Mr O’s birthday was all set to be the most expensive meal of our lives: Bilson’s Epiphany degustation with matched wines. Aannnddd then Bilson’s closed. It was not to be. The challenge was on for Mr O to choose another restaurant. He tossed around many ideas… Rockpool, Berowra Water’s Inn, Bentley… but kept going back to Assiette, a restaurant we’d heard good things about and had been talking about for a while. We’ve been to Rockpool and Bentley before, and Berowra Water’s Inn is one we want to save for when we have the money to splurge on a sea plane! So when Mr O locked in Assiette I was excited… love it when we get to check out somewhere we haven’t been before, and birthdays are naturally the best excuse.
Degustation – $105.00 per person / with matched wine $170.00 per person
- Seasonal oyster with Vietnamese dressing and baby coriander
(Sugii Shuzo ‘Shizen Jozo’ Junmai Yamahai Muroka Shizuoka, Japan)
- Kataifi quail egg with mushrooms, duck consommé and crispy pigs ears
(Bodegas Toro Albala Oloroso, Jerez, Spain)
- Sashimi tuna with crustacea cream, pickled octopus, hibiscus and almonds
(2009 Albert Mann Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois, Alsace, France)
- Seared mackerel with avruga, cucumber, cauliflower puree and dill emulsion
(2009 Sancerre, Eric Louis, Loire Valley, France)
- Ballotine of quail and foie gras with croustillant of confit leg, braised salsify, walnuts and date puree
(2010 Produtti Valle Isarco Zweigelt, Alto Adige, Italy)
- Roasted denver leg of venison with boudin noir, dauphinoise potato and heirloom carrots
(2010 Cillar d Silos ‘Joven’ Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain
- Pre dessert
- Strawberry and cherry salad with yoghurt sorbet, vanilla doughnut and mint emulsion
(2008 Dr Loosen ‘Wehlener Sonnenuhr’ Spatlese Riesling Mosel, Germany)
To get the show on the road we hit up Cotton Duck for a few sneaky cocktails. I downed two of their ‘Rhubarb’ cocktails, a refreshing mix of homemade rhubarb jam, gin, Aperol and citrus. We were also treated to complimentary spiced and caramelised nuts which were totally out of this world and roasted olives. A nice touch that tends to be missing from the Sydney scene. As we made our way down the road we all agreed we’d have to get back to Cotton Duck very soon.
And on to dinner at Assiette, just around the corner on Albion Street. We didn’t need to look at the menu, our rule is simple: if a degustation or tasting menu exists, we have it. With matched wines.
Seasonal oyster with Vietnamese dressing and baby coriander.
The Pembula rock oysters looked absolutely stunning and tasted totally amazing. The Vietnamese dressing was perfectly balanced with sweet, sour and salty. Topped with crunchy fried shallots and a squeeze of lime I could have downed a dozen of these. The birthday boy was lucky enough to score seconds as Em wouldn’t even look at her oyster. And as the oyster was matched with a sake, the boys got lucky as Em and I handed ours straight over.
Kataifi quail egg with mushrooms, duck consommé and crispy pigs ears.
The kataifi was a lot finer than I had thought; I was expecting more of a wonton style shape with layers of pastry but I soon discovered kataifi is shredded pastry. The consomme was so rich, the depth of flavour was phenomenal. There was a lot of umami going on with the duck consomme, mushrooms and quail egg. My first time eating pigs ears and damn I wish I had the whole pig’s ear, it was amazing. The strips of pigs ear were turned into uber tasty schnitzel.
Matched with a Spanish sherry, I could understand where the sommelier was coming from in saying non-fortified wine just doesn’t match the course. Yet I’m not convinced about having sherry so early on in the evening. I’m just used to sherry being served with desserts.
Sashimi tuna with crustacea cream, pickled octopus, hibiscus and almonds.
For the wine pairing, the sommelier chose a pinot blanc, quite a neutral grape, chosen not to overpower the tuna. But wine aside Mr O felt the other ingredients of the dish overpowered the tuna; on the other hand I thought the course was beautifully balanced. The sashimi melt in the mouth, crustacea cream tasted of the sea, slivered almonds added a nice crunch, dashi jelly a little pocket rocket of flavour, and the black sesame nice and nutty. The only thing out of place was the pickled octopus that really just added texture more than anything else.
Seared mackerel with avruga, cucumber, cauliflower puree and dill emulsion.
Poor Em just can’t seem to avoid mackerel, it’s everywhere we go! I quite like mackerel and a nicely cooked piece of fish is always a winner in my books (possibly because I lack the skills of cooking fish perfectly?!). Pickled cucumber didn’t seem to fit (why ruin cucumber with pickling?! I heart cucumbers, I hate pickles!) though the creamy cauliflower and salty avruga went nicely with the mackerel. It was a ‘nice’ dish but nothing special.
Ballotine of quail and foie gras with croustillant of confit leg, braised salsify, walnuts and date puree.
The confit duck with walnuts and date was out of this world. The indulgent foie gras mousse, wrapped with spinach, quail and proscuitto was creamy and fluffy, making it lighter than I expected. Everything just worked and all of the flavours complemented each other beautifully. I have to say this was the dish of the night for me.
Roasted denver leg of venison with boudin noir, dauphinoise potato and heirloom carrots.
There were mixed thoughts on this dish. Sadly the hero of the dish the venison was overcooked and slightly tough. We all thought the boudin noir was too strong for the delicate meat but went well with the beetroot smear. My favourite element was the light, creamy potatoes with a hint of nutmeg. Who doesn’t like a good potato bake, it was delicious. But then I reached the pickled carrots… I don’t understand why yet another dish contained pickled vegetables. The dish was too disjointed for me which is such a shame as I had thought the venison would be a highlight of the night.
Lychee jelly, pineapple and coconut foam. Coconut and pineapple are so good together, tropical fruits that just belong. It smelled like a pina colada and tasted just as delicious. We’d only recently had the Gingerade from Sepia and felt this was in a similar vain. Light and refreshing, I could have eaten a few more of these!
Strawberry and cherry salad with yoghurt sorbet, vanilla doughnut and mint emulsion.
Fresh, fragrant and sweet strawberries; and gorgeous slightly tart raspberries made a great start to dessert. The chewy meringue was really sweet but luckily the sharp yoghurt sorbet and mint emulsion worked wonders to cut through the sweetness. One thing we did notice was the gel like consistency of the emulsion, it was quite thick and sticky and not all that nice. Excited by the presence of mini doughnuts I found they didn’t really add anything to the dish. Quite a lot of potential but it wasn’t quite there.
Jubes and a lovely macchiato brought the evening to an end.
The food was lovely, though a few dishes seemed to miss the mark by the smallest fraction. Wine matching missed on almost every course; while we understood the idea behind the selection, we felt they never really fulfilled their intended role. Unfortunately the biggest let down was the service. There were four or five different staff looking after our table – some knowledgeable and pleasant, others quite brief and off with the fairies. On my next visit I’d try the a la carte menu with my own choice of wine.
Another 29th birthday done and dusted, we rolled back out into the hot spring evening. Where to next? Where else but our favourite Wine Library for a few more drinks to celebrate the last of our 20’s.
48 Albion Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9212 7979
Restaurant Assiette Website