Superior technical skills, innovatively applied. And pasta.
MUST ORDER baloney sandwich; coconut ice cream with white chocolate
AMBIANCE The cutting edge of cool; club music
SERVICE Mates serving you food
WOULD I GO BACK? For the must-orders above
Hidden around a little corner on Roslyn Street in Rushcutters Bay is ACME. You’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s in Potts Point.
The restaurant’s name is an acronym for its partner owners Andy Emerson, Cam Fairnbairn, Mitch Orr and Ed Loveday. ‘Acme’ also audaciously derives from a Greek word, meaning prime/peak.
My first impressions: I absolutely love the vibes of this restaurant. The music is definitely dance-worthy and fairly loud (Drake, Kendrick, The Weekend…). You feel like you could pretty easily transition into World Bar after this (+ alcohol), which is close by. The girl next to me is pretending to dance in her chair.
Upstairs, there was a bar and individual tables, separated by a few corners, such that you get the smaller-scale dining feel– you’re not being watched by everyone in the restaurant. Downstairs, where I’m seated, there are two large group tables lined with couples on each side like a blind date set-up, as though we’re all interviewing each other about to swap seats. And I love it. It feels social and alive. Everyone’s fairly young.
ACME’s surprise menu has an audacious title. It’s called ‘crush me’. I am the uncrushable. I have never walked out of a restaurant so full that I would consider myself crushed. I have six dessert stomachs, and more in reserve. For $65, ‘crush me’ gets you three entrees and three pasta dishes. No dessert? These portions were generous, but you can’t be crushed if dessert isn’t involved. In this review I’ve also included the individual, non-set-menu prices.
First up is a baloney sandwich ($6). The brioche is warm and generous with the meat. It’s got a smokey flavour, with sweetness from some sort of tomato chutney. My equal favourite dish of the night.
Everyone around me is also getting the ‘crush me’ menu. Some people get Jatz instead of the brioche baloney. Here’s my concern: without the baloney sandwich, these people are seriously missing out. There is no WAY those Jatz were better than that sandwich. The girls beside me are slow and don’t even lick their plates–and they get carpaccio. Mind games indeed.
The persimmon and kohlrabi with roasted coconut flakes ($16) was pickled and crunchy. The white coconut sauce was watered down a bit in a good way, so that it was not too rich. I like how they left the orange skin on the persimmon as it has more flavour (citrusy) and more of a floury texture.
I am going to try to make the roasted parsnips with an almond puree and burnt honey ($16) at home. Is this the healthy version of saganaki? I feel like I’m up the road at The Apollo, given the delicious lashings of honey. If parsnip could be perfectly cooked, here it is. None of it is charred (not even the thin end bits), or floppy, but it’s caramelised and not hard and starchy.
Danny Boy’s fried prawn cake ($24) sits in a wonderful fish and chilli sauce, which I was spooning into my mouth like soup. It’s not too hot and perfectly balanced.The cake could do with less of the bready, floury stuff in the filling and more pure prawn (but then it wouldn’t be a cake, I guess). Best bit: the crunchy ends of the cakes, like the crusty ends of a loaf of bread. LOVE IT.
Linguine with burnt chilli and black garlic ($16) is the first disappointment of the evening. For me it was just sticky pasta with breadcrumbs. It needed more elements, or a protein. Crab? Cheese? It was blackish-purple, super salty and rich. After one bite I felt sick in the way you feel after drinking soy sauce (yes, I’ve done this). If it hadn’t been for the breadcrumbs combating with some crunch and plainness, I couldn’t have stomached another mouthful. The pasta was well-cooked and chewy. You can’t take my word on this, because my experience seems to contradict overwhelming popularity. This dish has cult status in the Sydney professional food world.
So the waiter brings me a dish of “mussels”. Actually, on the menu the dish is called cavatelli, clams and bouillabaisse ($26). There’s plenty of clams, which are lovely with the flat leaf parsley, and a gravy-like cheese sauce. There’s a trend in the flavours of the sauces here–they are rich but not pure (watery?). Lots of oil and butter; not viscous.
Macaroni with pigs head and egg yolk ($24) is the reason I came to this restaurant. The pictures I’d seen looked amazing. I found the sauce was totally unlike a classic macaroni cheese. It was too watery, not cheesy, but more fatty, buttery and super sweet. The pig’s head was dry, like young biltong. The chilli was used shyly.
The coconut ice cream($12) is one of the BEST DESSERTS I’ve ever eaten. It was an aerated rice pudding, with a caramelised white chocolate base underneath for some crunch. I will be bringing lots of friends back to eat this again.
Another ice cream of Jerusalem artichoke and chocolate mousse ($12) was less impressive. Artichoke and chocolate is trending on a few Sydney menus at the moment (recently by Josh Niland and Brent Savage), but I’m not the biggest fan. The chocolate mousse turned out to be a mousse cracker. Please change this description. If you’re expecting a mousse and you get a cracker, your heart is only gonna sink. The ice cream was the perfect texture.
Everything on the menu was innovative and interesting, but relied on familiar flavour pairings. The actual pasta in all the dishes was outstanding. It was perfectly cooked, and texturally perfect. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauces which were flavoursome but very, very thin, and salty. I wanted more pepper and cheese.
I finished with an autumn sencha green tea($6.50) which I picked because it had macadamia in it. Strange. This was the most outrageously-priced item. I was handed a cup that was small and half full. Do not order this.
Service is intelligent and attentive. I love how you aren’t left hanging. They come straight away and if you aren’t ready; they’ll be back to check-up on you in five. This is genuine friendliness. “Welcome”, “my love”, “how are you”? The tone is not automatic or tired. The faces are empathetic and warm. They also satisfy one of my favourite attentiveness tests: I was brought cold table water in a whole jug, not just poured for me, within two minutes of sitting down on arrival. I also caught the waiter complementing someone as being “very smart, saving room for dessert”. Totally approve.
My night was totally ruined when the bill came out. Initially, the waiter had explained the ‘crush me’ menu as, “basically, we feed you until you can’t eat anymore”. I presumed there was a reasonable limit on this. Nonetheless, the waiter came and asked me if I’d like dessert. Obviously, I said yes. He proceeded to bring me what I felt like, so I continued to order two desserts. The same thing happened when he asked me if I’d like a tea. I said, “why not?” Next minute, my bill is $95!!!!!!!!!! I HATE when waiters ambiguously bring you bread or water and then chuck it on the bill. But allowing me to order an extra $30 worth of sustenance without mentioning it would be added to the bill, and the menu was called ‘crush me’…that’s pretty rude.
I haven’t let this experience colour my assessment of the food. It was ultimately a miscommunication. I have written the above assuming it didn’t happen.
All I can think of is that moussey rice pudding and baloney and brioche.
Order next time: really want to come for Sunday brunch to try their famous bacon and egg rolls.
Visit date: 20 April 2018