Good Luck Pinbone review

Cuttlefish sang choy bao.
Cuttlefish sang choy bao. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

121 Anzac Parade Kensington, NSW 2033

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You've got to give it to chefs Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman and restaurant manager Berri Eggert – the crew behind Pinbone – they don't do things by halves. The pop-up veterans have worked in just about every unlikely restaurant situation you'd care to name in Sydney, from the backs of wine bars to the backs of breweries.

They've had a standalone restaurant where they were simultaneously lords of the late-night snack and the kings of brunch. And now here they are out in Kensington, home of excellent Indonesian food and pretty much every university student in the east.

The trio have taken up residence in a broken down old Chinese restaurant, doing as little to it as humanly possible to make it habitable. Vibe-wise, it's Sydney's answer to Mission Chinese: aim low on the decor front, deliver high from the kitchen. But that's where the comparison between here and Danny Bowien's ultra-popular, ultra-irreverent San Francisco restaurant begins and ends.

Eel on toast.
Eel on toast. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Because the menu here is very much Eggert and Whiteman's. They're working with little more than a couple of woks and a Hibachi grill, banging out dishes that are part Chinese on paper and idiosyncratically Pinbone on the plate.

So maybe it'll be deep-fried strips of cuttlefish, unabashedly fragrant with white pepper, served with a thicket of fresh herbs and lettuce cups for their take on sang choy bao. Only here, there's house-made chilli sauce and a tiny saucer of buttered noodles. Phwoar.

Since they're only BYO, I'd suggest cracking open a few long necks and pretending you're a Labor heavy from the '80s. Put 'em on ice if you're feeling fancy/overheated – that room is three flavours of warm – and then add an order of smoked eel on toast. Here, a thick slice of soy and linseed sourdough is covered in a kind of smoked eel rillettes and thin slices of celtuce (think of it as a Chinese version of celery for people who don't like to chew). There's something almost French about it.

Chefs Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman with restaurant manager Berri Eggert.
Chefs Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman with restaurant manager Berri Eggert.  Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Unlike the chrysanthemum greens, stir-fried and laid over a custard made of macadamia milk. Very Chinese, but also very Australia Right Now.

And that's what I like most about eating here. It's not traditional, though they use traditional technique and ideas. Take the welcome snack of pressed pork trotter, served as a cold cut scattered with toasted sesame.

And then there's Eggert and Whiteman's translation of a traditional fruit platter: the rich and noble pine-lime icy pole.

Stir-fried potato.
Stir-fried potato. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Unless you've just skipped right through to this paragraph, you'll have gathered that this isn't classical Chinese. Nor is it reactionary. No, Good Luck Pinbone's just operating at their own frequency. Tune in.

Pro Tip: You'll want to order a lot. Good Luck Pinbone is best served with a crew.

Go-to Dish: Make a space on the table for thin shreds of potato are stir-fried with beansprouts, topped with a single egg yolk, to be mixed through as its own dressing.