Punjabi Fusion Sydney pulled out nearly every bell and whistle contained within the molecular and fine dining canons during my degustation dinner. There were gravity-defying levitating plates, smoking platters, foams, pearls, dots of duelling sauces and tuile sticking out of just about everything. What sold me on this new restaurant, however, was the underlying flavours and successful execution of their culinary mash-up.
Back in 2016 the couple behind the restaurant - Perth-born Uma Singh and her husband Kamaldeep Singh who was born in state of Punjab in India's north - opened their first restaurant in Harris Park.
While it bears the same name, that restaurant pushes a more traditional line, presenting an array of Punabi dishes, including their most famous export, butter chicken. As Uma explains, trying butter chicken across Sydney that all lacked in the traditional sourness, was part of their inspiration for creating the original Punjabi Fusion.
Three years on, they’re building upon their success with a progressive Indian fine dinner in Millers Point. The Singhs have brought elegance to this dining room, using screens and cleverly designed lighting.
Well-spaced tables draped in white tablecloths are surrounded by comfortable, aqua or pink chairs. Terrariums make for cute table décor, but of course the real spectacle here is the food. For a first-time visitor, the Non-Vegetarian Degustation 7 Course Menu ($119/head) will give you all the fine dining trappings.
Our aperitif was prosecco, presented in a wooden box with a pipette of strawberry nectar to add at your whim. The black salt rim was a clever surprise, amping up the flavour of the freshly muddled strawberries.
Compressed watermelon arrived on a smoking griddle filled with dry ice. It’s a juicy wet amuse bouche made even more texturally entertaining with carrot crumbs and three different textures of mint.
Even the Pappadum Basket ($10) here is a little bit extra, with four types of roasted and fried pappadum and two chutneys.
Where the fireworks really begin is with the Lamb Keema Bruschetta ($15). Slow-cooked, spiced lamb mince is piled onto a toasted garlic baguette round then adorned with grated egg white. Dragged through dots and squiggles of chutney, it’s an all-of-palate delight.
From the creative chaat menu, Crispy Kale Chaat ($15) is almost as impressive. The kale batter employs trisol – a molecular technique – to keep it super crisp and oil-free. You’ll find your crunchy battered kale hiding under foamy yoghurt dotted with chilli pearls; accompanied by the usual tamarind chutney, mint relish and chaat masala seasoning.
You’ll find Galauti Kebab ($24) on both of the Punjabi Fusion restaurants' menus. As the story goes, there was once a nawab in Lucknow who had bad teeth. As he couldn’t eat regular kebabs, his chef came up with this super-soft lamb kebab with the fibres pounded into nothing. In this kitchen, lamb mince is broken down with pineapple and papaya, then marinated in a complex blend of whole spices. Raised to your lips on a sago pappadum, the pasty lamb patty is earthy and complex against popping pearls of fragrant yuzu juice.
Piled onto a scallop shell then garnished with a charcoal tuile, Tawa Masala Scallops ($20), wins me over with fried green beans – bean poriyal – dusted in coconut. You’ll find them under a cloud of beetroot that contrasts nicely against fresh lemon juice and the dried mango powder in their chaat masala. It’s a veritable Indian house party in your mouth against the lightly seared scallops.
While we reset our palates with a light but icy ball of orange, basil and white wine sorbet, let's talk booze. We’re drinking the Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay ($84/bottle) - a competent and likeable selection from their slightly pricy list. Entry level wines are your to be had for fifty bucks, though the list - which favours red wines over white - goes all the way up to an eight hundred buck Chateau Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild in case you’re feeling rich and super-fancy. Alternatively there's beer, with a few imported and domestic bottles plus Kingfisher on tap alongside their own-brand Pujabi Fusion Lager ($8/440ml). I'm told it's brewed in Spain. It drinks very much like an Indian Cobra, just with a less metallic edge.
In terms of mains, Executive Chef Vijay Prakash (who comes to Punjabi Fusion Sydney with a host of five-star hotel experience) has given the steak an Indian makeover. Draped over an aloo tadka (spicy potato) cake, the achingly tender Angus Beef Steak ($45) has been cooked sous vide then finished on the grill. With sautéed asparagus spears to drag through splats of bright yellow kasundi mustard sauce, this only problem with this dish is that it’s over too quickly.
With Singh talking such a big game about the Punjabi Fusion Butter Chicken ($35) it would have been remiss of me not to try it. Tender morsels of chook are marinated in tandoori masala and cooked in the tandoor (clay oven) then presented in a tangy sour gravy made with fresh tomato, cashew nut and fenugreek. It's adorned with two textural and eye-catching batons that take garlic naan from something floppy and uncouth to something befitting the fine dining brief.
The rest of my degustation is blur of (tuile-topped) warm beetroot pudding; a spinning paan (betel leaf) replacement bound in cherry fairy floss that you snatch off a levitating plate; and a warm digestive of apple ginger blossom tea that smokes when you dangle in the tea bag.
While I like the kitchen’s sense of whimsy and playfulness, it’s the well-realised Indian flavours in the savoury dishes that will bring me back to explore the rest of their innovative menu before winter is complete.
Punjabi Fusion Sydney
Shop 6 & 7, Observatory Tower,
168 Kent Street, Millers Point
Ph: (02) 9241 1440