Junk Lounge, The Rocks

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Lounge. The very word conjures images of relaxation, bliss and comfort. A place where you can sit back, drink in hand, and let time pass by. Named after the Chinese sailing ships, called 'Junks', Junk Lounge is inspired by the concept of a voyage and draws upon influences from all over Asia.
From its position above the well-known Cruise Bar at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, the cocktail bar overlooks the beautiful panorama of Circular Quay and the Opera House. The view is even better at night. It's an intimate, den-like oasis in the heart of Circular Quay, serving creative drink concoctions and bar food with a Pan-Asian touch. I was invited by Zomato to a meetup hosted by Junk Lounge. 

To one side of the dimly-lit space is a grand communal table crafted from recycled wharf timber, above which hang upturned paddy hats filled with indoor foliage. A long, plush padded banquette faces the floor to ceiling glass windows that look out to the harbour - perfect for enjoying the illuminated harbour views at sunset. It's the kind of dark, sophisticated, moody venue perfect for any occasion - a celebration, classy get together or relaxing night out with friends.

Drinks are a heavy focus at Junk Lounge. Their cocktail names employ witty puns like 'Sailors Delight', 'King Zhao Breakfast' and 'General Sun Tzu', and meddle with Asian flavours that include kaffir lime, matcha green tea, shiso and lemongrass.

Aloe Geisha ($18)
This sweet cocktail is a concoction of white rum, sake, lime, lemon balm and aloe vera. Each sip takes me back to my childhood, with a nerd-like flavour that is sour, sweet and a little fruity. It's a refreshing palate cleanser that is topped with an elegant foam and gorgeous edible flower.

An experimental cocktail that is not yet on menu, this drink is a mix of Ginzu - a yuzu-laced gin - cherry blossom, matcha green tea and ginger beer. It's a really refreshing concoction that is not as sweet as the Aloe Geisha, and has all the flavours that I love.

The food menu is a hybrid of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Malay cuisines. There are smaller bar food items, as well as larger plates for a more substantial sit down meal. Most items are inspired by traditional Asian dishes, with the kitchen putting their own take on much-loved favourites.

Edamame & green tea salt ($5)
Warm edamame is sprinkled with a green tea salt. There is an addictive chilli bite dispersed among the vibrant green pods - this is the perfect bar snack to go with your drink.

Lotus root chips with spicy yuzu salsa ($9)
These crispy, spicy lotus root chips embody the idea of Asian fusion food. Use them to scoop up a vibrant salsa of tomato, onion and citrus. It's a fun, bruschetta-like dish that requires a little bit of coordination to ensure that you get everything in your mouth all at once (as opposed to on the table…).

Pork Belly steamed bun with pickled daikon, cucumber & carrot (left) and Roast Duck breast steamed bun with shallots (right)
Steamed buns are done two ways. One is a white, fluffy lotus bun filled with a soft, gelatinous piece of sweet pork belly that has a to-die-for crackling. There is as a smear of chilli mayonnaise inside, along with some pickled daikon and raw carrot, which helps break up the richness of the meat. There is not a lot of duck in the second bun, however it is incredibly juicy and tasty. Deep frying the bun adds a bit of a naughty feel, and an extra depth of flavour to each bite.

Korean chicken wings
Now these are the real deal. The lord of the wings. They have to be the best spicy wings I've ever had. Sticky, fiery, crunchy bubbled batter encases ultra soft, moist, juicy meat. This serving comes as a whole wing so that you don't miss out on either the drumette or the midwing, and is full of sweet, tasty, fiery chilli goodness. The bright red outer coating by itself could be justifiably eaten all on its own.

Skewers plate (from front to back): sliced beef sirloin & shallot, prawn and Malay chicken
These skewers make for the ideal finger food. The prawn skewer is coated with a super light nest of vermicelli noodles, while the Malay chicken is glazed with a sweet, salty sauce that makes it tender and flavourful. The beef skewer is a favourite, the meat wrapped around caramelised shallots which add sweetness and helps keep the meat soft and juicy. The skewers are served with a homemade peanut sauce that is just devine. 

Grilled storm clams with shiitake mushrooms and XO sauce
As soon as these are placed on the table, the fragrance of the XO sauce has our mouths watering. The clams are bigger than typical pipis or vongole, and are a meaty mouthful best eaten all in one go. Each shell is filled with an umami-rich, salty, sweet XO sauce laced with batons of shiitake mushroom. It's an addictive, moreish explosion of flavours. 

Braised beef wagyu brisket, Malay slaw & Roti bread ($32)
Designed for sharing, a large piece of braised beef brisket is served with homemade roti and fresh slaw. The meat is pulled apart at the table; it's tender and spiced with star anise. The idea is to sandwich some meat in a piece of roti, add some slaw and drizzle the accompanying sesame sauce on top. The roti more of a flatbread rather than the traditional kind. 

Hainan chicken & rice with chilli and ginger ($36)
As the general manager of the venue says, although your local Chinese restaurant may serve a more authentic version, this is Junk Lounge's take on the much-loved Hainanese chicken rice. The slight dryness of the chicken is easily fixed with a splash of the homemade chicken broth, which comes rather innovatively in a coffee plunger. This makes for fun, easy pouring, and the soup itself is warming and nourishing without having that tell-tale MSG aftertaste you often get at some restaurants. 

They do their own take on ginger rice, too. Visible flecks of ginger are laced throughout the sticky rice, and chilli flakes are sprinkled on top. The flavour of the rice itself is quite subtle, and the chilli sauce accompanying the chicken is not to sweet, nor too salty. The only thing missing is the obligatory ginger and shallot sauce that I think is an essential accompaniment for dipping the chicken into. Nevertheless, the chicken is very tasty, and this is a good attempt at recreating a classic hawker food dish.

Raspberry mousse
Encased in a green tea chocolate shell is a light, airy, baby pink raspberry mousse. The half-dome is surrounded by aerated sponge, sweet chocolate crackle and popping candy. Crack open the tempered green tea chocolate shell and dig right in - this fun dessert is a basket full of textures and flavours that will bring out the inner child in you. 

This is the ultimate Asian comfort dessert - pearls of translucent sago coated in a thick, deliciously creamy coconut milk dotted with nuggets of scorched pineapple. The pudding is topped with more vibrant edible flowers, and a pile gold-coated tapioca rests atop a dehydrated sun of pineapple. This is very easily devoured by everyone.

Whether it's for the classy, Asian-inspired cocktails, the fusion food or the stunning harbour views, Junk Lounge is a great place to celebrate, catch up with friends or simply relax with a drink in hand.


Junk Lounge Menu, Reviews,
Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest of Zomato, however all opinons are my own. 

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