I have to say, Sydney ranks up there as being downright miserable when it rains in winter! One week not too long ago it rained non-stop, and it was on a Friday evening that I was visiting Longrain Restaurant in Surry Hills with an all-ladies group.
This wasn’t your usual group of six women though – these ladies have been visiting about a restaurant a month in their quest to eat their way through 13 Restaurants for 2013, following on last year’s 12 restaurants for 2012. I’m good friends with one of them in particular (Fashion Obsessed Girl) and knowing that I’m a foodie and that I occasionally have trouble finding people to try new restaurants with, she invited me along to join the clique.
Located a little while from the main CBD, Longrain is known for their unique ‘fusion’ take on Asian-cuisine. From some people that I’ve talked with before my visit, it seemed a bit of a hit and miss as most people these days are still in two minds when it comes to combining cuisines. But one should always make their own judgment of course, and that was what I was here tonight to do.
Longrain has a general menu that they post online and outside their restaurant, however it does change based on what’s seasonal. Dishes are large in size and designed to be shared among groups – which is, in my opinion, the best way to eat.
The inside of the restaurant is dimly lit and panelled in warm shades of wood, lit with yellow lights shining up onto the rafters and tables arranged in small groups, large communal tables or roomy, comfortable booths. With the high ceiling and emphasis on shared dining, the noise level got quite loud over the dinner service. Their bar, Shortgrain, is located downstairs and you can feel the consistent pulse and vibration of music thrumming under your feet as you dine.
But why don’t we start with a cocktail first? I went for my old favourite, the Mojito ($16), which was one of the most potent versions I’ve ever had in my life.
While the cocktails were potent and rather worth their price, the girls who had ordered mocktails had found their drinks to be slightly on the sickly-sweet syrupy side and needed a bottle of mineral water to help make it more palatable.
The food was much more welcoming. We had had some difficulties in deliberating what to order and our waitress was more than helpful in helping us narrow down our decisions and making recommendations.
The Filled Eggnet, pork, prawns, peanuts, caramelised coconut and cucumber relish ($33) came out with a resounding “Ooooh” of admiration from around the table.
It was easy to see the amount of intricate work that had gone into creating that beautiful net. Here is the back view of it, where you can see the gorgeous filling inside just spilling out.
It was incredibly fragrant and refreshingly light at the same time, with lots of crunch from the peanuts and bean sprouts.
Next to arrive was the Grilled Tuna Belly, sweet pork, green chilli, cashew nut nahm jim ($36).
Alas, while the menu looked predominantly Thai-oriented to me, the fusion element had slipped my mind and this dish arrived with a large amount of my Kryptonite, fresh coriander. Of course there would be a Vietnamese element! But once I got over my mortification and tasted it, the salad was wonderfully fresh and the slices of tuna belly were tender and perfectly grilled, having a lovely smokey flavour.
My other choice would have been the Grilled Angus beef, Vietnamese mint, chilli jam, roasted rice ($38), so I’m glad someone else had ordered it!
Just like the tuna, the beef had been perfectly grilled in its own way and the refreshing salad contrasted nicely with the warm strips of beef. The roasted rice added an extremely unique flavour and texture, having a very nutty aroma.
Fashion Obsessed Girl has a love of curries and had opted for the Sour Orange Curry, Barramundi, betel leaves, lemongrass, snake beans ($44).
We all were a bit taken aback by the stark orange colour of the curry and were slightly tentative about sampling it. However it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t taste half as spicy as it looks. It was a very warm and comforting dish, with the pieces of Barramundi cooked until it was softly flaking apart. It wasn’t a curry in the traditional sense that most people are used to, probably being more stew-like.
Luckily we had also ordered Thai Jasmine Rice ($3 pp) for the table to soak up those rich, hearty flavours.
And last to arrive, but not least, was one of the other standout dishes of the evening. The Caramelised Pork Hock, five spice, chilli vinegar ($33.50) arrived and while it looked fairly ordinary, it had been caramelised and braised to such a degree that the tender meat fell apart with the slightest motion of your fork and spoon.
Soft and sweet, it astounded those around the table who aren’t so fond of pork, one of the most underrated meats out there. During my upbringing here and continuous learning curve of food, I’ve found that many Australians aren’t so partial to pork and you really do need to have it cooked to perfection, like this, to convert people.
All six of us were stuffed to the brim by the end of our meal and for the first time, I had to turn down the suggestion of dessert as I felt ready to pop. Perhaps another time.
85 Commonwealth Street,
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9280 2888