Sunrise Asian, a supplier to many of Sydney's most exclusive restaurants now has a restaurant of its very own. Serving Thai inspired dishes, the standouts are the snacks and desserts. We quite frankly lost our minds over the rice cake topped with lobster and pork mince with sea succulents. The creative desserts also do not disappoint!
It's a Thursday night in Sydney's Elizabeth Bay. There are two girls facing each other sitting down on either side of two tables pushed together that are laden down with numerous plates of food. One of them is holding a round rice cake topped with lobster and quietly sobbing, "I don't want this to ever end, it's sooo good."
Yup I was one of those girls. It was me and JY aka the Black Widow. We were at Sunrise Asian on Elizabeth Bay Road and JY was having a semi religious moment (food is her religion). Having already undone four out of the ten buttons on her skirt to accommodate the food fest, we stopped talking and savoured every bite.
Sunrise Asian originally started as a supplier to high end restaurants in 2004. It whittled down its original list of 20 restaurants to 10 that now includes Quay, Rockpool and Sepia. A few months ago they opened up an eatery along with a small grocery shop. There is a room with a large share table and another area with smaller tables. Service is very friendly. The posters and pictures on the outside belie the delicious food inside. A reader had tipped me off about this place having been seduced by their grocery store featuring items like white turmeric, black garlic and fresh wasabi leaves.
The focus here is on produce and the menu is produce driven-where the fruit and vegetables are the centre and the protein is the secondary consideration. Fi Malaniyom and Anthony Donnel have built up a strong network of suppliers that they proudly showcase on their menu. For much of the produce, they test the crops in their garden and then ship off the seedlings to their growers to grow to ensure that the produce meets their exacting standards.
I start off with a young coconut water and JY grabs a house made made soy milk from the fridge. The coconut is sweet and seemingly never-ending. The soy milk is the perfect dampener for the spicy Thai food, especially for JY who is trying to increase her chilli tolerance. It is said to be sweetened with pandan but we don't really taste this.
The menu is broken up into sections and I find my sweet spot in the "small bite" section. The bites range from one bite wonders to quite substantial small bites. The blue swimmer crab was literally one bite of fresh, zingy and delightful crab and wasabi leaf-the leaf having none of the sinus clearing properties of the root.
The duck pancake is a favourite of ours. Whilst it isn't a Peking duck (no crispy skin) what elevates this is the divine black vinegar and citrus sauce which is strong in star anise. Even though the pancake has some in it they give you extra which we eat with a spoon. "Can I keep this?" asks JY when they take her plate away.
And then there is this rice cake. Actually quite sizeable they are house made crispy rice cakes topped with a saucy red curry pork mince, small pieces of pickled Thai shallots, tender lobster meat and sea succulents. At this point we stop talking and just concentrate on eating this. The texture and flavours are just perfect together and when we are halfway through, we contemplate ordering one to take home. It's cruncy, it's saucy and it's a full hit of flavour.
A few people, and they mostly looked like local patrons this weekday evening, ordered these pretty butterfly pea dumplings filled with prawns and saltbush. The butterfly pea is a purple flower that colours these dumplings which are made daily. They come with a strong black vinegar sauce and are quite good albeit a bit pricey per dumpling.
The mains start arriving and the first is a tonkin jasmine flower salad with grilled prawns and cubes of pork belly. The size is a little small given the price but it does deliver in terms of flavour. The pork belly cubes are tender and the torch ginger and galangal kaffir lime dressing is nicely balanced. They also bring over some tonkin jasmine and a butterfly pea flower just to show us what it is like without the dressing. The jasmine is quite mild in flavour and it is a versatile addition to many South East Asian recipes.
I do love banana flower and often order it in a salad. And a quick browse of the grocery store shows that there is banana flower sold. It forms a long pointy-ended tear drop shape in dark purple with the petals tightly packed and layered. Thin cross sections of the petals are lightly battered along with large school prawns and served with fresh, crunchy wing beans. The sauce on this is very sweet though, much too sweet for me.
Kaho Soi is a Burmese influence Chiang Mai noodle dish-somewhere between a curry and a soupier laksa. This one is stronger and more intense than the versions that we ate in Chiang Mai and the snapper fillet underneath is beautifully silky and tender. There is just one type of noodle here, a crispy deep fried noodle and there are no egg noodles or other additions on top.
"We need to leave room for dessert too!" said JY right at the beginning before we had ordered a thing and it was a good suggestion. The small bites and the desserts are really where it is all at. The Summer's Dream is a layer of lychee and raspberry jelly with white chocolate mousse, lychee granita and white chocolate pearls. They tell us that the jelly flavours are made by pressing the actual fruit and not artificial fruit flavourings. It's delicate, not too sweet and light. It also reminds me of ordering lychees and ice cream at Chinese restaurants when I was a kid.
The one that gets a lot of Instagram attention is the Rambutarina. It's an entire rose poached white nectarine with rambutan and pandan granita and coconut snow. I suspect Mr NQN if he were here would have devoured this fruit dessert. It's not only a beauty but perfectly balanced, the perfectly blush white flesh of the nectarine is poached until it has a velvety smooth texture and the strong pandan granita, which quickly melts in the heat is a nice contrast.
The bill isn't cheap at just over $100 a person but we did order quite a bit, although I suspect Mr NQN would still be hungry. But it doesn't stop us from discussing a return visit to eat the snack and dessert menu. The bill arrives with two rose apples or wax jambu fruit. A very crisp fruit similar to a nashi pear that isn't particularly sweet or indeed flavoursome. "We should have ordered more of those rice cakes!" I whisper to JY on the way out.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever ask to see the dessert menu before you order savoury dishes? And do you ever enjoy something so much that you stop talking to eat and savour it? What was the last dish that impressed you and where did you eat it?
This meal was independently paid for.
The Encore Building Shop1/, 21 Elizabeth Bay Rd, Elizabeth Bay NSW 2011
Tel: +61 (02) 9332 2844
Closed Sunday & Monday
Tuesday 11am to 3pm
Wednesday - Saturday 11am to 3pm, 6pm to 9pm