4,180 S Creek Road
|Opening hours||Breakfast and lunch daily; dinner Thu-Sun|
|Features||Family Friendly, Outdoor Seating, Licensed, Takes Reservations|
|Prices||Moderate (dishes $20 to $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Call||0451 866 756|
It’s Sunday afternoon on a suburban strip of Sydney’s northern beaches and chef Blake Toth is filling tacos with smoked chicken and bright salsas. An acoustic guitar guy pumps up Paul Kelly early on, and the Tothy Brothers terrace is intoxicating with the scent of spices and slow-cooked meat.
The full dinner menu doesn’t start until 4 p.m., but the place is already packed with families — the kids taking full advantage of the skate park across the road — and couples on their second round of margaritas at the jalapeno and festive snacks. That’s enough to make you want to Google “median house price in Wheeler Heights.”
By the way, that’s $2.4 million, a bit more than nearby Frenchs Forest, but considerably less than nearby Collaroy. This price could increase throughout the year, especially with the arrival of this new café-restaurant specializing in everything smoked.
Brothers Blake and Sean Toth grew up in Palm Beach and developed a fascination with all things spicy and smoky while living in California and eating in the United States. After returning home in 2018, the couple decided to try smoking huge chunks of beef brisket themselves and created an American-style barbecue with cinder blocks in their parents’ garden.
A traveling sandwich stand has been a hit in local markets, and last year the Toths opened a permanent store under an otherwise drab apartment complex. The day trade in the simple, white-walled dining room is built around the best sangers in North America, including a Reuben with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a signature pastrami brined for two weeks in brown sugar, laurel and juniper ($22). My stars, it’s good.
Filled with crimson red meat like the sandwiches at Katz’s Deli in New York (the one at When Harry Met Sally), the Reuben also features on a more substantial and refined dinner menu the brothers launched in February. A sandwich for dinner? I will not be able. A couple at the next table look happy to share one, though. To hell, I’ll have what they have.
I stop before I go all out on the last days of Rome and dip the sandwich in gravy but, damn it, the temptation is there. It’s incredibly flavorful, made with the melted fat of the smoked brisket and elevating everything it touches, like a side of velvety mashed potatoes ($8); it stands out with a smoked half-chicken ($32), with crispy, golden skin like autumn leaves.
The bonus mash and gravy comes with a superb pork and fennel sausage ($28) plated over collard greens unfortunately too salty to enjoy. However, if you don’t mind upsetting your cardiologist, try the grilled cabbage ($18).
A unique healthy brassica is braised in smoked whey, butter and kombu seaweed before being tossed over charcoal and dusted with nori powder. The braising liquid is reduced for a sauce and it is one of the stickiest cabbages you will encounter on this planet or any other planet.
Before moving to Los Angeles and working at one of Hollywood’s hottest restaurants, EP & LP, Blake Toth cooked modern Japanese at Cho Cho San in Potts Point. You can see the influence in an entrée of thickly sliced raw mackerel wrapped around ribbons of crunchy kohlrabi ($26).
Tomato broth dashi and bonito flakes amp up the umami, though a panhandled handful of crispy fried grape leaves adds little to the dish except for an odd nest. Either way, the flavors being considered suggest that Toth’s cooking could become more singular as the menu evolves.
Meanwhile, football coach-turned-restaurateur Sean leads the floor, pouring sugary, boozy Arnold Palmer cocktails ($18), featuring whiskey, rum, black tea and lemon. Perfect for cutting through all the butter and richness. Likewise, a shiraz-pinot blend from the Lucky’s winery in the Hunter Valley – a vibrant, fruity affair at $8 a glass.
All the power to the brothers for creating an upscale restaurant for locals to grab a quick coffee or hunker down for an assortment of smoked meats and house wine at pub prices.
There’s a welcoming and laid-back vibe to the place, especially at this great spot around 3 p.m. on Sundays when there’s live music, tacos, and a spare seat.
Mark it on your dance map before the rest of the northern beaches do too.
Vibe: Casual neighborhood diner to share smoked meats with family and old friends
Essential dish: Reuben with hand-sliced pastrami over rye.
Drinks : Small list of accessible natural wines, local beers and gourmet cocktails
Cost: Around $120 for dinner, $60 for lunch, excluding drinks
This review was originally published in Have a nice week end magazine