Paper Bird review

Shrimp-brined fried chicken, soy and syrup.
Shrimp-brined fried chicken, soy and syrup. Photo: Christopher Pearce

46A MacLeay St Potts Point, NSW 2011

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am–11pm ; Sat 8am–11pm ; Sun 8am–3pm
Features Outdoor seating, Wheelchair access, Gluten-free options, Accepts bookings, Breakfast-brunch, Bar
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 9326 9399

No way am I going to rave about the fried chicken at Paper Bird. Just because it was the hottest dish at Moon Park, and Ben Sears, Eun Hee An and Ned Brooks now lead with it at their new Potts Point dining hotspot, doesn't mean a thing.

But guess what, folks. There's no getting around it. Korean fried chicken is pretty damn good at the best of times, but when you have two smart, committed young chefs brining Bannockburn chicken in shrimp paste and buttermilk, then flash-frying it at two different temperatures to strengthen the crunch of the crust and sending it out drizzled with a sweet and savoury soy and maple syrup dressing and cubes of pickled daikon ($25 for five pieces), then it's next-level, whether you like it or not. And of course I do.

The kids are having fun squishing their post-Moon Park modern Korean remit into a contemporary breakfast, lunch, dinner business model that channels Melbourne's all-conquering Cumulus Inc. (Seriously, the only question anyone in the industry faced with a decision need ask themselves, is "What would Andrew McConnell do?")

The gorgeous gangnam-green interior.
The gorgeous gangnam-green interior. Photo: Christopher Pearce

So it's scrambled eggs with char siu bacon or rice and milk congee with crab, corn and doughstick chips for breakfast; and pickled mussels with garlic chive kimchi or tripe and cabbage miso hot pot for lunch and dinner.

They've kept the bones of the old Potts Point Bourke Street Bakery site – hard wooden banquettes and poured concrete floors – and turned the front bread counter into coffee and cocktails.

The biggest difference is the shimmery, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea green on the walls, immediately dubbed gan-green by one local designer. Ignore him, because it's gorgeous – more your gangnam-green, like the fun avocado-on-rye with sesame and coriander ($14) for breakfast.

Bibimbap with spanner crab, brussels sprouts and egg.
Bibimbap with spanner crab, brussels sprouts and egg. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The popular Moon Park bibimbap ($28), basically a mix-it-yourself, things-on-rice bowl, gets a re-run here topped with softly scrammed egg, flaked spanner crab, brussels sprout leaves and crisp nori; the essential gochujang chilli sauce on the side for some necessary oomph.

Understated is also the word that comes to mind for a double-boiled chicken broth with enoki mushrooms, its natural sweetness thrown a little by black sesame oil ($10).

Service is fresh and likeable, headed by wine guy Brooks. His tightly focused wine list is driven by Europe but meets the challenge of very differently flavour-weighted dishes.

Cobia sashimi, pickled ginger and avocado.
Cobia sashimi, pickled ginger and avocado. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Even a gamay such as Chateau Cambon ($13/$83) – terrific with a mannered dish of pork belly and pickled fennel ($30) - could be too much for the more underplayed dishes. Go for sake with a lovely, subtle dish of cobia sashimi with coins of avocado puree and dried sea lettuce dust ($22), or beer (OB, Orion, Young Henrys) with the cute, slightly oily, prawn toast sandwich ($10 each).

If you do fall for the fried chicken – which you will – then freshen up with the bingsu ($13) of shaved milk ice, sweetly paired with citrusy yuzu curd and smooth hazelnut ice-cream.

This is nuanced, intuitive cooking from two gifted young chefs in a slightly challenged cafe basement space that works best at night. 

Milk bingsu, hazelnut and yuzu curd.
Milk bingsu, hazelnut and yuzu curd. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Dishes are small, and for me, flavours can be shy, but subtlety was never my strong point. It could well be theirs, however.

The low-down

Best bit: The breakfast/lunch/dinner business model.

Worst bit: Smallish portions.

Go-to dish: Shrimp-brined fried chicken, $25.

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.