Five minutes with Sunny Matharu, Inka

Michelle Rowe 4 December 2020
INKA team

Sunny Matharu (second from right) with the rest of the Inka team (from left) Kiehyon Yoo, Adam Elchakak and Michael Muir. Photo: Supplied.

Who is Sunny Matharu: I’m the director of Inka, an exciting new restaurant opening on Bunda Street next month.

Best recent dining experience: I’m Sydney based but travel to Canberra frequently. My most recent visit to Canberra really opened my eyes to an emerging food scene, but to nominate a particular place would be difficult.

I’ve enjoyed afternoon beers at Kingston Foreshore, popped into the QT Hotel on London Circuit for a steak and strolled down busy Bunda Street discovering the myriad quick bites available during the lunch rush.

Most embarrassing pantry item: I have recently discovered Coles Burger Sauce. It’s a bit embarrassing but putting this on your cheese and tomato toasty will satisfy your late-night junk food cravings.

The QT Lounge

The QT Lounge. Photo: Supplied.

Must-buy ingredient: A good olive oil! It’s amazing how much it can enhance many dishes. La Barre is our favourite from the Canberra region.

Next big thing: Nikkei cuisine – a melding of Japanese and Peruvian food cultures. It’s very popular overseas and we are excited to bring this experience to the city in mid-January in our new restaurant, Inka. Nikkei cuisine is Japanese precision and flavours layered on tropical Peruvian ingredients. We’ve already received an incredibly warm welcome from Canberrans on our social media. With international travel off the cards, this cuisine, along with the very cultural venue fit-out, will offer something really appealing to locals. Our chef, Michael Muir, is returning to Canberra from venues such as Zuma in London and Istanbul, to run the show.

Inka interior

An artist’s impression of new restaurant Inka, due to open on Bunda Street in January 2021. Image: Supplied.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Stanton in the Canberra Centre. The Stanton big breakfast with two organic eggs your way, toasted sourdough, bacon, mushroom, fennel pork sausage, tomato, mixed beans, spinach and potato rosti has brought me back to life a few times after a hangover.

My Canberra food secret: While it’s no secret to Canberra, we are loving Clonakilla shiraz viognier. We hope to keep our Canberra secret from our Sydney crowd.

Biggest culinary influence: The late and great Jeremy Strode, who worked in both Melbourne and Sydney. He was a chef’s chef and an inspiration to many up-and-coming young guns.

Clonakilla

Clonakilla … is this top drop still a secret? Photo: Supplied.

Favourite cookbook: Well, I do have many cookbooks and many years’ worth of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazines, but I find myself going back to my collection of recipes from my global travels, especially in South America, which I keep in a folder. I have handwritten dockets or little notebooks that I carried around fishing for secrets and techniques that I type up on my PC when I have the time. Even today I’ll dig up something from the past to reinvent it.

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: The diners. As a hospitality consultant and now becoming a restaurant owner I have visited food cultures all around the world. In Canberra I feel the locals really shape the scene – they know what they like and they support it. They welcome new venues and they disregard food chains. Aside from that, there are some incredible local products such as truffles and wine coming from the region.

What’s on the menu this week: Sydney rock oysters from Merimbula! The Inka menu will be heavily seafood focused so I can’t wait to pair them up with some Nikkei-inspired dishes at our raw fish bar. We are formulating the menu at the moment for the January launch so we’ve been shucking a few.

Where I’m going next: We’ve been told on our next visit to Canberra to venture out of the City … all the way to Ainslie to try Pilot. We may even scooter there!

Sydney rock oysters

Sydney rock oysters: Photo Michelle Rowe.

Death row meal: Chicken and prawn laksa.

My COVID-19 response: The pandemic has made us look at things differently and challenge existing ways of working, especially around training, although we always felt confident in continuing with Inka as we realised Canberrans had been especially supportive of the industry while it was struggling.

Cook like a professional … with a really simple recipe: Most of the time I make an antipasto board – easy to do and it allows conversation to continue while grazing. Also, if I’m having friends around I like to create a ceviche while sitting on the kitchen bench having a glass of wine. I cut up some seafood, avocado, fresh herbs from the garden and some limes, then grill some cut tortillas (make them a little charred for flavour). It’s a zesty dish and has a great wow factor.

Inka will open at 148 Bunda Street in January. Its menu will focus heavily on seafood with simple, refined flavours.


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