Rock Sugar, South Yarra

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MELBOURNE | Rock Sugar South Yarra is the newest Thai restaurant to hit Melbourne, and combining to make it all happen is a rather impressive team. Owner Nikon Souphan (Kanpai) has brought in head chef Kam McManamey (ex BangPop, Botherambo) and front of house manager Simon Tammesild (ex Mr Miyagi) to create a restaurant that aims to do things a little different than what Melbourne has seen before.

Walk inside and you’ll see that this isn’t your typical Thai restaurant. Design studio Eades & Bergman have created a 60 seater space with exposed brick walls, low lighting and splashes of neon and pastel colours. It’s a bit Melbourne circa 2016 meets the 1980s, but in a good way. There’s a bar are out the front, more seating at the back towards the open kitchen, and plans for an outdoor courtyard to open in the summer. Visible everywhere is mascot Phi Phi a pink neon Fortune Cat who waves at you as you enjoy the old school hip-hop tunes playing in the background.

We are huge fans of McManamey’s cooking, and indeed it was his involvement in Rock Sugar that piqued our interest in the restaurant in the first place. We’ve always been impressed by McManamey’s dedication to bringing authentic flavours to the table, drawn from his love of Thai food and time spend travelling throughout Thailand and nearby countries like Sri Lanka learning about regional specific cuisines. The food at Rock Sugar continues this region specific influence, focusing on the street food of Isan and Chang Mai.

Having proven that he’s capable of dishing out authentic versions of various Thai cuisines, McManamey’s aim at Rock Sugar is to have a bit of a play with the dishes. While respect for the ingredients, traditional techniques and authentic flavours are still present, and there are some traditional dishes on the menu, there also features a number of non-traditional dishes that can best be described as Modern Thai. Take spring rolls for example. There are spring rolls on the menu at Rock Sugar, but McManamey’s version contains saltbush lamb and massaman coconut cream. The fried chicken ribs meanwhile, combine red nam jim with lemongrass and chilli caramel.

In many ways this is what Thai authenticity is all about. Recently there was an outcry in Thailand when the government announced it was going to attempt to come up with government approved, standard recipes for a number of Thai dishes. Those who know anything about Thai food balked at this idea as one of the main joys of Thai food is that there are no standard recipes – everyone makes every dish a little different. The massaman curry that your get at your favourite street food stall isn’t going to be the same as you mum’s massaman curry. Never mind that massaman curry was actually introduced into Thai cuisine thanks to Persian merchant Sheik Ahmad Qomi. When it comes to authenticity with Thai food, it’s about so much more than a slavish reproduction of recipes and McManamey’s food is the perfect expression of this.

The focused menu is split into several sections, with a number of individual, small and larger dishes available. If you’re having trouble deciding what to order the 7-course $49.00 “feed me” option is a good choice. We enjoyed everything that we ate on our first visit (we’re already planning a return to try more of the menu) but a few dishes really stood out. The smoked ocean trout betel leaf with kaffir lime, chilli, coconut and roe provides a great start to the night with a mixture of sweet, sour and chilli flavours combining with several textures to excite the taste buds. As usual with McManamey’s cooking, there’s no holding back on the heat level in an attempt to appeal to everyone, but heat is never used for the sake of it – it’s all about balance.

Another highlight is the pork belly with Nam Prik and pepper caramel. The pork belly is perfectly tender with melt-in-your-mouth fat and the sauce is something next level. If there were bottles of it for sale we would have bought some to take home as it’s that good. The Hiramasa king fish ceviche with chilli and salmon roe also impresses, finding just the right heat level to tantalise the tastebuds before the fish cools things down in your mouth.

For those with a sweet tooth, one of our surprise favourites is the turmeric, kaffir lime and coconut creme caramel with blood orange, spiced rice paper and cool mint. There’s a lot going on with each bite and the flavours come together brilliantly.

Drinks wise there’s a selection of local and Thai beers along with some carefully selected wines but for us it’s all about the “Rocktails”. A highlight is the Blue Bird, which uses the venue’s bubble cup machine to make an adult version of bubble tea – sake, lychee, lemongrass, violette and citrus. Totally addictive and fun. The fun theme continues with another of of our favourites, the “made-for-Instagram” fairy floss martini which comes in two parts. A martini glass filled with fairy floss and a test tube filled with a vodka and lemon martini. Pour the liquid into your glass, watch the fairy floss dissolve and voila!

Expectations were high when Rock Sugar was announced and we’re very pleased to say that they’ve been well and truly met. The space is fun, service attentive and McManamey’s cooking on-point. Rock Sugar delivers on its promise and offers a unique spin on Thai food unlike anything that’s been seen before in Melbourne.

Rock Sugar

477 Malvern Road
South Yarra
Victoria 3141
Australia

Telephone: (03) 9826 2888
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: http://www.rocksugar.com.au/

Open
Wed – Sun: 5:00pm to late

Rock Sugar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Paul
Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences. Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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