Restaurant Ka

Jackie McMillan
14th May 2023

Coasting over the line of dishes you can’t cook at home, Restaurant Ka, serves up paradise prawns pounded into paste and shaped into textural noodles. The eye-catching ribbons of orange and white—complemented by shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, and shaoxing wine—are just one of eight exciting courses ($180/person) at the tiny, 10-seater degustation-only restaurant. After a decade under Martin Benn at Sepia, followed by time in Golden Century’s XOPP kitchen, owner/chef Zachary Ng certainly has a unique vision, no doubt also influenced by spending the first 19 years of his life in Hong Kong. He toys with diner expectation in dishes like a bluefin tuna ‘spring roll’ where a dice of lean and fatty tuna is presented on crisp spring roll pastry under creamy horseradish with popping Yarra Valley roe he’s washed, marinated in his seasoned house soy, and smoked in applewood for a popping good time! Think of it as late night stoner food, well, if you happened to date a very talented chef. 

The menu highlight is an elegant white-on-white mound of Port Lincoln calamari sliced into long, thin noodles seared in a pan for just 30 seconds. Give the pile a nudge to reveal a black sauce of squid ink, spring onion and garlic. They’re at once intense and delicate: magic against a slurp of Imayotsukasa Hitotoki Junmai ($155/720ml) sake. Before you’ve even thought to run your finger through the puddled remains, Ng arrives with pillowy milk buns and whipped butter spiked with condensed milk and soy to mop the plate. Ng’s company is a good part of the attraction at this darkened Darlo bunker. From presenting dishes to answering questions and mixing up a short but entertaining list of cocktails, including the Not Quite Old Fashioned ($28) with star anise and candied mandarin, Ng gives you a lot of time for your spend. 

From the opening snacks, like sweetcorn and fluffy manchego on a short, buttery biscuit, to mains like a modestly presented bowl of four-hour smoked Stockyard full blood wagyu brisket cubes dotted with foraged pine mushrooms, chestnut and yuzu butter over rice, this menu does not skip a beat. Ng even coaxes celery into a credible pre-dessert with peppery bite cutting through Candy Hearts grapes and finger lime curbed by apple yoghurt. With the restaurant still being in its first eight months of operation, it’s mercifully easy to get a booking. I suspect that won’t always be the case...