73 Glebe Point Road Glebe, New South Wales 2037
|Opening hours||Mon-Thurs 8am-2pm, 6-10pm; Fri 8am-2pm, 6pm-midnight; Sat 9am-midnight; Sun 9am-9pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
Picture the typical barista in Sydney and chances are you won't come up with anyone like Kevin Ly.
"I'm pretty much a dark horse in the industry. No one really knows who I am or where I'm from," says Ly, the founder and co-owner of Glebe's new coffee haunt, Brewristas.
For one thing, Ly is a mechanical engineer by trade. But unlike those who have abandoned their former professional selves in pursuit of the Great Artisanal Dream, the young Sydneysider has managed to transform his engineering knowledge into coffee-making skills.
Ly began experimenting with the science of coffee extraction about eight years ago, taking regular field trips to Japan and South Korea to learn from the best. His passion is filter coffee made with razor sharp precision. The cafe's elaborate brew bar, complete with cold drip towers, specialty flasks and distillation gadgets, is the kind of thing that will quicken the pulse of any Breaking Bad fan.
On a busy Saturday morning, our young waiter explains the tasting notes of the coffee specials with the poise of a sommelier. We go for a honey-roasted Proud Mary Costa Rican pour over and a lemony Dumerso Ethiopian siphon brew from Industry Beans, both surprisingly floral with no trace of bitterness in the finish.
Brewristas may only be three months old, but already it has caught the attention of big players such as Mecca, Campos and Toby's Estate. Turns out word has got around that the ex-engineer makes a killer cup.
"We use volumetrics to determine our coffee taste profile," Ly says. "A lot of old school baristas go purely by taste, but we use a refractometer, which measures exactly how much solid has dissolved in the solution. And I'll adjust the extraction level until I find the taste profile that I like."
On the food front, the cafe's Korean-influenced menu offers seven brunch classics with a twist. Head chef Dante Woo (ex Bill's Darlinghurst) weaves in familiar tastes from his childhood in dishes like Porky Pig's Hotteok, an offbeat take on the bacon and egg roll. In Woo's version, bread is replaced by two toasted honey jam-stuffed pancakes, a Korean snack that's usually sold on the sidewalk in winter. It's also served with a spicy guacamole and a fluffy mango habanero sauce.
The resulting sweet and savoury explosion is not for the faint hearted. While each component is tasty on its own (the bacon sweetly smoky and the hotteoks golden with a potsticker hued crust), it reminds me of a stoner's delight dessert – a mash of flavours best enjoyed by the happily intoxicated and the brave.
My money is on the deep-fried shin ramyum (instant noodle) encrusted balls with roasted pork belly, tofu and kimchi. The cheekily named dish (Kevin's Balls) is a spin on the Italian classic arancini, and proves to be just as moreish with a squeeze of lime. For the less adventurous, the generously portioned coconut poached chicken salad with pops of tangy pomegranate and crunchy fried shallots also satisfies.
A word of advice: don't leave without a second caffeine hit. We finish our meal with a round of cold brews. A traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, made with sweet condensed milk and robusta beans, is luxuriously silky and smells like the caramel milk lollies of my childhood. Equally worth trying is the effervescent 12-hour cold drip, blended and bottled in-house. Both are a fine match for the tiramisu pot plant, a delightful miniature clay pot of espresso-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone mouse dusted with Oreo biscuit crumbs. With each spoonful, we become more convinced there's no such thing as too much coffee.
THE PICKS Kevin's Balls, tiramisu pot plant, Vietnamese coffee
THE COFFEE Proud Mary and Sensory Lab (plus new samples from different coffee suppliers every week)
THE LOOK Stylish and spare
THE SERVICE Warm and knowledgeable