Chef Dennis Yong was working at Sunda when Melbourne's first lockdown left him with time to spare. Like a kid bringing home bedraggled lost puppies, he started rescuing limp and overripe market discards, preserving and fermenting them into products under the label Furrmien. (His orange kosho and bread miso are available at Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's The Convenient Store at Queen Victoria Market until Sunday, April 3.)
As time went on, Yong's fermenting fervour escalated: the lure of banana vinegar, cricket garum and avocado kaya were such that he decided not to go back to traditional cheffing. Sunda owner Adi Halim identified Yong as too bright a spark to lose from the group. Parcs (try reading it backwards) is the result.
The menu plucks elements from Yong's native Malaysia but it's a free-wheeling feast. Chinese doughnuts are spread with sunflower marrow puree and sprinkled with "moromi zaatar", a spice mix that marries Lebanese pide with the dried pulp that's left over once soy sauce is filtered. There's humour in dishes like the umami e pepe, a riff on cacio e pepe made with Hokkien noodles, red miso and lots of pepper.
Restaurants often use part of a plant and chuck the rest. Yong's efforts to avoid waste by using the whole thing showcase both frugality and creativity. In one example, he filled a van with sunflowers after learning that the paddock was about to be turned over to cows. As well as the sunflower spread on the doughnuts, the petals are salted and scattered over fried rice, the core is pickled and the trimmings reduced into an umami-bomb treacle.
Drinks from Darren Leaney are just as experimental. Passionfruit skins are fermented to create wine which is then used in a beguiling pink gimlet. That sunflower treacle is one of the bass notes in a complex milk punch.
"I am feeling very good about connecting with people in person, feeding them and talking about food waste at the same time," says Yong. "I want everyone to come and have a happy time, but it's a platform to educate as well."
Open Tue-Sat 4pm-11pm.
198 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, 03 9972 7015 (walk-ins only, no bookings), parcs.com.au