Rockpool, Sydney

http://www.rockpool.com

107 George Street, Sydney

This was a cheeky meal. Vanessa was up the coast and I was home alone. A Tuesday night infront of the TV or a table for one at Rockpool? Vanessa’s not a huge fan of Chinese food, so being this Asian/Australia fusion, she wouldn’t have enjoyed it…..(a stretch of reasoning).

It was easy to get a table and only having an ipad for company. A 6pm booking suited. Of course I was going to go for the tasting menu. And while I’m here, why not the matching wines. In for a penny, in for a pound.

There was an excellent selection of bread – spelt, wheat etc. all were fine examples with good crust and decent texture. Of course the echire butter helped.

The meal began with an amuse: Sterling Caviar on Prawn Toast

The best amuse I’ve had in a long time. The salty caviar, sweet prawn and brittle crisp was a treat. Went perfectly with the accompanying champagne. Shame there was only one.

Another treat followed: Queensland spanner crab, broccoli and Jerusalem artichoke

I’m a sucker for crab and the meat went well with the velvety texture of the creamed artichoke. The broccoli was a welcome surprise, providing texture and some good contrasting flavours. Excellent.

The obligatory fish followed: Chirashi zushi of kingfish and tuna

This was not really a plate of food to excite. Decent sushi is commonplace and I don’t think there’s not a whole lot of value being added by Rockpool. There was good kimchi and red bean sauce which brought the rice into play, but it all looked a bit twee and mean. It ate well and certainly had a role to play in the tasting menu as we crossed Asia, but very little to remember.

Things got back on track with the next course: White cut chicken, crispy skin, smoked oyster, Jamon Iberico and five spice

A very pretty dish. All notable restaurants should have dishes that can be easily attributed to them and this was such a dish. The chicken, room temperature and shredded carried the ham and five spice well. It was nicely succulent even for essentially a dry dish. The oyster went missing in the dish, but it was none the worse for it. It was an interesting and tasty plate of food.

Back on to fish: John Dory, scampi, macadamia, paprika and basil pistou

I guess we’re heading back to Australia with this dish, though origin is a bit hard to gauge. This was a delicious plate of food, even though the dory was slightly anonymous. The scampi was lovely in the most subtle of pistous. But the real surprise was the macadamia nuts, that worked well in giving body to the dish and good texture.

Back to Asia with the next dish: Veal sweetbreads, ham, peanut, braised tripe and buckwheat noodles

You’ve got to have some balls to put tripe on to a fine dining menu. It’s a good offal dish with a soy spiked broth. It’s rich and intense, gearing up for the main course.

Rangers Valley beef short rib; braised and barbecued, red cabbage, carrots, enoki and mushroom tea (with rockpool salad)

Continuing the secondary cuts, it’s an excellent preparation – the most yielding of meat with good BBQ char. But everything else is kind of secondary. The other ingredients such as the carrot and mushroom tea pales in comparison to the intense beefiness of the short rib. The rockpool salad was also pleasant and a nice addition, but nothing to make it standout from other salads.

And so on to desserts – Rhubarb raviolo, parfait, raspberry and summer delight tea

It’s really a cornucopia of rhubarb. A cleverly put together dish. Even the ravioli is made from rhubarb. While there is good skill, it’s a little insipid and lacks wow factor when it comes to taste. If a palate cleanser, then it works, but not sure if this was meant to be more substantial.

And so onto the final course: Date Tart

This is certainly a dish that seeks to lower expectations at first sight. No adornments, just the simplest of tarts. But it wows. Two layers – custard & dates. It means nothing else is required. It’s gorgeous and justly famous.

And to finish with a good double espresso, some petit fours. It leaves me perfectly full.

On the whole a decent meal. With a strong Asian streak Rockpool is a novel fine dining experience, something that makes it stand out. The raison d’etre is flavours and their combination as opposed to showy technique or luxury ingredients. It has this down pat. The let-down dishes are the simplest ones in terms of taste, which it telling. The focus on fusion makes it interesting and adventurous and there are some brilliant plates. It’s deserving of its reputation, and every place needs institutions.

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