Cafe Paci in Riley Street, East Sydney is the creation and inspiration of Pasi Petanen who won the innovation Award in the 2015 Good Food Guide. Cafe Paci also cruised into this year’s Australian’s Hot 50 Restaurant list. Pasi, originally from Finland, set up Cafe Paci after being Head Chef at Mark Best’s fine dining restaurant Marque in Surry Hills for eight years.
Entering from Riley Street and making your way up the stairs, the restaurant reveals itself as a large open loft in monotone grey – a long bar to one side with tables generously spaced and comfortable chairs. There’s a very ‘opera’ size curtain running the width of the room, separating the kitchen from the restaurant. It’s been all put together with a very minimalist eye – after all this is modern dining. It was always a good space and it still is – only better.
There’s a seasonal set menu at Cafe Paci – starting with ‘snacks’ – the pear sandwiches were a standout – the finest slices of crisp pear, filled with grated cheese. Also torn pieces of radicchio leaves dusted with dehydrated raspberry – the colour was pure rubies and taste was pure sex. I was wanting more!
Blue swimmer crab, pomelo, dill, vadouvan – the sharpness of the fine pomelo segments well balanced the sweetness of shards of crab meat, rounded out by the finely dusted vadouvan and dill.
Goat tartare, tartare sauce, kale – goat sourced from Cowra in south Western New South Wales – topped with multi-coloured kale and served with a tartare sauce.
Cauliflower, squid rice, anchovy butter – squid ink infused rice with parmesan cheese added into the pureed rice. Unusually subtle in this dish, the squid ink counterbalances the sweetness of parmesan, underpinned by the utter silkiness of the rice. This is our ‘go to’ dish – beautiful to look at …. but better to eat.
Photato – this is the classic Vietnamese noodle soup – pho – that’s been deconstructed – well kind of. Pasi delivers noodles crafted from potato nestling under lightly seared wagyu flap, enoki mushrooms and served like in pho with grilled lemon wedge.
After an optional cheese course,
there’s the desserts which again feature Pasi’s passion for innovation and creativity in the kitchen;
Carrot, yoghurt, liquorice – the smoothest yoghurt mousse filled with a centre of carrot sorbet placed on a thin liquorice sponge and a sprinkling of liquorice powder.
Rye ice cream, apple, white beer, cocoa, malt – crispy fine sheets of malt, cocoa and apple resting on an unexpected non-sweet icecream.
Petit fours – Corn and butter reinvented as fairy floss sprinkled with corn dust alongside two pieces of pork coated on one side with chocolate and fennel.
There’s a well thought out wine list – a global choice from sommelier Dennis Roman – a balance between Europe, America and Antipodes. We especially liked the grenache blanc/roussanne blend ‘Le Cigare Blanc’ from biodynamic winemaker Randall Graham from Bonny Doon Vineyard in Monterey Country, California. Check out his blog.
Cafe Paci is open for dinner; Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm with lunch on Fridays from 12pm – there’s also space at the bar. You have to get along to Cafe Paci asap – it may be only there until January 2015. Pasi Petanen is a visionary chef and it shows – and Sydney dining is all the better for that.
95 Riley Street, East Sydney 2010