Flinders Lane has arguably Melbourne CBD’s hottest eat street right now and one of the newest residents is Andrew McConnell’s Supernormal.
It’s hard to tell from the name but the restaurant specialises in Asian-inspired food. It’s mostly Japanese with a hint of Chinese and Korean, as you can tell by some of the signage and the little touches such as sesame grinders and a Japanese candy vending machine by the toilets! Downstairs there’s even a private karaoke room.
I went for lunch with my (Asian) parents and they were impressed by the food, not so much by the prices. While the mostly concrete interior design is stark, utilitarian and almost canteen-like, I think you’ll be hard pressed to eat a full meal and spend less than $40-$50 a head on just food.
Part of the reason is that we found a disproportionate amount of protein compared with the side dishes and starchy staples eg rice, buns, bao. So you have to order more to compensate (steamed rice at $4 a bowl) or eat pulled pork or duck meat on its own. This may be ‘paleo’ but it is anathema to any person brought up on Asian cuisine.
Nevertheless, the food was generally spot on. We started with some slippery prawn and chicken dumplings ($14) swimming in some a hair-raising chilli sauce.
The spicy eggplant was not the Sichuan dish that I was expecting but rather a cold salad of black-braised eggplant with spring onion, coriander and wobbling cubes of house-made tofu ($16). Full of flavour but not really my style.
We enjoyed our quarter of twice-cooked duck, crispy and juicy at the same time with a hint of star anise in its skin. The steamed buns (just three) were pillowy light and perfect for nestling bites of meat and cucumber.
The piece de resistance was the Korean BBQ pulled pork shoulder ($74). We were warned that it was huge and would take 20 minutes to come to the table. With anticipation mounting, a large steaming bowl of spicy/tangy/salty molten pork meat arrived at the table, accompanied by a bowl of kimchi and some perfectly domed steamed buns. We had a lot of meat left over after our bun intake so we ordered some steamed rice.
If you have enough people to share it with then this dish is a must-have at Supernormal. Luckily we were able to take the remainder of it home and it was delicious the next day wrapped in a tortilla with some salad!
If you have room try the avant-garde dessert of pink lady and miso soft serve icecream. Yes miso! Surprisingly the combination worked in harmony – nectar sweet apple ice cream with a hint of umami now and then on your tongue. The now defunct Golden Fields’ famous peanut butter parfait reappears on Supernormal‘s menu but I reckon it’s time to try something different.
Supernormal is an imaginative combination of fast food/fine-dining where the food and service will win you over. Go and enjoy it and just don’t gasp at the bill at the end.