Well-heralded: Nomad in Surry Hills. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Having been delayed more times than the Northern Line via Strathfield, Nomad is not only the latest hot-spot in Surry Hills, but verily, the ''latest'' as well.
The silver lining is that the delays gave chef Nathan Sasi a bit of time to kill. He used it wisely, not by killing, but by curing, smoking and fermenting. Sasi, who trained at Rockpool and most recently cooked at London's Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, dried his own corn for polenta, smoked and dried peppers for paprika, and made the various vinegars and pickles dotted around the place. A handsome temperature-controlled maturing cabinet holds tiers of house-made cheeses and racks of house-cured and smoked meats.
The charcuterie selection ($24), cut to order on a flywheel slicer and served on a rough, round, wooden board, is the real deal. I've tried supple, subtle mortadella; dark, gamey wallaby salami; dramatically fat-studded beef heart sausage; nutty, deep-flavoured Serrano-style ham and, best of all, thin slices of silky, lardo-like, pig's head testino; all distinctively different in texture and flavour.
Go-to dish: Wood-roasted pork, silverbeet, Canary Island potatoes. Photo: Edwina Pickles
This sense of do-it-yourselfishness feels completely at home in the old Spence & Lyda furniture showroom, rendered into a vast, industrialised space of exposed ceilings, brick walls and poured concrete floors.
Co-owners Al Yazbek (formerly of Toko) and Rebecca Littlemore have installed a sunny, airy, casual cafe section with low tables at the front, a broad bar in the centre and an on-show kitchen bordered by tall stools to the rear. The two huge wine barrels by the door are sadly only for show, but it can surely only be a matter of time before Sasi crushes grapes with his bare feet and installs his own vintage.
The wood-fired oven and grill, however, are not just for show. From the grill comes smoked wagyu tongue ($9), sliced and concertina'd onto a skewer, with a garlicky, coriander mojo verde dressing cutting through the smoky crispness.
Aged to perfection: Nomad in Surry Hills has an in-built cheese room. Photo: Edwina Pickles
From the oven comes a slab of roast pork ($30) that is everything you want from roast pork – big, sweet flavour, magical notes of garlic and fennel, and crisp, salty crackling. Wilted silverbeet and a bowl of ''papas arrugadas'', those enchanting little Canary Island potatoes boiled in heavily salted water until soft and wrinkled, turn it into a feast. Warm house-made Jersey milk haloumi ($16) is a revelation to those who think haloumi is akin to tyre rubber, and golden empanadas filled with both confit pork shank and smoked pork shoulder ($12) are richly rewarding.
Occasionally, the kitchen goes a step too far, as if not knowing when to stop. A crisp-fried spanner crab falafel ($16) didn't need to be enveloped in an on-trend steamed bun; and a dish of barbecued quail with smoked pork and brussels sprouts ($28) felt over-worked and oily.
The bowed-down mulberry tree out in the street has been raided for a fresh, summery dessert of goat yoghurt sorbet, meringue and berries ($14), let down only by a black olive ''caramel'' sauce of undissolved sugar.
Staff are watchful and engaged, and the wine program is just as resourceful as the menu, put in place by Master of Wine Rob Geddes. A lively, all-Australian list highlights smaller regional winemakers including Michael Hall, who rates two pages alone.
His voluptuous, dry 2012 Barossa Valley Marananga Roussanne ($65) and fleshy, peachy 2012 Adelaide Hills Piccadilly chardonnay ($72) display enough balance and poise to help us cope without the Euros and the Kiwis for once.
All this mulberry-nicking, radish-pickling, wallaby-curing resourcefulness marks Sasi as a chef to watch, and Nomad as the next new restaurant you should try.
Best bit: The DIY mentality
Worst bit: Hard-to-read small-print menu
Go-to dish: Wood-roasted pork, silverbeet, Canary Island potatoes, $30
- 02 9280 3395
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Features - Accepts bookings, Bar, Business lunch, Licensed
- Chef(s) - Nathan Sasi
- Owners - Al Yazbek, Rebecca Littlemore
- Opening Hours - Lunch Mon-Fri from noon; Dinner Mon-Sat from 6pm
- Author - Terry Durack