Archive for December, 2009

Restaurant Atelier

December 13, 2009

http://www.restaurantatelier.com.au

22 Glebe Point Road

It was a birthday meal and we’d heard good things about Restaurant Atelier from other foodies and so decided to give it a go.

I arrived early (it’s a habit) and ordered myself a martini, which impressed in terms of size & coldness. Not a bad start. It came with a mountain of olives which I avoided with the feast ahead.

We couldn’t resist the bread though – a very tasty sourdough. It reminded us of a French bistro in London that we wanted to love, but the service was always bad. The only constant was a decent sourdough. You can get away with murder in a restaurant if you serve good bread.

Needing no excuse, we ventured for the degustation menu, which unusually the restaurant offers to tailor however we like it. Not being able to include the special of a roast rib of veal, we get them to surprise us.

We start with a salad of heirloom tomatoes with feta, aged balsamic and tomato sorbet. It’s an interesting start. The tomatoes are fine with the other ingredients contributing to a classic combination. The sorbet shows a creative mind, but since coldness is an enemy of subtle, sweet flavour of tomatoes it serves to dull the flavour, not enhance.

Next up, ginger & wasabi cured Hiramasa Kingfish, dashi jelly & Pomello sorbet…. This was a good clean dish, though I wasn’t exactly wowed by the sorbet. A little unnecessary perhaps. However, what really took the attention was a tiny spoonful of sevruga caviar, which was a good, slightly salty addition to the dish (& an additional $10, but worth it).

Chermola-Spiced Quail Supremes, Cauliflower Royale, Red Elk & a Golden Sultana Jus was next. A tasty dish, which disappeared quickly…. Not sure I could discern the individual elements themselves, but the quail was well cooked and I’m a sucker for cauliflower.

Fillets of John Dory, Piquillo Pepper Puree, Confit Fennel & Black Olives. This was a good, interesting preparation. I don’t come across John Dory that often and it’s a fine meaty fish, for those who don’t like fish. The fillet was a cylinder and uniformly cooked all the way through. the combination of the pepper puree worked particularly well,

Cocoa-Roasted Striploin of New Zealand Venison, Confit Carrot Puree, Baby Turnips, White Asparagus & a Liquorice-Infused Sauce. I’m not sure I enjoyed this particular dish. The venison somehow got lost in the range of flavours and I’m primarily talking about the liquorice which is satan’s own food and just like a black-hole it consumes all it touches. It over-shadowed what could have been a decent dish….

Tonka Bean Creme Brulee w Balsamic-Poached Strawberries, Vanilla Ice Cream. The vanilla ice cream was a little unecessary, but the creme brulee was pretty fine. The tonka bean provided a good sublety of flavour with hints of almond and clove. Only one more course to come, phew….

Tahitian Vanilla & Chocolate Fudge Souffle w Malt Chocolate Ice Cream & a Malt-Infused Milkshake. This was introduced as the house special with the instruction to drink some of the milkshake with the chocolate straw (nice touch) and pour some of it into the souffle. The malt in the milkshake made it a moreish & indulgent drink. I wanted to enjoy the souffle, but if truth be told it was a little light on flavour. Again the ice cream didn’t add a great deal, but it served to bring the meal to a close. I was grateful.

This is certainly a good neighbourhood restaurant. It wasn’t as full-on as Bistro Ortolan, but there was a pre-occupation with ice creams & sorbets that was puzzling. Some of the dishes were trying to a bit too hard, but you sense a good balance could easily be found. And the menu is interesting enough to warrant a return visit. It’s a shame this place seemingly doesn’t get a lot of attention. It does warrant a look.

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Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney

December 4, 2009

66 Hunter St

http://www.rockpool.com

We had dinner here a few weeks ago and it was a very enjoyable (if expensive) night out. It started with deluxe manhattan, the only alternative to a martini and was followed by a couple of great steaks, with the standout actually being a cabbage & potato gratin. It was worth the trip alone. That and the salted caramels.

However, what everyone talks about is the burger.

We were on our way to the Opera House and couldn’t bear the idea of a mediocre bite to eat along the Quay and so Rockpool again presented itself.

Again we kicked things off with a Deluxe Manhattan. I’m loving these….

It seemed like the entire bar was ordering burgers, so we got our order in quickly for fear of missing out.Though I don’t think this is the kind of place which is going to run out of beef.

It was good. Very good. All fine individual components which stood out and created a burger which was better than the sum of its parts. The bun had a crusty density, a million miles from what you would find at Bakers Delight.

You actually had to hunt for the bacon. It wasn’t in large supply, but it’s served its role admirably in providing some saltiness to the main attraction of the unctuous Wagyu beef pattie, which was a fine as hoped for – intense savoriness with a good enough balance of mince that didn’t make it too rich or fatty. A light touch of gruyere provided that. It was all brought together with an excellent sweet pickle that prevented the decadence getting too out of control. (Incidentally I’m always suspicious of people who don’t eat pickles…they’re invariable anally retentive….)

All this came with a side-order of fries ($12..) which were OK, but not in the same league as the burger. In the UK triple-cooked chips (thanks to Heston Blummenthal) have set the bar for tuber perfection. No other preparation method has yet come close. So if you’re going to strive to serve the best burger, you’ve got to serve the best chips…

It was a fine casual bite-to-eat and the burger did not disappoint. I now work within crawling distance of this place and I do not deny that my decision to accept that job was influenced in some small way by the proximity of Rockpool to it.

So if I’ve had a brutal day at work and need a ‘culinary shoulder’ to cry on, you’ll know where I’ll be.