79 Edinburgh Road
|Opening hours||Lunch Sat; dinner Tues-Sat|
|Functions||Accepts bookings, licensed|
|Prices||Expensive (mains voltage over $40)|
|payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9188 0819|
Friends, we need to talk about caviar “bumps”. Over the past two years, more and more restaurants have been charging a princely amount to eat small fish eggs from your hand, followed by a shot of vodka. It’s the biggest waste of money since bottled water.
Russians have been sucking caviar off their knuckles for centuries. Salted roe is high in fat and fat tastes best when warmed to body temperature. But you’ll never see a Russian drinking vodka right after a hit of sturgeon. Always spirit first, so the alcohol cleanses your mouth to let the nutty complexity of caviar shine through.
However, like too many Sydney waitstaff, S’more owner-chef Sam Young advises customers to immediately chase their caviar with vodka at his new Castlecrag restaurant. It’s $40 for the taste-killing sucker punch and my neck hairs are up. “Please, dear god, don’t let this be another concerted encouragement for high profile consumption for social media content,” I think, sipping a Negroni made with truffle-infused gin ($25). Ah, dude. It is.
Sandwiched between a real estate agency and a beauty parlor, S’more calls itself a neighborhood bistro, and it sure looks good: napkins are blue linen, the furniture is modest, and the lighting is low and warm. However, unlike other local bistros, you can also order a rib-eye from Gina Rinehart’s Livestock for $280.
The menu reads like Hannibal Lecter’s wish list for the last meal, minus the body parts. There are oysters, truffles, wagyu, live lobsters and $200 cans of Siberian caviar with spices. A short wine list has plenty of solid options for around $14 a glass, but there’s also a 2001 Chateau Pavie for Bordeaux aficionados looking to drop $2950.
Indulgence has become something of a trademark for Young, or “Big Sam” as he is better known on social media. The former chef of Potts Point’s Lotus navigated the pandemic with confidence, hosting private dinners built on eye-wateringly expensive produce; his Instagram account is a wall of luxury seafood. S’more is his first solo restaurant and a collaboration with longtime partner and talented chef Grace Chen.
We need a law that puts a restaurant ban for life on any restaurant that uses a camera flash.
The lightest is a raw scallop ($9) jacked with Korean chili. Pitch-perfect steamed coral trout ($48) bathed in tomato dashi places second in the healthy-eating sticks, while coconut sorbet ($9) makes up the bottom. But most of the time we find ourselves in a big, buttery, blood-curdling region, flavored by savage amounts of umami and Cantonese inspiration.
Fluffy fried tater tots ($7 each) are filled with melted duck egg yolk, and I notice some customers top these with caviar as well. I notice it because they use a flash every five minutes to photograph their food and themselves. I’ll say it again: we need a law that puts a restaurant ban for life on any restaurant that uses a camera flash in a restaurant.
The best we eat is also the best value: deliciously juicy fried chicken ($58), brined, glazed, and cooked twice for crispy, polished skin that’s almost sharp enough to shave with. It’s sliced over parsnip puree and a deep-hearted pepper gravy with enough body to be a meal in itself.
Tasty crispy fried rice ($28) is loaded with Chinese lap cheong sausage, while a $58 PT linguine (peak truffle) approaches with a truffle fried egg, truffle butter sauce and a generous shave of fresh black Perigord at the table. It’s obscenely rich and velvety and very designed for sharing.
A couple could leave happy and full by ordering just the chook and rice, but I can also vouch for the cheaper steak, a dry-aged sirloin steak with all gnarled charred edges and instant flavor. (NB: It still costs $78 for 450 grams.)
You probably shouldn’t miss dessert either, especially a pudding that’s halfway between panna cotta and creme caramel ($12), while you hum with coffee and tea in a nod to the milky yuen yeung drink that hails from Hong Kong cafes. It’s a signature creation of Chen, who runs the kitchen while Young talks to customers and pours whiskeys after meals.
It’s easy to be cynical about prices here, especially when a plum margarita costs $22 and is unbalanced, and a leaf salad ($12) is overdressed. But I don’t feel like S’more is a cash grab too, unlike the masses of CBD restaurants with upscale menus.
Indeed, some diners seem more interested in photographing their food than eating it, but Chen and Young have a genuine passion for great products and making sure customers have a good time. Serve the vodka before the caviar and that is also a template for my last meal.
Appearance: Splashing product party in the suburbs
Appetizer dish: Roasted chicken, parsnip and black pepper sauce
Drinks: Considered French and Australian wines in all price ranges, house cocktails and a chic spirits cart
Cost: About $150 for two, excluding drinks
This review was originally published in Good weekend magazine