Dishes of the moment 2008

The smokehouse, Anise, Brisbane
Hickory-smoked to order, this amuse bouche, a triple smokehouse treat, ticks all the right boxes. The exact make-up varies but the current line-up features a Pacific oyster, a couple of tender slivers of wagyu and a tranche of ocean trout served with a slice of lemon. Chef Jonathan Bryant’s kitchen is tiny so this probably isn’t the easiest request on a busy Friday night but he says customers love it.
Anise, 697 Brunswick St, New Farm, Qld, (07) 3358 1558.

Spaghettini with smoked eel and pangrattato, Trunk, Melbourne
It may seem obvious but the combo of thin spaghettini and smoked eel is surprising, delicate, powerful and simply unputdownable. Trunk chef Nicky Riemer binds the two with a garlicky pangrattato for crunch and the resultis something obvious… yet not.
Trunk, 275 Exhibition St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9663 7994.

Tonka bean panna cotta, apple consommé and green apple sorbet, E’cco, Brisbane
Think of the aromas of sweet hay, cinnamon and vanilla, and you’ll be getting close to the flavours imbued by the tonka beans in Philip Johnson’s panna cotta. “It’s hard to put your finger on it,”’ says Johnson, “When you roast them, they smell like almonds and, in traditional panna cotta, almond milk is often used or almond oil is sometimes rubbed on the moulds.” The combination of fresh green apple in both the sorbet and consommé works beautifully with the bean’s cinnamon-mace notes, that’s for sure.
E’cco, 100 Boundary St, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3831 8344.

Steamed Spring Bay mussels on salmorejo, MoVida, Melbourne
Frank Camorra has a knack for putting things together; each meal at MoVida suggests a man with plenty of ideas but, among a group of about eight dishes, this stood out for us as a hit-in-waiting: steamed Tasmanian mussels placed on a salmorejo made with heirloom tomatoes. Great bread combined with quality oil and tomatoes makes a powerful backdrop to the shellfish.
MoVida, 1 Hosier La, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9663 3038.

Grilled mackerel, Añada, Fitzroy
Looking for clever ways to cook with cheaper fish? Expect to hear more on the trend as fish prices go ballistic. Chef Jesse Gerner, at his new and decidedly funky tapas bar, Añada, is already on the case with his beautiful, and wholly authentic, mackerel offering: a small fish simply filled with fresh lemon, wrapped in vine leaves and then cooked gently over charcoal. It’s dressed with a sauce of pistachio and orange blossom. Eat your way to good health with a smile.
Añada, 197 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9415 6101.

Slow-cooked eggs at Star Anise, Perth, and Vasse Felix, Margaret River
As part of a growing worldwide trend, the humble “goog” just got glam in the West, with two of the State’s hottest chefs giving the slow-cooked egg thing a whirl. The principle is simple: poach an egg in the shell somewhere between 62 and 65 degrees, and the white will set while the yolk stays silken and gooey. Aaron Carr at the Vasse Felix restaurant serves his egg whole with chargrilled little gem lettuce, parmesan panna cotta and crisp prosciutto, with WA truffles in season. At Star Anise, David Coomer serves his slow-cooked egg with jamón Ibérico, confit tomatoes and piquillo peppers.
Vasse Felix, cnr Caves & Harman South rds, Cowaramup, WA, (08) 9756 5050
Star Anise, 225 Onslow Rd, Shenton Park, WA, (08) 9381 9811.

Slow braise of ethically fished Australian shark fin, Quay, Sydney
Peter Gilmore throws a curly one into the ethical fish debate with this dish. The three-star chef continues his love of Canton-esque textural ingredients with shark fin, served as part of Quay’s dinner menu with egg yolk confit, golden turnips and duck consommé. Shark fin is prized in Cantonese restaurants but largely avoided by other chefs because of the inhumane and wasteful practices associated with its harvest. Gilmore’s fins, though, are the byproduct of a WA shark meat fishery that catches the relatively less endangered (though still vulnerable) blacktip reef shark under strict quotas,  satisfying his concerns about ethics and sustainability. And the taste and feel? It’s “finer and more delicate” than the Chinatown examples, he says.
Quay, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9251 5600.

Quail, The Grange, Adelaide
It’s listed simply as “quail” on Cheong Liew’s new degustation menu at The Grange but there’s a bit more to the story. Half a quail is baked in bamboo leaf prepared with water chestnut starch, with slivers of oyster mushroom, spring onion and mandarin. It is then presented on the opened leaf beside a bowl of creamed almond and sweetbread broth. Liew took the almond broth from an ancient Chinese recipe, and tweaked it with the contrasting flavours and textures of sweetbreads and bok choy.
The Grange, Hilton Adelaide, 233 Victoria Sq, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8237 0698.

Pan-seared scallops with cauliflower terrine and speck foam, Piccalilly, Hobart
Yes – we know we’re all well and truly over foam – but the bacon-flavoured froth drizzled on top of this dish is quite perfect; nearly as perfect as the thin batons of crisp pork crackling that peek out through the bubbles. But the heart of this dish is the ‘cauliflower terrine’. It’s made from a rich puree of cauliflower set with a little gelatine and topped with four golden Spring Bay scallops.
Piccalilly, 22 Francis St (cnr Hampden Rd), Battery Point, Tas, (03) 6224 9900.

WORDS JANE CORNES, FIONA DONNELLY, SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE, JOHN LETHLEAN, PAT NOURSE AND DAVID SLY PHOTOGRAPHY VINCENT LONG

This article appeared in the April 2008 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.





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