What to order at Parcs

Published on 2 May 2022

Photo: Parcs' Umami e pepe (credit: Parker Blain).

Your inside word on what to order from chef Dennis Yong and restaurant manager Joshua Upton. 

“Minimal waste, curious eating.” Intrigued? We certainly are, and the appeal only deepens the more you learn about Parcs. This brand-new “small-ish ferment bar” – "scrap" spelled backwards – has been brought to life by Dennis Yong, a chef from cutting-edge Southeast Asian restaurant Sunda with a passion for fermentation. 

Perhaps you saw the stir he caused back in 2020 with the “avokaya” he brought to market in lockdown under his Furrmien brand. Combining his Malaysian heritage with his love for upcycling into a condiment that’s equal parts kaya and avocado and 100 per cent good times on toast. At Parcs, those twin passions for fighting waste and fighting for flavour find full expression in a menu unbound by geography and featuring a little ferment in every course.

It’s fair to say Parcs is unlike anything else in Melbourne right now; here’s what to order when you get there. 

How about a drink?
We have a constantly rotating selection of kombucha on pour, all produced as either the by-product of something else we make, or from waste: offcuts, or excess or non-saleable fruit and veg. Our sunflower disc floret kombucha, for example, came from sunflowers we picked on a pick-your-own sunflower excursion and packs light-yet-distinct buttered nut and vegetal aromas.

For the extra thirsty, don't skip the Shobbrook Sandy – a blend of syrah and cinsault – straight from the magnum: rose-like perfume and savoury undertones, with a thirst-quenching acidity that would please even the most die-hard white drinker. There aren’t many bottles still kicking around, so get in before we drink it all.

I’m here for a good time, not a long time.
Sunflowers feature again in the za'atar-spiced Chinese doughnut. We scrape the baked insides out of the sunflower stem (the sunflower marrow, if you will) producing an almost pureed artichoke vibe. Mixed with tahini and then smoked, we smear it all over the top of our fried you tiao (aka Chinese doughnut). This is then coated in an aromatic za'atar mix with more sunflower seeds and our powdered moromi: the by-product of a lentil and soy sauce experiment – think of it as powdered soy sauce. 

Got anything light and fresh?
Salted melons and sweet pickled cucumbers dressed in scrap orange peel kosho should do the trick, as we turn the Chinese classic smashed cucumber dish on its head. Rockmelons are salted, creating a salty zingy flavour combination. Paired with sweet cucumbers, our expectations of the two fruits are flipped, with the piquant elements of our zesty-salty-spicy orange kosho (buy a jar) and mustard oil pushing things further. Relief from the madness comes from fragrant mint and marigold. Throw in a glass of our skin-contact prosecco, Col Tamarie, with its orange citrus oil crunch, and you’ll be all the better for it.

I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
Most of the menu is vegetarian friendly, but you can avoid living things entirely with our vegan buffalo shrooms: a ferment-y take on the always classy buffalo wings and ranch. Combining fruit pulp from various ferments around the kitchen with chillies and salt, we make a hot sauce to marinate our local oyster mushrooms. Battered in corn starch and fried, they're paired with a blue cheese-esque fermented tofu and yeast flake sauce, bringing salt and umami to the zing and heat of the mushrooms. Buffalo wings should always come with some pickles; we stopped some broccolini from hitting the bin at the Queen Victoria Market and pickled it in a sweet lemon myrtle and green chilli solution.

Name the dish that is quintessentially Parcs.
Our Sydney rock oysters summarise the entire Parcs ethos. We start with some grim-looking mangoes at QVM. They were halfway to kombucha already so we decided to nurture the ferment, ageing it in beeswax and saving the peels for a bitter aromatic oil. Candying our SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast used to make kombucha that overlooks the restaurant from a fish tank atop the pass) in pure sugar creates a kombucha jelly of sorts, which is diced and assembled on the oyster. Finished with sweet pickled tropea onions, it's a real trip across the palate. I always recommend at least two. Take them for a ride with a Margan Ceres Hill Off-Dry vermouth for an unexpected winner of a combo.

Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
Arrive starving and order the whole menu. It's achievable for two very hungry people and easy for three or more. We always have a couple of magnums on the go as well, so live recklessly and order hard.

And to close?
Brioche miso ice-crem, poached pear, cacao husk and walnuts. Brioche miso, from scone leftovers, is folded into a classic ice-cream mixture, giving us sweet and salty. A bosc pear is poached in a cacao husk and ginger syrup, the husks coming from Hunted+Gathered. After poaching, we crystallise the husks in the oven, before pounding them up with walnuts and layering them over the pear and ice-cream, alongside our syrup. Down the hatch with a glass of Pennyweight’s magnificent muscat from Beechworth and you surely won't leave disappointed.  

Parcs, 198 Little Collins St, Melbourne, open 4pm-11pm Tue-Sat, parcs.com.au, @parcs.melbourne

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