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The SMH - Beauty Rich and Rare - by Candice Chung

Fiat @ Food by Fiat - Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Sydney Morning Herald

Sunrise Asian

Shop 1, 21 Elizabeth Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales

By Candice Chung

Beauty rich and rare

Rambutan and pandan granita                                                Photo: Christopher Pearce

The gourmet grocery has become a live-in partner of some of Sydney's best-loved eateries. There's an undeniable appeal to shopping at a place where you've just had a good meal.

High on wine and carbohydrates, it's easy to start believing in a life filled with aged cheese and good butter. While European providores such as Fratelli Fresh and Salt Meats Cheese have paved the way for the post-meal splurge, a new wave of Asian produce specialists has entered the mix.

Potts Point's Sunrise Asian is one of them. Opened in August last year, Fiat Malaniyom's low-key concept store is a cross between a restaurant, fine food grocer and supplier to Australia's biggest restaurants.

Chefs from Quay, Sepia, Rockpool and Bennelong have been customers of his produce business for more than a decade, sourcing hard-to-find ingredients – home-grown torch ginger, white turmeric and quality Australian native foods.

"Quite often chefs from different restaurants would just hand me a wish list. Some of the projects could take a few years from start to finish," Malaniyom says.

He has several kitchen garden plots in Sydney where he trials new plants first before sending them to his growers."I usually observe the whole cycle of new produce and determine the best place for it to thrive," he says.

Sunrise Asian also includes a grocery store. Photo: Christopher Pearce

 store

Now he is cooking with his own harvest. Without any formal training as a chef, he skilfully runs a kitchen that brings his horticultural experiments to life, while his partner manages the front of house.

The focus on rare produce stands out on the seasonal menu, with ingredients including ice plant, beach banana and butterfly pea. While there is a distinct Thai influence in dishes such as snapper khao soi (a popular Chiang Mai curry noodle) and ma hor (minced meat on betel leaf), the menu is Malaniyom's interpretation of global cuisine.

We start with four out of six of the "small bites", canape-sized entrees, where much of the magic is. True to the pictures on social media, the butterfly pea dumpling with minced prawn and saltbush is a work of art. A marbled blue-and-white rice flour morsel is moulded into the shape of a bloom and served with a black vinegar dipping sauce. The bright colours come from a natural dye from fresh butterfly pea flowers. The dumpling takes on the quality of a Japanese ceramic.

The wrapping that holds the aromatic duck pancake together is so delicate it is almost translucent. The duck is plump and rich, creating a wonderful textural contrast with the sweet and sour crunch of pickled heirloom carrots and green mango.

There is no chance to mourn the last of the pancake before the blue swimmer crab arrives on a heart-shaped wasabi leaf. To me, this tiny mouthful embodies the ambition of Malaniyom's thoughtful cooking. As I pop the sparkling fresh crab in my mouth, the heat of the scud chilli mixes like a spicy cocktail with the citrusy finger lime caviar and kaffir lime threads.

The genius of the dish is that the wasabi leaf softens the spiciness with a mild, spinach-y glow. Who knew wasabi leaves taste like this? Or that each part of the plant can work a different magic on seafood?

The most substantial of the small plates is the red curry lobster on crispy rice cake, a palm-sized disc sprinkled with sea succulents, its richness cut with pickled Thai eschalots.

We somehow manage to share a rich, meaty snapper khao soi curry and wild ginger grilled spatchcock, with a side of turmeric and coconut rice. But I would have been just as happy with a second round of small bites.

If you make the mistake of not leaving enough room for a rambutarina – a rose-poached whole white nectarine in a collar of rambutan and pandan granita – take heart.

A short break and a browse in the grocery section can do wonders for post-dinner recovery. That is, if you're not already planning a second visit.

THE PICKS

Blue swimmer crab with finger lime on wasabi leaf; prawns, saltbush and butterfly pea dumpling; duck pancake with green mango; the rambutarina

THE LOOK

Gourmet grocery store tucked inside a modern, laid-back eatery

THE SERVICE

Hospitable and helpful