When Lex Wong decided to shut his highly regarded restaurant Yang’s Ramen and Tacos in April, he left big shoes to fill in the sleepy suburb of Castlecrag. It seems appropriate then, that the site’s new proprietor goes by the moniker of “Big” Sam Young.
New 40-seat bistro, S’More, by Young (ex-Mr Wong, Totti’s, Lotus 2.0) and his life and business partner Grace Chen (ex-Est, Queen Chow, Poly), was booked out for its first two weeks of service.
“I want everything to be the best,” Young tells Broadsheet without hesitation. And that’s no exaggeration – Chen and Young have become known for their love of haute cuisine, their lockdown meal kits and a private catering business that heavily features luxe ingredients such as truffles, caviar and lobster.
Fan favourites, including 2GR Wagyu, lobster pasta and caviar bumps, have made the menu at S’more.
Alongside them are bistro classics with an Asian bent: house-made shallot bread with a miso butter; grilled oysters with roasted seaweed; O’Connor dry-aged bone-in sirloin with a ginger-shallot relish; and a claypot fried rice with lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and shiitake. There are also potato gems with caviar, and an XO pipi linguine.
The menu has been kept small and will change regularly to include fresh ingredients each season. Currently that means a focus on truffles, followed by sea urchins in August.
“For me, everything has to have thought put into it,” says Young, who has been thinking about opening his own restaurant since he was just 13. “I realised at that age that food brings people happiness, and that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Since then, he’s been in and out of some of Merivale’s most loved restaurants, working under celebrated chef Dan Hong at many of them. He met Chen in the kitchen in popular Potts Point diner Ms G’s.
But it’s another Potts Point eatery that most inspired what he’s doing at S’more: Lotus, which he steered through a recent revival as head chef.
“For me that restaurant will always be a special place and a highlight in my career,” says Young, who had a small lobster tattooed on his arm after the 35-seat restaurant sold 40 of the crustaceans in one day. “I told the kitchen I’d shout everyone a tattoo if we did it. I didn’t think it was possible.”
As for the interiors, any changes have been minimal. A few extra curtains give the space a more sophisticated feel, while a blackboard running along one side of the room is a nod to the blackboard that took up a whole wall at Lotus.
Paul Huet (formerly a senior sommelier at Merivale) has helped with the wine list, and Young called on Icebergs bar director Matty Opai to create the cocktails. Once again, it’s classics with Asian-inspired twists. Think yuzu spritz, salted plum Margarita, lemongrass Paloma, and a lychee highball. But Young thinks the star of the show is the truffle-infused Negroni, served with a fresh truffle garnish.
“I work really closely with my suppliers, and just want this place to celebrate ingredients,” says Young. “And for everyone who comes to have a bit of joy and happiness in their life.”
79 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag
(02) 9188 0819
Tue to Fri 5pm–10pm