Khānaa is the new Bengali restaurant from Chef Opel Khan. Located on Crown Street in Surry Hills, Khanna's menu is inspired by the food that he ate growing up in Bangladesh but elevated with a choice of a la carte and tasting menu.
The word Khānaa is a Bengali word that means to "Feast" or "Food" but is also a play on Chef Opel Khan's name. Khānaa takes up the space on Crown Street left by Flour, Eggs Water just underneath the Adina Apartment hotel. Chef Opel explains that he has worked on this concept of a restaurant featuring food from his Bangladeshi childhood for 5-6 years. "I think there's room for a place like this," he says looking around. The restaurant is moody, sexy and dark with an open kitchen with chef Jazz Singh at the helm. Anchoring the room is a one of its kind illuminated sculpture by New York artist called Mermaid.
This evening we are trying the Anek or tasting menu which is $175 per person and features all of the best dishes from the menu. Chef Opel is here this evening chatting to the patrons along with his daughter Jasmine who is working the floor. Opel's other daughter Lucinda is normally a chef in the kitchen but on this evening she is interstate.
I remember absolutely loving the amuse bouches when we visited Metisse and at Khanaa they do not disappoint. Their version of aloo pakora or fried potato fritters comes as fine potato threads deep fried and topped with buffalo curd and spherified Shiraz caviar on top. This gives each bite a beautiful crunch as well as creamy pop (although I fail spectacularly to eat this elegantly and make a mess of potato shreds all over the table). The staff come over and clean it up reassuring me that it's not just me but I think they're just being polite.
We've all had samosas but this is a twist on the triangular pastry. Here it is a beautifully thin pastry tart filled with duck leg confit seasoned with Indian spices and topped with fermented pink daikon flowers and a light touch of mandarin that give the rich meat a counterpoint. It's very moreish, the pastry artfully thin and crisp and once it's over I immediately want another.
The next dish is for tomato lovers. It's an ode to the tomato with a fluffy tomato marshmallow, a quenelle of tomato chutney sorbet and an intensely dark red tomato powder that gives the dish an intense, sweet salty seasoning. I scrape the bottom of the bowl for the last crumbs of that tomato dust flavour bomb.
The next dish is the dish that Chef Opel is known for: the mosaic. When we had it at Metisse we were so curious about how it is made but it's a trade secret. It's a thin slice of tuna, kingfish and trout with charred vegetables separating each. They sit atop a layer of watermelon slices, salt flakes and cardamom with browned butter spooned on top. It's so delicate and beautiful that you almost don't want to cut into it.
The next dish is inspired by paaya, a classic Bengali dish. Chef Opel explains that Paya means "leg" or "feet" and traditionally uses hooves that are cooked down for many hours to create a curry. Here they use beef tendon and cook it for 36 hours and then put it on dry ice to create a thin crisp. It is served with oxtail bone marrow in an ox tail consommé, rich in spices and flavours.
The Yamba prawns are the penultimate savoury dish and while we've had a lot of courses, it never feels like too much food or too little. There are two large, shelled prawns served with a fresh and herby green masala, broccolini and finished with mustard oil.
The next dish is the sticky beef short ribs and features wagyu that has been sous vided for 24 hours. It is then pressed and glazed with garam masala, tamarind and turmeric and paired it with Aloo Bhorta or mustard potato mash, honey and palm sugar. On top is a delicate honeycomb shaped cardamom tuile made with the fat from the beef. The beef is delightfully soft and intensely flavoured and pairs well with the potato and crisp tuile. I eat this slowly savouring every bite of this dish.
Chef Opel describes the Aam Panna of his childhood. When mango season starts, people often can't wait for the mangoes to ripen so they pick them and bury and cook them in charcoal for 2-3 hours. After the skin is peeled off what remains is a perfect green mango puree. Then they add sugar, spices and ice for a drink that is perfect for cooling down in the heat. Here the Aam Panna is made into a sorbet with chunks of fresh, sweet mango, a sheet of edible platinum and chaat masala. It's refreshingly delightful and the chaat masala spice seasoning gives this a sweet saltiness.
Our final course arrives and it has been 2 hours of amazing Bengali food. The dessert starts with a base of cumin of Jeera biscuit with a milk chocolate ganache, chai tea foam and a passion fruit veil. The cumin gives this a really interesting savoury quality but the ganache and chai tea foam make this more familiar in each bite.
So tell me Dear Reader, what was the food of your childhood?
NQN and Mr NQN were guests of Khanaa but all opinions remain her own.
3/355 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Tuesday to Thursday 5:30-12am
Friday to Sunday 10:30am-12am