Working out nicely
This cool Asian restaurant popped up and decided to stay
Name: Work In Progress Address: 50 King St, City Ph: 9240 3000 Cuisine: Asian Bill for 3: $60
Apop-up is a great marketing exercise, a way to test the waters before committing to a full-blown restaurant. A culinary version of try-beforeyou-buy, if you will. If all goes well, it can remain open, but if things don’t go quite according to plan, you can pack up without having risked it all. Luckily, it was a case of the former for Work In Progress, but it probably didn’t hurt that Merivale was behind the venue.
Patrick Friesen took a break from Merivale’s BBQ smokehouse Papi Chulo, to create foods that chefs like to eat — and judging by the menu, that’s fried chicken and noodles.
Phnom Penh wings come with lime and white pepper ($16), there’s fried chicken with ginger and nuoc cham ($16), fried chilli chicken with peanuts ($16) or go the combo — half chilli, half ginger — ($18) for the best of both worlds.
The chilli sauce is nice and sticky and it’s good to see the rice flour batter holds up well and doesn’t disintegrate when liberally doused. Like all respectable fried chicken, it’s on the bone so it’s all about eating with your hands. To aid in this pursuit, the tables are set with handy wet wipes next to the chopsticks.
The plain chicken has no sauce, so there’s extra crunch factor, the nouc cham dipping sauce has a good kick to it and comes with a side of kimchi, pickled daikon and garlic cucumbers.
The noodle dishes — including wonton mein, egg noodle, port and prawn wonton, supreme broth ($16), Sichuan duck and tofu lo mein ($16) — aren’t the mammoth bowls you get in Chinatown. These are smaller so you can fit in a few other dishes, and are heavier on noodles rather than broth. Curried wagyu brisket lo mein ($16) is thick and rich but the meat could have been softer.
From the name, it’s easy to see that agedashi-ish tofu ($14) won’t be what you’re used to. For one thing, it’s a mammoth serve, not just a few cubes in dashi broth, and we’re happy the kitchen has been heavy-handed on the garnish: loads of bonito flakes plus creamy globs of Kewpi mayonnaise.
Wontons ($12) are also a winner, the silky skins fat with a juicy pork and prawn filling, topped with peanuts and sesame seeds.
Merivale is still calling this a pop-up space, but with no plans to close and talk of more to come from the venue later this year, it’s safe to say it’s progressing nicely.
The funky interior of Work In Progress in the heart of Sydney’s CBD (main); and (above) the cleverly named agedashi-ish tofu ($14) is a huge serve with plenty of garnish. Pictures: John Fotiadis