S'more is a new bistro in Castlecrag from chef Sam Young and Grace Chen that has everyone abuzz. The atmosphere is casual but the food is all about bistro food with Asian flavours as well as lobsters, caviar and champagne.
Chef Big Sam Young was one of the most active chefs during COVID offering truffle pasta, dumplings and meatballs to his customers and he built up a big following as customers followed him from Mr Wong, Ms G’s, Queen Chow and Totti’s to his own endeavor called the "BSY experience" delivering meals and private dining. The "hustle wall" in S'more is a photo testament of the past 2 years hustling during COVID. During that time Laura had ordered his lobster pasta for a dinner and she was so enamoured that I knew that was where we had to go for her birthday.
Castlecrag is an interesting place to open a bistro - certainly the vibe inside S'more is more cool, inner city but Castlecrag is a quiet, leafy suburb where the supermarket closes at 8pm. Sam was drawn to Castlecrag for a specific reason, "I love that neighbourhood bistro vibe. I don’t want to be in the city or the eastern suburbs. I also want a place is also a bit hidden, like a secret joint. A place that you actually need to look for. So the feel of Castlecrag is just perfect. I believe all my customers will come to me and I was right."
The name S'more has three meanings behind it as Sam explains, "The food is so good so you will come back for some more. The Letter S is stand for Sam and “Superbananana” (Grace's nickname). One time my partner looked up the Chinese translation of S’more and one of the translations reads 'Food that is mouth watering, hard to forget.' Then we know this is the right name."
I walk through the side door which is the entrance with neon red glasses (Sam's glasses) and Sam is waiting on the floor to greet everyone. The restaurant is dark, an unusual choice for Sam who works social media like a pro, but service is friendly from most of the staff and Sam looks after tables checking on them to see if they need anything and if they're happy. The restaurant seats 35 and it is full this evening.
There is a cocktail menu and we start with glasses of Ruinart champagne and then the Mango pancake cocktail which is made with Finlandia vodka, mango and vanilla cream. Laura and I both adore this cocktail that tastes pretty much like a mangoes and cream Weiss bar.
Food-wise the menu is like a list of indulgences from white sea urchin, live local rock lobster, full blood wagyu and Beluga caviar as well as dishes like Sam's dumplings and clay pot fried rice. Two days before we were dining I got a text with a list of pre-orders for items like the signature lobster pasta for $138 and the 2GR Bone in Rib Eye 900 for $350. The text also reminded us that there was a minimum of $95 per person and a 2 hour seating time. We pre-ordered the lobster and pippies for $238 as it is a special occasion and the birthday girl had a hankering for lobster.
One of my favourite items ever is a lobster roll but so often they don't fulfil expectations. Sometimes there's not enough lobster, the dressing isn't balanced (and there's too much or too little), there's some sad, limp iceberg lettuce and the whole thing is an exercise in disappointment. However these lobster rolls are perfection. There's the perfect amount of lobster so that you get a big mouthful in every bite, the sauce is perfectly seasoned and the caviar on top gives this a luxurious salty hit. They're $35 each and they're dainty sized but every bite is perfection. "I only use live lobsters from Australia best seafood supplier Red Claw Seafoods. They only offer exported quality lobsters. The way I like my lobster roll is 100 % lobster meat. No potato, no lettuce, no nothing. If I want to eat a lobster roll. I wanted to taste lobster nothing else," explains Sam.
The potato cakes are two deep fried potato cakes with a thin coating encasing a creamy mash centre and when you take a bite inside there's a liquidy salted egg yolk custard right at the centre. These were inspired by the yum cha lava bun.
The house made shallot bread is served warm (mercy yes!) and with a ramekin of miso butter. It's gorgeously soft and a sponge for that miso butter. The shallot bread could be a bit larger or even a bigger serve to feed two.
The bread goes really well with the tomato, stracciatella and nectarines, particularly the sweet nectarines. There is a layer of stracciatella on the base and sweet tomatoes and nectarines on top.
Then comes out the main event: a whole lobster, pippies and curry leaf butter. This normally comes with just fries but we pre-ordered this with fresh mafaldine pasta. It's an enormous lobster with plenty of moreish curry leaf butter and a smattering of pippies. The lobster is succulent but quite firm in texture and you just have to get in there with hands and prise the meat out and then drag it through the luscious curry leaf butter (made with curry leaves, lobster butter and lobster head oil). The pasta is perfectly al dente and has already soaked up the curry leaf butter sauce. It's an extra $30 which isn't cheap for the amount of pasta but this really is the best way to eat it. The fries have a vinegar powder seasoning. Grace used to live in Scotland and her love of salt and vinegar chips made her create this seasoning using sushi vinegar powder and these are designed to mop up the sauce.
When we ordered Sam recommended that we get an additional protein but truthfully at this stage after the lobster we already full but the freight train was steaming ahead with more food. They did the roasted chicken in a half serve with parsnip puree and a black pepper sauce. The texture of the chicken is amazing. The meat is so luscious and soft and the skin is super crispy. The flavour of the chicken is very robust and meaty too. The secret behind this is that the chicken takes 5 days to prepare. It is first brined overnight and then glazed with maltose sugar and then placed in the dry ager for 2 to 3 days to dry out the skin. The sauce is like a steak pepper sauce and is an interesting pairing with chicken.
While there were more vegetables and sides that we wanted we were already punching above our weight, literally. But Laura had heard that the claypot fried rice was amazing. It is a good, solid version with plenty of lup cheong and shiitake with a fried egg on top and a good wok hei (breath of the wok).
The dessert menu is separate and features 4 items: a fruit sorbet, their signature Yuen Yuen crème caramel, crème brulee and S'mores. The Yuen Yuen is based on the Yuen Yuen coffee and tea drink from Hong Kong. "We wanted a bit of heritage of where I come from on the menu and Grace loves pudding so this dish was born," explains Sam. The crème caramel is flavoured with a coffee and tea. It's not overly sweet and the tea is surprisingly, a stronger flavour than the coffee.
And you can't go past the dessert item after which the restaurant is named. Their take on a S'more is a roasted marshmallow with chocolate and hand selected potato chips. The potato chips are flat taking the place of the cookie and the marshmallow is roasted dark. I would have loved more chocolate in this as it looks like there's just the merest smear of it on the potato chip.
Our bill is close to $500 but half of that is the lobster and pippies and it is a special occasion. It is the sort of place you could celebrate at but also the kind of place at which you can eat dumplings and fried rice.
So tell me Dear Reader, what do you think of the food here? Do you often order the pre-ordered dishes?
This meal was independently paid for.
79 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag NSW 2068