At his award-winning Marque in Sydney's Surry Hills neighborhood, chef Mark Best serves a $130 (U.S.) menu that might include such dishes as prawn custard with hinona turnip, fermented shiitakes, and iceplant; bass grouper with tamarillo, verjus, potato paper, fish milk, and roe; and Rangers Valley 10+ wagyu with beet and radicchio kimchee.
In 2012, he opened a more casual place, Pei Modern, in Melbourne, where the menu tended more toward the likes of Sydney rock oysters, burrata with figs and mustard seed, and homemade pasta with chicken dumplings and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Hailed as a homegrown expression of the "bistronomy" movement (in which fine-dining chefs, originally the French, opened casual eateries), It was promptly named the city's Restaurant of the Year.
Last year, Best launched a branch of Pei Modern back in Sydney. It rather awkwardly occupies a kind of lobby lounge space at the city's posh Four Seasons Hotel — it looks like the kind of place that should be serving chicken Caesar salads, burgers, and iced tea, and in fact, the hotel's catering wing sets up a breakfast buffet there each morning before moving out to make room for Best's team — but there's nothing awkward about the solid, bistro-ish, Mediterranean-inflected food.
From simple but perfect oysters, Italian salumi, wood-fired Padrón peppers, and Australian cheeses to bright, hearty plates like roasted salmon tail on the bone with samphire and rouille, Holmbrae chicken (complete with head and feet) with squash and butter beans, and Kurobuta pork cutlet with fermented blueberries, Pei Modern hits all the right notes — and provided one of the best meals we enjoyed on our recent restaurant-hopping tour of this gastronomic capital in New South Wales.