Restaurant Review: Khānaa, Sydney
Lux Nomade visits the creative new restaurant from the Khan family empire.
As most Sydneysiders will proudly proclaim, the harbour city’s restaurant scene has blossomed over the past few years. Providing you’re not choosing to dine on a Monday or after 10pm, Sydney’s library of European-inspired and contemporary Australian eateries is groaning with options. Finding a Bangladeshi-inspired fine diner, though, is more of a challenge – which is one of the reasons the Khan family’s empire is such a joy to behold.
Currently comprising three restaurants across Sydney, with a further three in the works, the family-run business is a celebration of the Khan’s cultural heritage and culinary creativity. At the helm is Opel Khan, the Bangladeshi-born chef and restaurateur who cut his teeth working in the kitchens of Paris’s leading hotels. After working across India and Europe, Khan opened his first restaurant at the age of just 17, and by the age of 21, was the owner of six restaurants across Sydney. It’s this age-defying sense of ambition that seems to define the Khan family brand, evidenced by Opel’s daughters Jasmine and Lucinda who work alongside him at the OK Group’s Sydney outposts. Across their Sydney venues, you’ll find Lucinda (Sydney’s youngest hatted chef) on the pans, and Jazmin as a sparkling front of house. Behind the scenes, Julie Khan is responsible for the organisation required to keep such an extensive operation ticking over.
The latest addition to the brand, Khānaa, is their most anticipated to date – the most recent opening since the Potts Point fine diner Metisse which opened its doors back in 2019, and is temporarily closed until its new Barangaroo home is confirmed. While the restaurants each vary slightly in their culinary offering – with Khānaa placing more of a focus on the flavours and ingredients prominent in Bangladeshi cuisine – the family’s distinctive approach to hospitality is a constant throughline.
“All three of us – me, Luci and Jasmine – will be moving around all of the restaurants. I’m very fortunate, we have an amazing team,” Opel explains.
We visited Khānaa on a Saturday evening a month after its grand opening, and the buzz around the restaurant was still evident. Occupying a cavernous glass fronted space on Surry Hills popular Crown Street, Khānaa was alive with groups of friends gathered noisily around tables busy with sculptural tableware.
“I wanted to keep the design clean and elegant – with the kinds of features that I couldn’t afford 35 years ago when I opened my first restaurant,” Khan explains.
And while the decor may be relatively simple, the food is anything but.
“I wanted to showcase the flavours of my childhood – but I couldn’t just give you a bowl of rice and curry,” Khan explains.
Instead, you can expect meticulously curated dishes including the OK Group’s signature tuna, ocean trout and kingfish “mosaic” (a strikingly beautiful plate of cured fish doused tableside in a halo of ghee) and a chicken biriyani terrine that arrives spiked with flakes of silver. At Khānaa, overflowing curry trays are a distant memory, but the food still sings with the spices that have earned Bengali cuisine its admirers.
We opted for the tasting menu: a nine course affair spotlighting the restaurant’s most inventive masterpieces. Our meal began with tomato marshmallows served with a zingy orb of tomato sorbet, and was rounded out with a delicately plated selection of desserts.
“The menu is my own take on Bangladeshi cuisine: each dish is a love letter to a memory, but written in my own way,” Khan explains.
When I ask about the inspiration behind Khānaa, the man behind the operation explains that it’s been a long time coming.
“I’ve been working on the concept for Khānaa for over five years, I’ve just been waiting for the right time and the right location. Here, the time is great, and the location is perfect,”.
As we head out into the Sydney night – alive with the residual hum from the first of the city’s summer street festivals – I’m inclined to agree.