See, smell and taste.
There are three giant prints of famous Fornasetti's plates on the wall, presumably depicts the three core senses how we should enjoy our food. That's exactly what chef Warren Turnbull wants us to experience upon stepping inside his restaurant. Tonight we are dining at Assiette, a two chef's hat french restaurant in Surry Hills.
"There is the Pom on your blog, so what are you going to call me when you blog about tonight? The Dutchie? So long is not Clog Wog!" my dining companion asks jokingly. For those who read this blog would have realised that nicknames are usually assigned to my friends who don't like me to disclose their true identities and besides, nicknames are more fun anyway. So yes, I shall call him, the Dutchie.
Assiette is located at the corner of Albion Street in Surry Hills where Becasse used to be. The restaurant is cosy but can easily accommodate 50 diners nicely without feeling too cramp. I actually feel more sorry for the chefs who have to work in a tiny open plan kitchen. Each chef maneuvers around each other in a confined space like performing a contemporary dance routine, and the food they created are just as theatrical.
We are here on a Tuesday night and the restaurant is not overly quiet, at least 6 tables are filled, including us. The friendly waiter is attentive and seated us not far from the kitchen. I let the Dutchie peruses the wine menu and we've chosen a nice bottle of NZ Gewurztraminer. The aromatic white wine is sweet as lychee and fat as honey, a great wine to start off the evening.
We are soon presented with the complimentary amuse-bouche of sweet corn and basil veloute. I can't help but automatically raising the little pinky while picking up the tiny tea cup and take a few sips. Tiny soup but big flavour - the corn veloute is so creamy and sweet, nicely balanced with a hint of fresh basil, a great appetite opener which warming up the body nicely from inside out.
My first dish of assiette of Macleay Valley rabbit is a feast for the eyes with a spectacular presentation. I take quite some time admiring the landscape of many different ingredients in different heights, texture and especially the different shades of orange. It is my little happy zen garden on a plate.
The rabbit is prepared in three ways, the rabbit loin is just cooked through with still a little pinkish in the middle, the sweet white flesh is tender and very subtle in flavour. Like a mini lamb cutlet, the rabbit cutlets are so adorable like a mini lollipop, it is just as tasty and tender as the loin. Then there is the rabbit terrine, which is velvety smooth and simply melts in the mouth, possibly my favourite as it has more flavour than the rest.
Rabbit likes carrots, rabbit eats carrots, rabbit paired with carrots makes perfect sense. The pickled baby carrots and the gingerbread crumble don't just look pretty on the plate, the vinegary crunch of the carrot and the subtle hint of gingery kick are perfectly harmonised with the sweet meat.
As much as I like my assiette of rabbit, the Dutchie offers me a small taste of his salt cod fritters and I instantly fall in love with it. The salt cod fritters are oh so crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, served with refreshing mint vinaigrette which works surprisingly better than a normal tartare sauce, it really brings out the flavour of the fish. There are also two thinly sliced cured mojama, its saltiness nicely balanced with the sweetness of the pale green pea mousse.
I am very pleased with my first dish I've had, and can only expect the main will be just as impressive. My love of pork speaks louder than anything else and find myself ordering the roasted pork fillet with boudin noir and seared scallops served with caramelised apple and fennel puree. Despite the pork fillet is succulent and the crunchy crackles that never fail to please, it is the blood sausage that monopolises the dish with its richly spiced intense flavour. The blood sausage has a crumbly texture, goes rather well the soft puree and seared scallops. But I do suggest to savour the scallops on its own right at the beginning, as it gets lost in the combination with its subtle flavour against the blood sausage.
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The friendly waiter suggests us to order a side dish to share, and we made a right choice by having the heirloom tomato salad with our mains. The heirloom tomato is absolutely one of my favourites and it is juicier and sweeter than the normal tomatoes which are usually bland and tasteless. The colouful tomatoes are topped with shallot and rocket leaves that add the crunch, and everything wrapped up nicely with some good extra virgin olive oil.
The Dutchie is keeping the "fish" theme for this evening and very happy with his main of pan fried ocean trout with confit prawn. The generous portion of ocean trout fillet is perfectly pan fried with pinky soft flesh and yielding crispy skin, surrounded by a whimsical edible garden of zucchini flower, olives, zucchini slices, pickled onion and heirloom tomatoes.
Usually the dessert will be on the menu, but not tonight. I was so full after two dishes plus side, not to mention a little tipsy. The Dutchie settles on a Affogato with frangelico and vanilla ice cream to finish off the meal.
We are the last two to leave the restaurant, the chefs are already long gone home, the waiters are ironing the double layered table linen ready for another day of service to come. Great meal, great company, a great night to be had.
Assiette 48 Albion Street
Surry Hills, Sydney
P: +61 2 9212 7979
Lunch: Friday, 12pm - 3pm
Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday from 6pm