Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Great Australian dinner with Rene Redzepi

As part of October's Good Food Month celebration, the Great Australian dinner with Rene Redzepi is one of the most exciting culinary events of the year. A fascinating feast of Australian flavours from David Chang, Mark Best, Kylie Kwong, Ben Greeno, Brent Savage, Neil Perry, James Viles, Martin Benn, Peter Gilmore, Dan Hunter, and of course the extraordinary Rene Redzepi from Noma, three times Number 1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and currently Number 2.

Each of the 10 most inspiring chefs in Australia prepared canapes served with drinks on arrival. The canapes showcased some of Australia's best native produce, such as kangaroo, wallaby, lobster sashimi, oysters, to something more exotic, like edible insects from Kylie Kwong. This lady is completely obsessed with adding bugs to every dish and I believe she spiked Rene's dish with ants while he went for his interview (just joking). Being bold and brave, Mr M tried all the bugs and commented that they are crunchy like chips. Kylie heard his comment and told him that "they are healthier than chips!" :P

After trying out all the amazing canapes and mingling with some of the most remarkable chefs in Australia (in the likes of Peter Gilmore, Mark Best and Neil Perry), we are invited into the dining room inside the Star Event Centre. Rene Redzepi prepared the first course: Alliums lighted cooked. Allium refers to the onion and garlic family, and this dish is completed with Australian ingredients such as green ants, rosella buds, salt bush, riberries and samphire. Rene said with the exception to onions, he has never worked with any of the ingredients in the dish before! It is a dish with interesting texture and flavour - erring on the sour side of things, quite an acquired taste I would say. 

The mains are cooked by the remaining 10 participating chefs (9 Aussie chefs and 1 grumpy American as Rene called David Chang :P). Each chef created their own personal expression of Australian cuisine and each table is served the same main. The main dish you get depends on the table you are at. Browsing through the menu, there are several mains I had my eyes on - Marrion in the shell with seaweed butter, roasted cauliflower, fermented mushrooms, confit potatoes and parson's nose (David Chang), Wagyu short rib with lettuce, eggplant and seaweed (Ben Greeno) and Kurobuta pork belly with macadamia sauce and wattle crumb (Brent Savage). Being a picky eater, there are also a few that I'd rather stay away from: smoked native oysters, bar cod and wallaby tail with roasted mealworm cake (you've probably guessed who's behind this dish). 

When the waiting staff came and told us they are from Sepia and our table would be getting the charcoal-smoked marron from Martin Benn, our entire table looked pleased. After the first bite, I am in heaven. The West Australian marron is so fresh and perfectly cooked over Japanese charcoal. The marriage of flavour is simply amazing with the sweet and citrus yuzu curd. It has got to be my favourite dish tonight and a dish I will be dreaming about every now and then. At this moment, I thank God for the couple that asked us to swap tables with them so that they could sit with their family from out of town. 

Ben Greeno, who currently works at Momofuku and interestingly enough is the first chef Rene Redzepi recruited at Noma, is responsible for our dessert. He created a dish of blackened pear, sunflower seed puree and chocolate spiked caramel. As Ben explains, it's Australian in a way that it's light and sunny and a dish that hopefully makes people smile. And it certainly made us smile. 

It had been such an extraordinary evening to not only watch amazing chefs work their magic, but also to meet delightful food enthusiasts - 2 at our table have dined at Noma and shared their fascinating experience there with us. Most of us at our table thought one thing they could do differently is to let everyone taste a selection of main dishes, rather than just one. But I still believe Martin Benn's marron dish would be pretty hard to beat. 

Enjoy the photos :)

Outside on the beautiful balcony at the Star

Native oyster crème, sea lettuce, lemon aspen - James Viles

Bread by the Bread & Butter Project.
Extra virgin olive oil: premium hojiblanca from Cobram Estate. 

Neil Perry

Peter Gilmore

Our favourite Masterchef Adam Liaw

Kylie Kwong promoting edible insects!

Live green tree ants - yes, live and running around!!
Roasted baby crickets 

Dehydrated earthworms
Some interesting native Australian ingredients for tasting

Rosella marshmallow with pepperberry - Mark Best

Momofuku sous chefs dishing up their canape

Smoked eel and apple - Ben Greeno & David Chang

M's fav... Sashimi of local lobster, grapefruit,
green almonds, bergamot jam - Peter Gilmore

Brent Savage from Bentley Restaurant & Bar promoting Kangaroo meat

Kangaroo tartare with horseradish - Brent Savage

L Loves... Bonito, flavours of roasted chicken,
salted plum, green tea, nori - Martin Benn

Steamed biodynamic siu mai of marron, goji berry,
dehydrated Australian black ants, organic Korean fish sauce.
You've guessed it, this one is by Kylie Kwong

Wallaby, flax and wattle seed - Dan Hunter

We caught Rene Redzepi doing an interview during intermission

Rene Redzepi during his photoshoot

Rene Redzepi during his interview

The sit down dinner begins

Rene being interviewed in the busy kitchen

First Course by Rene Redzepi: Alliums lighted cooked 
David Chang giving his thoughts on Australian cuisine

Martin Benn explaining the concept behind his utterly delicious marron dish

L Loves... Main course by Martin Benn:
Charcoal-smoked Western Australian marron, yuzu curd,
sea samphire, lemon aspen, ginger, shiso and shell powder

L Loves... Main course by Martin Benn: Charcoal-smoked Western Australian marron, 
yuzu curd, sea samphire, lemon aspen, ginger, shiso and shell powder
10 of the most inspiring chefs in Australia, along with Rene Redzepi &
"that grumpy American" (aka David Chang) as referred to by Rene

Terry Durack, chief restaurant critic for SMH 
Festival Director Joanna Savill and Rene Redzepi

Ben Greeno explaining the inspirations behind his dessert

Plating up the beautiful dessert

L Loves... Dessert by Ben Greeno: Pear, sunflower and caramel 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Breathtaking Lunch @ Jonah's Restaurant Whale Beach

Back in May I received a birthday gift certificate from Mr J & Miss J to dine at Jonah’s restaurant (thank you so much J & J for spoiling me every year)! I am told this beautiful place is best visited during daytime. With Mr M & my busy schedule, it took us over four months to find the perfect day to visit. I can now say it is well worth the wait. We gasped as we entered Jonah’s restaurant. The view looking over Whale beach is mesmerising and we wordlessly thank God for the perfect weather.

The waiters we encountered today had strong European accent. They are extremely mannerly and pronounce “Bon appétit!” delightfully. The service is seamless and the timing between each course gives us the right amount of time to digest and admire the view.

As Jonah’s rightly states on their website, their food is quite possibly the only thing that could divert our attention from the stunning view. Executive chef Peter Ridland has spent time in cooking in various 2 and 3 Michelin star restaurants in France and London. Spectacular view, great service and delicious food - what more could one ask for?

We started off with delicious warm bread, served with sea salt, butter and olive oil. Our amuse bouche is a shot glass of chilled potato leek soup and a spoonful of goat’s cheese, pickles and crumbles. My entree of Brekshire pork belly is fatally fatty and flavoursome. Mr M’s entree of Hervey Bay prawns are refreshing on the other hand. Mr M and I shared our entrees and found that to give us the right balance.

My North Atlantic Scallops came as a main size serving. When it comes to scallops, it is rare for me to like the accompanying elements on the dish more than the scallops. But today the carrot is the covert star in many forms – sautéed, pureed, thinly sliced to wrap around scrumptious cheesy sauce. Nom nom nom! 

Mr M’s Wagyu ramp is perfectly cooked to medium rare - crusty on top and ruby-red within. The braised cheek is likewise wonderfully succulent and full of flavour. At this point Mr M pointed out he had expected the seafood here to be extraordinarily fresh, given they are so close to the waters. Even though the seafood here did not particularly wow us, their meat, especially the Wagyu rump is a knockout dish.

Our pre-dessert of honey crème brulee is served in Chinese soup spoons. As much as I embrace pre-desserts, I prefer something light and palate cleansing, like a yogurt sorbet. Mr M however demolished the creamy brulee in a mouthful and proclaimed it to be very, very good. 

Mr M’s eyes lit up again when he saw his impeccably puffy, fluffy soufflé, served in a mini saucepan. Digging his spoon into the airy soufflé, devouring it with the deliciously smooth and milky hazelnut ice cream, I could tell he’s in paradise!

When I made our reservation a few weeks ago, I asked if it is possible for the chef to make vanilla or yogurt panna cotta. They responded they will pass on the request to their chefs and see what they can do. Although in the end they are unable to accommodate my request, I decided try their coconut panna cotta anyway (I just can't say no to panna cotta!). And I'm really glad I did. This dessert is a piece of art. The panna cotta is surprisingly light with a slight hint of coconut flavour. The dried cumquat slices on top of the mini panna cotta and the passionfruit sorbet are pleasantly citrusy. The tuille is thin, crispy and delectably buttery. It is a superb dessert that is beautifully presented and well balanced. 

As we polished off our petit fours of soft marshmallow, mini strawberry macaron and friand, we looked out and saw a group of guests coming out of a wedding reception that is held in the private function room next to the main dining area. Although this meant we could not go to the beautiful balcony area today, we are happy for the newlyweds that they've found such a picturesque venue and I’m sure they would have had an unforgettable day. We certainly had an amazing time and look forward to come back another day!

Bon appétit!

L Loves... Stunning view from our table

Amuse bouche – chilled potato leek soup

Berkshire Pork, NSW
Braised belly with croquette, sugar snaps, fennel and pear espuma

Hervey Bay Prawns, QLD
Confit in shellfish oil with romesco sauce, garlic and green papaya

L Loves... Wagyu Rump Cap, Oakley Ranch, QLD
Roasted with braised cheek, celeriac, asparagus, kipfler potato and wild mushroom

North Atlantic Scallops
Sautéed with carrot, serrano jamon floss, pea and ham

Pre-dessert – honey crème brulee

Mr M's fav... Limoncello Soufflé with hazelnut ice cream and tuille

L Loves... Coconut panna cotta with roast quince puree, 
passion fruit sorbet, cumquat and crisp tuille

A closer look at the wonderful, fluffy souffle

And the lovely, light panna cotta

Petit fours 

One last look at the stunning view before we leave our table

L's Verdict:

•    Taste: 8/10
•    Ambience: 5/5
•    Value: 3/5
•    Service: 4/5
•    Creativity and other WOW factors: 5/5

Overall rating: 25/30

Jonah’s Restaurant
69 Bynya Rd
Palm Beach NSW 2108
Ph: (02) 9974 5599
Open 7 days
Breakfast: 7:30am — 9:30am
Lunch: 12 Noon — 2:30pm
Dinner: 6:30pm — 9:15pm

Visited Oct 2013

Friendly advice: If you’re looking to spoil someone, find a day with nice weather and head to Jonah’s. Request for a table by the window, the view is absolutely breathtaking you would want to stay there ceaselessly. They also have an extensive wine list offering more than 1,250 vintage Australian and international wines.

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