2016 is more than just working out how much wriggle room you have with your New Year’s resolutions (all our good intentions will totally kick in tomorrow, right?), but a box-fresh January also means a year of new openings to look forward to.
Here are some places to get excited about.
–Toby Wilson’s “not shit” Mexican joint, called Ghostboy Cantina. Since running Wedge Espresso and Sloppies, Toby has been at Sample Coffee and is currently borderhopping between California and Mexico as culinary homework (recent research assignment: devouring “deep fried crispy tripe with punch-you-in-the-jatz salsa roja” at El Tonayense in San Fran). Seeing as he recently headed to Japan for some recon and is opening Ghostboy Cantina on Chinese New Year in Dixon House Food Court, don’t be surprised to learn that the menu has stopover points in Asian territory.
-On every single visit, I was knocked out flat by how spectacular the food was at Cafe Paci. I remember early on, Hartsyard’s Gregory Llewellyn telling me it was the most exciting restaurant he’d been to in Australia. And I definitely cheered loudly when its owner Pasi Petanen won the title of Good Food Guide 2016 Citi Chef of the Year. I’m grateful that Cafe Paci kept getting extensions on its original one-year-only expiration date as a pop-up, but since its closure last month, I definitely feel the dining scene is a little less exciting with Pasi missing in action. Like Callan Boys, I’ve got my radar trained on what Pasi does next. Hopefully it might be that bakery he mentioned to Scott Bolles in November. If anyone is going to convert us from sourdough tragics into rye diehards, it’ll be this ultra-talented chef.
-Speaking of disappearances from the local scene, our Pinbone cravings haven’t exactly buzzed by. Ever since the restaurant closed its Woollahra location last year, its crack team (Mike Eggert, Jemma Whiteman and Berri Eggert) has made the occasional cameo at events and pop-ups (including that epic Good Food Month food fight), but having no full-time access to Pinbone has been a bit of a heartbreaker. When I talked to Mike for my podcast recently, he said they were going to resume looking for a new site in early 2016, but the good news is that we don’t have to wait too long for Pinbone’s next stint. As Pat Nourse notes, the crew is moving into 10 William Street from February and they’re sticking around to June.
-And of course, one of the big openings of 2016 is bound to be Hubert, a collaboration between Swillhouse Group (aka the reason we’ve been boozehounds at Shady Pines Saloon and Baxter Inn or pigged out to late-night pizza at Frankie’s) and cooking ace Daniel Pepperell, who made 10 William Street the go-to spot for its triple hit of excellent Italian food, wine and hip hop. His winning streak at 10 William Street was so relentless that pretty much every chef I had on my podcast kept citing it as one of their favourite places to eat. Merivale’s Dan Hong even predicted that it would land in the top 10 of the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Restaurants list because “all chefs love it”. (It ended up at a still-incredibly-impressive no. 21). Australian Bartender has reported that Hubert will be like “Baxter Inn on steroids” and the French-themed venue will open in February.
-Circling back to Merivale, that hospitality empire has two big-deal venues about to open, too. There’s Queen Chow (which you may have been tracking on Instagram via its #enmorechinese hashtag, which was born nine months ago) and Fred’s. Queen Chow has a crackerjack team behind it – Papi Chulo’s Patrick Friesen and Christopher Hogarth and Mr Wong’s Eric Koh (who recently flexed his dumpling mastery through his Work In Progress pop-up). Danielle Alvarez got announced as a star signing to Merivale way back in May 2014, so it will be great to see this Chez Panisse alumni finally get her own restaurant, which is Fred’s (it’s located close to The Paddington, where you might have spotted her working recently). You can preview these two ventures via the chefs’ events on the March Into Merivale program.
-We said goodbye to the Rising Sun Workshop ramen pop-up in September 2014, but luckily there wasn’t too much separation anxiety at first as we knew its team had secured a permanent location on the old Mitre 10 site in Newtown. Setting up a venue from scratch is always a long game and, despite a cameo at Underbelly Arts, it’s been a while since our last noodle-slurp at Rising Sun. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the interior before Christmas – it looks really impressive. Hopefully the crew gets to the finishing line soon! (And I can’t wait for Rising Sun Workshop’s expanded menu in the new site. There might even be breakfast ramen.)
-You might have been impressed by Trunk Road’s appearance at the Night Noodle Markets in October. (A friend told me that it was her favourite stall at the event.) A permanent venue on Darlinghurst’s Crown Street is next on the cards and given that the venture is by the team behind Bang in Surry Hills, it’s powered by some solid credentials. The fact that Bang just scored a star review in the New York Times this month and was listed as one of the ‘top 10 hottest newcomers’ in the 2016 Good Food Guide definitely won’t hurt the Trunk Road cause.
-Later this year, Mike McEnearney will be opening No.1 Bent Street by Mike in the Sydney CBD. As he told Good Food’s Scott Bolles, it’s “basically Kitchen by Mike without the queue”, which is a pretty excellent-sounding scenario. (Incidentally, Gourmet Traveller noted that Kitchen By Mike will be setting up residency at the airport, as part of the Sydney Boulevard food precinct, due to open soon with Benny Burger, Shannon Bennett’s take on something we definitely want fries with.)
–Kerby Craig’s Ume Burger pop-ups will finally get to outlive their brief once-a-month spells when he gets to set up at Barangaroo in September. Of course, we are all going to offer no resistance to his Japanese-style burgers, yuzu soda and konbu-salt fries.
-Speaking of Barangaroo, of course the blockbuster opening of 2016 will be Noma’s Australian pop-up at the site on Tuesday. Callan Boys wrote “that Noma won’t just take Sydney by storm when it opens January 26 at Barangaroo, it will hurricane the Harbour City to the ground” in his Good Food predictions for this year. Bookings for Noma Sydney were famously hard to get, given that reservations sold out in 90 seconds and there were 84,000 people looking at the booking page per minute. I still remember the online frenzy when I scrambled to get a table as the reservations page went live – and the holy-shit-this-is-happening elation when I landed one for mid-February (and got interviewed by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation about my booking-scoring success)! My favourite story about outlandish attempts to attain a Noma booking is this one, BTW. And if you didn’t get a table, it’s still possible to get the Rene-Redzepi-in-Sydney experience, as Good Food is hosting the Australian premiere of the documentary, Noma: My Perfect Storm, on February 8 at Randwick Ritz, followed by a Q&A with the Noma chef and owner.