The Quiet Elegance of Unfussy Gestures
Claim to fame: One of the young guns of modern Australian cuisine
Reason to go: Precise, confident cooking in an unexpected suburban setting
To look out for: The off-menu Saint Honoré, showered with black truffle
There are a few good reasons to visit the southwestern Sydney suburb of Stanmore, but until Sixpenny came along, none of those reasons had anything to do with food. The incongruity of the restaurant’s setting provides no small part of its charm. It sits on what might be called the high street of a quiet residential neighborhood, on a corner site in a former storefront, tiny, and perfectly discreet. The dining room décor enhances the theme of discretion: it’s minimally furnished, with plenty of good timber on show and a scattering of botanical illustrations hanging from the walls.
In his salad days, owner-chef Dan Puskas cut a streak through Sydney’s more celebrated technique-driven eateries, but at Sixpenny it’s clear that today he has more fully internalized the place of tech in the kitchen, and now uses it virtually invisibly, as a means to better celebrate the quality produce that has become dear to him.
The freshness of the garden and a gentle touch of home-grown Australiana inform the snacks that open the menu. Where fish-and-chip shops in New South Wales serve “scallops” of deep-fried potato, Sixpenny offers them in miniature versions cut from pumpkin, sweet-salty and crisp. Green tomato brings piquancy to gougères, while a suggestion of rose provides the unexpected note of intrigue in lightly pickled cucumbers. The show, ladies and gentlemen, is about to begin.
And so it goes for roughly 10 courses, each plate presented with an informed and plainly spoken enthusiasm from the staff that’s easy to be won over by, whether they’re discussing the way the pumpkin juice has been caramelized to better complement the lamb rump or citing the provenance of the tiny potatoes plated with oyster and raw mushroom.
Sommelier Dan Sharp brings the same style of understated brilliance to his wine matches, doing quietly subversive things such as occasionally pouring nothing but whites for the whole meal, though always keeping the focus on a lovingly crafted harmony with what Puskas and company are putting on the plate.
It’s a quiet riot.