Pork’d, a casual Sydney diner that marries a wide array of pork dishes with craft beers, owes part of its inspiration to a few days of immersion in Portland’s thriving food and beer scene for head chef Mark Jensen.
Jensen and wife Pauline, both of Vietnamese restaurant Red Lantern, together with Mick Bain of Surry Hills craft beer pub Royal Albert Hotel, opened Pork’d last weekend.
“I went to Portland (Oregon, US) in September last year and I came back just really fired up. I was only there for two days just doing food trucks and breweries and I came back with a little seed in the back of my head,” Jensen told Australian Brews News.
Together with Bain’s ideas drawn from American barbecue restaurants, the trio came up with Pork’d, located on the former site of the original Red Lantern restaurant on Crown Street, Surry Hills.
In keeping with the swine theme, WA’s Feral Brewing has secured four of the venue’s taps, alongside permanent fixture Willie Smith’s Cider and a rotating tap, which currently pours Rocks Brewing’s The Convict Lager.
The menu includes the ‘Boston butt’ brined in Feral Hop Hop Hog, “because I like the citrus, hoppy characters of that beer,” Jensen says.
“Then we rub it with coriander, cumin and fennel and slow cook it for six hours in the oven.”
There is also the pork hock, marinated in Feral Smoked Porter and then smoked, as well as a pork belly that employs Willie Smith’s Cider.
Ribs also feature and Jensen will continually be experimenting with other cuts – on my visit, he serves up the exceptional salted caramel pork neck.
“I did a lemongrass, chilli and garlic pork sausage yesterday and chargrilled that up, and that just works really well with the beer. Vietnamese cuisine, all their street food is matched with a 333 Beer or a Beer Hanoi,” says Jensen.
“At Red Lantern we have been running events for the last nine months or so doing beer and clams, so I’ve been inviting local brewers in and I cook five clam dishes to match their beers.
Vietnamese, beer and BBQ ‘makes sense’
Jensen said he is not new to cooking with beer, in fact he catered for one of Chuck Hahn’s first James Squire beer dinners in the early 1990s.
And it wasn’t a stretch to fuse his Vietnamese cooking expertise with American barbecue-inspired dishes.
“Pork is a dominant ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine… researching and looking at American barbecue books, they’re using things like hoisin sauce, soy sauce, coriander and cumin – this all made sense to me anyway,” he says.
All meats are available for purchase in 100g increments, or groups can purchase larger dishes to share. A ‘piggy plate’ priced at $25 includes a 250g selection of different meats, a big spoon of beans, pickle, bread roll and homemade sauces.
Craft beer flavours ‘exciting’: Jensen
Bain says the wine list is limited to just three options, white, red and sparkling, putting the emphasis on beer, which will soon be available in growlers for customers to take back to their tables and share. Current wines include the appropriate ‘Nose to Tail’ white blend from Mudgee outfit Well Mannered Wine Co, part-owned by Nick Bacon.
“That was the exciting thing about doing the craft beer and getting to know a little bit more about it – the
range of flavour – you’re talking about beer in the way you would talk about wine, which is great,” Jensen says.
He believes casual dining options like Pork’d are “the way of the future, that’s the way the market’s going”.
“But it’s not a dumbed down version of fine dining, it’s just really good food, served and constructed at a reasonable price,” he says.