What happens when hawker style street food meets fine dining? We find out at Teage Ezard’s stylish laneway diner, Gingerboy.
Gingerboy is what many call a very modern Australian restaurant. It champions the concept Ezard affectionately calls ‘Australian freestyle food’. With its unapologetic bold flavours, Gingerboy cleverly transforms Asian street food dishes with polish and finesse.
Even the fit out is polished. Upon entering the downstairs restaurant, we are immediately seduced by the sexy den like atmosphere. Black bamboo pipes clad the walls while a red silk threaded lantern takes centre stage in the rectangular room, looming over diners almost obtrusively. The ceiling is dotted with baby lights, reminiscent of stars, which has a dizzying effect after a couple of drinks.
The Southeast Asian inspired menu is simply divided into small plates (snacks and street food), larger shared plates and sides. The menu savvy staff are more than happy to make recommendations and point out Gingerboy’s signature dishes. Or if you’re feeling indecisive, you can easily opt for the banquet for $80 per head.
We start with a selection of the smaller plates from the street food menu, commencing with the waiter’s enthusiastic recommendation for the son in law eggs (three pieces for $13.50). These babies should come with a consumption warning! Prepare to open wide and eat in one go to avoid the egg literally exploding in your face. The irresistible golden morsels have a thin crispy batter achieved through flash frying. The eggs hold their integrity with ease; the whites are firm yet the yolk remains runny. They are best eaten with a healthy dollop of their housemade chilli jam and a lacing of coriander, mint and shallots. Heaven in a mouthful!
Similarly, a trio of oxtail pot sticker dumplings (three pieces for $15) are brilliantly executed, the intricate packages delicately and neatly crafted. The oxtail filling is surprisingly tender and flaky. A small bowl of spiced black vinegar is the perfect accomplice, breaking down the meaty flavours beautifully.
No street food menu is complete without pork buns (three pieces for $18). And pork is something that Ezard has mastered to the tee. The steamed buns are pillowy and fluffy, a perfect wrapper for the roasted pork belly within which achieves a gorgeous caramelized roasted skin. The addition of pickled cucumber and chilli are just enough to cut through the richness of the pork.
Moving on to the larger courses. A whole fried baby snapper, served with pickled ginger flower caramel ($39) is the ultimate showstopper of the evening, Sitting erect on the plate, it is effortlessly deboned at the table by the expert staff: its crispy golden skin providing a delicious textural contrast to the succulent flesh underneath. A shallow bath of robustly flavoured sauce covers the snapper – its sweet caramel tones warmed up ever so slightly with small chilli slices which create a tingling effect on the back of the throat.
For sides, jasmine rice is traded for the creamed coconut rice ($9) – an overindulgent and gelatinous bowl of goodness. While the wok fried greens ($9) is a simple accompaniment to the larger plates, albeit perhaps a little dull.
The red duck leg curry ($40), one of Gingerboy’s signature dishes, does not disappoint. Wonderfully pungent, the duck falls apart from the bone with ease, its skin continually soaking up the spicy sauce to further maximize the flavour insult. The rich, heady gravy is delicately spiced with confit shallot, Thai basil and coconut cream. This is the kind of dish that warms you from the inside out.
It would be a crime for sweet tooths to miss out on the Gingerboy dessert share plate ($39.50). Showcasing a selection of five mini desserts, the platter is influenced by the seasons and literally bursts with flavour and colour. A spring berry sorbet is paired with vanilla cream, pandan wafer and Vietnamese mint, effortlessly melding fruity and fresh flavours to refresh the palate. While a chilled honey mousse, studded with honeycomb and soaked with chilled chocolate sorbet is devilishly good. The low light is the spiced pineapple, coconut crumb and black sticky rice ice cream, which was so dry and chalklike, it had me reaching for the water glass.
The food at Gingerboy is fantastic, yet for the price you can’t help feeling a little shortchanged. For a hawker style restaurant, is misses the consuming buzz and ferocity of the Asian marketplace. However with great food and service, hungry punters like myself will no doubt continue to flock to the red neon sign on Crossley Street like moths to light. Bookings are recommended.
Food – 8/10
Ambience – 6/10
Service – 8/10
Value – 6/10