Review: ACME (Sydney, NSW)

60 Bayswater Road
Rushcutters Bay NSW 2011
+61 435 940 884

It goes without saying that my list of places to visit in Sydney grows constantly thanks to recommendations from friends and restaurants opening up all the time. One place in particular has been on my radar for quite some time, ACME in Rushcutters Bay. So the last time I was in Sydney, I made it my sole aim to ensure that I dined that – other things look a backseat on the priority list (pfft friends? I don’t need to see them just yet!)

It seems like most hospo groupies know the whole story: the name ACME comes from the first letters of each of the owner’s first names (Andy Emerson, Cam Fairbairn, Ed Loveday and chef Mitch Orr). The food is post-modern (i.e. hipster) Italian but with Asian influences. On paper, the menu suited my palette to a tee. In reality, however, I was underwhelmed. I’m not sure if it was because we came on a bad night or whether my expectations were set too high – after all, my friends couldn’t stop raving about this place. Or maybe we ordered the wrong things. My dining partner Bean agreed with me though to be fair, fusion cuisine is not really his thing.

Foodies will tell you to start your meal with a serving of Jatz crackers – yes, the ones you can grab from the Coles biscuit aisle. For $6, you will get four pieces of crackers topped with whatever the kitchen feels like on the night. Sometimes it could be liverwurst and pickles and sometimes it could be mustard butter and salami. Our topping was a creamy curried egg topping which, to be fair, was nice but I still think the whole Jatz thing is an overpriced gimmick.

Jatz a la Café Paci ($6)

Better was the baby calamari dish, grilled in a lovely lime and five-spice marinate. I’d say this was probably the less ‘fusion-y’ dish on the menu that evening – and ironically, it was probably the highlight.

Baby calamari with lime and five spice ($24)

When dining at ACME, you’d better order their signature pigs head macaroni or you’ll incur the shock of ACME fangirls and fanboys asking if you’re insane for skipping THE MOST AMAZING DISH EVER. After having this dish, I have to ask these fangirls and fanboys what they saw in this dish because honestly, I didn’t think it was that great. Don’t get me wrong – the maraconi shells were divine and possibly one of the best pastas I’ve had in Australia (Orr has amazing technique when it comes to handmade pasta thanks to having worked at Pilu et al). The sauce, however, didn’t impress me. It was more sweet than salty and I felt that the chilli didn’t really belong in there. I wanted to like this dish though and like I said earlier, perhaps I really did come on a bad night.

Pigs head macaroni with egg yolk ($22)

As far as the mains went, I liked the maltagliati a lot more. The combination of shiitake mushrooms, spring onions (why say scallion? We’re in Australia!) worked beautifully with the rich butter sauce. As for the pasta, oh my goodness, the texture! It was amazing! This dish definitely smashed it – in fact, I was expecting the other dishes to be more like this one.

Maltagliati with shiitake and burnt scallion ($22)

Bean isn’t keen to do a return visit and I’m not sure if I’ll be rushing back. That said, I’m still willing to give it another chance as I’m curious to try the other pasta dishes on the menu (though let’s face it – like I’d turn down a chance to eat more pasta). I’ll let you guys know how my second visit is – if it’s as underwhelming as my first visit, I’ll know that ACME was sadly not for me. If it’s a lot better, then I’ll know that even the most popular restaurants in Sydney occasionally have bad nights.