood option is the scallop ceviche ($24), where pieces of ripe pomelo and a swirling sweet potato crisp add colour and bite to the tiger's milk — a Peruvian concoction combining the almost creamy seafood juices with citrus — it sits in.
More interesting, slightly left-field fare comes in the form of bone marrow with mushrooms ($23). It's an indulgent treat, with the meaty, buttery texture of the marrow both good on its own and with a few slices of sourdough. A side of shishito peppers with yuzu essence ($14) is visually interesting, with the pepper flakes breathing and contracting on the plate, but more of the citrus would have been a plus.
But the real centrepiece of the restaurant is their binchotan grill, an almost flameless and smoke-free style of grilling over Japanese charcoal that allows for extreme temperatures to cook meat. A good choice is black Angus beef New York-style strip steak ($42). With meat aged 270 days and quietly blasted into a blistered, charred state with pink, luscious softness inside, it's one of the most winning steaks in the city. You'll want at least one thing from the grill, but don't sleep on other options, like the Spanish-accented braised octopus ($29) in a romesco sauce blessed with both sweetness and a mild smoky heat.
The recently instated liquor licence has allowed them to bring in a globe-crossing wine list, while desserts once again take cues from the Big Apple. The 'super-sized' New York cheesecake ($17) is a rich slab of dense, creamy sweetness which comes surrounded by a jammy berry coulis. A lighter option is the burnt fig bread pudding ($16), which is paired winningly with mocha ice cream.
Eastside Kitchen may be the kind of upscale, cosmopolitan steakhouse at home in any world city, but you'll glad it's right here in Sydney.
Images: Alana Dimou.