I don’t know why it’s taken me 9 months to write this review. I don’t have any particularly good excuses, apart from the fact that we had eaten at so many places on our short trip to Melbourne that I had felt a little bit burnt out by all the reviewing, leaving it up to now, when I’ve run out of other things to procrastinate on, to do.
As it’s been nine months, this should not be considered a particularly comprehensive, or even useful piece of writing. It’s more just a few thoughts that I still remember pieced together from notes I jotted down during the meal, and some pictures to prove to myself in later years that I did indeed eat here on the 19th of April 2022.
We started the night with a number of snacks. Featured in the foreground here is oyster, coconut curry vinaigrette, shallot, pepperleaf, prepositions are of course not needed in high end cuisine. I enjoyed this deliciously creamy oyster, with its hint of curry flavouring. One of many creamy oysters we had that trip.
The next snack to discuss is this cracker of carrot, macadamia satay, sunflower, kakadu plum, with a good crispiness and a flavour that I think reminded us of tom yum, unless that was about the oysters.
The caramelised trout, green mango, muntries, prawn cracker was strongly reminiscent of the classic Chinese canned fish known as fried dace with black beans, commonly made by Nanmen Bridge company and sold in a yellow and red oval tin.
The ‘otak otak’, spanner crab curry, finger lime, rice crisp was yummy, and even though there was plenty of curry it was still easy to appreciate the sweetness and crabbiness of the crab.
The buttermilk roti, Sunda’s vegemite curry, a lauded secret item that you have to know about to order as a $20 supplement really wasn’t all that. The roti was very cripsy but hyper oily, but the flavour of the vegemite was at least pretty mild. We were advised that this was a must-not-miss at Sunda, but really I think you can miss it relatively safely. Not game changing.
This heirloom tomato, white sesame, davidson plum, pomelo salad was very fresh, so much so that I jotted down at the time “So fresh, hits of 2021” (I don’t know why specifically 2021, it was 2022 when I had this meal). There was a bit of a yellow curry-like (we found later that it was the white sesame curry paste) paste at the bottom of the tomatoes that had a night sweet and lightly spicy flavour., and some mouthfuls were a bit like white sugar on tomato, a common Northern Chinese snack dish.
The pork belly, rainforest tamarind, rhubarb, daikon radish was a pretty good entree. The meat was extremely tender, with the meat bits having great mouthfeel but unfortunately with too great a fat to lean pork ratio. The meat, “marinated with rainforest tamarind, coconut sugar and pomegranate molasses” as per Khanh Nguyen’s social media was very tangy, and in fact a bit too tangy for us. The lightly pickled daikon radish sheet, thin to the point of translucency, brought the tang back down a notch into mild enjoyability with a hint of sweetness.
The less good of our two mains was the bannockburn chicken, thai sausage, gai lan, bush apple. The gai lan was pretty good, cooked to a normal degree that you might find in any Chinese restaurant, not extraordinarily special. The chicken wrapped within it was moist and tender, delivered over the course of four or five separate slices, enough volume we thought. The Thai sausage had much ginger flavour. The bush apple went unnoticed. This was not an unreasonable main, but paled in comparison to our other choice.
Though people sing praises about their vegemite roti, I think Sunda’s true star dish is their koshihikari congee in a burnt onion broth with pickled cauliflower, confit egg yolk and paperbark oil. I’ve never enjoyed a congee as much in my entire life. This was such a warm and wholesome bowl, with a high degree of creaminess, soft delicate rice grains, and an almost potato mash-like soupy quality. The texture of the carbohydrate was creamy and the taste was mild, but the pool of broth surrounding it was absurd in its complex mix of sweet, salty, and sour flavours. The crispiness of the mushroom, cauliflower, and greens added great textural variation, whilst the opulent slow egg brought it all together with a third. Such a standout.
The gem lettuce, blood lime, shallot, nasturtium salad was truly an experience in whatever. Some of the leaves were a bit better, we did not enjoy. Unlike lilies, the nasturtium appear to be non-toxic to cats. Would you pay for your kitty to have dialysis?
I think this is the coconut sorbet with pineapple and kaffir lime granita, coconut jelly, desert lime jam, coconut yoghurt and sprinkled with candied green peppercorns. I didn’t love it – I think the pineapple was too pineapple for me.
The our take on pavlova, lychee, pandan, pepperberry was my preferred dessert, my more enjoyed part being the pepperberry ice cream. I am also fond of the Van Diemens Land Pepperberry & Leatherwood Honey ice cream that is available in tubs from some supermarkets though, and I did not think restaurant this was particularly superior. Neither of these two desserts really stood out.
We finished with petit fours, lamington pandan caneles with davidson plum. I am proud to announce that in the time between eating at Sunda and writing this review I now know how to pronounce “canelé” after being schooled by a guy at a bakery in Dulwich Hill NSW.
Quick verdict: We paid $130pp excluding drinks but including the vegemite roti, and I think it would be easy to recommend going back. We already had accommodation, and it would’ve been annoying to move between hotels, but when we ate at Sunda there was a promotion where you could book a night in hotel together with your meal for an extremely cheap price. Might be worth doing for Melbourne suburbanites looking for a nice South-East Asian fusion dinner.
18 Punch Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9654 8190