Assiette, Surry Hills

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  – Cured 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.


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