By all rights any restaurant named after ’80s cult TV classic ‘Monkey Magic’ should have patrons summoning waiters by whistling their fingers looking to the clouds, stick-fighting mayhem with other diners, and limiting conversation to small but influential Buddhist figurehead – none of which would make any sense whatsoever. Monkey Magic, the restaurant, on Sydney’s Crown Street in Surry Hills, doesn’t have any of those features – a fact excused only by the quality of its food which, in a word, is spellbinding.
Modern Japanese is the order of the day with some other Asian dishes like duck pancakes (cute miniatures made from buckwheat, pictured above) thrown in for good measure, and an exotic blend of mouthwatering sushi and equally impressive sashimi with some clever takes on traditional Japanese favourites. The Blue Swimmer Crab roll, for instance, works by cleverly substituting soy with curried vinaigrette.
Skewers of prawn and vegetables tempured to a golden brown and uniquely served lollipop -tyle on thin wooden sticks are a great choice of entrée while the salt and pepper cuttlefish boasts a texture and taste far better than the standard calamari ubiquitous in Sydney restaurants. Thanks to just a hint of chili, it proves to be a worthwhile standout. The coriander and garlic mayonnaise accompanying it is the perfect dipping sauce.
The Teriyaki chicken could well be Monkey’s signature dish (pictured above). Soft and succulent, it melts in your mouth faster than the miso candied butter it comes with while the sauce itself is dark, sweet, rich and, yes, quite possibly the best of its kind in the city. The steamed snapper with broth emanates a subtlety of textures; the white flesh deliciously falls apart while the snapper skin is sharp and crisp. Not just a tokenistic gesture for vegetarians the restaurant’s steamed Asian greens with a sticky citrus miso is a flavorsome side the most voracious meat-eater would happily sink their teeth into.
Desserts include spring rolls wickedly filled with white chocolate and banana plated with a refreshing green tea ice cream or the salted caramel semifreddo with crunchy meringue which tastes as good as it looks. The wine list boasts a wide selection of international and Australian drops, focusing on WA’s Margaret River. Cocktails should come with a warning: addiction is likely. The ‘Monkey Gland’ of gin, orange and grenadine quickly becomes a favourite. If that’s not enough, there’s an impressive array of sake, whiskey, rum and just about everything else you’d expect to find at a well-stocked bar.
With its dark hardwood floors, brown brick walls, minimalist lighting and spacious interior, Monkey Magic is one restaurant you don’t want to miss out on. Twin Head Chefs Shea Crawford and Shinsuke Tsurita have carved themselves a well-deserved reputation for fusing modern and traditional dishes to very high standards ensuring the success of this restaurant is not down to magic, but to hard work and a shared vision of excellence.
Monkey Magic is situated 410 Crown Street, Surry Hills.
Visit www.monkeymagic.com.au for more information or phone (02) 9358 4444 to book.