Even though it hasn’t been all that long since I’ve been to Sydney’s hottest new restaurant (though Movida these days seems to be giving it a run for its money), it was entirely necessary to go again so that the fabulous Leslie could experience it. Along with Sarah and Frank, we sat down on Friday night to an amazing meal matched with various alcoholic substances.
What surprised me was how thrilling I found it, even though I’d eaten there not that long ago. Probably about one-third of the dishes were the same, and the rest were different. Some of the drink-matching was the same, but others were also different.
What I loved was the elevation of something simple and basic to be a part of a complex and modern dish. A brocolli stalk, for crying out loud. Not even the floret. Perfectly done to accompany one of the dishes. Similarly, blanched almonds, or a small grilled piece of lettuce, were small simple foods put into a very different context. Here are the lettuce and the almonds alongside a very tasty piece of lamb (with a slightly bitter eggplant paste):
We were so caught up in the food that I don’t have a photo of my favourite dish of the night, another example of the elevation of the common (or even the discarded). Potatoes confit in beef fat, and then fried in chicken fat so they’re sticky and rich. It was like a whole roast dinner in one bite. These were accompanied by four crispy deep-fried chicken’s tails (or popes’ or parsons’ noses…), a part of the chicken which I think most people shy away from. As well, wafer thin slices of regular old button mushrooms, unrecognisable. All of these humble foods ramped up into an amazing, amazing dish. Here’s a photo from yelp (click on it so I don’t violate someone’s copyright…)
The other highlight for me was a modernised congee. Instead of a big thick bowl of soup, they’d somehow reduced the congee to a small disc of its creamy essence (which tastes of home and comfort and childhood, at least if you were an Asian child!). Then instead of a big hunk of fried bread (yum) torn into pieces, they’d do miniature versions, the size of quail eggs. Instead of a piece of hard-boiled or preserved egg, there was an amazing translucent disc of egg yolk. And to literally top it all off, they poured an earl grey tea sauce into it. It was salty, so I thought it might have been soy sauce, but as the menu says ‘ham’, I suspect that the ham was infused into the tea. Somehow.
What else? We all liked the smoked eel/apple crispy little starter. The famous steamed bun with pork belly was as good as ever. The striped trumpeter with celery and mustard was made more amazing because the wine somehow played off against celery flavour. The thin, crispy roll of beef tongue with black garlic and zucchini also yummy and the marron with the afore-mentioned broccoli and lemon was amazing. Yum. Desserts were simple and not too sweet, a curd with blackcurrant and mint, a cucumber, raspberry and elderflower combination of foam and gelato, and then an absolutely amazing grilled pineapple with white chocolate and… oh, I don’t know. It was just so tasty we couldn’t figure it out:
As with the last time I went (and I didn’t say a thing to my dining companions before they tried it), we all agreed that the radish dish, beautiful as it is, didn’t work for us. The fermented black bean sauce is harsh and earthy, the small bits of wagyu beef too small to taste, and not sure where the watermelon went. The red rice wine sake that went with it was amazing, and the sweetness did make the dish more palatable, but generally: no.
I managed to keep the surprise from my dining companions about the Petit Four being slow-cooked pork (Porky Four they deemed it, which I thought was very clever). An amazing meal, so much that I can write about the same restaurant again and not feel repetitive, great company (thanks guys), a substantial bill (!), great memories, and not quite enough food photos, even if they can be found elsewhere on the web…
[Newer review for Momofuku Seibo, here]