February 15th, 2020

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Cafe Paci

The sight (or is it site?) gag name that came about by scratching off some letters at the former Café Pacifico, home to Pasi Petanen’s two-year long Darlinghurst pop-up, is not the only thing the Finnish-born chef has brought with him to Newtown.

Petanen has also recreated the buzzy excitement of that space, and the ridiculously good molasses-glazed Finnish Potato, Rye and Caraway Bread ($4) has made the journey too.

The interior, thanks to Paddington-based interior architect George Livissianis (also behind Apollo and Chin Chin) is all about quality finishes.

Eye-pleasing elements - from ornately curved edges on tiny wooden tables, to deep teal banquettes, and a rounded combined bar and kitchen that runs the length of the narrow space - have a warm, retro-charm.

The space is fancy, but this time around, it's not so fancy that you couldn’t sneak in on a Monday night, plonk your butt on a bar stool, and slurp up a bowl of Potato Dumplings ($26) against a glass of red.

These gnocchi-like dumplings arrive well-coated in a fresh and pungent Finnish-style XO sauce, where the usual dried shrimp and fish sauce flavours are replaced by shreds of smoked trout – genius!

After a fun wine interaction with the savvy and attentive floor team, we enjoyed our dumplings with the 2018 Maxime Magnon Corbières 'Metisse' Rosé ($92), which, as promised, was bold enough to ‘go the whole way’. If you decide to drink it, consider also ordering the Paris-Brest ($16). Served sanga-style, smeared with caramelised onion jam and piped chicken liver parfait that's as silky and fluffy as it is ridiculously rich, the almond-topped choux-pastry is the rosé's perfect match. And, like the bulk of the single page menu, it’s snack-sized but shareable, albeit with a bit of finger-licking ooze.

Served on paper doilies in keeping with the décor, Devilled Eggs ($10/2) prove nostalgia can be better than it used to be, just by eliminating Keen’s Curry Powder and making a better spiced butter, balanced by dill and gleaming trout roe.

Café Paci 2.0 has a bigger focus on simplicity and accessibility, evident in Chiacchiere ($16). In this dish, the thin, fried Italian pastry is bedrock for snowy peaks of Parmesan-dusted mortadella, concealing tangy bursts of dill pickle.

Lining rye toast coated liberally in spicy ‘ndjua, orange scales of brightly fermented Carrots ($8) shine.

Champignons de Paris ($18) with Comté and celery arrive looking a lot like a plate of spaghetti Bolognese. Your first mouthful of this minty-fresh salad of raw, slivered mushrooms defies expectations, showing you Petanen has kept his sense of playfulness alive.

Sliding into sake with the savoury Fujiichi Shuzo Kitutaka Kanazawa ($26/180ml) we end with Raw Beef ($26). While the booze match is terrible (our own fault, not that of the savvy staff) the caper-dotted, fresh tomato-mounted, red meat striped with creamy stracciatella is good, simple joy.

Cap off your evening with a final Café Paci 1.0 cross-over: Carrot Sorbet ($15). Sitting on a square of liquorice cake in a mushroom cloud of foamy yoghurt mousse, it’s (still?) the most adult dessert I’ve put in my mouth in years.

Cafe Paci
131 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9550 6196

Cafe Paci Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato