Adam Wolfers, former head chef of Sydney restaurants Yellow and Monopole, is taking over the kitchen at Casoni in Darlinghurst this month. From 19 April until 14 May he'll offer a vegetable-focused menu infused with the flavours of his Jewish heritage. Traditional honey cake will be lifted with a wattle-honeycomb butter, celeriac will be slow-cooked in clay and served with bush tomato, almond and malawach (a flaky fried bread of Yemen), while dry-aged salt beef fat will coat roasted carrots and radicchio. Ahead of his pop-up, he gives us an insight into how he's approaching the menu.
Has your heritage shaped the way you cook, Adam? My family history is filled with cooking and food, and so are my memories. My mother's grandfather owned a kosher restaurant in Vienna before World War II and fled to London to open one there before emigrating with his family to Australia in the 1950s. I remember food being such an important part of our family meals on Friday nights and during Jewish festivals, especially Passover. My grandmother used to have six pots on the stove, vegetables roasting in the oven and pastries being rolled out all at once. She was such a hard worker in the kitchen and made sure that everyone was well-fed. Her recipes will play a large part in my menu at Casoni.
Honey cake with wattle-honeycomb butter.
Where do you go in Sydney to find the flavours you grew up with?
Most of the Jewish food I eat is at home or at my parents' house, but some of my favourite spots around Sydney include Grandma Moses (formerly of Rose Bay and now in Kensington) where you can get challah, boiled bagels and many different pastries, Lox, Stock & Barrel in Bondi, as well as the Israeli flavours of Kepos St Kitchen in Redfern.
How will you incorporate Jewish flavours into your menu at Casoni? There'll be a pumpkin version of a classic potato latke (a specialty of Hanukkah) with goat's cheese and sorrel. I've also modernised the traditional honey cake, which is usually eaten to celebrate the Jewish New Year, by adding a wattle-honeycomb butter. Because of the restrictions in kosher cooking, vegetables are given great importance, and I'll translate that by serving them in creative ways and cooking them using non-traditional techniques, inspired by my work with Brent Savage. The menu will be a lot of fun.
Adam Wolfers will serve his menu at Casoni from 19 April to 14 May.
Casoni, 371-373 Bourke St, Darlinghurst, NSW, 0449 516 798, casoni.com.au/popup/