Amuse for Sparkler
Vegemite and cheese just works as a combo, although I think most diners believed the plain gougère were superior.
Surf, Turf ‘n’ Garden
Barramundi and bacon sandwiched together with transglutaminase (“meat glue”) and baked (slightly over-baked in this case). The lemon butter includes ultra-fine shavings of lemon zest to give freshness and lift.
Slow baked watermelon in Sherry and butter, akin to this rendition. The mint can be overpowering, but otherwise an interesting interlude. There was much discussion on a potential wine matching here, and we concluded that a rosé or a rosé Champagne might be a suitable match.
Braised pork belly, galangal-scented salad, Szechuan pepper toffee
Voted the favourite dish of the menu by the diners. The pork belly is braised slowly with Chinese flavours (soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, ginger, spring onion, brown sugar). The concept behind the salad was that the diner would experience the ethereal aromatic lift of galangal. Unfortunately, IMO, galangal is too hot-spicy to achieve this aromatically without burning and overpowering the diner’s palate. In the end, the galangal was simmered with mirin, and sugar added, to take the edge off the heat. Flavour-wise, this worked successfully, although the resulting salad dressing was perhaps a little too sweet.
Nevertheless, this is a dish I am happy with: the Szechuan pepper adds spice aromatics, the salad of shaved capsicum (bell peppers), carrot and fennel add colour and crunch, and both compliment the tender sweet-savoury pork belly and (braising liquid) reduction-sauce. This style of dish harks back to the days when I focused heavily on flavour impact.
Lamb fillet, eggplant purée, mint salad, rosemary lamb jus
I prefer fillet to backstrap (eye of loin) for this dish, and it is ideally BBQed. The eggplant is baked then flame-charred for a smoky flavour before it is puréed. A little yoghurt is then added and it is reduced and seasoned. I prefer baby garden mint (Mentha sachalinensis) leaves, but when caterpillars decimate…
Manchego, Comté/St Agur, poached pear, croutons, spiced walnut
My standard kind of cheese course – you might call it a signature dish.
Lavender icecream, Manuka honey, scorched almonds
A modification of David Everitt-Matthias’ Salted Caramel and Peanut Truffles (see Beyond Essence, 2013) – I simply omit the layer of chopped peanuts that surrounds the salted peanut caramel core, instead rolling the salted peanut caramel core in milk chocolate before a final cocoa powder dusting. But I still wonder, do we ever truly appreciate the truffle after so many preceding dishes?