How to eat Australian: New Prospect Heights eatery gives Asian food a Down Under appeal

How to eat Australian: New Prospect Heights eatery gives Asian food a Down Under appeal
Tom Callan

The Sunburnt Calf BK — a new down-under eatery in the heart of Prospect Heights — wants to teach you how to really speak Australian.

So don’t expect vegemite, fish and chips, or shrimp on the barbie.

Those recognizably Aussie items are offered at the Calf’s Manhattan predecessors — The Sunburnt Cow in the East Village, Bondi Road on the Lower East Side, and the original Sunburnt Calf on the Upper West Side — but the sweet and spicy menu at the Brooklyn version has a decidedly Asian flair.

“My restaurants all represent what I grew up eating in Australia, which is partly meat pies and fried seafood, sure, but largely Southeast Asian cuisine,” said owner Heathe St. Clair.

“The truth is, Australian food doesn’t really exist,” he added. “It’s a jumble of influences from all of the countries that surround it; flavors brought in by great chefs passing through.”

At Sunburnt Calf BK, that flavor comes Christopher Faulkner — formerly of Town and the River Room in Manhattan — and chef Jimmy Tu of Montrachet and 11 Madison Park.

“My parents were born in Vietnam, so I was raised on Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Malaysian food,” said Tu. “After so many years of working in French restaurants, it’s great to be here, collaborating with Heathe on the flavors we both grew up with and love.”

The menu reads as a greatest hits list of Southeast Asian classics — Chinese leaning- steamed buns with braised pork belly and radish ($8), Indian-inspired lamb massaman curry with jasmine rice ($13), and a turmeric beer-battered barramundi with dill and vermicelli noodles ($14).

The drinks program was designed by mix master Greg Seider to be refreshing (Thai Basil Lemonade), innovative (Zu Moscow Mule with lychee puree and ginger beer) or just hit-the-spot perfect (Kaffir Lime Gimlet).

St. Clair is bursting with additional ideas for when the restaurant really gets into its groove — like adding a “wrap and roll” section to the menu — DIY sandwiches of Balinese spiced chicken, smoked tea duck or curry short rib, plus pickled vegetables, salads and sauces, folded into roti bread or lettuce cups — as well as a “tick system,” inspired by the yum cha halls of Sydney.

“It’s actually a big Sunday tradition for Australians, going to the yum cha, ticking what you want off of the menu and handing it to the server,” St. Clair said, using the Australian term for dim sum.

“My first time, I was 15 — just this kid from Alice Springs, eating chicken feet, eating all of these wildly exotic things I had never tasted, never thought of, never even knew existed before,” he added.

“It just blew my mind. And it started my love affair with this whole cuisine.”

Sunburnt Calf BK [611 Vanderbilt Ave. between Bergen Street and St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights, (347) 915-1000].

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