What do you get when you cross a multiple award winning fine dining White-Boy Chef with Japanese Bar Food? You get BAR UME (and Ume Burger at Barangaroo). The subtleties and nuance of clean flavours combined with beers, burgers, and bar food. I had tried their burgers and renkon chips at Ume Burger at Barangaroo and knew I would like BAR UME, but I never expected to fall in love. One of my favourite venues of the year, I would consider moving back to Surry Hills just to be near this place for Sunday lunch and/or Friday dinners. It is perfection.
BAR UME VENUE:
BAR UME, previously known as Ume Restaurant, is an unassuming shop/ restaurant on Bourke St, Surry Hills. If you didn’t know about it first it isn’t that enticing. From the outside it looks quite dark on the inside with a black and white facade. The inside is how I would imagine a small Japanese saloon (of sorts) would look. Quite minimal with lots of mild earth tones, mostly from wooden furniture and fittings. Most of one side of the small venue is a bar with a kitchen behind that. A sliding door to the back right opens to a smaller half outdoor section with an opening at one end and more natural light. The manager suggested we sit in this section and it was perfect – I wouldn’t sit inside after discovering this section.
JAPANESE BAR FOOD:
Kirby Craig, who began his career as an apprentice at Tetsuya’s, takes his commitment (or is it obsession?) to Japanese cuisine and culture seriously.
“If it would fit in Japan then that’s good. We want it to be legitimate and genuine. That’s how we were thinking when we built the business model,” he said.
Awarded six consecutive chef’s hats as head chef at Koi, before earning acclaim at Bar Ume, Craig has had a lot of discussions about being the ‘white guy’ making Japanese food.
“People assume that because I’m white the food mustn’t be close to what’s in Japan. It’s natural to think that,” Craig told HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE one year ago.
The BAR UME burgers win as best burgers of 2017 for me, they aren’t burgers with a Japanese twist, they are Japanese burgers. Again I learned this from Hospitality Magazine but Japanese burgers have their own style. The only really Western thing about them is the bread and maybe the cheese. Hokkaido is actually known for producing some amazing cheese. And the bread is Hokkaido milk bread. The burgers (and all the food) are prepared and delivered in true Japanese style, nuanced through simplicity and smaller than American, and now Australian, burger culture.
But don’t just think of BAR UME as a burger joint, their sides will blow your mind as will their whiskey, beer and sake. I should probably mention that the below Brussel Sprouts are the single best sprouts I HAVE EVER EATEN!!! And they aren’t even cooked with bacon!!
WHAT WE GORGED ON:
Chicken Katsu Burger – hand crumbed chicken katsu, Yuzu kosho mayo, onion, Shredded cabbage & Tonkatsu sauce
Ume Burger – beef pattie, wagyu mince sauce, tomato, onion, mayo and cheese
Fried Brussel Sprouts with Black Vinegar Dressing and Fried Buckwheat
Nagoya Style Chicken Wings
Sweet Potato and Cheese Croquettes
Renkon Chips with seaweed salt
Hot Chips with umami salt
Japanese house-made pickles
The last dish was something like a mushroom patty/ croquette of some description but I could be wrong – for the life of me I cannot locate any information on it!! Sorry, will update when the venue lets me know :).
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Perfection perfection perfection. The renkon chips are always a favourite, the seaweed salt is divine! Their standard “fries” should never be overlooked either – the umami salt is heaven, it tastes like the best of MSG haha (but I am sure it is not all MSG!!). The pickles were a nice addition but really they were just a condiment addition. The two types of croquettes were marvellous as snacks and as previously mentioned the brussel sprouts are the single best sprouts I have ever eaten! The vinegar dressing has a terrific tartness and the buckwheat is a nice crunch addition to the perfectly deep fried morsels from heaven!
The two burgers are a tough choice to pick a favourite between. I had eaten them both before and nearly ordered the fish burger but I know how insane these two are. The Ume Burger is possibly the most refined cheese burger you can have and the addition of the wagyu mince sauce is like an added bolognese sauce. It gets me every time – multiple foodgasm worthy!! And the chicken burger is like a chicken tonkatsu on a milk bun. The katsu crunch is perfection and this burger needs to be devoured!! They both do!
And to finish we munched on the Nagoya style chicken wings. A light salt and pepper wings that was like the best salt and pepper calamari ever that wasn’t calamari. Definitely put this on your table when visiting!
BAR UME is one of my dining happy places, it was also the same for my “granny'” who wanted all the burgers to herself. If bar food is this good in Japan I can not only see Kirby Craig’s cause for obsession, I want to move there!! If you haven’t dined here yet make this your first New Year’s resolution for 2018. Bravo!
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 1/1 bonus
BAR UME Deets:
PH: (02) 9380 7333
478 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
BOOKINGS: For groups only
Wed & Thur: 1145am – 10pm
Fri & Sat: 1145am – 1030pm
Sun: 1145am – 930pm
LOCAL DELIVERY: Foodora
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment and/or any PR agencies representing them. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such ***
Thanks to Wasamedia for the invitation to attend BAR UME
For more reviews of Sydney’s finest restaurants check it out HERE.