Note: Bondi Road closed in October 2012, to make way for a new location of Calexico.
Bondi Road and The Sunburnt Cow are a pair of Australian-themed restaurants operated by chef/owner Heathe St. Clair. They are both fairly casual, with nothing on either menu above $16. Bondi Road, the newer of the two, opened on the Lower East Side sixteen months ago to fairly positive reviews (New York, RG).
I get the sense that Bondi Road was meant to be a bit more ambitious than it is now. Restaurant Girl mentioned a $30 tasting menu that no longer seems to be on offer. The restaurant does not take reservations, but we had no trouble getting bar seating at 8:15 p.m. on a Saturday night. The space was already starting to clear out by 9:30, which is not a good sign, and may explain why I received a publicist’s invitation to dine there.
Fried foods are the kitchen’s strength. My son loved Coconut Shrimp ($9; above left), and everyone was dipping into my order of “Salt N Pepper Squid” ($9; above center). The breading was just light enough to add flavor without overwhelming the squid. But Tuna Tartare ($12; above right) was a real dud. The tuna was not sushi quality, and an unattractive lump of it wasn’t rescued by a mango chilli yogurt sauce or an olive tapenade.
My son thought that an order of New Zealand Mussels ($10; above left) were “just okay.” My girlfriend and I both ordered the Barramundi ($15; above right), which comes grilled, breaded or fried, and with your choice of side dish. I asked for it grilled, but it came out fried anyway, and I decided to give it a try. I thought they nailed it, but my girlfriend found her order too greasy. However, everyone agreed the french fries were excellent.
Blue curaçao figures in several of the mixed cocktails. I had one called the Wipeout ($9), a mixture of blue curaçao, sprite, and several white liquors, served in a tall glass. One or two more of those, and they would have needed to carry me home. My girlfriend was less impressed with Sex on Bondi Beach ($9), which sounded like fun, but tasted like a bland orange–grapefruit juice.
The food at Bondi Road is fun (if a bit uneven), and some of it is even very good, but the format works against it. The space, dominated by the bar, is cramped and dark, and the small, high tables would be more suitable for an ice cream parlor. Australian waitresses and a loop of beach videos playing on a projection TV are the only real reminders of “Down Under.” However, with $9 appetizers and $15 entrées, it’s a good budget-conscious choice if you happen to be nearby.
Bondi Road (153 Rivington Street between Suffolk & Clinton Streets, Lower East Side)