Embark on a flavor-filled journey right in the heart of Sydney, where Ogni beckons Sydneysiders to escape the ordinary and savor an exquisite fusion of South Asian heritage and Aussie flair. In this cozy haven crafted by Rashedul Hasan and Sarah Tiong, smoky opulence intertwines with shared plates, celebrating the vibrant cuisine of their roots.
Sarah’s love affair with the tantalizing curries and street delights from her Malaysian upbringing shaped her culinary passion. It was her journey on MasterChef Australia alongside Rashedul that ignited a shared vision for sustainable culinary careers.
After years of dedication, they’ve crafted a homely oasis for adventurous diners seeking bold yet refined flavors. Their aim? To evoke nostalgic memories or introduce patrons to exotic new delicacies, infusing each dish with a dash of heartfelt storytelling.
At Ogni, Rashedul and Sarah curate a personal expedition, guiding guests through smoky Scotch Fillet steaks to crystal dumplings in passionfruit broth. This haven stands as their ode to the rich tapestry of cultures that molded their culinary identity.
In an exclusive interview with Colors Lifestyle, Rashedul Hasan delves deeper into the essence of this newly opened gastronomic haven.
Q. What sparked the concept behind Ogni and its diverse fusion menu?
A. Our inspiration stems from our childhood love for South and South East Asian cuisine. Those bold yet balanced flavors resonated deeply with us. We wanted to share those flavors in a fresh, unparalleled way.
Q. How did your journey as a MasterChef Australia finalist influence Ogni’s creation?
A. MasterChef opened doors for us, paving the way to pursue our culinary dreams. It exposed us to diverse opportunities and taught us invaluable skills from fellow contestants and industry professionals.
Q. What were the challenges in transitioning from the competition to establishing your own restaurant?
A. Changing successful careers in Law (Sarah) and Project Management (Rashedul) to pursue culinary entrepreneurship has been the biggest challenge. Financial security, networking, finding capital, suitable venues, recruiting, and securing suppliers—all challenges of a startup business—are amplified when trying to manage them parallel to your corporate care.
Q. How did you blend Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisines for Ogni’s menu?
A. We take an approach that feels like a natural progression. There is a rich history of migration throughout South and South East Asia, where the blending of flavors and techniques has occurred for hundreds of years. For instance, Indo-Chinese dishes emerged as Chinese migrants adapted to local Indian ingredients. Similarly, the famous Malaysian Roti Chanai is a variant of Paratha or Parotta from Southern India.
One approach involves using regional flavors with different techniques. As an example, Asam Pedas, a Southeast Asian sour and spicy fish stew dish, inspired us to concentrate all that explosive flavor into our homemade Assam Pedas butter. We then use it to BBQ the whole local flounder fish, elevating the eating experience.
Another approach is to modernize popular traditional dishes for improved balance and texture. Take Dudh Puli, for instance; it’s delicious on its own, but when presented as crystal dumplings in passion fruit broth and coconut yogurt snow, it reaches another level of taste. It might seem like a different dish, but its inspiration comes from Puli Pitha.
Q. What cultural elements or techniques did you integrate into Ogni’s dishes?
A. Our focus on fire and smoke—foundations of human history—is reflected in our name ‘Ogni.’ It adds depth to our dishes, connecting us to ancestral cooking techniques.
Q. How crucial was authenticity while blending diverse culinary traditions?
A. Authenticity evolves with time. We aim to stay true to a dish’s core essence. For instance, our Ogni Ceviche retains its essence with Green Mango or Starfruit Shorbot flavors, evoking memories of summers in Bangladesh or India.
Q. What strategies ensured a successful launch for Ogni in Sydney?
A. It’s been years in the making. Testing our concept through sell-out events, finding the right location, involving skilled professionals, and a passionate team dedicated to South and South East Asian flavors—all played crucial roles.
Q. How does sustainability factor into Ogni’s ingredient sourcing and operations?
A. We prioritize seasonality and local produce, minimizing waste by utilizing entire ingredients. Collaborating with suppliers committed to sustainability is integral to our ethos.
Q. How do you envision Ogni shaping Sydney’s culinary landscape?
A. We aim to offer a delightful experience with rich narratives in every dish. By evoking travel memories and introducing regional delicacies like Jaam, Achar, or Kashundi Kimchi, we want to carve a unique place in the heart of Sydney.
Q. Could you highlight a signature dish embodying fusion cuisine at Ogni?
A. Fusion, while common, doesn’t quite capture our ethos. We lean toward ‘Progression.’ Among our many menu highlights, the Prawn Malai Curry Maltagliati stands out. This dish has garnered widespread acclaim. Its cross-cultural roots shine through, especially when paired with the imperfectly shaped yet silky Maltagliati pasta. Topped with burnt butter sage, evoking the richness of clarified butter or Ghee, it’s an utterly delightful culinary experience!