Review: Salaryman swaps ramen for share-friendly Asian BBQ – Surry Hills (Sydney)

The popular Surry Hills restaurant and bar, Salaryman, quickly became known for seasonal left-centre takes on traditional ramen when it first opened in 2015. Glowing reviews and booming business sustained the concept for a year, but as a strong following built it became clear that a focus on ramen just wasn’t enough, hence a thorough re-do of the menu. Now ramen is nowhere to be found at Salaryman, the kitchen instead concentrating their collective talent on dishes inspired by the crisp flavours of traditional Asian BBQ; they’ve kept some of their most popular side dishes (such as the stunning prawn toast) but what you’ll find on the menu now is much more variety than ramen could ever offer.

Thankfully the well-executed industrial space is largely unchanged. A bright neon glow radiates from the back wall, shining some necessary light over the entire space while the busy open kitchen overlooks a setup of both table and stool seating. The stools peering into the kitchen are the best choice if you’re with just one or two others; you might even walk away with intimate knowledge on how their prawn toast is prepared – it’s an incredibly popular choice.

With more choices, the best way to experience Salaryman would be one of their very reasonably priced set menus. You can grab 7 shared savory courses for $50pp, or 10 for $65pp.

Japanese Prawn Toast is deservedly the most popular option on the menu.
Japanese Prawn Toast is deservedly the most popular option on the menu.

Then of course make sure the first order is some of that thick and crunchy Japanese Prawn Toast ($16), an okonomiyaki inspired dish topped with mayo and bonito flakes to give you a bit of umami before that sweet, hot prawn flesh melts in your mouth. Better yet, the serving is quite generous, sliced into four so you can share (if you want to; you won’t want to).

Fried Chinese Bread with extra bone marrow.
Fried Chinese Bread with extra bone marrow.

If you want to keep digging into fried dishes order up a few servings of Fried Chinese Bread ($7 for 2) which comes with black garlic dip. You can get some optional xo bone marrow for $4 to add a bit of smokiness, but that beautiful dip should be more than enough to keep you tucking into those salty bread sticks. Duck Spring Rolls ($7 each) with plum sauce is another wise choice, once again speaking to the kitchen’s generosity, with large rolls encasing a whole heap of soft, steaming hot duck.

Kingfish, Fennel & Kombu
Kingfish, Fennel & Kombu

That’s too much fried, right? You’ll want to balance it out with a clean dish like the stack of Kingfish, Fennel & Kombu ($20) salad. The classic fresh combo is slightly buttery and sweet, but thankfully nothing overpowers the kingfish, which is cut into large thin slices.

salarymanprawns
Skull Island King Prawn.

Another benefit of the new menu lies within the yakitori section of the menu; even the traditional skewers are given a significant point of difference with high quality ingredients and a super-sized sense of scale. For starters, the very large Skull Island King Prawn ($9 each) skewers are a sight to behold, served completely in the shell. Those not a fan of the shell should expect to get their hands very dirty while cracking through to that juicy meat.

Haloumi Skewers.
Haloumi Skewers.

Even more impressive is the flavoursome Haloumi Skewer ($6 each) slathered in soy honey with shiso. It’s crispy, soft, and packed full that of that distinctive salty and rubbery texture that one readily associates with haloumi – one of the most popular cheeses in the world for good reason.

Xinjiang Lamb Belly.
Xinjiang Lamb Belly.

The Xinjiang Lamb Belly ($8 each) skewers are pretty much all fat, melting in your mouth but lacking any clear flavour, an unfortunate miss in a section of the menu that is otherwise a go-to. If you want a fix of lamb the better decision is the sweet Lamb Tartare ($18), beautifully presented with fermented bean curd mayo, wasabi (just a hint) and bean curd chips.

Johnny's Chou Hou Veal Shin.
Johnny’s Chou Hou Veal Shin.

A huge main of Johnny’s Chou Hou Veal Shin ($28) should go down well with any table spread. It’s a soft, slide-off-the-bone serving of two big cuts with beans and various other greens plus kombu, rightfully keeping all the focus on that rich and tender meat.

A very well made Espresso Martini.
A very well made Espresso Martini.

Ideally the kitchen should offer a better range of desserts seeing as they are now targeting group dining, but there’s little complaint to be had once you tuck into one of two options, the better being a Hot Fudge Sundae for Two ($15). It’s light and fluffy rather than rich and thick, a dessert which is best paired with one of the bar’s finest: a classic Espresso Martini impeccably built with the wise choice of Mr Black coffee liqueur.

Essential Orders: prawn toast, haloumi skewers, lamb tartare, Skull Island king prawn skewers, espresso martini.

Salaryman

Address: 52-54 Albion Street, Surry Hills
Contact: 02 9188 2985
Website: salaryman.com.au
Hours:
Lunch – Thurs-Fri 12pm-3pm
Dinner – Tues-Sat 6pm-late