There is a trend sweeping Sydney – cheaper, fast foodie style cuisine, typically in the form of Mexican or American style cuisine. It makes sense for the restaurants (its higher margin than fine dining) and for the customers (who are a tad more budget conscious than in prior years) given the current economic environment.
Travel Czar is not a fan of Mexican food and the American style diner food is well certainly not like Eleven Madison Park. And if you have read Travel Czar’s Best Dining Guide, you can see he typically prefers classical, fusion food with bit style and elegance. However if done properly, the American “deep south” cuisine can be amazing, just give me some delicious Louisiana crab cakes any day of week please. Substance is better than style!
There is a place that has certainly does this cuisine quite well and that is the new South American style Smokehouse/BBQ place in Manly called Papi Chulo. Travel Czar actually went here once before (at the start of the year with some very dear friends), alas his absent mindedness meant he forgot to blog the lunch (but I will touch on some highlights of that lunch later in this note).
I catch the ferry across to Manly to have a light Friday dinner before the weekend kicks into gear. I get seated at a lovely table by the window (perfect for people watching).
The staff here are super friendly and just absolutely beautiful. I order a cocktail to start, it’s the Aguante. A beautiful light cocktail with dry Plymouth Gin, Aperol, and lemon juice topped with Brazilian Guarana soda. It’s refreshing and the aperol gives that little light kick you need to dull your senses after a long work week.
The entree arrives, its a prawn and scallop ceviche (crystal bay prawns, sea scallops, mango, chilli with a coconut dressing). It’s perfect; succulent prawns and soft tender “melt in your mouth” scallops are the base of the dish. The sweetness of the mango is balanced by the chilli and tangy dressing. The chopped chilli, herbs and coconut in the dish provide for some exciting textures. This dish ticks all the boxes, texture, taste (fusion of different flavours) and amazing produce.
For the mains it’s the smoked lamb ribs with Papi’s BBQ sauce. The ribs are amazing, the meat just falls of the bone, is oh so tender and melts in your mouth. It is the taste of perfectly roasted ribs. The BBQ sauce which is sweet, salty with a slight tangy (but not overpowering) flavour complements the ribs beautifully.
I follow-up with a couple of glasses of the Calo Rioja (2011) Tempranillo. It’s a beautiful savoury, spicy wine with fullness of the fruit shining through. It’s simply amazing… perfect for this cold day.
I am still feeling a tad peckish after the ribs – so I decide to try the Tennessee-style hot fish sandwich. The dish is interesting, it has a cornmeal crusted fish, with some spicy tartare sauce, some pieces of lettuce with pickles on a soft bun. This is exciting! How does it compare to Jeremy Strode’s famous Fish Burger from the Fish Shop (see my review of the Fish Shop burger here)?. It’s the million dollar question.
The cornmeal certainly adds extra texture to the dish (you bite through the crunchy cornmeal batter to be greeted with a very moist tender piece of fish). It’s certainly a heavier batter than the Fish Shop batter, however it’s flavour does make up for this. What really does sparkle with this dish is the tartare sauce – it has plenty of pickles and has that unique spice/sour taste which is so captivating. I love it, it’s amazing but I think it is a close second to the Fish Shop burger (but only just).
I have another Rioja to finish and then make my way to Manly Wine for a night cap. Beautiful night out!
Now back to my lunch at Papi Chulo’s at the start of the year. There were a couple of dishes that really stood out. First up the Curly Fries! They had a unique spicy seasoning which wowed everyone.
I had the grass fed ribeye on the bone (which they have since removed from the menu – Please bring it back!!!) which was seriously good.
Second dish which really stood out was the dessert, I highly recommend the chocolate chip cookie, vanilla malt ice-cream, butterscotch sauce, macadamia brittle. The warm gooey chocolate chip cookie (which give a “soft melt in your mouth cookie dough” sensation) combined with the soft (semi melted) creamy ice cream and crispy sugary brittle was amazing.
It’s the perfect comfort food! So to sum it up, Papi Chulo is amazing and reflective of some amazing South American dining cuisine, with quality, creative flair and great service.