Australian palates have evolved a lot since the days when a plate of deep fried curry puffs and spring rolls constituted a good Asian restaurant entree.
Now we demand more from our Asian cuisine. Infuzions, on the Hornsby food scene for five years now, has recognised this and is delivering cuisine that gets off the tired tourist trail to deliver fresh, exciting, vibrant flavours.
“We want to create inspiring food so that our chefs and our customers don’t get bored,” explains Benjamin Nash, co-owner. “We’re creating food every day, sometimes for covers of up to 150 people on a Friday or Saturday night, so we need to be excited and challenged by what we do too.”
The “fusion Asian” produced by head chef Kai Yuttha in a 13 year partnership with Benjamin working together at various restaurants from the Rocks to Dural, features European dishes with an Asian slant, as well as ideas borrowed from Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Most of the inspiration however, comes from Thailand.
“For example the marinated chicken with turmeric, coconut milk and oyster sauce comes from chef Kai’s mother’s recipe book from Northern Thailand,” says Ben.
The tapas entrees include a spinach and crab dim sum which had to be the hero dish of the night. Boldly coupled with a coconut, chilli and curry sauce, the crab taste punched well above its weight and holds its own over the stronger spices. Incredible.
Our two teenage dining companions chose the Crispy Tofu, a sublime coupling of little puffs of joy (“a dolly’s pillowcase”) balanced on a crispy wonton base accompanied by a cane sugar sauce, as well as a salt and pepper squid managing to be both crunchy and tender, coupled with a garlicky dipping sauce.
Also on our must-trys was an exquisite looking Smoked Trout with Betel leaf, an edible heart-shaped bright green Asian leaf accompanied by roasted coconut and black caviar. A sensory delight as the creamy trout competed with the crunch of the leaf and the rice. Joy in a bite. Here the chefs really know how to wake taste buds.
The smart service means dishes are spaced well so you don’t have an avalanche of food at once, leaving you time to ponder and savour the techniques and flavours of each one.
The mains we opted for include a ubiquitous family favorite, a Garlic Pepper Soft Shell Crab which delighted with a crunchy exterior and crabby, fleshy, morish body. My husband opted for one of the Australo-Asian dishes, the Massaman Lamb Shank with a sweet potato mash and crispy sweet potato ribbons. Though its Massaman sauce was pleasant, he remarked the sauce was not as flavourful as a traditional Massaman version.
My daughter’s friend went for the Crispy Pork Belly with Chinese broccoli with an oyster, garlic and chilli sauce which was tender and perfect for those not keen on the overly-spicy, while my vegetarian daughter opted for the Pad Thai with tofu, as well as delicious crunchy Asian greens topped with peanut sauce.
The decor is monochromatic, edgy and urban, the main feature being a forest of white lights filling the cavernous void of ceiling mass, as well as a faux jungle of suspended greenery over our heads. The walls are exposed brick and concrete, and it’s a fitting stylish backdrop for the equally stylish food.
The already satiated teens did serious damage to the unapologetically over the top Paradise dessert bought out unexpectedly. This was an oversized goblet packed with a flourless chocolate brownie, cream, seasonal fruits and mango, coffee and mint choc ice cream flavours, crowned by a very tall spun sugar concoction not dissimilar to a fifties beehive hairdo. A bit of a theme park dessert but a crowd-pleaser nonetheless. If you prefer, there are Asian fusion desserts featuring green tea moss and yuzu kurd.
On the busy Saturday night we visited, Infuzions was packed with an eclectic mix of diners, from the septuagenarians at the next table discussing golfing scores to the tattooed hipsters enjoying a birthday with 20 of their friends, and everyone in between. Clearly the message is getting through. Asian fusion is the new way of eating.
Hunter and Burdett Street, Westfield Mall
Tel: 9476 2003
Open Monday to Sunday 11.30am to 9.30pm.