Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sydney in August 3 - Chef's Menu Dinner at est.

est. restaurant

Bee is my daily grind texting buddy who helps me get through the otherwise-boring day with her reliable SMS correspondance. As we met in highschool, she also qualifies as one of my oldest and closest friends. We hadn't seen each other for YEARS. I'll leave it at 'years' because it had been so long that I couldn't specify exactly how many.

She lives in Canberra. I live in Toowoomba (and socialize in Brisbane). We decided to have a long overdue catch up over dinner in Sydney. Isn't travel grand?

Aside from the fact that we live in different cities, we're both extremely busy people with clogged up social calendars (I'm not trying to sound like a snobby socialite here. My calendar is busy because I force people to do things with me, not because I'm constantly invited to things). In other words, it's not easy for us to get together (might explain why it's been so long) so we wanted to make an occasion of it.

We ran through a shortlist of Sydney restaurants we both wanted to try. Bee's boyfriend, Davy is working in Sydney at the moment and also happens to be a foodie. He suggested est. and we were all super keen on the idea. I booked our table months in advance and Bee and I spent some time trawling through the online menus and getting mighty excited (even though the menu changed by the time we actually ate there).

est. was to be my second grand food adventure in Sydney after an already fabulous evening at Ms. G's. In line with Marc's track record of letting us arrive late everywhere, we arrived late to est. Bee and Davy were waiting with drinks in hand at the bar/lounge area so we joined them there before progressing to our table.

est. reminds me of a long ballroom with dining tables set up and a bar at one end. The lighting is dim and the decor is no-fuss and elegant with clean, white lines.

Our waitress ran us through the ordering options. You're able to try the degustation, order from the chef's menu, or order a la carte. We went with the chef's menu, which means you get 4 courses and can choose what you want within each course.

Bee was our resident wine expert for the evening so she chose a lovely bottle of red for us. Marc and I will drink just about anything so we're easy to please but in all honesty I did find this choice of red nicer than usual. It was fairly light and fruity which went well with most of our food, as opposed to something more robust that may have overpowered some of the milder dishes. Good work Bee!

Wholemeal with butter

House bread was offered to start with. There was the option of sourdough, soy and linseed or wholemeal. As much as I love sourdough bread, I'm getting sick of sourdough being offered at restaurants so I went with the wholemeal instead. As far as bread and butter go, it didn't make an impression on me.

White tea consomme - with venison tataki, beef tendon, yuba, turnips and shiitake

For my first course, I went with the venison tataki.  The venison was tender and the vegetables so delicately sliced they were literally translucent. The white tea consume was mild to the point of nearly tasteless. The plate was visually stunning but in terms of flavor, it was definitely lacking.

Salad of spanner crab - with jicama, lime, apple jelly and elderflower ajo blanco

Bee ordered the spanner crab salad. She said that there were elements that worked but overall, she didn't love it. She couldn't really detect the spanner crab. Davy tried some of her dish and commented that he liked it and thought it was very fresh.

Sashimi of yellowfin tuna - with cucumber, pomelo, salad burnette and verjus jelly

Marc and Davy went with the sashimi starter. Bee loved this dish but Marc thought it was good but not outstanding. His opinion is that sashimi is mostly dependant on the produce, rather than anything special that est. might have done to it.

Moreton bay bug - with cavolo nero, green peas, mini radish, young turnips and bonito flakes

Our next courses were described as a continuation of entrees. By sheer chance, we happened to all order different things so I got to photograph 4 different dishes. I chose the moreton bay bug for mine. I really liked this dish and thought the bug itself was the standout. The flesh was sweet and succulent.

Grilled quail breast - with duck foie gras tortellini, chickweed, artichoke, snap peas, cepe emulsion

The quail belonged to Bee. All the love she didn't have for the spanner crab went to the quail. She claimed the tortellini to be "the most amazing mouthful ever". Glancing at our dishes, Bee declared she had absolutely no food envy.

Steamed murray cod fillet - with shaved abalone, snow peas, black fungi, and ginger-green shallot vinaigrette

Davy had ordered the steamed murray cod. He thought it was a dish that does a bit of everything and added that the fish was cooked very well.

Grilled white scallops - with pickled pear, winter purslane, foie gras and pedro ximenez-lentil vinaigrette

Marc kept his comments on the scallops very basic: 'delicious' and 'sizable'. I tried one and have to agree with him. They were massive, again an example of prime produce, and cooked perfectly. I'm not usually that into scallops but I did enjoy these.

Pan roasted lamb rib eye - with crumbed sweetbread, potato gratin, cavolo nero, pine nuts and onion caramel

We progressed onto our mains. Mine was the lamb and I was pleased to see 2 perfectly pink portions on the plate. I had asked for medium rare and it was spot on. I never really understood the appeal of sweetbread so I wasn't blown away by that but the other elements of the dish were simple yet  complimentary.

Glazed beef cheek - with caramelised onion, shaved cucumber, grilled leeks and celtuce leaf puree

Bee and Marc both chose the beef cheek and delivered vastly different feedback. Davy and I tried a bit of their plates so we all got a taste. Bee thought it lacked flavor but hers was probably the only negative critisim. I thought the beef was rediculous. If anyone's seen American So You Think You Can Dance, imagine Mary Murphy screaming out "That was REDICULOUS", baring those big smiley teeth of hers. That's what I think of this dish. The beef was tender to the point of not just melting in the mouth but practically evaporating on contact. To me, the beef was far from bland. It had a beautiful milky quality that was somehow homely yet refined.

Duck breast - with grilled treviso, green lentils, duck jamon, fresh walnuts and crisp polenta

Davy's main was the duck. Bee loved this dish and regretted not ordering this instead of the beef. They both commented that it was very tender and 'different'.In particular, Bee thought the polenta chip was amazing.

Valrhona chocolate delice - with confit orange puree, almond praline and mandarin ice cream

For our desserts, once again we managed to each order a different one. Marc was surprised that I ordered the chocolate delice. Apparently it's more in my nature to order 'out there' desserts. Hey, 'out there' is one thing but chocolate... chocolate is chocolate. I did like this dessert in that it has all the right elements of smooth, creamy and crunch. A few at our table were unimpressed by the jaffa-inspired flavors. I don't mind the whole citrus and chocolate combination but it's not one of my favorites.

Passionfruit souffle - with passionfruit sorbet

Bee's dessert was the passionfruit souffle. I think the only reason I didn't order this is because I don't like pasisonfruit that much. I would otherwise have jumped at the chance to order souffle at a fine dining restaurant, it's something that's only good if done perfectly. This one was perfect. Texturally, it was just mind-blowing. Everything you could hope for in a souffle. Light as air and so delicate. I could almost ignore the passionfruit flavor... almost.

Caramel poached pear - with fennel, toasted hazelnuts and white coffee ice cream

Davy went with the poached pear dessert. It's not something I would normally order but I was pleasantly surprised. We all remarked at how well coffee and pear went together. That's not something I expected. Davy also commented that the pear was cooked just right.

Pave of granny smith apples - with vanilla cheesecake and rose-earl grey ice cream

Marc chose the vanilla cheesecake with apples. We both really liked this dessert. The cheesecake was deliciously creamy. I couldn't detect the rose-earl grey flavor in the ice cream but that didn't seem to matter at the time. The jelly looked exactly like ice! I don't know what it was supposed to bring to the dish but I think it was unnecesary.

Petit fours

We finished our meal with coffee and petit fours. I worked my way along the row of petit fours to try a bit of everything. Despite being full, they were too cute to resist!


The coffee was my one non-alcoholic interlude for the evening before we moved onto cocktails at The Blu Bar. It was a rich blend and served as a great pick-me-up.

I enjoyed my time at est. both for the food and service. The service was something of an experience. At each course, all of our plates were set down at the same time by 4 separate waiters. It reminded me of a military drill. There was no jealousy over who got served first, that's for sure. All the staff were very polite and knowledgable without being snooty. The dishes were consistently beautiful. My favorites were the moreton bay bug, beef cheeks and cheesecake. If I was to repick my courses, I would go for those!
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  1. Looked like a beautiful dinner. I cant wait to try it myself.
    And to Davy, I think that there is so much more to sashimi than just good produce! Goodproduce yes accounts for a big part of it but I think the execution and knife skill of the chef is vital too. Please watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, great documentary which will blow you away.

  2. Hi Nina...

    That makes sense! I know sashimi chefs in Japan train for many years and it's like an art. At the moment it probably just all goes over my head and all I'm capable of recognising is 'good fish' or 'ew off fish'. Where do you think does good sashimi in Brisbane?