85 Commonwealth St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Lunch Mon-Sat noon-2pm; dinner Mon-Wed from 6pm; Thu-Sat from 5.30pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9280 3395|
The video on the restaurant's Facebook page is a parable for our times. Displaced by an electrical fire at the seven-year-old Nomad in Foster Street, Surry Hills, staff carry their stockpots up the street, up the road and in through the door of the former Longrain site.
There, the black-and-white footage transforms into colour, the moral of the story being regeneration, growth and transformation.
But can Nomad continue to survive off-site for the next four months without its wood-fired grills and oven? Can exec chef Jacqui Challinor and head chef Sam McCallum camp out in a strange kitchen and still feed the hungry hordes? Will there even BE hungry hordes, or will fickle diners find the walk around the corner too arduous?
Judging by the packed seats at lunch and dinner, it's clear that what was one of Sydney's most popular restaurants is still one of Sydney's most popular restaurants. The central kitchen is lined with chefs, and the new dining space has a Scandi charm; soft light washing over pale blond tables and newly commissioned art.
A new kitchen has necessitated new dishes, but it's the old that are the drawcards. Kingfish ceviche ($29) is fresh and tangy, the cubed fish topped with finger lime pearls, slips of fried garlic, buttons of creamy avocado puree, baby coriander and society garlic flowers, ready to scoop up with shards of coriander crackers.
This "chips and dips" riff soon becomes a constant. A creamy cannellini bean hummus ($18) comes with terrific zaatar-dusted flatbread – now successfully flat-grilled on a plancha, rather than wood-fired.
It happens, too, with a new dish of hand-picked mud crab with espelette pepper and migas (fried crumbs) served in a little copper pot at an uncharacteristically high-level price of $60. You pile the creamy, mayo-rich picked crab onto house-made potato crisps and go for it. Good fun, although the thing you're really paying for (crab) gets a bit lost in the richness.
Murray cod, our finest farmed fish, is handled with care, pan-roasted until the skin is as crisp as a cracker ($39), yet the snow-white lobes of flesh still retain their juices. The chips and dips, in this case, are a crisped vine leaf and an overly sweet macadamia cream, with a nicely feisty salsa verde as well.
Such richness means you'll need the cool oasis of a salad; either green ($12), with leaves, radish and shaved fennel from Martin Boetz's Hawkesbury-based Cooks Co-op; or red ($21), with heirloom tomatoes in a red onion, oregano and anchovy vinaigrette that never gets in the way.
One of my favourite summer varietals, arneis, is here in a vibrant, savoury, balanced 2019 Thick as Thieves arneis from the Yarra Valley ($16/$53).
Three other good reasons to dine at Nomad are the chardonnay, pinot noir and saignee rosé by glass or 500ml carafe from their "From A Farr" collaboration with Geelong winemaker Nick Farr.
The olive oil ice-cream sandwich ($18) is more unrelenting richness, a creamy parfait between two friable fingers of pastry, smothered in a so-sweet avalanche of sesame sugar, pistachio, halva and brown sugar crumble. It's completely over-the-top – no wonder it's the biggest seller.
In June, Nomad moves back to its original Foster Street premises, while at the same time opening a second restaurant in Melbourne. That shouldn't be a problem. If there's one thing these guys know how to do, it's start anew.
Vegetarian: three small dishes, one big and three sides.
Drinks: Bespoke cocktails and an Australian-led wine list and extensive grower champagne list curated by Gerard Bellis.
Go-to dish: Kingfish ceviche, avocado, finger lime, coriander crackers, $29.
Pro tip: The Saturday rosé lunch lives on – a five-dish menu and bottomless rosé every Saturday for $75 a head.