Tucked in an alcove, overlooking Bayswater Road in Kings Cross is Concrete Blonde. A blazing torch lures guests towards two large glass doors where waiters anxiously await to whisk you inside. While the name has caused quite a stir – once you walk in the doors, the name seems appropriate and fitting.
On walking in the entrance, one doesn’t know where to look. My partner is drawn to the rotisserie which enticingly gleams at one end of the kitchen with a lustrous pork belly mesmerizingly turning. I’m drawn to the plush black leather lounges which seem to beg you to sit down and relax. Wrought iron drain pipes hang from the ceiling, white (er, I mean blonde) concrete edges and polished wooden floorboards scream of warehouse-style luxury and the vibe is very dreamy and atmospheric.
The glitter isn’t reserved soley for the decor. Head Chef Patrick Dang’s menu has creative hints reminiscent of Heston Blumenthal – the menu is split up into sections of cold, warm, “cool” stuff, hot compositions, h²0 (seafood), “from the ranch” and “over the wood”, while dish descriptions are purely a list of ingredients. Dang, who began his cooking career at Spargo’s in Victoria has spent the last few years overseas at Singapore’s T8 Restaurant before settling into an executive sous position with a US-based Viceroy Hotel Group. But Concrete Blonde has brought this Australian talent back home.
We begin with a dish from the “cool” stuff – coffee-cured Hiramasa kingfish. Our cheeky Scottish waiter immediately warns us that the coffee is quite strong but as caffeine addicts, we quickly assure him of our selection. The first thing that hits me, beyond the delicate presentation of the dish, is the freshness of the kingfish. Expecting a smoky mocha flavour, I am somewhat disappointed by the lack of coffee present in the kingfish. In fact, had the waiter not pointed it out, I wouldn’t have even noticed that it had been cured in my favourite beverage. However, in saying that, the dish did not disappoint. The texture provided by the scant pickled mustard seeds, combined with the tart vinaigrette and the burst of sweetness from the crunchy cranberry tuile all created a perfect dish. It was one of those culinary moments when all the components sing in unison – like the crescendo in an orchestral performance. And no amount of coffee would have changed that.
I almost packed up and went home, completely satiated by this experience. Well, perhaps it is more realistic to admit that had I not been here to review the restaurant, I would have happily ordered another two of these dishes, paid the bill and left a happy woman. But relief sweeps over me as the waiter presents our next dish, the 4 lolli “pork”. Cubical morsels of confit minced pork disintegrate on the tongue. The texture is not at all what you would expect, hence the “pork” in the title of the dish. It is light and airy inside, yet crisp (and oil free) on the outside. A smear of Zhenjiang black vinegar toffee leaves each mouthful with a sweet, rich aftertaste. When the ranger valley 7+ Wagyu beef arrives, my palate is well versed in Asian flavours and, on first mouthful, the Mexican-ness of the dish is sharp yet not unwelcome. The Wagyu is memorable and placed on a papaya mojo and corn braise. An ox tail tamale, served in a banana leaf, placed on the side of a dish, confirms the Mexican bend of the dish.
Concrete Blonde is undoubtedly one of Sydney’s more cosmopolitan experiences – the sophisticated yet grunge-like decor combined with an eclectic menu of universal flavours is both unique and impressive.