1/292-294 Victoria St
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Ph : (02) 9356 3429
Although I am not driven, in terms of what food I want to eat, by the change of the seasons, I am nonetheless obviously bound by the seasonality of produce and restaurant menus, so even if I'd had an overwhelming urge to eat Cassoulet in the middle of Summer, I'd have had to make it myself. To say that this was highly unlikely would be an understatement of G.W. Griffiths type proportions.
Fortunately, the seemingly endless Summer has come to an end, and with it, the appearance of Cassoulet at one of my favourite eating places, Tastevin.
Unfortunately, it is not a core part of their lunch menu, which makes its appearance, on the randomly chosen day of this lunch, pure dumb luck. Did it match my expectations? Ah well...
Rock oysters with Champagne vinegar & cracked pepper ($3 each)
Friend the First, with whom I was having lunch (wearing, as sharp eyes might note, a vintage IWC) ordered the rock oysters. Plump and juicy, the oysters were downed in quick succession, the Champagne vinegar (more a vinaigrette or mignonette?) a timeless combination of sharpness and acidity.
Gnocchi à la Parisienne ($15)
Friend the Second's first choice was to revisit a dish that she had eaten and enjoyed before, and the recipe for which is available at Gourmet Traveller.
Yes it contains truffle oil, and whether or not you enjoy this dish may come down to your particular views on this ingredient. Personally, I am okay with it in some dishes, and if used with a light hand, but I understand and respect that many do not like it at all.
I had not ordered an entrée, the Cassoulet being more than sufficient for me as lunch, so the appearance of Alex with one of the day's specials was a lovely surprise.
Mushroom Pithivier with sweetbreads
Perhaps I'm biased, but I think that this topped the oysters and the gnocchi. A perfect pithivier, the pastry feathery light and oh-so-buttery, melting on my tongue, I decided to share this with the others, and regretted it somewhat. Friend the First is a sweetbread lover, so I gave her two of the four soft and perfectly cooked mouthfuls.
This pithivier is the sort of dish which to me, epitomises what Tastevin is about. Classic dishes and combinations with a modern presentation (and sometimes, a modern twist).
Witlof and Pear salad with Rocquefort, walnut and honey dressing ($20)
The other two both ordered the Witlof and Pear salad. I didn't try it, not being one for Rocquefort or in fact fruit in savoury dishes, but that's another issue for another day; suffice to say that my lunch companions cleaned their plates.
Finally, it arrived.
Cassoulet du Sud-Ouest ($20)
One of the things that puzzles me is that Tastevin does not seem to get as much lunchtime patronage as I think they deserve, and that they are not as well known as I think they deserve to be. I am hopeful that their decision to do lower priced lunch menus will change this, as this Cassoulet was, to my tastes, just superb, the duck confit falling off the bone and every slow hour of its cooking evident in each mouthful. You'll note that instead of the traditional Toulouse sausage, they use their own in-house made sausage.
The only down side to this dish was that I wanted more of it.
I had assumed that the Cassoulet would be presented in an earthenware pot; this elegant specimen of a stew is one that, as I told a friend who is a semi-regular of Tastevin (and who would himself have two Cassoulets there within the subsequent week), I'd love to eat regularly. A traditionally hearty and robust dish glammed up, and at $20, you should be running to try it, but remember to phone ahead first to make sure it's available.
Dessert? Well the others insisted....
Raspberry Clafoutis with Coconut Ice Cream
It was this dessert-of-the-day wot done it. Made us all order desserts, I mean, as Friend the First is a bit of a clafoutis fiend. I am reliably assured that all was well with this dessert. I stole a bit of the foam and the ice cream. Both were delightful, but I'd have preferred the ice cream to have been a little more creamy.
Flambéed Grand Marnier Crêpes Suzette with vanilla ice cream ($12)
Another classic, the Crêpes Suzette, had also been ordered and enjoyed on our previous visit, though the use of a lighter to flambé doesn't have quite the same theatre to it. As to who Suzette was - the future King Edward VII's paramour, lunch companion, a character in a play or the Princess Suzette de Carignan....who knows?
Crème caramel du Maman with Rosemary Tuile ($12)
It's strange that with all the fads and fashions of eating out in Sydney, some dishes seem to fall by the wayside. When I was a kid, nothing said 'French restaurant' to me like Crème caramel on the menu, though it was generally one of my parents who would order it, and not me (I'd order whatever contained chocolate). This one, paired with a tuile with just a hint of rosemary, was everything that it should be.
I am a fan of Tastevin's, and I know a number of people (including one of the Tarts) who are. If you haven't been there yet, or if you've been for dinner, but not yet dined there at lunch, what are you waiting for?