163 Enmore Road Enmore, New South Wales 2042
|Opening hours||Wed-Fri 5pm-midnight; Sat-Sun 2pm-midnight|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Private dining, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9557 7543|
|Free wine for Citibank cardholders here|
Walking from Newtown Station down Enmore Road, it's tempting to duck into lots of places – The Stinking Bishops, Hartsyard, Bar Racuda - where everyone seems to be having a good time. Resisting temptation, we keep going to Bauhaus West, which opened in December a few doors down from famed gelato house The Cow and the Moon.
Going on first impressions, Bauhaus looks like a bar. All the tables are raised with high stools, the walls are tiled in black, white and red, the music is on the loud side for talking, and there's a great big bar.
Other signs indicate a restaurant. Bookings are taken. The music is immediately turned down on request, no attitude. The wait staff are attentive and friendly and know a lot about the menu, which is split into taste, graze and feast. If you come in for a drink, try the olives marinated in-house or the shoestring fries with paprika and aioli.
If you fancy some share plates before seeing a show at the Enmore, graze on kara-age chicken, crispy pork belly and a trio of mini-burgers. If, like us, you are catching up with a friend over dinner, you can order from all the categories.
The compact menu is the work of chef Chris Thomas, who makes pretty much everything from scratch and is not afraid of intense flavours and mixed influences. Japan is an obvious one, and the name is a tribute to Thomas's favourite bar in Tokyo. Italian, French, Chinese and Middle Eastern techniques and flavours also appear, and everything we try has an element of surprise, from the couscous served with the calamari to the knock-out wasabi mash under the Patagonian toothfish (caught in Australia's only certified sustainable fishery). We vow never again to make mashed potatoes without wasabi.
Formerly an investment banker, Thomas loved cooking but only found the courage to open his own restaurant after doing well at MasterChef auditions. Bauhaus is also named for his fondness for the German modernist movement, reflected in the monochromatic fit-out and a wall mural by local artist Andre Hobday.
The high stools are surprisingly comfortable, and betel leaves with a crunchy pile of school prawns are an fine way to start, dunked in a spicy, salty, fishy dipping sauce.
A world away from salt and pepper squid, calamari here is crusted in a subtle dukkah Thomas makes with pistachios, coriander and sesame seeds, on a bed of fluffy yellow couscous with apricots. With yogurt and cumin on the side, the calamari rings are light and tender with no trace of oiliness. Hunan beef short ribs, which look like dark, brooding Easter Island slabs, are best tackled with the hands. The flavours are intensely rich from a four-to-five hour braise in soy sauce, shaoxing wine and dried chilli.
The toothfish is marinated in mirin, sake and white miso for three days then grilled briefly. It's a lovely meaty fish, well matched by a glass of Brockenchack Tru Su rosé from the wine list that's heavy on Australians, sprinkled with some French, Italian and Kiwis.
For dessert (listed under Bliss), the two choices are halva sour cream ice-cream stack and lemon tart, which makes it very easy to choose. More than enough to share, the halva stack is a magnificent free-standing mess on a dark chocolate biscuit base, the tangy sour cream ice-cream laced with crunchy, paper-thin sesame tuile, topped with chunks of halva (also made by Thomas) and raspberry and balsamic coulis. As with all the food, it combines a light touch with the skillful blending of unusual flavours and textures.
We are glad we stayed the course and made it to Bauhaus, a smart addition to Enmore's buzz.
THE PICKS Calamari, hunan short ribs, halva stack
THE DRINKS Succinct, well-curated wine list, classic cocktails, good selection of beers
THE LOOK Monochrome but still warm with a suave courtyard out the back
THE SERVICE Personable and helpful