Far-reaching Cross-cultural Pollination
Claim to fame: The pinnacle of Italian and Asian achievement
Reason to go: Original food, intriguing wines and a rollicking vibe
To look out for: The new brunch menu
Acme stands for Andy, Cam, Mitch and Ed, the principal partners in the business, and beyond making for a snappy name it reflects the inclusive appeal of this hip (and, yes, often loud) hotspot. The food is exceptional, but it’s just one part of the puzzle along with disarmingly friendly service, inventive cocktails, alluring wines and a soundtrack that’s rich in hip hop and R’n’B. Acme is a house party that everyone’s invited to.
Though there are decorative references to the Acme company of Warner Bros’ cartoon fame, they’re subtle; the first thing that hits the casual diner is how packed the various spaces are, from the bar seating at the front to the cozy tables in the back and the communal dining in the basement.
Part of the secret of Acme’s popularity might lay in its approachability. Its main courses are marginally larger than a typical first course elsewhere in Sydney, and priced (sort of) accordingly, meaning that said casual diner doesn’t have to shell out a fortune to try a variety of dishes. And this is a good thing because there’s lots you’ll want to try.
The starters are an inventive collection of dishes that runs the gamut from Jatz (snacks made on the old Australian favorite, Jatz-brand crackers) and a “baloney sandwich” that sees pale-pink folds of mortadella crammed into a soft potato-bun, to barbecued calamari brightened with a sprinkling of furikake and a squeeze of lime.
The mains, though, are what it’s all about. Chef Mitch Orr cut his teeth working in some of Sydney’s leading Italian restaurants (and did a stage at Osteria Francescana in Modena for good measure), at Acme he’s taken his pasta-making skills and married them with his passion for the flavors of Asia. The progeny of this unorthodox union are dazzling. Macaroni with pig’s head and egg yolk, a garlicky, wonderfully vinegar-sharpened signature that takes the essence of sisig, and pairs it with the decidedly un-Filipino complement of beautifully hand-made tubes of pasta. Smoked eel and snow pea shoots find a sympathetic textural match in supple ribbons of fettuccine, while black garlic and burnt chilli give linguine a faint mee-goreng feel.
The equation is not solely restricted to Italian-pasta + Asian-flavors = wow. There’s just as much fun to be found in less pronounced East-meets-West creations, such as the coupling of Sardinian gnocchi with squid-ink, tuna and bottarga, and fusilli with hazelnuts bound in salsa verde.
Desserts aren’t quite an afterthought, but they are largely concerned with ice-cream, whether it be coconut and rice enriched with white chocolate or a smoked corn ice-cream played against chocolate mousse with surprisingly effective results.