21 Bent St
Sydney CBD

Contrabando is an underground den that's kind of hidden away.

It's actually where the Noble House Chinese Restaurant used to be (look for the upside down sign - kind of quirky keeping it but it is a landmark), but venture down their enticing and mysterious stairway and you'll discover a hidden world here.

The whole place has been completely transformed - and we mean completely - the decor, the food, the atmosphere - the lot! It's another world - but one worth going to.

The place is Southern Californian inspired and this flows through in the colours, decor, the decorations and furnishings and of course the tangy and tasty food they offer.

The menu said: With your permission I would love to take you on the journey I took through Southern California over the Summer and experience some of the tastes I loved.

With these words we were both enchanted and enthralled - and eager to see what lay ahead.

The food odyssey started with ocean trout ceviche that arrived dotted with jalapeno and coriander and beside a pale smear described as a citrus and soy bath.

Wow - the simplicity of the dish understated the flavours - it all worked so well. 

It arrived on black slate accentuating the vibrant colours - we simply rolled up the trout with the jalapeno then dabbed it in the sauce - it was so tasty!

Next step was the arrival of the yellowfin tuna crudo "mini tacos". Sir was in heaven at the sight of these.

They also included avocado, lime, eschallots and chilli.

It was another simple yet good fresh dish that had colour and flavour in abundance. Seafood and avocado are so good together - and yet again they were in this!

The chargrilled corn was such a surprise. Sir isn't a huge fan of corn yet he devoured this and wanted more.

Perhaps it was the lime, queso fresco and chipotle mayo - giving it bite and tang and a kick - transforming it well beyond mere corn on the cob.

It was a great combination - this corn was a real winner

Any dish called "Dirty Water Dog" is going to attract some attention. It's a catchy name for a catchy treat.

 So what is it - it's chorizo, habanero mustard, salsa criola and micro herbs all inside a long bun.

It was such a playful, a very cute take on hot dogs that we really loved.

It was also very tasty, with great flavours and combinations and with nothing overpowering anything else there - everything complemented each other.

Anyway, this is a dish that should at least be tried here - and if you do you will probably enjoy it just like we did. Mlady could have eaten a second one, and a third if given the chance!

Don't you love the words "suckling pig" - it makes our mouths water just saying it - even now.

Well this little piggy came in a quesadilla with sumac yoghurt, salsa verde and a chipotle vinaigrette,

Just reading what this dish included was so appetising - then eating it became even better. It's a great cute combination, like a pizza sandwich. 

We were of course pleased to see soft shell tacos make an appearance on the menu.

The Baha fish tacos arrived on a wooden board spread out and ready to wrap and eat. They also had tomatillo, pico de galo, coriander and chipotle mayo

The fish was lightly cooked and the whole colourful looked great. We really loved the chipotle mayo too!

Once one soft taco left we were lucky enough for another to arrive!

These ones had crispy buttermilk coated chicken resting on top of a soft taco and adorned with coriander, carrot, queso fresco and then drizzled with Korean hot sauce.

Hard to know what to say other than - loved it all so much. This was so good, with textures and flavours converging on each other and yet apart.

The final main course on this epic food journey was the chargrilled lamb rump. It arrived lean and mean on a slate looking so tender and delicious - and it lived up to its appearances. It was served with a smear of spiced yoghurt and drizzled with a tangy habanero vinaigrette and topped with micro herbs. This lamb was so tender and juicy.

Finally a side of matchstick fries with mango habanero BBQ sauce was a great crunchy partner.

We weren't deserted at dessert. In fact it was a cornucopia of taste. We started with apple pie empanadas with a side of creme Anglais. They were cute and oh so tasty.

We then moved on to some delicious churos sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served with a small jug of warm butterscotch caramel. The churos were so light and fluffy and the sauce was a perfect pairing.
We finally finished with a teaser of desserts from their sister restaurant upstairs - Barrafina Tapas Bar. We also had a long and extremely enjoyable food and restaurant chat with the passionate owner Peter Varvaressos (a chef himself) and the Executive Chef from Barrafina - Ran Kimelfeld.

Contrabando is a gem, hidden away. Some hidden treasures are worth finding and this is certainly one of them. Yes it's hard to find. Yes it's signposting is of a former occupant - and a Chinese restaurant at that (even though it's upside down). It's all part of the quirky, fun, mysterious experience that awaits you as you descend the stairs. Do it though - it's worth it. We loved it.

Sir and Mlady dined as guests of Contrabando. Special thanks to Monique, Katy and Kathia for looking after us so well. Big thanks also to Morgan and Frankie from The Press Site for arranging our visit so professionally.

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