146 King St
Newtown, NSW 2042
Within months of opening, Ante has scooped itself the title of NSW Bar Of The Year in the Good Food Guide; no biggie right, doesn’t everyone do that? Sake and Sounds is what’s promised on the door, and the vibe it delivers is truly immaculate. The place has the fingerprint of the modern izakaya down to a science, with a touch of hipster energy thrown in. And the food? As splendid as the soundtrack, not to mention the tome of a sake list. The recommendation is 2-3 dishes per person from the tightly curated selection of share plates, but the real difficulty is not over-ordering. Bar Of The Year may be one thing, but the real wonder is when I wait an hour for a table on a weeknight, and feel like I’ve come out on top.
Rating: 16.5/20 – upping the ante etc etc.
Must-order: The yabbies in roasted kombu butter. I didn’t get them, but the smell alone made me regret every decision in my life that’s led me to this point.
When to get there: At opening, that’s to say, 5 on the dot. Apparently there’s already a line by that point.
The Kingfish Crudo ($26) is, as expected, a lovely start. The light fish is given additional freshness by the combination of cucumber and shiso, all whilst being grounded with an astringently savoury lemon kosho.
The Pork and Porcini Sausage ($17) may not be subtle, but who needs subtlety when a dish is this good? Satisfyingly meaty with pockets of porcini that burst with umami, it’s delicious with the accompanying seeded mustard and prune sauce, but also just as good when the smoky fattiness is left alone to shine.
I am a huge fan of secondary cuts when it comes to ordering meat. Not only is it almost always more flavoursome, it usually also tends to be more interesting because there are fewer preconceptions on how they should be used. Plus, it’s often easier on the hip pocket too. Case in point: the Kingfish Wing ($17). Glazed with gentle split pea miso and grilled over charcoal, the fatty meat is succulent enough to rival sashimi-grade cuts. But the best bits are, without a doubt, between the joints and in the crevasses, so don’t be shy – dig in with your hands!
Both pastas on the menu look absolutely scrumptious, but it was the Tagliatelle, Fermented Shiitake Mushrooms ($32) that we saw coming out of the kitchen at our weakest and hungriest, so that’s how it panned out. And this is shovel-into-your-face-whilst-crying-in-front-of-the-TV-in-PJs-after-something-horrible-happened level of goodness. The silken, buttery sauce is intently savoury and umami, coating every noodle with its luscious richness. As they used to say in 2013, GET IN MAH BELLY.
Ugly delicious is the name of the game for the Corn, Silken Tofu, Hazelnut Furikake ($18), especially the delicious bit. The layers of smooth tofu, sweet bursts of corn kernels, and the salty, toasty furikake is an absolute flavour and texture bomb, and completely deserves to be eaten directly from the plate with a spoon.
No matter how full you might be, leave room for the Mascarpone Pannacotta, Cherries, Umeshu ($14). The smooth creaminess of the custard is absolute off the charts, but the addition of berries and liquor bring sharply to mind lazy summer days eating berries and drinking champagne. It is truly a standout.
If you’re not into sakes, there’s still plenty to pick from. The Ume and Ginger Highball ($19) is fantastically light and refreshing, with lingering notes of fruit and spice.