Hustlers. Syd isn’t easy to find, but if its hit sister venue Saigon Hustle is anything to go by, this new underground CBD bar and restaurant is going to draw crowds. “We like that it’s hidden,” says co-owner Brandon Thoo. “You pass by a window with a neon sign, walk down a dimly lit set of stairs, and then you’re in the bar.”
Inside is an intimate space where the food and drinks celebrate the diversity of Sydney’s Asian communities, taking a fresh approach to traditional dishes and ingredients from across the Asian continent.
“We wanted to pay homage to classic dishes and flavours, but every dish has a little kick, a little twist,” says Thoo, whose mum is Thai and dad is Malaysian. His business partner Andrew Huynh is Vietnamese. “It reflects the things that unite kids of Asian immigrants. It’s culture, it’s upbringing, and it’s food.”
Thoo hopes to recreate the sense of community central to Saigon Hustle, despite Hustlers. Syd’s location in the more transitory CBD. “Our customers are a lot of corporates, there are constantly new faces,” Thoo says. “But we still focus on that sense of family and togetherness through the food and ambiance.”
Read on for all the details on Sydney’s newest hotspot.
Hustlers. Syd incorporates cuisines from all over the continent, including highlights from China, Thailand, and Japan. That means Cantonese prawn toast with trout roe, Wagyu beef tartare with sesame rice crackers, and kingfish ceviche cured in spicy Thai nam jhim (a dipping sauce).
“If I was coming in with friends, and we were super hungry, I’d order about eight dishes to share,” Thoo says. Cooling follow-ups to the mains include desserts such as a Lychee granita that takes cues from popular Asian shaved-ice desserts.
The drinks menu mirrors the pan-Asian influence of the food. Filipino dessert staple ube gives the lilac hue and sweetness to Ube-B, a pina-colada style cocktail with coconut milk and pineapple. Pandan Punch, a delicately sweet rum cocktail blended with house tea and honey cake milk (sweetened milk), sells out nightly. Plus, classics like gimlets and Old Fashioneds are punched up with calamansi and toasted sesame oil, respectively. There’s also a succinct beer and wine list.
The intimate restaurant, down a flight of stairs on York Street, stands out thanks to twisting bamboo on the ceiling that cuts a tangled visual path through the space.
The king and queen cards mural on the matte-black wall in the center is a nod to gambling traditions within Asian communities, particularly Lunar New Year celebrations. “Gambling doesn’t have the negative connotations that it has in Western culture,” Huynh says. “In Asian households, it brings warmth and connection.”
Sumptuous black leather banquets enhance the sense of community and reinforce that this is a place to share food with friends and family.
“Having a business in the city is a different beast [from the suburbs],” Thoo says. “The customer base is a bit more transient, so we create community through food and ambiance.”
Hustlers. Syd is open Tuesdays through Thursday from 12 pm to 3 pm and 5 pm to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 12 pm to 3 pm and 5 pm to 1 am.