Monday, May 31, 2010

Marque - the best value lunch in town

4/5 355 Crown St
Surry Hills
Ph : (02) 9332 2225
Lunch : Fri from noon
Dinner : Mon-Sat from 6.30pm

We'd been hanging out for this lunch, Reemski and I.  It had been booked a long time ago, and when the time came, we almost didn't make it, a sudden deluge leaving me ankle deep in rain in the city and unable to find a free cab (in the end it was just  pure dumb luck that someone alighted from a cab right in front of me), and Reem on crutches and without an umbrella, stuck a few agonising blocks away from Marque.

We were happy to have made it there at all.

Our choice?  The Prix Fixe, as tweeted by Chef Pasi Petanen the day before.

Prix Fixe ($45) : Menu for 21 May, 2010

1. Squid Soup with Egg Custard and Basil
2. Wagyu Minute Steak with Brussel Sprouts, Radish, Beurre Noisette
3. Lime Marshmallow with Coconut, Goat's Curd and Sorrel

Amuse Buche : Beetroot macarons with foie gras cream

The beginning of what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable game of food seduction was Chef Mark Best's signature Beetroot Macarons.  My non scientific approach to such things lead to the conclusion that this is best eaten in two bites with one's eyes closed.

Amuse Buche : Chaud-froid egg (Chef Alain Passard, L'Arpege, 1998) 

A second amuse buche arrived in the form of a chaud-froid (meaning hot-cold i.e. it is cooked and then chilled, before eating) egg, without which a Marque experience would be incomplete. The lightly coddled egg, still quite runny, had sherry-vinegar-infused whipped cream, a mix of spices, maple syrup (whose addition I particularly liked) and was topped with chives.

You dip the grissini into the egg, give it a bit of a swirl to get a bit of everything, and into your mouth it goes.  If you want, you can try to make it yourself; the recipe can be found here

I'd suggest that you just go to Marque. 

Squid Soup with Egg Custard and Basil

Yowza. I really wanted to recapture the first thoughts that went through my head after my first mouthful, but still cannot quite find the right words.

This was was pure squid, essence of squid that somehow seemed to bypass several steps and go straight to my head.  The taste was just insane.  The paper thin slivers of squid were tender, reminding Reemski of pasta. The little balls of custard ended up almost forgotten, as the soup was where it was all happening for me. 

The first taste hit me with some unidentifiable taste memory  from some vague point that I could only nail down to being a long time ago.  I guess that makes me old.  I was torn between wanting to eat it all as quickly as possible in a what would obviously be a failed attempt to work out what I couldn't quite remember, and wanting to just appreciate it slowly.  The latter won. 

Warm Crab custard with frozen shaved foie gras

We were urged to eat this quickly, so as not to lose the effect of the warm and the cold components of the two layers.  Covered with frozen foie gras shavings, the creaminess of the custard increased exponentially when combined with the intense richness of the foie gras shavings as they melted in my mouth. 

Wagyu Minute Steak with Brussel Sprouts, Radish, Beurre Noisette

By this point we were in happy state of delirium, and had almost forgotten what was on the actual Prix Fixe menu.  A steak thin and delicate yet still with a pink centre, it really only needed the Buerre Noisette to accompany it.  We both ate this slowly, again unwilling to let the course finish.  This may sound wrong, because I loved this steak, but the biggest smile I got was actually from eating the fried-to-a-crisp brussel sprouts.  I could have eaten a bowl full of them.

Wild Strawberries, milk biscuits, Camomile tea ice cream, Chambord Sabayon

I admit that I am not a fan of camomile tea, so when Dessert the First came out, this was the one element of the dish that I was unsure about.  The taste of the camomile was virtutally indiscernible to me, I loved the small wild strawberries (I can't remember the last time I ate any), and the milk biscuits were a lot of fun, but it was the Chambord Sabayon which made us want to lick the plate. 

I can't quite remember whether it was at this point that the very funny Mark Best arrived for a chat but this photo's for you, Chef :

   Reemski does her thing

Lime Marshmallow with Coconut, Goat's Curd sorbet, Merginue and Sorrel

Back to the regular programming with Dessert the Second.  I am happy for you to call me a philistine, but the savoury-sweet dessert combination, loved by so many, is something that I still need to develop my palate to appreciate, so the Sorrel worried me a bit, in spite of lime and coconut being two of my favourite flavours. 

I enjoyed just looking at the plate, I'm sure you can see what I mean.  Meditative.  It almost felt as though it was a shame to eat it, but it was starting to melt, so in I dove.  The sorrel was interesting, a sudden sharp fresh taste that I enjoyed more than I'd thought I would.  The goat's curd sorbet was more delicate than I had expected, the lime sweet and fragrant with the coconut, the marshmallow pillow-y soft.

Despite having had so many courses, and feeling replete, we weren't too full for some petit fours....

Petit fours : bons bons filled with bitter liqueurs, jellies, salted caramel chocolates

For me, it was a cross between the chocolates and jellies for first place. 


Damn, that was good, let's do it again. 

Marque on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hanging out for Cassoulet

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.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1 Ash Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 9240 3000

Not too long ago... 3 of us decided to celebrate @initialjh's birthday at the Ash Street Cellar. Part of the Ivy complex, it is (of course) situated on Ash Street, which is a very Melbournesque back street, parallel to George Street.

At first it was only meant to be a celebratory drinks affair only, with maybe some nibblies... but a quick browse through the menu soon changed that idea...

Well... for me personally it was never to be drinks-only since I haven't had anything to eat yet that day, and I was in need of some feed...

Anyways, we ended up ordering proper food...

Sour dough - the way it should be- crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on inside. went perfectly with the olive oil and sea salt.

The celebratory drink

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Pawn Restaurant

The Pawn
62 Johnston Road
Hong Kong

No. 62 Johnston Road is a building consisting of four historical tenement houses located in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong. Completed in the late 19th century, these tenement houses or “shop houses” were designed so that a business owner to operate his enterprise on the ground floor, and use the upper levels for residential purposes, either for their own family, or even more enterprisingly, to be rented. This particular location has been heritage listed and according to historical records dating back to 1899, the building was a pawn shop.

What more apt way to name a dining establishment, The Pawn, than after its historical roots? Well, actually the building houses two dining establishments – The Pawn (on levels 1, 2 and 3) and Ovologue on the ground floor.

Let us concentrate on The Pawn for the moment, as my wife and I had the hankering of some good old fashioned English fare. There is nothing like a good fish and chips and Yorkshire pudding to remind us of Hong Kong’s colonial past.

The Missus and I were dining on the terrace of the second floor, or The Dining Room. Surprisingly, this is a quiet night for Wanchai.