198 Little Collins St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Sustainable dining has been in for a while now, but Parcs – that’s scrap backwards – takes it one step further. The MO here is uncompromising dedication to no-waste dining; the bulk of their dishes are founded on literal food waste, fermented marinated and pickled until they’re turned into something not only edible, but delicious. Being a sibling restaurant to Sunda and Aru, there is unsurprisingly an Asian influence to the dishes, though what you get is far from traditional Chinese cuisine. It is worth saying that the food here won’t be for everyone – such unconventional ingredients and techniques means that nothing tastes quite as expected, and most dishes end up being an unphotogenic shade of brown. But if you’re after a unique experience that is truly one-of-a-kind, then Parcs hits it out of the parc.
Rating: 14/20 – sorry not sorry for the pun; but they even have the award to prove it!
Dish of the day: umami e pepe. and the water kefir (trust me)
Must-order: brioche miso ice cream, for the experience if nothing else.
A relatively unintimidating start – and a fabulous twist on the bread course – is the Chinese Doughnuts, Mustard Brassica Dip, Nutmeg ($8), which pairs the traditional Chinese cruller with a creamy, mustard-scented dip. Or go all out and add on a side of Crocodile Bacalao ($10), stewed in traditional char siu flavours and topped with astringent orange kosho for burst of freshness.
The Mussels Escabeche ($18) is a fascinating take on the traditional Chinese cold starter. The lightly pickled shellfish is warmed up with a drizzle of peppercorn oil, and the expectation of salt, crunch, and tang come from translucent slices of preserved kohlrabi, and preserved cucumber peel. It is truly an ingenious dish.
Here’s where things start to get truly funky. The Umami e Pepe ($20) bears the wok hei of street food, but instead of soy, the slippery strands are coated in a thick miso gravy, extracted from leftover bread. With a hefty hand on the pepper, this is comfort food at its most brazen.
Renpo Tofu ($28) = Ren’s Mapo Tofu, and whilst it’s not quite as fiery and flavoursome as traditional mapo tofu, it’s definitely got the spicy and numbing down, not to mention the comforting silky texture.
The Kung Pow Kangaroo ($34) is the only meat dish on the menu, and admittedly it’s one of the less exciting offerings, but still a tasty one.
Ok, let’s talk Brioche Miso Ice Cream ($18). Fermented from leftover scones, the effect is remarkably similar to blue cheese. With the addition of walnuts and poached pears, it is a complete after-dinner cheese platter in ice cream form. I still don’t know how I feel about it, but it’s very much worth a try.
For drinks, there is a whole bunch of fermented wines. Otherwise, give the light and refreshing Cold Brew Tie Guan Ying Oolong Tea ($10) a go.
The real dark horse however is the Water Kefir ($12). With kefir being a sort of fermented yoghurt drink, I thought this sounded disgusting. But our waiter decided to kindly treat us to a taste, and it is as far from the watery yoghurt of my imagination as you can get. Flavoured with mango skins and lime, this golden drop tastes like tropical fruits and leafy shade, with just a hint of lactic richness rounding it out. It is chuggably good, but absolutely worth savouring.