Take the heart of Moon Park, move it from Redfern to a curiously turquoise, vaguely Art Deco-inspired, Potts Point basement. Widen the modern Korean brief to take in more of East Asia; and extend the formula to encapsulate breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yep, it even sounds like a scathingly brilliant idea.
There’s no doubt that Ben Sears, Eun Hee An, and Ned Brooks know what they’re doing. Paper Bird will likely top the charts as 2017’s hottest new restaurant. Moon Park’s reputation is enough to guarantee that most (upwardly mobile) people will pop by, if, for nothing else, more of the shrimp-brined, Korean fried chicken.
The online version of Ned Brooks’ wine list got me excited about drinking by the glass, but in situ the updated list offered none of the varietals I was keen on. No matter, Brooks is equally as accomplished in other drinks, from easily quaffable Korean tinnies to a well-described list of Blackmarket sakes. Priced on a single serve, the ten sakes represent an easy way to get more acquainted with this intriguing drink. Tasting notes provide a good indication of the key flavours, without being too proscriptive.
I start in safe territory with a junmai ginjo (pure rice sake with the rice polished to 60% or less) called Uehara Shuzo – Soma no Tengu ($11.50). It started creamy, nutty and sweet, then moved through crisp acidity for a long, elegant palate length. If you want an even gentler junmai ginjo, the Moriki Shuzo - Suppin Rumiko no Sake ($15) drinks like spring water flowing over smooth grey boulders. The delicate sweetness morphs into a dry finish.
As the sake pours are small, we slow our drinking with a beer chaser – the Wildflower Gold Australian Wild Ale ($30/750ml) – a bready, lemony wine-like beer that goes gangbusters with Ddeokbokki ($8/6). Here these compellingly chewy Korean glutinous rice cakes are slathered in fermented chilli paste (gochujang) and rolled in peanuts. Don’t think about profit margins - just eat them.
We also rip into a thin Scallion Pancake ($15) topped with wafer-thin jamon, slices of shiitake and green shallots. It’s good but not revolutionary, and gone in a heartbeat.
We take more time with our Korean penicillin. This subtle little bowl of silky, fresh Tofu ($10) and enoki in double boiled chicken broth is bolstered using black sesame oil. It impresses with elegant simplicity.
The floor team are full of personality, and confident enough to pause and exchange banter as we move through the sake list. For the ‘bigger’ dishes we move onto Mii no Kotobuki – Biden Koshu ($15). It’s yeasty and earthy (like Vegemite) curbed with a sweet caramel kiss, but soft enough to work against Cobia Sashimi ($22) with pickled ginger and buttons of smooth avocado puree. The kingfish, though frugal, is tasty and served at a temperature that gives its flesh a toothsome pleasure. The almost Mexican flavour combination allows the subtle fish to speak from under a green dusting of sea lettuce powder.
Our weirdest sake, Mukai Shuzo – Ine Mankao ($16), is made with red rice and drinks somewhere between raspberry cordial and rose. It’s far from my favourite, but it grows on me through a bowl of Yukhoebap ($25). It’s basically expensive bibimbap – a ubiquitous Korean rice dish – made with Korean beef tartare.
I love it, well I did after we asked for more gochujang, particularly the pine nuts and little cubes of pear.
With one owner on the floor, and two in the kitchen, booze, service and the subtle, elegant dishes are all restaurant strong suits. A lack of generosity leading to a low perception of value for money, combined with dining in an odd, below-ground windowless box are the drawbacks. It's very good but I won't be rushing back.
46A Macleay Street, Potts Point
Ph: (02) 9326 9399