Who says that Sydney people aren't friendly? Well I'm one for starters and I think I'm very friendly! My day started off with the nice woman who could see that I was trying to back into a car spot and stopped and guided me in. And despite the fact that we're dining in the oh so cool area of Surry Hills it seems the fellow diners and staff at Shortgrain are a friendly bunch. Shortgrain is the almost 4 week old baby sister of Longrain the Thai restaurant started by chef Martin Boetz and there's not a grumpy soul in the queue-and yes there is already a queue...
Luckily I have Joan Holloway waiting for me and she has arrived and is staking out a place at the large communal table. Prices are excellent-about $15 for a dish when compared to the dishes that hover in the $40s at the older Longrain which is located around the corner in the same building. The cocktail bar which was part of the Longrain restaurant has now moved downstairs adjacent to Shortgrain. It's a neat black board menu with about eight main selections and around half a dozen sides or extras plus drinks. Another blackboard shows the prices for their products for sale. Ordering is at the counter and magically about 5-10 minutes after you place your order your dishes find their way to you. We plonk ourselves on the end of a large communal table and wait and make the occasional comment to our table neighbours.
Coconut juice $6
Nothing makes one forget about the bone chilling wind outside than a young coconut drink. And as soon as Joan H. and I spot them in the fridge we immediately order two and they come out with the cone shaped tops lopped off and carried to the table by the chef Martin Boetz . It's just the right amount of sweetness and is wonderfully thirst quenching.
Crispy chicken wings $3.50 each
Ask me any time what my favourite cut of the chicken is and I will always say the wing. So that is why I am always compelled to order them especially if they're described as crispy. These ones are blistered, perfectly seasoned with a crunch you can hear in your ears. They come out piping hot and I jiggle them in my fingers trying to cool them. They come with a sweet chilli sauce and a lime wedge. If I could have ordered more I would have.
Silken tofu in tamarind and sesame sauce $12
I had a hankering for tofu which admittedly doesn't happen very often and this one comes as a large rectangle of tofu still with the ridges from the container and topped with coriander, shallot, baby corn and in a sea of tangy tamarind sauce along with fresh lime and there are sesame seeds to give it smokiness. It would be ideal with some rice although the rice needs a little prompting.
Barossa chicken, Chinese broccoli & ginger $18
This deeply flavoured broth was warming and came with a large tender and juicy thigh portion and a drumstick and underneath it lay a tangle of Chinese broccoli, coriander and thin shreds of ginger. It's not ideal for sharing although they do thoughtfully give us two spoons. It's more the dish you huddle over while you get warm allaying yourself of Sydney's current Arctic winds.
Green curry with fish dumplings $15
Now I don't often see curries with dumplings so we had to order this (as opposed to the equally tempting red curry with pork and ginger). The dumplings are not what you would expect, there is no pastry skin on them, rather they are like a light and airy salmon mousse ball. It sits in a green curry redolent with Thai basil and a chiffonade of kaffir lime leaf and is spicy and flavoursome.
It's now 2pm and the restaurant has cleared and they come to clear our plates. The manager asks us if we would like him to cut up our young coconuts for dessert and we happily agree. Waste not want not! I have vague dinner memories of Mr NQN's mother taking home two young coconuts in her bag after a meal to feed Mr NQN's 23 year old brother. He then packs up the rest of the tofu which he puts in a container along with a container of extra rice in a paper takeaway bag! See, who says Sydney siders aren't friendly? And take a friendly tip from them for the best time to dine to avoid queues-from 11:30am to 12:15pm and then after 2pm. Or you could always get take away...
So tell me Dear Reader, do you think Sydney siders are friendly?
8-10 Hunt Street (opposite Hotel Hollywood) Surry Hills, NSW
Open Lunch Monday to Friday 11am to 3pm
Shop Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm