Jackie McMillan
29th Dec 2023

Indian supermarkets in Harris Park sometimes dispense free pani puri that explode in your mouth with bursts of salty, sweet, sour and hot. Former MasterChef Australia contestant, Sarah Tiong, makes a more muted variation, fuchka ($14) of Bengali origin, at her new Surry Hills restaurant Ogni. Here the crisp domes are filled with chickpeas and lightly spiced potatoes with faintly smoked yoghurt and sweetish tamarind added tableside. They come in a trio of snacks on the chef’s dawat (feast) menu ($90/person): basically a three-course affair, but good if you’re a group wishing to avoid complex restaurant accounting. The snacks also include Chinese fried mantou buns with a smoked herb butter I struggled to like, and a generous bowl of vibrant yellow pickles — achar achar — a hand-me-down recipe from Tiong’s mother. 

At sixty bucks a bottle, the entry-level Garagiste Chardonnay doesn’t represent bad value on a wine list in this neck of the woods. There’s also a nicely smoky vodka-based crying tiger ($22) cocktail with toasted rice and black salt on the rim. The jaam margarita ($22) arrives adorned with bright purple Java plum pulp: give it a mix and it’s a pleasantly sour and fruity drink. 

Floor staff tell us Tiong is particularly proud of the crackling on her porchetta ($43) but only parts of it shattered. To fit with the modern pan-Asian theme, your shared slab of circular pig has been paired with Thai basil peanut pesto, fresh lime and wrapping leaves. Continuing the cacophony of cuisines, it’s served with a chunky banana leaf package of coconut sticky rice that’s faintly reminiscent of pudding. There was also a charred cucumber and stracciatella salad topped with pangrattato that ate like a bad idea. Under a crisp brown sugar tuile, sweet lychee sorbet sits in a puddle of pandan syrup for a decent closer. I suspect Ogni will speak best to those inspired by the tv show from which it spawned.