Archive for November, 2010

Becasse, Sydney

November 14, 2010

204 Clarence Street, Sydney

I’ve been a happily married man for two years now.¬† We were wed in Sydney and have now been living here for a little less than a year and a half. But I do have some unfinished business. Becasse was our first meal together as a married couple, a day after the wedding, but we were too tired to have the full degustation, so we had to return and a dinner with a couple of good friends provided the perfect excuse.

So a few weeks ago we found ourselves staring down the barrel of one of the most interesting tasting menus I’ve seen for a long time. We’re sat upstairs and the lighting is a little low, which creates a relaxing atmosphere, but not great for photos.

We start with a canape of goats cheese and olive on bruschetta.

There’s no need to think too much about this, but it was a nice little bite that prompted the ordering of a nice bottle of Chardonnay.

Bread is a selection of 3 – baguette, pumpkin bread and rosemary bread.

The rosemary bread is the hit of the evening. It seems that all of us around the table are particularly partial to a bit of rosemary. The offering of further bread does not get refused. We all have trouble restraining ourselves from gorging ourselves.

The amuse is an heirloom tomato salad.

It’s sweet and subtle. You can’t beat a flavoursome tomato. It is a joy that is increasingly rare to find. Like other dishes it did not last long.

We start proper with a salad of marinated heirloom vegetables with sugar snap mousseline and black olive.

Many chefs are taking a leaf out of Michael Bras’s book demonstrating their culinary skill with seasonal vegetables and the individual preparation of. I really appreciate these dishes since they show how great vegetables can be. It’s another, if not comprehensive example. Very good. It does makes me think of eating more salad (though the thought doesn’t last long….)

The next course is marinated yellowfin tuna and shaved Wagyu with white asparagus, mushroom and a chilled consomme.

This is a superb course, but again it’s surprisingly mostly about the vegetables…While I enjoy a bit of surf & turf, it serves to accentuate the delicious accompaniements.

The multi-dimensional aspect of the cooking continues with confit of blue-eye and smoked scallop with sauteed cuttlefish, cauliflower and buckwheat.

Unlike the recent scallop dish at Assiette this is a balanced and light dish. Arguably it has a little too much sweetness going on, but the meatiness of the blue-eye brings it together. The fish is served to the point and it’s beautifully succulent.

The meal is slowly building in substantial courses and our last fish course is Roast mulloway with king prawns, soubise puree and smoked crustacean emulsion..

This is a lovely seafood dish to end on. To be honest, not sure what the soubise is but the fish and prawns are well cooked, with good al-dente vegetables. The saucing and emulsion bring everything together to create a taste of the sea. A cliche, but true.

The meat courses begin with caramelised suckling pig and braised pork tail with parsnip and compressed apple

Again, no complaints. Far from it. The pork has been given due cooking time, so the meat is soft and yielding. It’s partnered with an unctuous pork tail. Everybody enjoys it. It’s heartening to see that nose to tail eating is catching on. The parsnip & apple might look a little pedestrian, but their preparation makes it engaging and interesting.

There is a choice for main course – ballontine of guinea-fowl or the option that the whole table chose: Pot-roasted shoulder and fillet of lamb with goars curd, broad beans, garlic and rosemary.

The different cuts of lamb provide good contrasting textures. The accompaniements are great, even though they’re Atkins friendly. It’s a very enjoyable plate of food.

We settle in the for the final stretch – a palate cleanser of Champagne creme chiboust with orange, lavender and kiwifruit

The palate cleanser moniker probably plays down the course. It’s a good mix of fruit with the champagne providing a bit of zing. The lavender doesn’t overpower or make me think too much of old people. It does the job of setting the scene for the final course, though we are approaching fullness.

We have two options for dessert, which we both order: I cling on to the banana creme brulee with salted peanut brittle and milk coffee sorbet..

It’s a very American dessert, nicely presented. The milk sorbet collapses into the brulee when the brittle is broken. Everything you could want in one dish, save chocolate, which brings us to the other dessert.

If there was a dish that didn’t excel in this meal, then this dish was probably it. 70% bolivia chocolate and caramel cadeau with vanilla and milk sorbet

I couldn’t fault the ingredients. It’s just the dish didn’t excite as much as the description. Too much chocolate to caramel ratio, I think and there’s the milk sorbet again. But as dishes to end a meal on, it’s not something to complain about.

We persevere with the final petit fours… Fini.

To be honest, I’ve never thought Becasse one of Sydney’s leading restaurants, choosing to place it behind the likes of Marque in consideration. But this meal was excellent and one of the most enjoyable I’ve had in Sydney. The company no doubt was a significant factor, but the cooking consistently impressed with great individual preparation of the various components, brought together with good attention to detail and a clear desire to delight the diner. The care given to vegetables here was of particular note.

It must be said that the service was not the most attentive, which is probably excaberated by the dual-level dining room. It was noticeable, but not something to get annoyed about. It made a fine evening last even longer (4.5hrs!). But I probably wouldn’t change much, which I why I will look to return sooner rather than later.



Assiette, Surry Hills

November 14, 2010

48 Albion Street, Surry Hills

I’d been wanting to come here for a while, partly because it was difficult to get into, no doubt due to the ease of online booking. It’s a rising star with two hats and a well priced menu.

So we finally made it on a Saturday night and clearly had the tasting menu on our minds.¬† It’s a small venue with a classic decor of cream and dark woods.

The menu follows are set formula. We start with an oyster with vietnamese dressing:

It’s similar to what we ate at Tetsuya and the fragrant dressing lifts the oyster, creating a very pleasant introduction to the meal.

The sashimi course is next – kingfish with pea shoots, quail egg and wasabi cream

It’s fresh, clean and is really rather good. The fish is sufficiently meaty and its well enjoyed. The wasabi is restrained and doesn’t overpower the fish. It doesn’t last long.

The next dish further lifts our spirits  РCured Malborough salmon with prawn beignet, pink grapefruit, mandarin and fennel

It follows along a similar vein of the previous dish. It is a delight, the sharp fruit cuts through the deep fried prawn and the salmon provides a solid moreish base from which to savour the dish.

Next up rather scarily is a vegetarian course. Goats cheese with beetroot.

Not the most inspiring plate of food to see on a menu, but you’ve got to find some balance. I almost tried to substitute it. I have issues with beetroot which hark back to my childhood, but it was worth persevering. It was simple with good sweet and salty flavours. None the worse for it. It set the scene for the heavier dishes to follow.

Terrine of rabbit and quail with smoked breast and fig follows.

It’s a rich, earthy dish. I love terrines, but they normally only belong in casual saturday lunchtime dining. They’re good at accompanying a decent glass of wine. Ordered in a restaurant as an entree they are always a little disappointing – lukewarm and never as interesting as hoped. But as a part of a tasting menu, I’m content. Rabbit is much under-rated with a good depth and the sweet accompaniments provide the necessary balance. Again it’s another calculated dish, but none the worse for it. My wife, not normally a fan of this kind of food, enjoys it. Enough said.

The next plate, was one we were really looking forward to – Pan fried dory with seared scallop, onion bhaji, cauliflower puree and mango chutney

It also turned out to be one of the most disappointing. It’s a deconstructed curry of sorts and while the previous dishes were well composed, this dish was really out of whack and just didn’t come together and proved a jarring point for the whole meal. The individual elements were mostly all there, even though the scallop was extremely rare, but they were all so separate and nothing tasted particularly compelling. It desperately needed a sauce to bring it together. Instead the overall sensation was one of graininess and a slight greasiness.

The main course did though help to restore the meal – loin of lamb with shoulder

To be honest I can’t remember the individual components of this dish, but I can remember it tasted good and had the pre-requisite of rich and deep flavours, accompanied with a decent glass of Shiraz. It helped finish the main meal on a high.

And on to the cheese course – cheese with pear puree and toasted fruit bread

The trend at the moment is to have a creamed soft cheese. It’s an example of chefs messing with something very simple & straightforward. Not sure I see the point. It doesn’t improve the taste. It just makes it easier to spread on toast, not that it was a problem or even the way that cheese should be eaten. It’s still good though and the pear puree is a welcome departure from the normal honey.

Anyway, the pre-desert – GrannySmith apple jelly with vanilla syrup and apple granita

Nothing to complain about. It’s cleansing, flavourful, despite the ice and goes down well. It prepares us for the final course:

Banana mousse with white chocolate ice cream and peanut brittle

Very American – it has a couple of my favourite things on one plate – bananas and peanuts. I can leave the white chocolate. But it’s a nice pudding and it creates a few smiles while cracking the brandy snap. And puddings should be all about smiles.

It was a good meal, with very competent cooking. Immediately after I remember feeling a little underwhelmed by the dinner, but that was mainly due to the ‘curry’ course and nothing that truly wowed, but that’s being harsh. It was on reflection a good meal with on the whole, very well constructed dishes that ate very well. It represents good value for the price and I can see myself returning at some point, whenever that may be.