So, after watching the time counter on the website with the intensity of a shark watching its prey, and clicking at the right millisecond we finally got a booking. I just had to see if this place lived up to the hype.
Now at $175 per head for 14 courses, I’m thinking Tetsuyas, Vue due Monde, Claudes. Fine dining this is not, in fact we all did a bit of a double take at the ‘casualness’ of the place. No tablecloths, the chefs wearing baseball caps, and very few staff attending to your every whim. In fact the chef who makes each course brings it straight to the table to serve it when ready, which minimises the staffing, but they could use some elocution training to talk up the dish they have laid in front of us. We often had to ask them to repeat themselves. Its like the distinction between Sales and Trading in FX.
You don’t get a menu, so you don’t know what’s coming. They do give you one at the end with the bill but it only contains two or three words for each dish listing the ingredients and not a description of the dish (so I’ve done my best with names). The dishes don’t have the ‘wow’ presentation of say a Gastro Park, Bentley or Vue Due Monde – and so the bursts of flavour do surprise – and there is none of the kitchen theatre and artistry you see in the latter – its a quiet, calm, orderly place (except for the booming music).
First we had a little ‘snack plate': Snacks of shitake chips, mochi, nori and smoked potato. (‘ma’am we don’t allow flash photography here’ – really? Are you kidding me? Hence the photos are a bit dark). Some really interesting flavours and textures here.
Then here is what we had on the savoury side:
Steamed pork bun – pork belly, cucumber and hoisin sauce (soooo good could have had 10 of these)
Striped trumpeter with blood orange (nice, but not better than you’d get at any good Japanese)
Marron served with fennel and a squid ink puree (beautiful fresh flavours)
Beef with radish and fermented black bean (the beef is hidden under the radish….good but not outstanding)
Smoked eel, Jerusalem artichoke. If you’re a Jerusalem artichoke fan you’ll like this, so I did.
Mud crab with butter, pepper and pudding. Flavour flavour flavour – an outstanding dish.
Egg with toasted rice and brown butter. Unusual dish, I liked the toasted rice.
Pea angolotti with a parmesan foam. I loved this, like the crab dish, flavours going on everywhere, and the texture of the parmesan was amazing.
Mulloway – cant remember what this was served with, but this dish was a stunner, 12/10.
Lamb neck with cauliflower and mustard. Bit disappointing, lamb was overcooked, nothing special.
And on the sweet
Pecorino with honey licorice and bee pollen (really unusual flavour combination), Poached peach with rose wafers, miso icecream with cherries (hidden underneath). The textured stuff on top of the icecream – not sure what it was – was fantastic.
Overall I wasn’t particularly impressed by the deserts. They were unique but not tantalising, but I did love the rosewater wafers.
Just when we said we were all totally full, there was a surprise dish, number 15, a candied 8 hour slow cooked sweet pork, which isn’t even listed on the menu they give you later on. We devoured this so fast (you have to eat it with your fingers, don’t wait for cutlery), we forgot to take a photo. It was melt-in-your-mouth devine. They kindly offered us a doggy bag if we were too full but there was no chance we were leaving even a morsel on that plate.
So the verdict – at $175 I think its a bit punchy, I’m thinking its more a $130-140 menu and set up. But as it only seats 30 odd people, they’ll be able to stretch this pricing out for a while till everyone who wants to go does. Would I go back? Maybe. But its not a once a year thing, maybe every couple.