If you like street food reduced to its essence and then given a kick in the pants, The Commissary is your kind of restaurant. They only open for dinner, they don’t take reservations, the menu doesn’t have a clear origin and they play their music a little too loud. And it’s perfect.
Chef Wesley Randles and his team have taken inspiration from global travels and brought home an array of dishes they’ve transformed to the point that you probably won’t find them on a menu anywhere else in the world. The menu shifts constantly, and while a few favourites make Recurring Guest Star drop-ins, the team generally have free rein to put together imaginative combinations that make each visit, refreshing.
Calling the food ‘punchy’ is an understatement – if something has been prepared in the wood-burning oven, it’s a smoky Islay kick in the teeth. Umami somehow arrives as the harmonising finish to a dish that crackles with layers of flavours that fight for attention on a single plate. If they tell you something is spicy – believe them. If there’s a theme to be had, it’s remotely Asian – potent house-made XO sauce pops up in a few dishes, Nahm Jim threatens to overpower oysters before becoming the perfect counterpoint to the base saltiness and an improbable gorgonzola tahini with pecan nuts and immolated pancetta somehow transform a boring wedge of lettuce into one of the tastiest things you’ll ever put in your face, in your life.
But then you glance down the menu – inscribed on the wall next to the bathroom door – and you’ll find things like Mortadella sliders (on fresh, house-made potato buns) and the fudgiest of fudge brownies (with the nitrogen peanut butter topping you never knew you needed in your life) and you’ll start to understand that great food doesn’t need a theme – it just needs to tell a story.
Randles oversees the kitchen at both The Commissary and adjacent Shortmarket Club, so he regularly uses the interleading door to pop in and out. One minute he’s discussing the ratio of fish sauce to caramel in a proposed pork spare rib dish with his Sous Chef and the next, he’ll be next door, plating something elaborate with tweezers. It’s a delicious contrast that evidently stokes the imagination.
Follow The Commissary on Facebook for updates of regular themed evenings. Sometimes they’ll focus their full attention on working up wild and wonderful pizzas. On other special nights, sliders are the star of the show. One of the best things about the restaurant is that you never know what you’re going to get – you just know it’s going to be great.
86 Shortmarket Street,
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