Valentine’s Day for Dylan and I is really just an excuse to go out for a nice meal – and what could be better than splurging on a French degustation menu. I’d dined at Bécasse previously courtesy of the advertising industry’s love affair with fancy corporate lunches. Dylan on the other hand had never experienced Justin North’s original restaurant and we’d been looking for an excuse to head there for a while.
Valentine’s Day Degustation $220.00 per person with matched wines
- Black olive biscotti with whipped goats’ curd
- Bécasse artisan bread
- Heirloom tomato, gazpacho mousseline, local prosciutto, almond and olive (2008 Vino Litorol “Ventolera” Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley)
- Seared local swordfish, squid, apple, fennel and coriander (2008 Rippon “Jeunesse” Lake Wanaka Riesling, Central Otago)
- Steamed courgette flower, caramelised scallop, ginger and sauce vierge (2006 Domaine de l’Arjolle “Equinoxe”, Languedoc)
- Fillet and shoulder of Riverina spring lamb, goats curd, confit garlic and rosemary (2007 Greenstone Monastrell, Heathcote)
- Roast and slow cooked grass fed Wagyu, butternut squash, endive, potato baked in clay (2009 Luke Lambert Syrah, Yarra Valley)
- Banana crème brulée, salted peanut brittle, milk coffee sorbet (2007 Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon, Darlington Point)
- Dark chocolate and caramel ‘cadeau’ milk sorbet (2008 Mas Amiel, Languedoc-Roussillon)
- Coffee or tea and petit fours
Apologies in advance for the terrible photos the camera was playing up on the night, on top of which we were trying to be considerate of the couples around us having a romantic evening so we were rushing to take snaps and put the camera away.
Black olive biscotti with whipped goats’ curd.
The evening started with a canapé of crispy black olive biscotti with a dollop of whipped goats’ curd. WOW. Packed full of flavour, the crunch of the biscotti contrasting the creamy cheese, while the lightly salty olive complemented the sharpness of the goats’ curd. An awesome start to the evening; we were excited about what was still to come.
Bécasse artisan bread.
We were both given two pieces of bread; a sourdough baguette shaped like a wheat spike and a cute round pumpkin brioche. I didn’t think much of the sourdough as I found it a little dry – perhaps accentuated by its shape. The pumpkin brioche was light and fluffy, slightly sweet, completely scrumptious and actually had pieces of pumpkin in it! Artisan bread at Sydney’s fine diners is just so damn moreish I have to keep reminding myself to stop filling up on it when there is a degustation to be had.
Heirloom tomato, gazpacho mousseline, local prosciutto, almond and olive.
The mousseline was an unusual texture and had a rather jelly-like quality. It had a great depth of flavour with a slight sourness from the tomato and sweetness from red capsicum. The prosciutto and green olive brought a nice level of saltiness to the dish, while the almond was a little break from the other dominant flavours.
Seared local swordfish, squid, apple, fennel and coriander.
The next course was nicely presented pieces of swordfish that had been seared whilst leaving the centre rosey pink. Quite a meaty fish, it was surprisingly soft and very light in flavour. Neither Dylan or I thought much of the squid but the compressed apple, fennel and coriander were big punchy flavours, just beautiful.
Steamed courgette flower, caramelised scallop, ginger and sauce vierge.
This was one of the courses that I thought sounded exactly like a Lex style dish, though surprisingly it was much more a Dylan style dish. I found the zucchini flower was a little overpowered by the more dominant flavours and didn’t expect the filling to be as firm as it was. I suppose I am so used to ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers I was just taken aback with this combination.
Fillet and shoulder of Riverina spring lamb, goats curd, confit garlic and rosemary.
The mains were alternate dishes but as always Dylan and I decided to share so we could try everything. I started with the lamb and I must say I wasn’t expecting to see a whole fillet of lamb on the plate and thought it looked rather odd. I personally don’t think a fillet of lamb is very attractive whole, but with the lamb shoulder also on the plate I suppose the chefs wouldn’t have wanted to slice the fillet?! I’m not sure, it just surprised me. Anyway, taste is the most important thing… the fillet was nice, the shoulder quite rich and flavoursome, the sides left a little to be desired, overall it was a nice dish, but that’s all, just nice.
Roast and slow cooked grass fed Wagyu, butternut squash, endive, potato baked in clay.
I then moved on to the wagyu which I had to prise out of Dylan’s hands. Nothing really compares to grass fed meat, it is so delicate compared with grain fed. This was a gorgeous piece of beef with caramelisation from roasting giving it that wonderful sweet smokiness, it was really lean as far as wagyu goes and nice and juicy. The sweet pureed pumpkin, earthy chunks of pumpkin, slightly bitter endive and silky potato bringing it all together.
Banana crème brulée, salted peanut brittle, milk coffee sorbet.
Desserts were another alternate course so again we were sharing. The banana crème brulée was an awesome looking dessert (even when presented in a bowl quite different from the amazing glass within a glass I have seen so often throughout the blogosphere, such as on Simon Food Favourites), cracking through the caramel disc to reveal the crème brulée was fun and I was impressed right from the start. The banana flavour of the dessert was dynamite; so often banana desserts are mild or even bland in their banana-y-ness but this did the banana justice. The salted peanut brittle was divine and I loved finding bits of it and slices of banana scattered throughout. The milk coffee sorbet cut through the richness and the deliciously intense dessert wine just topped it off.
Dark chocolate and caramel ‘cadeau’ milk sorbet.
Chocolate!! I was looking forward to this all night and was secretly thinking Dylan would be lucky if he got any of ‘my’ chocolate dessert. But again it was the night to expect the unexpected, the chocolate fiend found the chocolate dessert too rich. I never used to understand what people meant by ‘too rich’ or ‘too chocolately’ but in my old age I think I am finally grasping this concept. The sorbet was gorgeous but at the end of the degustation I really did find the chocolate too much.
Coffee or tea and petit fours.
With our macchiato we received a plate of petit fours – passionfruit friand, macaron and florentine. I usually adore this stage of the meal but on this night I was so full that I probably should have finished on the high of the crème brulée.
The food was all in all quite beautiful but on this occasion we felt the service was terrible. I know it was a degustation with two sittings and therefore we had to be in and out but we found our main waitress to be rushing us, then rude, then ignoring us when we actually wanted to pay and leave. I don’t think we did anything to annoy her (other than take photos of the food perhaps?) but she seemed to have a real attitude problem. It was quite an odd experience not being offered the champagne cocktails and having a degustation menu with two alternate courses but not actually being told this at any stage of the night – we assumed this was the case having overhead the waitress’ response to another table’s question of how she knew that they wanted one of each. The majority of the waitstaff were pleasant and it is unfortunate we felt our main waitress put a dampener on the evening. I do enjoy Justin North’s food but with this price tag I think I will be sticking with his cheaper dining options.
204 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9283 3440
Note: Bécasse will close the Clarence Street doors on Thursday 21st April 2011 and re-open in Westfield Pitt Street with a scaled down 25 seat restaurant and chef’s table