For my half-year anniversary (bi-versary? Half-versary?) with The Lady, we decided to spare our wallets a bit of a chance to recoup, and chose to go to Bar H on a Groupon offer for a total of $79 between two people. Asian fine dining, why not? They’re pretty rare in Sydney, after all. I’ve been impressed with Sydney’s Asian fine dining offerings before, and as Bar H used to have a hat (it lost it for the 2013 Good Food Guide), quality was expected.
Oh, and I didn’t even realise that Bar H’s head chef – Hamish Ingham, once featured on Masterchef AU. That’s some trivia, for what it’s worth
Date Last Visited: 26/7/13
Address: 80 Campbell St Surry Hills, NSW
Recommended Dish(es): steamed pork & prawn wontons w/chilli dressing, caramelised beef rib, deep fried tofu
No doubt about it, Bar H is a small restaurant. Located on the corner of Campbell St, there’s only so much room for seating. We had the choice of sitting either at the bar, or the low-profile benches that face the street. I usually would have chosen the bar, because you can see the chefs preparing the food (in what is supposedly a tiny, tiny kitchen). However, I realised I needed my tripod for my photography here, and the bar isn’t particularly conducive to that task.
Yeah, Bar H is DARK. The food photos you see in this post are 5-6x brighter than you would see them with the naked eye – ISO 640 @ 8-10 seconds each. Challenging indeed. No surprises though – it is a bar, after all, and it isn’t as bad as Tokonoma!
That said, I like the layout and the furnishings of the restaurant. The lighting is very moody, and the trend of better and better food served in a bar environment will only continue. If only I was a drinker.
For the groupon, we were treated to an 8-course set menu (so…degustation). Sounds like a lot, but groupons tend to be underwhelming in the true portion sizes…so we’ll see.
Oh crud, I did not expect this. Remember how I’m one of those weird people who don’t like mushrooms or most fungi-related stuff? While I’m becoming more accustomed to eating mushrooms lately (e.g. at Devon), these days black fungus is still pretty off limits. Simple reasoning: its chewy but unrelenting texture, its lack of flavour; it’s like trying to eat cartilage. Not my thing, really. I probably would have enjoyed it a little more if it was flavoured, but as it was, some chilli was the only real seasoning I could taste. Where was the dressing?
The cucumber on the other hand, was very nice – slightly soft but still crunchy, with a sour note to them. This was walloped down without any issues at all.
I actually did kind of torture myself and ate the fungi anyway, as I have a rule to clear the dish.
These were nice. A rich and flavoursome chilli dressing provides a solid foundation for perfectly textured wontons with generously aromatic fillings. The Lady found it a bit rich, but this is just how I like it. Subtlety can take a back seat here while I demolish the one (ONLY ONE) wonton available to me.
Some of, if not the best wontons I’ve ever had.
This is what sesame leaves look like? Wow, I never actually knew that! They’re also edible; it was recommended we eat them somewhat like san choy bao.
In that sense, it was slightly difficult, as there was too much sour sauce in the dish and it went everywhere when we picked them up. It was messier than it should have been. As for taste, it was pretty interesting – the sesame leaf is slightly papyrus-like in texture. The beef was delicious, though quite fatty – something you get from short rib.
Overall quite nice, but the sauces and fattiness of the beef were slight downers.
My obsession with tofu in all its forms automatically qualifies this dish to be delicious for me. Now while I never eat deep fried tofu at home, I would not hesitate to fatten myself up if it’s served at a restaurant. The crispy skin is indeed crispy, so delicious. While I can’t comment on the “five flavours” of the sauce, I can say that it was quite powerful, and was closest to oyster/kecap manis in terms of flavour. Once again The Lady thought it was too saucy and oily (you can also see the yellow oil patch surrounding the dish).
Another standard for deep fried tofu may have been set for me!
It was good timing that by the time this dish came around, we received jasmine rice (no pictures). Just look at all that sauce, waiting to be soaked up. I knew I shouldn’t, but just…a…little…bit.
I should mention here that the rice apparently counted as a course of its own. That is ridiculous. Just putting it out there.
As for the spatchcock, it avoided the trap of dryness, and was very aromatic, as most Asian foods tend to be. I didn’t like the skin though, it was too…gelatine and chewy for me.
Another highlight of the meal for me, these fatty beef ribs were done the right way. The fat goes with the lean textures of the beef, and it all becomes a delight to chow down. This dish brings back the way ribs were made by my grandparents when I was living in China. Rich and chewy, the right way to go. Pickles garnish this version – cutting through the intensity of the beef, priming me to have at it again.
Two decently rounded spheres of sorbet round out the meal. Refreshingly sweet and sour, washing away all the tastes of the previous dishes. A job well done.
Mixed feelings on Bar H here. While there are some dishes that are absolute winners, others were very meh. The service was also too rushed – dishes just kept arriving, regardless of the pace we were eating at. In fact, we were done in an hour – the shortest multi-course meal I’ve ever had. Add to that counting rice as a course and…I can’t come out feeling completely positive for Bar H.
Just give me those wontons, that tofu and those beef ribs for takeaway and I’ll be a happy guy.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: the good dishes are very good
Not so Awesome: fungus is terrible for my health, service was too rushed, some dishes were average, super expensive if you pay full price, very small portions (not even The Lady was satisfied – and her appetite is small!)