King Clarence

Jackie McMillan
17th May 2024

What struck me during my visit to King Clarence was the fact that fusion is no longer a dirty word in Sydney. The general standard of fusion restaurants has lifted, and instead of dilute versions of punchy Asian cuisines, in most cases we get clever produce-focused mash-ups. Steak tartare ($30) spiked with fermented chilli, smoked oyster, peanut and sesame oil on tapioca crisps is a case in point. Dancing effortlessly between Chinese, Korean and Japanese cuisines, Executive Chef Khanh Nguyen, who grew up in Marrickville, knows how Aussies like to eat. Nguyen straddles this divide nicely in individual duck tsukune ($19/each) where the Japanese ground duck skewers are served up as sangas on Japanese white bread (shokupan) with hoisin tare and an onsen egg tip. 

We’re tucked near the cellar in the contemporary industrially-styled space that’s lit like a nightclub. This doesn’t do the food any favours: everything looks red. But it works for the duck ($80), a glossy highly-worked half-bird dipped in maltose and red vinegar to crisp up the skin. Presented as breast and Maryland, it’s juicy, smoky, and sticky on the leg with a char sui-inspired glaze made from hoisin and Davidson plum and umeboshi. The carcass—roasted bone—is employed in an underlying jus that makes the cavolo nero the duck comes with pretty darn delicious.  It also made wok-fried greens ($20) with strange flavour, typhoon shelter and Sichuan peppercorns kind of superfluous, but I enjoyed this combo. anyway. Throw in a pot of crispy clay pot rice ($38) made on short grain  Japanese koshihikari rice littered with fatty pork jowl char sui and lap cheong under a raw egg yolk, and you have a tasty dinner. 

As you’d expect from a restaurant in the Bentley Group under Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrand, the wine list goes all the way to ridiculous. Being willing to drink unpopular varietals, like white Grenache in the 2022 Benjamin Taillandier Grenache blanc blend ($88), can help keep things relatively affordable. It suited the wide-ranging dishes, including the bucket-load of chilli options we got when we said we loved hot sauce. I’d go back if I found myself post-event hungry in the CBD.