When chef Zacharay Tan of Devon Cafe & Devon on Danks fame announces that he’s opening up yet another venture amongst the milieu of Sydney’s cafes, even the laziest Suzies among us – particularly a walrus such as I, will come to attention. You see, despite Sydney’s propensity to go over the top for just about anything these days, there is still clearly ample room for talented individuals to leave their mark.
In this case, we’re talking about scorching wok marks, and perhaps a case of purple tongue.
Welcome to Lazy Suzie, a hawker food centre-cum-in vogue cafe, smack bang in Darlinghurst’s hub of what’s what to eat. Don’t expect to find avocado on toast here – you’ve been warned.
Date Last Visited: 17/4/2016
Address: 78 Stanley Street,Darlinghurst, Sydney
Recommended Dish(es): Auntie Jenny’s roti, Pie Tee, CKT (if you can swallow the price), the ABC
Lazy Suzie occupies the former site of the Iconpark series of restaurant pop ups, putting both levels of the space to good use. Fingers crossed it lasts longer than a pop-up.
Let’s be honest: regardless of what your opinion is on Devon Cafe or its sister – Devon on Danks, the fact of the matter is those two cafes have been wildly successful in their years of business. While I personally feel that the original Devon Cafe has succumbed somewhat to uh…shall we call it “entropy of quality”, Devon on Danks has been cranking out consistently delicious menus season after season. That has kept my friends and I coming back again and again, and that is in spite of the rather laborious trek in getting there.
Here’s the thing: Zacharay Tan has a solid palate – and a solid palette of cooking skills. He is quite possibly the only cafe operator in Sydney that has managed to make Singaporean/Malaysian-style cafes work – and work well. Each time I talk about Devon or its Danks sibling, I’m always able to say that even if you end up hating the food there, it’s always worth a try – because nobody else in Sydney is doing it.
That’s not a bad way to introduce Lazy Suzie.
Over December last year, Chef Zach spent a month touring the Penang region of his home country. Penang is a state in Malaysia’s northwest, and in what might come as a surprise to many – it’s where most of what you might consider “hawker street food” actually originates. Yes, now you find Penang cuisine everywhere in Malaysia, Singapore and of course, Sydney.
So that’s the background – Zach spends a month there, learning as much as he can and, after bring all this knowledge back down to our sunny shores, opens up Lazy Suzie as a reflection of that wonderful area – minus the humidity.
Here’s something else about Lazy Suzie you might not know – like Devon on Danks, the venue’s trading hours extend into the night. If you’re up for a more restaurant-like experience, feel free to drop by when the sun itself is on the drop. Additionally, the venue possesses a liquor license; an aspect plenty of other blogs have covered – there are some rather impressive looking cocktails!
But you know me, I’m all about the food and Lazy Suzie is still more cafe than restaurant. So, bring on the hawker and make it quick!
Gulp. Would you pay $25 for Malaysia’s most recognisable dish? Gee I dunno, but what if the deal was sweetened with crab meat, extra prawns and egg yolk mixed amongst smoky noodles with the strong char of wok hei? Well, maybe just this once.
It is really daring to charge $25 for a dish that in Malaysia, comes in at $3-$5 and around $10-$15 in other Sydney restaurants. However, do note that the standard Char Koay Teow at Lazy Suzie is priced at a relatively reasonable $17, and still includes all the seafood pictured above, only ditching the crab and egg yolk. Technically, some restaurants in Penang do actually serve a more premium version of CKT with yolk & crab meat – so this isn’t Zach taking liberties with the dish. It’s actually legit.
Regardless of price or authenticity, I didn’t regret the order. CKT’s make or break factor is the noodles, and in this case, we’ve got a real nice example on the plate. The downsides first: they are a little bit on the soft side. Long-time readers of the blog will know that I prefer my noodles closer to the chewy/al dente side, a personal preference. Further, the noodles are perhaps a smidgeon too thin, whereas I’m more used to CKTs being served with flatter, wider rice noodles. It’s again a personal preference, so if thinner, mushier noodles float your boat, then you’re all good to go.
But now onto the positives – they are delicious. You get to choose between three levels of heat, and for me medium is just about right. At this point, there’s a solid level of kick that still allows me to taste the noodles, and it’s quite the taste – ample char, crunchy, fatty chunks of pork lard and a general richness (probably from that egg yolk) that’s essentially noodle crack with umami to boot. The freshness and succulence of the prawns and crab meat only help the cause, and more watery, vegetal crunch from bean sprouts and spring onion is always welcome.
Perhaps Malaysians will be more critical – and fair enough for it – but man, not making me regret dropping $25 on fried noodles is a swell accomplishment.
A more unique dish of Malaysian Vegetable Curry continues the flavour train, or so I thought it would. Despite this dish’s enticing looks (nice plate, btw!), I found that the curry is too lacklustre in flavour, especially in contrast to the CKT just earlier. No mincing words: I just didn’t taste very much. Yes, the potatoes were curried, the vegetables crunchy, a little bit bitter (in that nice, vegetal way) and overall there was very much a curry scent to it all. It just wasn’t enough. Also on a side note, I think I can now conclude that I prefer my curries saucy. This plate was entirely devoid of it – all the more problematic when there’s four rather chewy and dense pieces of roti jala on the side that just begs to soak up some non-existent sauce. Oh, so dry.
Credit to the textures in the curry – that’s all well and truly good, however not my satchel of spice when it comes to flavour. If you’re a vegetarian and are relegated to ordering this dish, see if you can get some sauce from the boss!
You saw this coming. Not from one, ten, or even a million miles away. In fact, it’s probably because you saw this dessert on Broadsheet, or Good Food, or Instagram that got you to even click into this blog post in the first place.
I don’t blame you. Just look at it!
When we were served this dessert, the waitress placed it in front of us with the introduction “did somebody order the most beautiful looking dessert in the world?” At that point, I was stunned to the point that even if I did eventually recall a prettier dessert, the moment would have passed. The blue pea flower ice & taro ice cream is, at least, that stunning.
I’m also so, so glad to say that this dessert tasted pretty much as good as it looks. At least, to this Asian’s palate. You have the blue pea flower ice, which is similar to shaved ice desserts (or ais kacang in Malaysian culinary parlance), and this is a most refreshing medley of sweetness and texture from of taro, sago, and a boatload of sugar. Actually I kid about that last part – the sweetness is carefully controlled such that I could eat the entire bowl myself, and I’m sure you could too.
That’s not even getting to the best part – that ultra creamy, intensely taro-rich ice cream. Yes, you do have to like taro to enjoy this, but if you don’t you might as well ask for the cheque now so I can get a seat thank you very much.
But seriously, one of the best sweet dishes I’ve had at a cafe in a really, really long time. Perfect shaved ice – no chunkiness here, solid cubes of jelly, starch veg and sago, and that ice cream…please put it in tubs? Pretty please?
Just one problem: this dessert took a long time to arrive. Initially, cafe staff informed us that desserts begin to get made after a table has cleared their savoury food. Fair enough – that should be about ten minutes for a dessert such as this. However, it appeared that our order was lost twice on two different staff members, and after seeing no less than four separate tables receiving theirs despite ordering far later, we finally received ours. The total wait time between mains and receiving the ABC? About 50 minutes.
Ouch. Now, credit where it’s due – the staff realised their error and apologised by way of taking the dessert off the bill (thank you!). Just informing you dear reader, that there may still be teething issues as Lazy Suzie is still new, so you might want to diligently follow up with staff on your orders to be sure that they’re arriving. Especially that of dessert.
A second visit to Lazy Suzie reveals some more dishes to be had, with two entree-sized starters to get the palate going.
Pie tees (rough translation: top hat) are these cute, deep-fried pastry cups that can be stuffed with a variety of fillings. At Lazy Suzie, Zach has opted to go for a predominantly vegetarian take with shiitake, yam and fried veg. Eating these is more for texture than for flavour, though the spoon of sweet chilli sauce on the side is there if you want to make things a bit more interesting. And because it’s Zach we’re talking about here, crab meat is added for that extra x-factor.
The pastry itself is crusty and sturdy, but crumbles after a bit of chewing. This is a good thing, as tough pastry is just…oh god no. As for the vegetables, they donate much-appreciated crunchy texture and act almost as a bit of a refresher, all the while the shiitake providing the primary source of flavour. A fun snack to try!
A dish I expected to be an instant winner were the lobster thermidor spring rolls. Like most spring rolls, the unassuming exterior promises much in the way of internal goodness. Just look at that yuzu mayo on the side!
Oh yes, you can definitely taste the sweet, sweet thermidor sauce, and for me the taste of gruyere also makes its splash. That’s all well and good, but the casualty that’s left by the wayside is the lobster. Unfortunately, I could barely taste it – I could almost believe that these weren’t lobster spring rolls, if I didn’t catch a bit of meat near the end. While that’s a bit of a downer, props for the spring roll’s pastry – the crunch is real! Just not real enough for me to order this one again.
Now, it ain’t a breakfast dish unless there’s fried eggs, and Auntie Jenny knows what’s up. This is probably the heaviest dish you could get at Lazy Suzie, but the reward is one monster of a hangover cure. A generous slab of what can only be described as “OMG DEEP FRIED BREAD & PORK SANDWICH” is accompanied by two dirty fried eggs – crunchy burnt ends and all with oil still so slick I could probably have gotten away without hair gel that day.
Well then, all aboard the gains train!
The bread & pork mince combo is about 75% of the way there in terms of taste. Deep frying anything already scores points, so what would have otherwise been a very bready slab of…well…bread, is instead a deep fried slab of bready bread. It’s much better this way, trust, and the pork floss-coated exterior adds a dimension of sweetness and umami that’s very pleasing. The pork mince is a bit more mediocre – a bit lacking in flavour, and a bit dry (almost inevitable to be honest), but the soy sauce goes a long way to make up for it.
As for the fried eggs: burnt ends? Check. Runny yolk? Check. Yep, a winner – but a winner you might want to share with your dining partner if you still want dinner.
And uh, well you definitely saw this coming. I believe no visit to Lazy Suzie is complete without your ABCs! As for the wait on this particular visit? A much more reasonable 20min (but also necessitating a reminder to the waitstaff – who actually let us know that the ABC wasn’t even on the order books before we reminded them. Phew!)
As expected, the food at Lazy Suzie is once again nothing like what you’ll get elsewhere in Sydney. A taste of Penang is now available to Darlinghurst residents and all who are willing to travel there. Judging from the 40 minute wait times outside the cafe, Lazy Suzie’s definitely dragging people out of beds for its high-end hawker fare.
Yes, there are teething issues. Yes, there are long waits for dishes due to lost orders and yes, the food isn’t perfect across the board. But man, I already visited twice and I’m not about to say no to a third. Will you make your first?
This post is based on two independently paid visits to Lazy Suzie.
How awesome is that blue pea ice & taro ice cream dessert?? Have you had it yet? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
- Once again, Zacharay Tan knows how to throw Sydney a curveball with a spin on Peranakan cuisine
- The ABC is currently the most instagrammable dish that actually tastes as good as it looks
- $25 CKT is so baller
- $25 CKT is too baller
- Wild swings in flavour between dishes
- Some serious service & teething issues that need to be sorted out in the long run
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 | S2.5 | A2