ACME Restaurant | Rushcutters Bay

There’s an outbreak happening in Rushcutters Bay and fortunately it’s that of ACME, not acne. Think non-conformist, feel good rockstar pan-Asian/Italian fusion and you’re on the right track. Now, they even do brunch – and there’s not a smashed avo on toast in sight. Welcome to ACME, I think you’ll like it here.

Date Last Visited: 18/2/2017 (brunch) / 17/10/2015 (lunch a la carte)
Address: 56 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point, Sydney, NSW
Recommended Dish(es): baloney sandwiches, black garlic linguine, pig’s head macaroni

In February 2017, ACME launched a Saturday, limited-time only brunch service. It’s in a set menu format consisting of four courses, with several options for the main. Read on to find out what we had. If you wish to learn more about ACME’s standard a la carte offerings, keep scrolling, or jump.

Brunch at ACME

ACME isn’t fine dining, but the quality of the cooking by head chef Mitch Orr can certainly be considered just that. And when fine dining chefs branch out to do something far removed from their MO – in this case, a 4-course brunch service for $50 – it’s a safe bet people like me will be shamefully doing the TAKE MY MONEY dance.

As I had expected and hoped, this isn’t brunch as we Sydneysiders know it.

ACME grilled nectarine, pistachio oil

Most people wouldn’t be able to get away with serving a stone fruit that’s been chucked on a barbie and call it a “course”, but that’s exactly what’s happened here – and yes, they get away with it.

It’s all about charred, smoky-sweet caramelisation baby, and it’s done perfectly without ruining the fruit. Sweet, nutty and just a bit weird – you’re not sure if you should throw this into your hot dog or not – perhaps it’s a good thing you don’t get to choose. Just dig right in.

ACME Filo sausage & egg sanga

Filo sausage & egg sanga

And then there’s ACME’s signature “who gives a sh*t about calories” attitude with one of the best breakfast sandwiches ever. The filo sausage & egg sanga is the hangover cure you never thought you needed – and hell, I’m tempted to go hard the night before just so I can have an excuse to eat this the next morning. ACME’s famous soft rolls (props to the baloney sandwich) lovingly hugs a slab of filo sausage that’s so addictively flavourful, I wonder if they didn’t add crack to it.

Chuck on the obligatory #yolkporn and you’ve got something as delicious as it was messy. Not to worry about that last part; they’ve thought this through, with hot towels being provided to wipe off those unsuspecting juices. Or you could just go at your arm, animal style. I won’t judge you.

At this point, you have a singular decision on what to have for your main, from a choice of three. Hopefully your brunch partner is open to sharing, because here, it’s definitely caring!

ACME Sam’s fried chicken, ube waffle, maple syrup

Sam’s fried chicken, ube waffle, maple syrup

Because this is still brunch, waffles aren’t totally off limits. Except this is an ube (Japanese purple yam) waffle, with a dainty piece of fried chicken that’s as much fun-sized as it was fun on which to crunch. The waffle itself was a bit chewy and starchier than your average wafflemaster2000 product, which was personally not to my taste, but maple syrup + fried chicken = what successful marriages are made of.

Just needs more of that fried chicken.

ACME Leather jacket, ginger & scallion, steamed rice

Leather jacket, ginger & scallion, steamed rice

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something more Asian and – god bless you – healthy, the leather jacket may be the fishy ticket. ACME’s done the right thing and has cooked this on the bone: full flavour, full tenderness, and wow, how good is that onion-redolent broth! Very, very Asian.

Not a big fan of the rice on the side unfortunately – it was too dry and too hard. The fish was good enough by itself!

ACME Chocolate pretzel cookie, vanilla ice cream

Chocolate pretzel cookie, vanilla ice cream

Too full by this point, but still missing that sweet finish? Say hi to the chocolate pretzel cookie. Literally what it says it is, this semi-soft, cookie dough-like morsel will either fully cure the aftereffects of your alcohol-induced binge from last night, or may send you into another type of hangover – the sugar coma. It’s really sweet, but oh my, that gooey decadence; at least the vanilla ice cream cools things down a notch.

$50 is probably double what most people pay for brunch – but you’re getting something that no other cafe is doing. Also, that filo sausage sanga. Just saying.

Get in early if you wanna score a table.

The Good:

  • Just like ACME’s a la carte – there’s nothing else in Sydney quite like it
  • I’ll use the word just this once – but the filo sausage sanga is LIT

The Bad:

  • No crisp or crunch to the ube waffle; fried chicken comes in a token portion
  • The rice that comes with the leather jacket doesn’t cut it
  • You’ll pay double average brunch prices for the experience

The Ugly:

  • Limited time only!

I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.

Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.

F7.5 | S4 | A2
7.5/10 Caesars

ACME A La Carte

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Counter seats for the express purpose of making passersby jelly to no end!

ACME’s decor is all cool blue, stressed and edgy plaster. Rock & pop tunes are blasted regardless of whether it’s lunch or dinner, giving the feeling that this is a club that happens to harbour the secret of some seriously good food.

Bar/counter seating is a thing here, with group dining-friendly tables can be found at the back. It’s an eclectic design motif, and whether you like it or not, was good enough to win the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in 2015.

So why ACME? Naming a restaurant is a daunting task. Chefs cook, they don’t name, so throw together everybody’s first name’s first letter and be done with it:

A: Andy Emerson (back of house/co-owner)
C: Cam Fairbairn (maître d’)
M: Mitch Orr (head chef)
E: Ed Loveday (co-owner, the cocktail whiz)

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Now, let’s talk food. ACME’s menu is consciously restrained to a minimalist manifest of food that fits neatly onto one small piece of paper. All dishes are to share, with the recommendation of roughly 3 dishes per head. They are definitely fun-sized.

The cuisine is perhaps a true representation of “Modern Australian”. Sure, Italian roots are present, but the team at ACME refuse to be typecast as that “Italian restaurant” or a “wine/pasta bar”. It’s whatever’s good at the moment – and that’s what’s served onto your plate. You can be sure there’s an Asian influence at almost every turn, it’s even reflected in some of the crockery.

Expect the unexpected, come with an open mind, and go nuts on the ordering. There’s plenty to share!

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Baloney sandwich – $5 each

It’s always a pleasant surprise when an ostensibly simple dish ends up becoming the crowd favourite and thus, a signature of the restaurant. A mere baloney sandwich? How good could it be?

First up are the buns. You’ve heard of potato buns, where the inclusion of potato starch results in a light crumb and a more moist texture than buns made from wheat. You’ve also (hopefully) had milk buns, where their sponginess and fluffiness, rule the world of burgers.

ACME’s combines the best of both worlds into their signature potato milk bun, and then pairs this with a simple tomato-based sauce which packs in a great deal of sweetness that’s tinged by a hint of acidity and a (very light) kick. Sliced, meaty bologna sausage goes in and completes the picture. The result was almost too satisfying – it’s good bread, good meat and good sauce. What more could you want? It’s also served warm, and that’s the way I like it.

If I was living off of these sandwiches at $5 a pop, I won’t have much change left from a $50…

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Beetroot, macadamia butter, coffee – $14

I’m willing to wager that the beetroot & macadamia butter dish doesn’t get much love. The ingredient combination is somewhat exploratory and daring, and I could only begin to imagine how such a dish would taste.

Which of course, meant that we ordered it.

High quality produce is important when showcasing vegetables, and that’s what ACME has done. Soft, earthy, sweet and just that little bit bitter – you’ll enjoy this if beets are up your alley. The macadamia butter added a significant dosage of nutty creaminess, which was a bit overwhelming in its greasiness. That said, I can appreciate the need for some fat to spice up what could have well been a banal offering. The coffee comes in the form of a powder which adds a, well, coffee kick with a long finish. It’s not a flavour combination I can easily describe, but I liked it.

Dare to try? Only one way to know!

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Beef tartare, avocado, lime – $24

It is usually the case that when dishes are to be shared, beef tartare will be there. I will say I was somewhat disappointed with the presentation – it looks like they really didn’t try very hard, piling on a handful of diced beef onto an inelegant bed of avocado.

However, I’m not the type to judge too much on presentation – otherwise I may as well just look at photos of foodporn. Oh wait, I already do that…

ACME Rushcutters Bay

They said I could have a cow, man. So I did.

Actually, ACME’s beef tartare was not just weak in looks, but weak in taste as well. The main flavour was…raw beef, with a spritzy tang from lime. I am aware that there are meant to be elements of walnut milk & bone marrow fat to infuse flavour, however they didn’t hit home for me. Either the kitchen had a bad run, or my palate skipped a beat.

So the tartare was a bit of a flop, but luckily that’s as bad as it gets – it’s all uphill from here on out.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Linguine, black garlic, burnt chilli – $12

While I mentioned that no single moniker can describe ACME, you’d get pretty close if you said “fusion pasta bar”, and indeed here is where they really shine.

However, don’t be expecting something out of Nonna’s kitchen. The black garlic linguine is a marriage between Italian noodles and Pan-Asian flavours. The pasta was al dente firm with lots of bite, while the black garlic & burnt chilli made for a very heady, aromatic and pungent flavour base that went well with pasta.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Such a delicious dish (Y) (Y)

Mitch actually describes this dish as his take in Migoreng, and boy, was it bloody tasty. It’s a bit spicier than you would expect, but if you can’t handle the heat, it may be time for you to consider training your tolerance – if only so you can actually enjoy this dish.

The most curious thing about it? It wasn’t served piping hot, instead closer to room temperature. I found that a bit odd, and I do feel it might taste better if served hot, but I suppose I’ll never know.

Oh well, still so good.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Alfabeto, spanner crab, sweet corn – $24

ACME’s playfulness continues with its take on alphabet soup – Asian alfabeto. I clearly missed out during my childhood, as I’ve never actually had the stuff, so I guess I’m paying $24 for the privilege of catching up 😛

A pasta soup dish with decidedly oceanic tones, this was another one that greatly appeals to my palate. The soup was fairly clean (though still a bit oily), and briny with a twinge of sweetness from the corn. The spanner crab was cut up into little pieces but remained juicy and scrumptious.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Another excellent dish

It’s a bit of a funny dish, this one. It really is one of the most “hodgepodge” eats ACME has to offer; if you approach it with an open mind, you’ll love it. I sure did, it’ll definitely be something to reorder as the climate gets colder.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Spaghetti, smoked eel, parmesan – $24

As “normal” as a plate gets at ACME, the spaghetti w/smoked eel & parmesan was a tantalising pick. There’s plenty of parmesan (or as I like to call it: cheese crack) and so flavour is hardly lacking. This was emphasised even more so when smoked eel is brought into the picture, with each bite delivering forth bursts of fishiness.

As with all other pasta here, it was al dente. Were it the base of a noodle soup, I’d almost consider it “slurp-worthy”. Yep, it’s good things all the way about ACME’s pasta.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Macaroni, pig’s head, egg yolk – $18

We’re now at ground zero, where it all comes to a head. A pig’s head, specifically. I could forsake almost all other dishes on ACME’s menu, as long as I can still enjoy the pig’s head macaroni w/egg yolk. The only thing Italian about this dish is the macaroni, cooked in a way that left it incredibly thin, almost translucent. Yet, it holds its bitey texture, with amazing flavour. It is the best macaroni I’ve had in years. No surprises really, when I learned that Mitch got his pasta crafting skills from Giovanni Pilu himself.

And then there’s the rest of the bowl. Pig’s head, braised and marinated in its own juices for hours on end is cut up, shredded and fried in a deliberately haphazard way to yield variously-sized pieces of meat that encapsulates the full texture spectrum – from crispy, to juicy, and everything in between. It was intense in its flavour, and the pasta gets some of that love as well, with the braising stock generously heaped onto the bowl.

The dish is then finished off with an oozy egg yolk to add that addictive and comforting creaminess, plus a chilli kick even stronger than that of the linguine. It’s bold, daring, packs an attitude commensurate to its taste. Abso-freaking-lutely delish. Definitely ACME’s star pasta.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

Clockwise – mango sorbet, shiso & tapioca / hazelnut ice cream, mandarin & choc brownie / coconut ice cream & white chocolate – $10 each

Naturally, it’s going to take a heck of a lot of desserts to return this roller coaster to home, so we got all three of the desserts on the menu! The mango sorbet & tapioca was perhaps my least favourite, as it tasted all too similar to something you could get from any Taiwanese dessert shop (hello Meet Fresh). Not to say it’s bad, but it didn’t match ACME’s exciting style.

What was far more interesting was the coconut ice cream w/white chocolate, though it also looked the least appealing. However, if there was a dessert where looks are inversely proportional to taste, this would be it. A silky-smooth coconut sorbet that’s just the right amount of sweetness was the highlight. Then comes a “soup” of pureed rice pudding that then sits on top of caramelised white chocolate, providing an unexpected layer of crunch that was very fun to discover.

ACME Rushcutters Bay

The best of the three!

But the one dessert to rule them all? The hazelnut ice cream & choc brownie. Think the most indulgently rich chocolate brownie ever: crunchy, gooey, cakey, moist, chocolatey and you’re halfway there. Then, there’s that hazelnut ice cream for a double hit of velvety, nutty decadence. Mandarin was also present as a token palate cleanser, but really, just lose yourself in the moment. It’s what dessert is all about.

I can’t recommend ACME enough. Not because the food was perfect, but because it’s out of the box and still tastes great. It’s not different for the sake of being different. Mitch puts it well – it’s all about what’s fun and what’s delicious. With that as a guiding philosophy, it’s no wonder that you can’t put a cuisine label on ACME.

This post is based on an independent visit to ACME

What are your thoughts on ACME? If you haven’t been yet, make a booking now and tell me how it goes!

The Good:

  • There’s nothing else in Sydney quite like it
  • Fusion done (mostly) right

The Bad:

  • Some savouries & desserts are a bit lacklustre, in taste and presentation
  • Very small portion sizes for the price
  • Seating is a bit awkward if you don’t have a table at the back

The Ugly:

  • Don’t talk about the pig’s head macaroni too much, otherwise they’ll take it off the menu!

I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.

Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.

F7.5 | S4 | A2
7.5/10 Caesars

ACME Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

8 comments on “ACME Restaurant | Rushcutters Bay”

  1. Elese Reply

    That pig’s head macaroni sounds really interesting, I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in Sydney (if it’s still on the menu, that is!). Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

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