When he was cooking at San Francisco-favourite Mission Chinese Food, chef Jesse Koide's pink zebra-print headband had its own cult-following. It makes sense, then, that when it came to opening his own place last October, a pop-up at the back of an existing restaurant in the Mission District, he would name it Pink Zebra.
Next week, Sydney will not only get a taste of Koide's sartorial choices, but also his "Mediterrasian", izakaya-style eats when Pink Zebra pops up at Crown Street's newest restaurant, Master, for four nights.
"I like working in different kitchens, especially with new flavours, and new people to feed," says Koide.
The chef has never been to Australia, but was put in touch with Master's John Javier this year through an Australian friend. "There are ways for chefs to showcase their personal style without having to drop everything in life and open your own place," says Koide. "This opportunity seemed pretty awesome."
Despite his time at Mission Chinese, as well as San Francisco's Bar Tartine and Farina, Koide's Pink Zebra pop-up at Master will be more experimental than nostalgic. "My style is an accumulation of all of my experiences," he says. "I'm sort of using this time to challenge myself in ways that are hard when you have a restaurant to run day in, day out."
Pink Zebra San Francisco (which closed its doors in June) combined Mediterranean and Asian flavours in dishes such as beef tongue with fava-leaf purée, tsukudani-onion crèma and Calabrian chilli, and trout chicharrones with peas and beech mushrooms in white wine and dashi.
The five-course set menu at Master is not 100 per cent confirmed yet, but diners can expect plenty of local seafood and spring produce. "I want my experience there to not be creatively restrained to a menu set in stone," says Koide. "Peas, beets, shellfish, eel? I'll have to wait and see what's available."
It sounds as though Sydney's in for some fun. "John and I talked about doing a collaborative menu on the last night of the week. I'm sure that'll be when things get a bit weird."
Pink Zebra pops up at Master from 1-4 October. Tickets are $95 per person for five-courses, add $55 for matching wines. Master, 368 Crown St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 8065 0838. For tickets email firstname.lastname@example.org