Thursday, August 25, 2011

Entering the secret magical garden of Becasse

Justin North is doing us proud as a Kiwi. As an Apprentice, he scooped the awards pool, including the New Zealand Apprentice Chef of the Year in 1994. Later on he left home to cook in some of the greatest restaurants of the world (including the two Mitchelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and the two three Mitchelin star restaurants Pierre Gagnaire and Guy Savoy). In 2001 Justin and his wife opened their own restaurant Becasse, which was awarded Restaurant of the Year in the SMH Good Food Guide 2007 and Justin was awarded Chef of the Year in 2009. Just earlier this year, Becasse relocated to the new upmarket Westfield Sydney mall. Even at full capacity, the new Becasse can only host 24 diners – this includes the six-seat chef's table and a private dining room. The scaling back of the fine dining restaurant means that you get attentive service in an exclusive, intimate setting.

Tonight is a special girls night out with Lu and Mel. Our excuse, if we needed one, is to pre-celebrate Lu's birthday (which is in one month's time... LOL I told you it's an excuse). It’s a wonderful start to our culinary journey as the gate swung open and we walked through a corridor with overhanging branches and silk leaves that progressed through colours of the four seasons. Justin created a secret garden where busy city people could forget about everything and simply enjoy the magical moments.

The Secret Garden entrance to Becasse 

The four season corridor

Once seated, we are served goat cheese and olive cream crisps with transparent potato starch. These tasty crisps are certainly a great snack to nibble on while we read through the menu. 

Goat cheese and olive cream crisps
Transparent potato starch... tasty!
After we have decided to go with the three-course a la carte, they brought to us the amuse bouche and some of the yummiest housemade breads: Petit brioche loaves, seven grain rolls and epi with cheddar and bacon. These delicious breads all come from the Becasse bakery next door. Accompanying the bread is the adorable soft and creamy butter, whipped at Becasse from Meander Valley (Tas) double cream, infused with black salt from Cyprus and wakame salt. 

L Loves... Epi with cheddar and bacon,
Petit brioche loaf and seven grain roll 

We loved our plate of warm housemade breads. The brioche is wondrously soft and fluffy with a rich buttery taste, the seven grain roll had a great crunchy texture and is the kind of healthy bread you’d want to eat day and day after, and the cheddar and bacon epi – well, it's bacon, and what could go wrong with bacon? All of us agreed we liked the brioche the most, then the cheddar and bacon epi, then the seven grain roll (which in itself already beats most of the breads served at other restaurants)!

The amuse bouche of smoked scallop, carrot jelly and kolrahbi foam had a very smooth and clean taste. The slightly set carrot jelly, the delicately smoky flavour and sweetness of the scallops and a gentle spice from the kolrahbi foam all combined to produce a flavoursome and vibrant combination. 

Amuse Bouche – carrot jelly, smoked scallop, 
Kohlrabi, eloute & toasted buckwheat. On the right is 
the salt bowl by Blue Mountains ceramicist Simon Reece

All three of us ordered the same entree, which is Becasse's signature "Forgotten vegetables, smoked pork jowl, yabby tails and aromas of cedar". Normally it would be a shame to have all of us ordering the same dish as it meant we won't get to try as many dishes. But this time we felt very lucky to have all ordered this dish, as it is impossible to share - yes it is that brilliant! The dish is served atop a hot slab of stone. Among the forgotten vegetables are sweet potato in both puree and regular form, swede, purple congo potatoes, white radishes and turnip, all placed in a drizzle of bisque made from the yabby shellsI savoured each and every bite of the slow roasted vegetables with caramelised edges. The rich, fatty pork jowl and the fresh yabbies are spectacular partners in crime, and the smoke coming from the thin shaving of cedar added an extra sensory dimension which enhanced the smoky aspect of the dish. It is not hard to see why every review I've read recommended this dish - it is such a creative dish with lots of different textures and explosion of flavours that tantalised the taste buds

L Loves... Forgotten vegetables, smoked pork jowl,
yabby tails and aromas of cedar

L Loves... Blackmore wagyu, Jerusalem artichoke,
burnt butter and porter ale
The chef worked magic with this dish. The Blackmore wagyu is of the melt-in-your-mouth kind. Often when you get rare steaks you’ll find them to be a little chewy. But this is amazingly tender and there is no compromising in the flavour. I especially enjoyed the caramel dots and chocolate salt which complimented the delicate wagyu surprisingly well.

Blue-eye Trevalla cooked in wasabi leaf,
cuttlefish, grilled oyster and cucumber

I am assured by Lu that the Trevalla dish is also cooked beautifully. We could see that the chefs here put in a lot of effort to break our belief that there are no interesting mains in fine dining. 

Our pre-dessert was refreshing, palate cleansing and prepared us for more sweetness to come. My only dislike about this dish (and possibly the only dislike about the entire meal) is the ginger mousse, but that’s just because I’ve never liked ginger appearing in any of my desserts. Nevertheless everyone else enjoyed it and found it to be soothing for cold winter days!

Pre-dessert: Coriander jelly, pineapple sorbet,
ginger mousse with pineapple foam.
The silken lemongrass and lime caramel, strawberry crunch with yoghurt sorbet is exquisitely presented and scattered with edible flowers. There is a lot going on there on the plate, but somehow the flavours seemed to come together without one overpowering the other. I’m a big fan of yoghurt and sorbet, when they come together in such perfect harmony they make me speechless (too busy eating them before they melt)! :P

Silken lemongrass and lime caramel,
strawberry crunch with yoghurt sorbet

The Winter still life is an elegant miniature forest of sprouting mushrooms made from meringue, Baileys parfait and chestnut parfait, sugared fennel sprigs and crunchy twisted toffee twigs. A dig around with the spoon revealed poached quince (very similar to pear). There are plans for a "still life" dessert for every season - I can't wait to see what Spring looks like! :)

 Winter still life  
The 68% alton beni zokoko chocolate cadeau and salted black cumin caramel is a glamorous cocoa-dusted, golf leaf sprinkled chocolate BOMB! Thankfully it is not overly sweet as it is made of dark chocolate, but be warned it is overpoweringly rich. The gooey caramel center is devilish gooooood and the refreshing chocolate sorbet provided some relief to the richness of this dessert.
68% Alto Beni Zokoko chocolate cadeau
and salted black cumin caramel

Cracking the bomb!
To end the amazing meal we are served mini citrus macarons and ganache, as well as given a farewell gift!

Petit fours: Mini citrus macarons and ganache

Our farewell gift
L Loves... A yummy brioche for breakfast the next morning

The damage for three... worth every cent :)
Just before we left we asked our wait staff whether we could have a look at the rest of the restaurant. Our waiter enthusiastically took us to the Becasse kitchen for a behind the scenes tour. He also introduced us to the head chef Monty Koludrovic (pity Justin North wasn't there on the night we visited), and showed us the chef's table as well as the kitchen and dining area of Justin's Quarter 21.

The head chef busy plating up the amazing wagyu dish!
It had been an extraordinary experience dining at Becasse. The setting is extravagant. The food is beyond my imagination. The service is charming and very attentive (when I accidentally dropped my napkin on the floor, the waiter would come to offer a new one. They also had small velvet stools for our handbags). It surpassed any expectations I had and all three of us agreed we've found our new favourite restaurant. Justin North and his team have truly stepped it up, and I think the new Becasse definitely deserves three hats in the next Good Food Guide.

L's Verdict:

·                     Taste: 9.5/10 
·                      Ambience: 4.5/5
·                      Value: 4/5 (you get your money's worth in sheer wow factor!)
·                      Service: 4.5/5
·                     Creativity and other WOW factors: 5/5  

Overall rating: 27.5/30

Becasse (Closed as of 15 July 2012) 

Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Cnr Pitt St Mall and Market St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9283 4400
Lunch: Mon-Sat from 12pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat from 6pm

Visited August 2011

Friendly advice: Book in early, especially for weekends, as the restaurant can only host 24 guests per night. Definitely try the forgotten vegetables and the Blackmore wagyu - you will not regret! If you have a budget to stick to, you can try other ventures of Justin's, including EtchQuarter 21 (which has a cooking school, a fine food grocer and a more casual restaurant), Charlie & Co Burgers, Becasse Bakery and Le Grand Cafe. And if you are in for an extra special front row experience, check out the exclusive Chef's table (for up to six guests). 

Becasse on Urbanspoon


  1. The chocolate cadeau was beautiful - such a shame I could only eat half of it :(

  2. Further note to the Blue-eye Trevalla - the fish was just cooked perfectly and the wasabi sauce taste was quite subtle but it boosted up the flavour of the fish, the grilled oysters and the cuttlefish . The grilled oysters were very nice as well, the texture was so creamly and it just melted in your month! The downside of the dish was there was one piece of cuttlefish was quite chewy, however it was acceptable.

  3. Thanks Mel & Lu :)
    As I said to Mel before, probably not ideal to have me comment on any fish dishes… otherwise it will be “It’s fishy…” for all of them :P
    And just a side note - A foodie's dream just reached 1,000 views!! :P

  4. The food looks amazing really creative dishes. I have been wanting to go to Becasse for a long time.... Lucky you got a tour of the restaurant too !!

  5. Yes, the food was amazing and I'd encourage you to make your way there as soon as you can Joseph :)