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Modern Australia

It’s always sunny in Sydney, or at least that’s what the tourists are being sold before arriving to find they’ve been scammed by the weather gods in a good ol’ bait’n’switch. The incessant rain seems to have turned the world upside down and we’ve now all mastered the ability to look out at the horizon with our best “I smell something bad” expression.

Saturday morning brunch saw Aidan and I powering through another downpour and side stepping puddle-traps to reach the newly launched foodstore by the Chris Starke (ex Marque and the infamous Banc) who also runs Youeni Providores around the corner. The new cafe/eatery is cleverly positioned into the apex of number 8, enlivening a previously spartan space into a buzz of diners sharing blankets and table space.

We’re greeted by the crew and start off with a pot of soy chai and a bulging coffee (Ky’s description, not mine). Since the upside of bad weather is being able to dig in to hearty winter fare, we commit ourselves to the seasonal soup and the slow cooked beef cheeks.


Seasonal soup, toast, olive oil $10

The soup that afternoon was a combination of butter potatoes, kale, spinach and a giant pepper hit, finished off with a bit of olive oil, caramelised onions and a side of Sonoma toast. I felt I had OD’ed on pepper by the end but I noticed my body temperature had risen a few notches too.


Beef cheek, blacked caramalised onions, pomme puree, green salad $14

The beef cheeks were exclamation worthy – which explained why they were recommended with a satisfied grin. A soft smear and scoop of the fork produced a warming mouthful of beef and potato puree whilst a side of pea tendrils, blacked caramelised onions and cottage cheese gave the overall dish a nice crisp balance.

Far from a lack of ingenuity I felt the repeat use of key ingredients such as the pea tendrils and caralised onions served to only highlight a smart kitchen working with what’s in season and what they have at hand. And although the food was warming, it never veered into the “heavy” category.


Citrus curd tart $5

Pausing slightly after out meal, I eyed the baked treats paraded on the counter and eeny meeny miny mo-ed my way to a final citrus curd tart (we reasoned it must be easier to digest than the salted caramel chocolate option) with admirably short pastry.

Despite the slight mumble of chaos on their launch day, the passion the crew felt for food was tangible. They’re also keeping everything in the family and will have launched their own coffee blend by now, roasted by their friends down in Wollongong. They’re also planning to start baking their own bread and once licences and such are processed – open for dinner with a set menu focusing on the best produce of the moment.

As we waved goodbye, we shook hands with the crew and promised to see each other soon. Sometimes good things can happen in the rain.

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The Verdict
Youeni Foodstore really works as a complimentary outfit to the providore – pushing their core belief in local organic produce and promoting food knowledge. The short menu provides enough variance to keep everyone intrigued whilst focusing on maximising in-season ingredients. If you make it in time for the breakfast hours then treat yourself to some slow cooked scrambled eggs or perhaps a caramalised ham and stewed apple sandwich for lunch and pop a tart in your pocket for later.

Youeni Foodstore
a. Shop 3, 8 Hill St, Surry Hills
t. 9380 7575
w. youeni.com + surryhills.youeni.com/

Youeni Foodstore on Urbanspoon

“Two men walked into a bar…”

Normally this would descend into a terrible punchline but in this instance the result is a quirky space atop the Flinders Hotel serving a young experimental menu. Billed as “British colonial style joins an all star food crew”, the all stars here are head chefs Thomas Lim (ex-Tetsuya’s) and Mitch Orr (ex-Sepia and 2010 Young Chef Of The Year) who’ve set up a moody and compact dining room peppered with low hanging lanterns, floral upholstery and dark lacquered tables.

This is my second time here for the Duke Tuesday Tasting menu and I’ve managed to sucker in more soon-to-be converts. The boys have been offering a 6 course degustation for only $60, with dishes often changing weekly, providing the kitchen with an opportunity to experiment with new flavours and techniques.


Snacks: Gougère

We start off with a plethora of snacks. First up are the Gougère; the delicious little puffs of warm cheese and buttery choux pastry disappearing so quickly it takes me a moment to register that they’re all gone.


Snacks: Oyster Mushroom Karage

Next, a long slate of fanned out crispy oyster mushroom karage line up next to a speckled pebble of sauce. We debate what the sauce is, however I believe it has black beans blended into it, to give it a salty albiet nutty aftertaste.


Bread and butter


Snacks: Home made maple cured ham and smoked pastrami + Pimms Carafe: Pimms Cointreau, Plymouth, Sprite, Dry Ginger $35 + Rickey Tickey: Absolut, Peach Liquer, Peach, Watermelon, Lime, Soda $17

Hold up! The snacks still haven’t ended; a bowl of home made bread rolls soon arrive with a hard round of hand churned butter and although carbs is probably one of my favourite food groups it’s exponentially improved with a generous serving of shaved home-cured meats.


The Earl: Silver Tequila, Cointreau, Earl Grey Tea, Guava, Lemon $19

It’s at this moment, table about to topple over from the burgeoning weight of Parisian slates that we receive our cocktails. Cathy’s Rickey Tickey turned out to be a light-hearted tumble of flavours whilst my ‘The Earl’ was a more singular affair with tequila and Earl Grey proving natural companions.

The waitress reappeared to surprise us with an extra snack from the kitchen (this is sadly not due to my awesomeness and more so to do with one of our party being a professional chef) in the form of a crispy pork jowel bun.


With compliments from the kitchen: Butter bread, pork jowl, grilled pineapple, curry mayo, snow pea sprouts

These bite sized little sandwiches were a sunny mouthful of mayo, pineapple, butter and the unmistakable firmness of the marinated pork jowel. I was sincerely glad to discover these have made it onto the permanent menu in the form of a DIY ‘pancake party’.


1st Course – Corn: Corn husk salt, chickweed, grilled baby corn, corn stock, corn puree, corn kernels

Corn. Yes that’s what it said on the menu, the one word description gave nothing away and it was quite delightful to spoon through the bowl, musing over the different textures and forms.


2nd Course – Pearl Onion, Leek and Chicken Skin with jalepenos oil and onion pickle liquor


3rd Course – Mushroom Risotto with rice starch, pine ash, powdered black fungi, toasted rice

The onion and chicken skin proved an interesting play on texture albeit overly salty whilst the mushroom risotto was a hit. A risotto made without rice might seem quite existential but the boys have used rice starch to thicken up the sauce and hold the dish together, letting the beautiful fresh flavours of mushroom take the spotlight.


4th Course – Egg, Lapchong, Red Rice: pickled pea sprouts, crispy lap chong, slow-cooked egg

Michelle’s done her research and lights up when we’re finally served the slow-cooked egg. It’s so soft it seems to exist in a permanent state of near-splitting over the bed of lap chong and red rice.


5th Course – Smoked Beef, Gherkin, Mushroom: hickory-smoked beef blade, button mushroom puree, gherkin, sourdough crumble + With compliments from the kitchen: green beans with garlic and butter

Lastly was the crowd pleaser, a trio of beautifully smoked slices of beef served with a dousing of crunchy sourdough crumble which provided a comforting end.


Pre-dessert – Watermelon, White Chocolate, Pink Peppercorn: watermelon granita, watermelon molasses, shaved white chocolate, pink peppercorn praline

To clean our palettes a refreshing bowl of granita, the layer of molasses tastes quite woody and not heeding Fiona’s advice I ambitiously mix all the elements together before realising that the three elements don’t go together quite so well.


With compliments from the kitchen – Milk milk milk: Milk panna cotta, dulce de leche caramel, meringue, burnt milk crumble

We’re sprung another surprise, an extra dessert exploring the different textural incarnations of milk as the seven of us murmured and scraped the last smears of dulce de leche off the plate.

6th Course – Pinenut, Burnt Choc, Blueberry: liquid lemon yoghurt cake, lemon yoghurt cake, burnt chocolate, pine nut praline, blueberry, chocolate puree

The last course is an elegant little garden, with the burnt chocolate created in reminiscence of the scrapings from the edge of a cake tin. One of our party leaned back and with a wide grin declared this dish a perfect ending to his meal.


With compliments from the kitchen: Doughnuts and banana cream puree with strawberry & liquorice salt

But wait there’s more, urging ourselves to digest with greater haste, we make room for this final mouthful of the softest-doughnut-ever. It turns out that these golden orbs were pipped choux pastry, fried and filled with the fragrant banana cream. This was my perfect end to a playful meal full of surprises, youthful exuberance and yes, quirk. Our group waves goodbye to Thomas Lim and Michael Eggert as we happily stomp down the creaky stairs, sure of ourselves that we had a shared a great gastronomical laugh.


The Duke Tuesday Tasting menu $60 for 6 courses is available Tuesdays (duh) only, please book ahead.

4

The Verdict
In an intense, high pressure industry it’s great to see two young lads leading the way in developing an inventive, witty and evolving menu. Nothing is taken with too much stern seriousness and it’s always a game to delve through the abstractly plated dishes and discover what’s buried beneath. The flip-side to this sense of unburdened creativity is that not all of the dishes are crowd pleasers with some combinations pushing the creative envelope. However if you’re up for something new and want to save a bit of coin, Tuesdays at the Duke is where you’ll score a bit of fun.

Duke Bistro
a. 63 Flinders St Darlinghurst
t. 9332 3180
e. reservations(at)dukebistro.com.au
w. www.dukebistro.com.au
b. blog.dukebistro.com.au

Duke Bistro on Urbanspoon

I still remember my first time at Bodega many years ago: sitting outside during dusk, laughing a bit too loudly, gobbling down golden little empanadas and pop corn riddled desserts with a bottle of crisp Argentinian white. So it’s with a heavy hit of nostalgia that Cathy and I walk through those same glass doors and pause under the familiar gaze of the Bodega bull.

Despite Sydney now being awash with South American fare, Bodega’s unique vibe and loyal clientele has cemented it as a stalwart of the oft fickle Sydney dining scene. Although rockabilly owners Elvis and Sarah have moved onto their new venture, they’ve left Bodega in the very capable hands of their well coiffed crew headed by Nicholas Wong (ex Billy Kwong).


Dark & Stormy: Goslings ‘Black Sea’ rum, spicy ginger & honey syrup, soda and lime $10

We arrive on a Monday night to find the main room already brimming and it takes a short round of musical chairs but we manage to secure a table and ease in with a couple of cocktails. Cathy opted for Bodega’s slightly dressier version of a Dark & Stormy whilst I was intrigued by a simple Argentine apertif.


Gancia & Pomelo: Aromatic wine and house pink grapefruit soda $10


Complimentary bread and Olive oil

I’m stoked to see that my enduring favourite, the “Fish Fingers” is still on the menu and we order it without hesitation.


“Fish Fingers”: sashimi Kingfish on garlic toast with cuttlefish ceviche and mojama $22

I loved the initial surprise of ordering the familiar and instead receiving something utterly unexpected but deliciously satisfying.These bad boys seem to have only gotten better with time: the beautifully thin layers of Kingfish sashimi topped with cuttlefish, sliced onions and a shavings of dried tuna are a riot.

Chipotle pulled pork steamed buns with pickled carrot $6 each

Everyone seems to be in on the sliders action (have you seen those Hungry Jacks ads?!) and I doubt I’m the first one to consider this creation to be slightly inspired by the infamous Momofuku buns. The pulled pork filling is doused in the chipotle sauce and the whole thing disappears in moments and we find ourselves wiping our mouths and wishing we’d ordered another…or four.

Veal Sweetbreads with Prawns, Soft Egg, Multigrains and Chicharrones $34

Never one to turn down the opportunity for some sweetbreads, we firstly pick off the fried pork fat and then stir the grains and sweetbreads through the runny yolk. The sweetbreads used here are taken from the thymus and are denser and more earthy tasting compared to the fluffy texture of the pancreas.

Corn tamale with black beans and avocado $20

Although I was pining after the Morcilla and scallops we thought we should listen to our heads and cap ourselves at 4 tapas. The last order was the corn tamale: a long sausage of corn dough filled with cheese and steamed in in corn husks, it was beautifully fragrant and surprisingly filling once paired with the stewed black beans and moreish home made tortilla chips.


With compliments from the kitchen: home cured bacon, leek, peas, fried leek stems, water cress, squid, squid ink, tomato jelly

Halfway through the corn tamale we admitted defeat and were ready to put down our forks when we were surprised with this little garden of treats! A playful salad tumbling with all manner of ingredients, each mouthful punctuated with bursts of sour, crunch, inkiness and sweetness.


With compliments from the kitchen: Fennel ice cream, fennel jelly, shaved fennel, sponge, puffed corn, poached pear

Finally we hit dessert and we’re well and truly drawing upon all our powers to access our second (dessert) stomach. While I’m not always a fan of fennel, I fell in love with the subtle sweetness and textures of this dessert.


With compliments from the kitchen: Macadamia cookie, chocolate dust, vanilla ice cream

The second offering appeared quite tame: a few pale hills resting upon a jade coloured ceramic bowl but one taste and we urged ourselves to keep going. The cookie shards were studded with chunks of macadamia and the dark chocolate dust offered a burnt bitterness to counter balance the ice cream.


Banana split: flan, salted peanuts, dulce de leche ice cream, banana marshmallow $16

The end is in sight and all that stands before us now is the final dessert: an interpretive version of the banana split. A long finger of banana flan rests in pool of caramel, offset by the salted peanuts and a puff of torched marshmallow, this too somehow manages to disappear before us as we swap jibes about who had the best dessert with the Texans at the table next to us.

It’s almost closing as we finally get up to leave. Fare-welling the waitresses and co-diners I slip out the door whilst Cathy shares a few words with the Kitchen.

I slowly waddle down Commonwealth street, entirely glad that despite the years and my alcohol infused memories, this old flame is still as beautiful and charming as when we first met.

The Verdict
Bodega’s modern Argentine fare packs a punch without feeling restrained by cultural cliches. The food not only reflects the restaurant’s Argentine heritage but also its presence as part of multicultural Sydney. Don’t come with any expectations and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the playful menu and the chance to discover something new.

4

Bodega Tapas Bar
a. 216 Commonwealth St Surry Hills
t. 9212 7766
e. enquiries(at)bodegatapas.com
w. www.bodegatapas.com

Bodega on Urbanspoon

My friends sometimes ask how I can afford to eat out as much as I do since it appears like every meal’s a hatted multi-course magic ride into the culinary clouds (okay those are my words not theirs) and the creative profession is rarely a well-paid one. The thing is there’s no secret oil tycoon fiance; sometimes good things come in cheap packages, you just have to know where to find them.


Latte $3.30

Wilbur’s place sounds like a jolly place to chill out with your porcine host but in actuality is a new little eatery from the guys at Bourke Street Bakery. The other up side is the prices seem to be from the 90’s with the most expensive item a dinner plate of duck leg, roasted plums with vino cotto which would still return you a gold coin’s change from a 20 note.

This concept seems to hit all angles of the magical triangle (good, fast, cheap) and I’m so keen to visit I blab on about this place for weeks. Upon their reopening for the new year, three of us rock up for a long lunch at this alleyway digs.


Seranno ham, grapefruit and fennel salad $12

We settle in with some coffees on the outdoor table and start with the Serrano ham, grapefruit and fennel salad. The combination sounded intriguing and light: the ham and grapefruit added nice touches of salt and bitterness to the salad. Strangely though the fennel was limp and quite sugary and acidic.


Cappucino $3.30


Complimentary Duck liver parfait, toast & cornichons (Normally $12)

Our lovable waiter Ben approaches us with a surprise: a complimentary dish of duck liver parfait for us to nibble on, it’s buttery smooth and we pull sad faces when we run out of brioche.


White anchovy, cucumber, celery, croutons $12

White anchovy, cucumber, celery, croutons was our second choice: another interesting combination. Sadly this too tasted overwhelmingly like apple vinegar and we asked Ben to check for us. He returns and advises the kitchen only adds salt, pepper, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon to the salad but there’s no fresh lemon zing and the sugary limpness of the celery betrays an overwhelming acidic taste. Cathy notes the kitchen may have pre-dressed the celery and fennel in apple vinegar in the morning and accidentally macerated the vegetables resulting in an overpowering sweetness.


Porchetta plate, white beans and bread $14

I’ve been looking forward to the porchetta plate for quite some time, which time-poor locals can get in a roll for only $8 a pop. We food tourists though have all the time to languish in the sun and slowly devour the pork with beans and sourdough. The meat is quite tender and doused with rosemary, with a streak of fat running through, on a bed of jus which we mop up. Midway through Cathy pulled a piece of trussing string from her portion and we’re also disappointed to note that the beans haven’t been cooked enough and are quite hard on the inside; the jus itself was also a bit sticky from being over-reduced.

We manage to finish most of our food though and remain optimistic about dessert. The ice cream for the brioche sandwich is made by the staff and the sound of a meringue covered flourless chocolate sponge seems intriguing but Ben tells us his absolute favourite is the custard tart. We’re still wondering what to order when he arrives with the tart in question and places it before us.


Complimentary Custard tart (Normally $12)

We dig in and sigh over the delectably smooth custard blanketed with a generous amount of nutmeg. Dessert’s over in seconds and we each leave having spent well under $20 each. We wave goodbye to Ben and Paul and waddle off down the alleyway: our hip pockets barely lightened but stomachs well full.

The Verdict
Have you ever bumped into two siblings* and noticed one got a lot luckier with the gene pool lotto? The Bourke Street crew have baking down pat and the menu at their new sister restaurant is simple but imaginative, so it’s quite sad to see poor execution letting everyone down. The service is affable and the prices are very kind to all and sundry; I’ve just got my fingers crossed that the kitchen simply has the start-up jitters and will soon develop into a well-oiled machine by the time I return for that duck and perhaps some ocean trout fingers.

*This is a metaphor and is not in reference to any persons living or dead.

Wilbur’s Place
a. 36 Llankelly Place, Kings Cross
t. 9332 2999
e. info(at)wilbursplace.com
w. www.wilbursplace.com

Wilbur's Place on Urbanspoon

I’m a pretty awkward person and sometimes life feels like a string of trailing sentences, weird pauses and failing social graces. Trivial interactions become overblown dramatic scenarios or I sometimes just forget to use my inside voice (oops). Whilst I still feel extremely uncomfortable stepping into a luxury bag store or having bell boys carry my luggage, drop me off at a three hat restaurant and I’ll still feel at ease enough to make lame dirty jokes while asking for more complimentary buns (boom boom tish).

The three of us are at est. for the latest promotion: the Sunset menu which includes an entree, main and cocktail for $50. Considering mains alone at Doyle’s darling normally go for about $60 a pop this is a pretty sweet deal.

Jenny and I are late and as we drift up in the quiet hum of the elevator I can’t help but hold my breath a little, awaiting that magical moment when the doors slide open and we step into an alternative universe: a glorious vista of white waistcoats, marble, ebony, palms and french doors.


We move through the dimly lit corridor and into the dining area, a flurry of waiters welcome us and I’m a little alarmed by all the bowing and scraping but we’re soon sauntering over to our table and perusing the wine list while buttering some sliced sourdough.


Sunset cocktail: Vodka, cranberry, elderflower liqueur and apple, Kaffir lime leaf

First to appear are the blushing cocktails, an aromatic mix topped off with a Kaffir lime leaf which slowly infuses your drink with that familiar pep; I’m smitten and we vow to recreate this at home.


Italian buffalo mozzarella with fresh peach, serrano jamon and belgian endive

The menu itself is curt and we’re given two options for the entree and main. None of us were tempted by the market fresh Oysters with ponzu and instead opted for the mozzarella with peach and jamon. Three waiters decked in white appeared and uniformly served us our entree in one elegant gesture. The mozzarella was pillowy soft and compliments the classic flavours of jamon with fruit; Jenny mused that although delicious, the dish was a little overly simplistic and something we could easily make ourselves.


Pan roasted Palmer Island Mulloway fillet, tahini yoghurt, broccolini, green peas, dukkah

For the mains we were all eyeing the pan roasted Mulloway served with a slight Middle eastern bent. The fish was cooked perfectly and the nuttiness of the tahini proved an interesting contrast to the crispy clean flavours.

Halfway through a mouthful of Cathy’s fish, I pulled out a short bone from my mouth, a passing waiter inquired whether I’m alright and on spotting the bone, paled a little before fleeing to inform our waitress and the kitchen.


Pan roasted black angus beef fillet, wasabi miso and shallot butter, pak choy

I actually wanted the fish and am normally suspicious of anything served with pak choy but for the sake of multi-dish-ism I requested the Asian influenced beef instead. A round medallion of black angus appeared with a quiff of wasabi miso butter on a puddle of jus: the fillet was incredibly tender and the grittiness of the wasabi in the butter gave each mouthful a bit of punch. Overall Jenny considered this dish a more interesting proposition whilst I thought the flavours a little jarring.


Valrhona chocolate delice, caramelized banana, toasted rice ice cream $28

Although we’re penny pinchers, it would be blasphemous to leave without sampling a dessert. We settled on the creamy delice paired with a deliciously subtle banana cream, banana segments and a wafer thin layer of caramelised sugar which shattered on the tongue.

Vanilla bean latte cotto, berries, wafer – complimentary (normally $28)

By some strange sort of magic (or it turned out, the manager’s generosity) we’re given a second dessert to sample (perhaps something to do with a certain stray bone)! The latte cotto translates to “cooked milk”, a delicate sister of the traditional panna cotta which quivers under our spoons as we scoop up little segments along with the trail of berries.


Petite fours – complimentary (normally with tea or coffee $8)

Our sweet waitress comes by again to ask if we’d like tea or coffee but we can barely fit anything else in and so decline. However, a long plate of petite fours slide in front of our eyes, another kind gesture from the managers we suppose. Not one to waste food we divvied up the spoils of macaron, chocolate truffles, raspberry jube and basil jelly before licking our lips with satisfaction.


Although the sitting is timed we’re allowed to while away an extra hour sipping (tap) water, laughing (too) loudly and watching men with pocket squares and preening girls strut past. Maybe this isn’t quite ‘me’, but every now and again it’s good to sit in the company of the other half and pretend we’re a world away from the one we know below.

The Verdict
I remember Quay, Marque and Sepia vividly but always seem to fail to recall est. as being a three hatted destination. In order to make the offer viable, the food served at for the Sunset menu are simplified versions of existing est. dishes and it shows. Each element of the dish is well considered and plated with an eye for perfection however the whole never seems greater than the sum of its parts. Despite this, if money is of no concern then I could easily eat here several days a week: the dishes are timeless and never smack of fads or appear spurious. The waitstaff are efficient and act with consideration and touching small gestures (one waiter even came over to kindly push Jenny’s chair in for her as she returned from the bathrooms). If the prices make your mouth drop but you’ve always been curious, then this is a great opportunity to see what the fuss is all about.

The Sunset menu runs until the 31st of January and includes an entree, main and cocktail for $50. Bookings must be made for a 1.5hr sitting starting between 6-7pm.

est.
a. Level 1 Establishment, 252 George Street Sydney
t. 9240 3010
w. www.merivale.com

Est. on Urbanspoon

[Warning: photo overload below]

I don’t know what your day job is, but I’m sure whatever you do somehow shaped your world view. Maybe you believe in structure, meaningful discussions, the purity of an idea, risk aversion, absolute justice or absolute liberty; I believe in fun.

Just a skip and hop away, almost close enough to fall in the infamous Coke sign’s long dusk shadow is Tomislav: the large balcony of this cosy restaurant a rusty freighter’s hull run aground on Kirkton Road’s footpath. Our little trio hesitate for a moment before pushing through the glass door and walking into Tomislav Martinovic’s intimate dining room (it seats a tiny 36 heads). A large portion of the restaurant is the open kitchen where Martinovic is working away with his small team of cooks whilst the rest of the room is filled with wooden tables and country-chic cross-back chairs. Despite our late booking we’ve managed to score one of the best seats in the house next to the northern window (the two photo nerds of the group beamed).

Ponte di Piave Prosecco, Treviso Italy (Normally $12)

We were here for a one night only Entertainment book promotion whereby we can opt for a Fish or Game set menu with matching wines for $105. As we settle in and fan our faces from the heat, our waiter sails over and pours us each a glass of cool sparkling.

Rice Crackers: sea salt & vinegar (Normally $10)

The Maitre d’ soon brought us something to start: Martinovic’s play on the traditional salt and vinegar chips. The thin bubbling sheets of fried rice crackers were feather light and almost dissolved on the tongue. We were instructed to spray about three pumps from the vinegar bottle before eating, but we took turns completely dousing our crackers (and ourselves) in the sour mist.


Sour Potato: lime and honey

Our first course arrived in a exquisite multifaceted glass bowl, the dish a simplistic new take on the humble mash: any doubts regarding the flavours were silenced as we delved into each sweet spoonful.


Complimentary sourdough

Hand churned butter

Perhaps more than any other element, the complimentary bread and butter were a beautiful reflection of Tomislav’s dedication and style. The perfect quenelle of butter is hand churned each morning on the premise and given a small creative injection. It was proudly displayed on a tall granite block and appeared like it belonged at the MCA, our waiter challenged us to guess what they’ve added and after much speculation (“hazelnut?” “no it’s so sweet”) Cathy pinpointed the nutty aroma of coffee.


Test tube of gazpacho

The fish-course entree arrived first, with a flourish the waiter produced two thin orange test tubes and proceeded to pour the soup around the plate of cured John Dory.


Clear pumpkin gazpacho: cured John dory, wasabi, sour cream, caperberries, chives with garlic bread (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Thomas ‘Braemore’ semillion, Hunter NSW

The three word title of this dish gave nothing away, I side stepped the fish menu because I’ve never been a big fan of gazpacho but this was no ordinary gazpacho: the thin slices of John Dory and sour cream slipping down the tongue in a tumble of mellow and sweet.


Roast Red Gate Farm Quail: foie gras, watercress, poached rhubarb with a pine nut puree and red wine reduction (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Four pieces of tender quail plated in a tumble of watercress and foie gras crumbles was superb. The cellophane square of rhubarb shavings appeared painted on the plate and the gloss of the sauce coating could only be described as Cover Girl perfect.


Signature chips $10

The Maitre d’ had urged us to order their famous chips, thrice cooked following Heston Bluemental’s method (boiled, cooled, fried, chilled, fried) but crinkle cut as a nostalgic reminder of Martinovic’s suburban Sydney childhood.


Roast Murray Cod: tomato, salt caramel, grilled baby leeks with asparagus puree and baby coriander (Normally $40) Served with 2011 Port Phillip ‘Salasso’ rose, Mornington Victoria (Normally $11)

The skin was crackling crisp and decorated with a few simple flakes of salt, the main surprise were the small lumps of porous salted caramel scattered along the asparagus puree.



Pasture fed Burrawong duck breast: Thai style with coconut, chilli, grilled pineapple and baby coriander (Normally $42)
Served with a glass of 2008 Longview ‘Yakka’ shiraz, Adelaide Hills SA (Normally $12)

I was a bit skeptical about the prospect of some “Thai style” duck but I shouldn’t have worried. A titan warm slate arrived bearing a playful garden of slightly dehydrated prawns, baby herbs and peas interrupted with a few stepping stones of coconut pudding. Although picturesque these were all just compliments for the best duck I’ve ever had, the gorgeously juicy and plump meat rounding off a cheeky dish dedicated  to Sydney’s Thai obsession.

The open kitchen with Tomislav Martinovic (far right)


Juniper Estate ‘Cane Cut’ riesling, Margaret River WA (Normally $14)
Monichino Botrytis semillion, Geelong Vic

Our glasses of dessert wine were poured first, the Riesling pear sweet and fruity whilst the Monichino was honey sweet, syrupy with a butterscotch finish.


Vanilla Cheesecake: basil ice, grilled strawberries, rhubarb sorbet (Normally $18)

We were hit with another name-not-matching-face moment when the cheesecake arrived and if I was an alien I’d be questioning why this in no way resembles the picture on my flash card, but this is what dining here is all about. The speckled orb of cheesecake is light and soft hiding a pile of cookie crumbs underneath and retains a light sour taste.


Compressed Fig: apples, popcorn milk, caramel ice cream (Normally $18)

Last to arrive was my fig dessert, a splat on my dark plate with ice cream and popcorn milk beginning to puddle over it.

This style is the food I love: a strong playful concept made real through dedication and flawless execution. Surprises, theatricality and a sense of place are built into the presentation of each dish, and as many noted such strengths must be lasting remnants of Martinovic’s time at The Fat Duck. The atmosphere is anything but stuffy as we trade laughs with our neighbouring table and waiters alike before eventually rolling out back into the windy Kings Cross night.

The Verdict
A surprisingly casual atmosphere serving whimsical and creative food which invites diners to marvel and explore what’s on the plate. Execution is polished and consistent with ingredients respectfully plated to look their very best. Although we dined here as part of a special offer, the prices for the a la carte options are a bit steep having jumped up 25% since last year with the mains now hitting $40 a plate. Having said that Tomislav is definitely worth visiting if only at least just once; no one can say it’s too high a price to pay for such fun.

Tomislav
a. 2/13 Kirketon Road Darlinghurst
t. 9356 4535
e. info(at)tomislav.com.au
w. www.tomislav.com.au

Tomislav on Urbanspoon

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