Bidding Devour Dessert Nights adieu and indulging his sweet tooth full time, Quang Nguyen’s latest venture, Shibui Dessert Bar, brings the pastry chef’s culinary creations to Grote Street.
Quang has teamed up with partner Thy Nguyen and their friend Lisa Chao to bring his distinctive dessert prowess back to the forefront. Each hailing from strong hospitality backgrounds, they are set to capture the hearts of Adelaide’s sweet treat inclined.
For the trio, it all starts with the name. Thy explains that it’s a Japanese word that is difficult to translate into English. “[For us] Shibui means unobtrusive beauty, simple yet complex, and it’s used to describe that everything has a purpose and meaning”.
You might recognise Quang from his previous dessert endeavour at Devour Dessert Bar in Prospect or subsequent brunch offerings at Devour Café and later Third Time Lucky.
Now, five years since the original Devour Dessert Bar closed its doors, Quang is back in the kitchen.
This new venture is a matured evolution from its predecessors. “You can think of it as we’ve taken all the good elements of Devour and mixed it with all of the things that we’ve learnt over the years,” says Thy.
An obvious departure from Quang’s suburban roots, the Grote Street location is the dessert chef’s debut in the city centre. In good company, it’s just minutes from the Adelaide Central Market and neighbouring Gouger Street hospitality strip.
When you take a look inside, Shibui’s fit out is informed by its ethos of simplicity but done with impact. The space exudes a sense of completeness, achieved by the careful consideration of details. As would be expected, nothing is frivolous or without purpose. Concrete pillars have been left bare, their soft tone reflected in the muted pinks and blues and contrasted by a charcoal ceiling and black fixtures.
“I think our name helped as well because we just had a clear vision, it does mean unobtrusive beauty so I think we just kept everything sleek and minimalist,” says Lisa.
On the plate, this purposefulness culminates in a thoughtful assembly of flavours, textures and aesthetics across a diverse menu. “We don’t do anything for the sake of it,” explains Thy.
“When we’re happy with a dish and we know it’s delicious and it’s what we want as a final product, that’s when we’ll change the menu,” she explains.
In a city enraptured by food trends and fads, Shibui is a refreshing breath of culinary craftsmanship. Each dessert is refined, with an emphasis on experience. The menu is varied right down to the crockery, with each dish assigned its own unique plate.
“I think it’s a lot more than just eating something sweet, it’s sitting down and working out how we would want a customer to experience the dish,” says Quang.
You won’t find anything over the top here, rather subtle tweaks to diners’ expectations. And while we’re all for the crisp crunch of a curd laden shortcrust, Shibui’s Lemon Meringue Pie breaks the mould. Silky lemon curd mousse and vanilla bean ice cream meets pistachio crumble, torched Swiss meringue, sour lemon sherbet and a hint of balsamic. Load up your spoon with all of the components for full impact.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Shibui tugs on the heartstrings with a menu largely inspired by childhood nostalgia. Case in point, the return of a Devour crowd favourite, Quang’s Red Skin ice cream. This time it appears in a fully-fledged menu item complimented by warm white chocolate mud cake, fresh raspberries, crunchy rice bubbles and smooth raspberry gel and white chocolate ganache.
In an industry often hindered by dietary requirements, Shibui’s vegan Chocolate Forest is a stand out. Plated in a terrarium-like bowl, the woodland scene is constructed from rich chocolate mousse, fudge cake and twigs paired with matcha crumble and stewed apples.
“We made a huge effort to make sure if we’re going to go down that route it has to be really good and I think we’ve well exceeded that and its really, really, really cool,” explains Quang.
Bucking the trend of over-the-top extravagance in favour of carefully considered decadence, Shibui is already set to take Adelaide by storm ahead of its official opening this Thursday.
“No matter who you are, if you’re having a bad day, if you’re having a great day, come in and we’ll feed you and make you happy,” says Thy.
Shibui Dessert Bar officially opens Thursday, July 5.
WHERE: Shop 2, 160 Grote Street, Adelaide
WHEN: Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday: 18.30 – 22.30 / Friday & Saturday: 18.30 – 23.30
COME HERE FOR: thoughtfully crafted dessert that breaks the mould
EXPECT TO SPEND: $$
OF NOTE: takeaway gateaux, cakes and ice cream
Photography by Ben Neale.