The Australian cuisine has always been mysterious, but occasionally we get a glimpse into what it might be or what it could be. Kin by Us is one those glimpses. It's an unpretentious mix of cuisines and cultures coming from My Kitchen Rules contestants Shannelle and Uel Lim.
The menu reads like contrived attempt at blending pop Asian food with Australian cafe cuisine, but it's simply the food Uel and Shannelle love to eat. They both grew up overseas; Uel spent four years travelling on a ship with his missionary parents, while Shannelle is part Indonesian, part Chinese. The menu reflects the couple’s mixed cultural identities.
The Waffle Belly ($17), two succulent strips of caramel soy pork belly served with slaw, shiitake mushrooms and an onsen egg atop a crunchy potato waffle, is a creative take on Uel’s memory of his Singaporean grandma. Onsen eggs, almost liquid soft poached eggs, burst somewhat pornographically onto many of the MKR couple’s dishes.
Another reinvented relic from the couple’s past is the Snap Crackle Plop ($10): chicken rice and peas served under a cluster of crispy fried chicken skins and an onsen egg. Like a more textural Asian porridge, the dish is far from thrilling but inexplicably comforting. It’s one of many homages to the couple’s love for the ‘unhealthy food’ they grew up with.
The brioche sandwiches, another great example, are shockingly long and generously filled. The Shandong chicken sandwich with slaw ($14) feels like eating a savoury sundae. The soft shell crab, while more delicate, is similarly intense.
Uel told us the cafe’s open design was intended to reflect the mixed backgrounds and families of the two chefs, but we think it better represents the ambiguous middle line Kin sits between restaurant and cafe. The difference in detail that once separated cafes from their more serious night equivalents isn’t apparent at Kin. Like many new cafes in Sydney the fit-out and menu here are exact and inventive.
Of the more classically cafe options we were most intrigued by the durian affogato ($7), a brave pairing that’s superbly executed. The durian gelato is unashamedly rich and pungent, but when doused in Rueben Hills' espresso, it mellows and adds to a balanced match. For something subtler, try the coconut cold brew ($5).
In the future, the couple are planning more waffle dishes, including one with kimchi, cheese and fried chicken, and a waffle burger — yes, that’s waffle, meat, cheese, vegetable, waffle. Uel told us he’s also wants to rework something they originally called ‘breakfast’, a mysterious mix of cereal, prawns and egg. It’s an exciting future for a cafe that’s already charmed us with its effortless approach at fusion food.