238 Crown St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Mon 5:30–9pm ; Tue 6–10pm ; Wed-Sat 12–2:30pm, 6–10pm ; Sun Closed|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Gluten-free options, Licensed, Lunch specials, Vegetarian friendly, Bar, Private dining|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9007 8352|
You smell it as soon as you walk through Chaco Bar's doors. The sweet and primal scent of meat grilling over charcoal, found in the streets of Bangkok, the back alleys of Tokyo, and Spencer Street in Fairfield.
Grilling meat on sticks is a cultural thread across the globe. In Japan it's known as yakitori and on a jaunt to Tokyo last year it's all I ate. Ramen? Sashimi? Tonkatsu? Pfft. Wave a skewered bit of chicken skin under my nose and I'm anyone's.
Chaco Bar opened in Darlinghurst a few weeks ago at the site where Jazz City Diner once flipped burgers. It's everything stick-fiends in Sydney have been waiting for. Sure, we had the yakitori bar at Sepia, but eating at a three-hatted restaurant isn't like whacking on jeans and grabbing a bit of grilled chicken en route to the pub.
On a Tuesday night the place is pumping as a young Japanese crowd knock elbows with Darlinghurst's ASOS loyal. Plates of sizzling gyoza hiss around the room and bottles of James Squire clink and thud on a wooden share-table. (Chaco is currently BYO only and that includes beer - celebrate as you will).
The room is low lit and the menu difficult to read, but I'm sure I haven't seen this many sticks and balls on a sheet of paper since I was put in charge of ordering equipment for the high school hockey team.
Ball-wise, we're talking yakiyoni ($10 for two). Jam-packed rice, grilled and served with bits of fermented black cod. They're stickily good fun, but not as much fun as the real balls of the hour: meatballs on a stick with 62-degree egg ($14 for two). You pierce the egg, roll the meat stick around in soy goodness - and scoff. Meatball, stick, and a poached egg. Who needs the Melbourne Cup when you've got this trifecta going on?
Other excellent yakitori choices - and there's a lot - include pork belly, lamb shoulder, and most parts of a chicken you might care to mention (wings, thigh, heart) and many parts you might not. Chicken tail? Gizzard skin? Heart pipe? Chef Keita Abe is big fan of guts and hopes Sydney will be too. This is also one of the few menus you'll see advertising gristle.
There's also a daily sashimi special ($22), a beaut dish of barely-seared tuna belly with matchsticks of pig's ear and camouflage of sesame leaf ($14), and a six-month-aged banana brandy granita with vanilla ice-cream ($10) to round things out.
Get your stick into gear and and get stuck in.
DO: Ring up and book ahead.
DON'T: Be afraid; no guts, no glory.
DISH: Tsukune house-made meatball with 62-degree egg, plus any and all of the yakitori sticks, $4 each.