Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sweet as

Rediscovery is such a wonderful thing. Like when you find a pair of shoes in the cupboard that you haven't worn for ages, it's like getting a new pair all over again. Or when you rediscover a lost passion - one that's been lost in a time-poor, money or career-oriented world.

I recently rediscovered my love for Thai food, having been on somewhat of a Thai hiatus of late. And where better to reawaken my appetite for Thai than at Sugarcane - a new-ish venture in Surry Hills of the Longrain ilk (it's headed by ex-chefs) which I'd been really wanting to check out pre-hiatus.

Located in a quiet street not far from Central Station nor Chinatown, Sugarcane has a quiet, to the point of shy, facade that opens immediately into a small dining space with open kitchen set in the back. There's some funkiness about the room and staff, but I can't help but feel like I'm in a canteen. A nice, funky canteen though.

The menu is fairly succint and travels through South East Asia like I can only wish and dream of at the moment. There's also a brief and very reasonably priced wine list and a couple of specials which entice, so it's orders away while the restaurant fills with mostly small groups.

Prawn on rice cake with caramelised sugarcane at
Sugarcane, Reservoir Street, Surry Hills

In an ode to the betel leaf, Sugarcane tries and succeeds in a new and different variation. A cooked prawn sits on top of a cake of crisp puffed rice, and then piled with finely shredded greenery (kaffir lime leaf, possibly) plus coriander, lime, chillli and caramelised sugarcane pieces. It's a slight challenge to consume in the one mouthful but there's no other option. The flavour explosion is just like that of betel leaf offerings: sweet, sour, spicy and all round delicious. It adds an extra tantilising element in the different textures: crunchy rice cake, firm prawn and soft, fresh herbs. It's a shame I only had one.

Stir fried soft shell crab with chilli, tumeric,
snake beans and holy basil

Next is the soft shell crab and not in a fried, salt and pepper form - imagine that. The crab is stir fried in a thick sauce and hidden under a stack of beans and fried holy basil among other vegies and herbs. The flavours are big and I especially like the beans and basil with lots of steamed rice. Unfortunately the crab doesn't quite hit the mark; not tasting as fresh as possible, although I guess most (all?) soft shell crabs are sourced frozen.

Green papaya salad of crispy pork hock, mint and lemongrass

The papaya salad is an immediate favourite for all the right reasons. The stack of julienned green papaya is scattered throughout with coriander and mint leaves, and sprinkled with roasted peanuts and halved cherry tomatoes. It conceals a treasure trove of crispy caramelised cubes of pork with layers of five spice-infused skin, fat and meat. It's simply blissful and a perfect contrast to the tartly dressed salad. The cracker is embedded with black sesame seeds and is almost the third wheel to the rest of the salad but provides another contrasting texture.

Indonesian style fish special

The final main is a special of Indonesian style fish cooked in banana leaf. It's a thick fillet of white fish topped with a mildly spicy curry paste - a satisfactory dish but nothing to blow us away, especially as the flesh is a touch overcooked. But never fear, the generously-sized salad is there to save the evening and reason enough for a return visit.

The two option dessert menu doesn't quite get the sweet tooth tingling, so we venture out in search of sweetness beyond Sugarcane. The recommendation is for some green tea/yoghurt/ice cream concoction which sounds bizarre but worth a try for that reason.

Mixed plain and green tea frozen yoghurt with Tim Tam's
from White Apple, Regents Place, George Street

Looking very much a franchised store and beacon of flourescent lighting, White Apple offers an extremely limited menu focused around green tea frozen yoghurt, soft serve style. Add to that the option of chocolate, nut and fruit toppings - so many that I can't seem to recall any just now. I elected Tim Tam's, being pretty sure that chocolate and green tea were an ideal mix. They were, and for anyone's information, hazelnuts aren't really. The green tea and plain frozen yoghurt mix was a pleasing treat - light and not too sweet with a definite, subtle green tea flavour.

Sweet teeth soothed at a surprising new discovery, old flames reignited at a new rediscovery - it's cheers all round, and a few more to follow.

Sugarcane on Urbanspoon


Betty said...

The papaya salad looks so good! Almost too pretty to eat!

Tina said...

Hi Betty - it was really good, and not quite pretty enough to not eat :)


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