Have I got your attention yet? Good, because this is going to be a long post, a feast for the eyes. All thanks to the lovely Prue from The Mint Partners, who suggested it would be a great idea to catch up with some Sydney foodbloggers over a dinner at Ripples, a newly opened sister restaurant over at Sydney Wharf in Pyrmont. I couldn't decline such generous offer and found myself mingling with the others throughout the night at the Chef's Table.
The foodbloggers are invited for the first hand experimental experience at the Chef's Table - a new concept introduced to Ripples, where patrons will have the opportunity to dine at the bar on stool chairs, while watching Chef Richard Park and his team in action behind the open plan kitchen. The sceptical me slowly warming up to this idea and found myself having a jolly good time socialising with the chef himself. Not to mention asking for chef's recommendations right there and then is a real bonus.
After many years at Aqua Dining and Kables, ex-Kiwi heaf chef, Richard Park now leads a team at Ripples to create contemporary Australian cuisines with a French bistro twist. The Ripples offers a very extensive menu for both lunch and dinner, range between $24 - $29 for mains. The restaurant is located at the Sydney wharf, right across from the Star Casino at Pyrmont. Needless to say, it precinct location offers you the most amazing Sydney skyline as backdrop which money can't buy. Chef Park casually joked about that he has the best kitchen in Sydney with the best view.
To kick off the night, we are treated with some crusty french Epi bread with butter and topping assortments. The anchovy butter is subtle in flavour, while the pesto butter on the other hand, is packed with basil punch. There is also Olive tapenade which is three arms length too far on the other side of the table, which I didn't get the chance to try. The onion marmalade and pickled prune are a great appetizer with its sweet and salty combo, follows with a nice citrus tang. But my favorite is the rich and velvety smooth duck liver parfait with cranberry jelly which makes a beautiful spread on the epi bread.
A Spring Bay scallop with fennel salad is presented in front of us soon after. The scallop is fresh and tender with the roe still intact. It is grilled to perfection with caramelised brine sweetness which harmonies with the aniseed flavour of the fennel. For starter, a dozen of warm oysters with leek fondue and melted goat cheese looks almost as good as a main on its own. And the freshly shucked oysters with mignonette dressing penetrates the appetite with a zesty vinegar dressing will only make one asking for more!
I simply can't go past the twice baked goats cheese soufflé with an onion and thyme soubise. The goat cheese soufflé is exceptionally generous in portion, it is light and creamy. Goats cheese is a funny subject, its strong flavour can be a put off and overpowering at times. But in this instance, it is absolutely beautiful with just the right amount of distinct flavour that I enjoyed immensely.
Helen (Grabyoufork) opt for the grilled calves liver, beautiful presentation of two generous liver slices served on a bed of parmesan braised witlof in red wine jus then topped with a crispy tempura battered rosemary. I had a taste of Helen's, the liver is creamy but chewy in parts perhaps slightly overcooked. I am actually not a big fan of liver, the taste of liver is still something that I am yet to get used to. But foie gras is a whole different story...
For the main course, a few of us go for the signature bouillabaisse with rouille and served with garlic bread. Toothpaste like rouille is squirted all over a bed of sea creatures including scallop, mussel, salmon, prawn, king fish and a giant crab claw. I had a taste of the soup stock which is intense and full of seafood flavour. I think the dish can do with a few more slices of garlic bread to soak up all the beautiful broth.
This is not my dish, but the duck leg confit looks deliciously inviting with a nice golden crispy skin. Served on frisee salad and hazelnuts with a seeded mustard dressing. Unfortunately I didn't get to try this dish, at least now there is something I can look forward to next time I visit Ripples again.
Reem (I'm obsessed with food) is kindly feeding everyone with her rabbit fricassee... literally with her own fork. The rabbit is stewed with mushroom and lardons, a heavy dish I must say, but with great flavour and tenderness. Surprisingly not gamey and since it is a stew, you don't have to think about what you are eating is actually a cute fluffy bunny in past life. (Oh sorry.... I shouldn't have mentioned that). The dish also served with potato dumplings on the side which is sweet and yielding.
Apart from the mains, we are also offered some sides of Lyonnaise potatoes and mesclun salad with fine herbs and french dressing to share among ourselves. The pan-fried potatoes are soft with a waxy buttery creaminess.
The indecisive me decided to follow chef's recommendation and go for the six hour braised lamb breast. Oh my, this is probably one of the best decision I've ever made in a long time. Chef Park has chosen to use lamb breast for this dish as he claims that the meat is as tender as pork belly, perfect for braising. The dish is beautifully presented, a massive round disc of succulent tender lamb breast compacted and wrapped within a layer of paper thin crispy pastry, served with petits peas bonne femme and topped with green olive salsa. (What a mouthful indeed!)
Ripples famous fish & chips is popular among the white collars particular at lunchtime, Park proudly declares that on many occasions where the whole table order the same dish but nothing else. I can see why it is popular with its generous portion of fresh white fish served on crispy golden brown chips with homemade tartare sauce.
Jen (Jenius) goes for the pan seared kingfish which again, a huge steak of kingfish fillet which I can imagine it must have been a huge fish because the flesh is a little coarse in texture and not as smooth. But nothing can't be save with a good dollop of herb butter, and some braised fennel & baby eggplant to add color and sweetness, plus a few hidden gnocchi here and there for that little extra gluttony.
"Two Two, Two One, One Three, One Four..."
Chef Park sends out Morse code to the kitchen hands. It seems like a sugar hit emergency call and suddenly everyone is back to their stations busy cooking away. Beauty-licious desserts are soon brought out to our table in no time for the foodbloggers to sample. The warm chocolate & hazelnut pudding gets the choco-razzi treatment with Reem pouring hot chocolate into the pudding Nigella Lawson's finger licking style. I particularly like the shard of nutty toffee on the side with chocolate ice cream.
Apple Tarte Tatin is the next trend after Crepes Suzette? Masterchef Australia inspired if you must. Classic french dessert served with vanilla bean ice cream, the tarte tatin seems to have this peculiar smokey flavour with soft caramelised apples on a soft crust. I am inspired and ready to make my own one day.
Some foodbloggers are rather excited and feeling nostalgic to see the grand marnier crème caramel on the menu. The custard can be a little softer and it is sugary sweet in a puddle of Grand Marnier caramel sauce. We also get to try the chocolate and pistachio terrine with raspeberry ice cream and pistachio. The chocolate pyramid is like a thick fudge and rich in dark chocolate with pistachio and shortbread encrusted all over for the crunch.
My favorite will have to be the leatherwood honey & goats curd parfait with ginger biscuits. I am slowly warming up to the taste of goat cheese, its rich creaminess balanced by the crunch of spicy ginger biscuit. The goats curd is paired with tangy poached quinces and silky soft Persian fairy floss to conclude with a earthy sweetness undertone.
Time flies when I have such great time tasting good food and get to socialise with the other food bloggers and the chef himself throughout the night. The chef's table concept is definitely something I would like to see happening more often in Sydney restaurants. Sometimes is not just about the food, but is the whole dining experience that's what makes the night memorable.
Ripples at Sydney Wharf Wharf 10, 56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9571 1999
Monday to Friday 9.00am - 11.00am
Saturday and Sunday 8.00am - 11.00am
Monday to Friday 12.00pm - 3.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 12.00pm - 4.00pm
Monday to Sunday 6.00pm - 9.00pm