After taking up the SIFF Sugar Hit marathon challenge two years in a row, I've decided to skip the whole mayhem this year for many reasons. But that doesn't mean my sweet tooth is going to take any time off, in fact I am going to reward myself with something even more finesse and spectacular.
When Tomislav Martinovic, head chef and owner of Tomislav Restaurant revealed to us that he is going to add a dessert degustation menu during a cooking demonstration recently, the unexpected news definitely had us all excited and surprisingly we don't have to wait for long. For two nights only, Tomislav will teamed up with pastry chef Chris The of Black Star Pastry, to give us a sneak preview of what to expect by helding a seven-course "just dessert" degustation dinner as part of Crave Sydney International Food Festival month. We make no hesitation and managed to secure a table of six, including the Pom, for 8.30pm sitting.
Tomislav's impressive past experience including working alongside with Heston Blumenthal back in UK does become one of the draw cards of the event this evening. People want to expect the unexpected, taste the new dimension and definitely looking forward to a night of gastronomy wild ride.
And so, without further ado, everyone is presented with a pair of test tubes, one filled with Delamotte Champagne, and the other with violet granita. We are instructed to pour champagne into granita and give it a shake, the blueish violet granita immediately turns into a purple fizzy drink, flower petals are dancing inside the test tube like a kaleidoscope. The concoction is surprisingly sweet and a hint of tingly numbness when nibbling on the violet petals.
First course is a spectacular presentation of grilled strawberries which have a nice caramelised smoky sweetness, accompanied with mint and white chocolate powder that simply melts in thin air, leaving a sense of minty freshness in the mouth. The dessert is served on a massive black slate tile makes the vividness of the components are even more striking than ever.
The goats curd cheesecake is a two-textured combo, a firmer quenelle of sweet vanilla mousse is hidden underneath a puffy white cloud of goat cheese foam which is light and fluffy in both texture and flavour. Elderflower coulis and slivers of grapes are sweet, counterbalancing the saltiness of the cheesecake. The tiny hint of zing from lemon balm merely cut through the richness, whereas the grainy pistachio crumbs is rather a hindrance for me to really enjoy the silky smoothness of the cheesecake.
We are only given a small plate for the third course and no cutlery needed. The waitress comes back with three caramel ice cream served in a metal stand and instructs us to just take one with our hands. We strive for photo opportunity and kindly ask her to leave the stand for a few quick snaps which she happily obliged.
The Pom beams me a smile after first bite, eyes widened in excitement, mouth immediately half wide opens to let me hear the popping sound coming out from his mouth. A nice surprise of tiny hidden pop rocks are blended in with the toasted peanuts on top that instantly brings the inner-child out of everyone. During our cooking demonstration, Tomislav already showed us how to make ice cream with the texture and consistency of a soft serve by using a Pacojet, this caramel ice cream is exceptionally soft and smooth, not overly sweeten and let the natural caramel flavour speaks for itself is also one of Tomislav's philosophies of healthy dessert.
I was expecting another round of pop rocks at the end tip inside the tuile cone for a big finale, sadly no popping surprise but just toasted peanuts.
The last dessert course is a rich warm dark chocolate mousse that is extremely light, the bitterness of dark chocolate is lighten up with sweet mulberry sorbet in contrast with the sea salt. But the most overwhelming component is the little smidgen of white powder atop the sorbet looks rather harmless at first until we get the sudden heat up the nasal and realised it is actually horseradish. All components seems a little mismatch on the plate but works rather well when consume together. One needs an open mind to really appreciate this dessert as it is definitely not everyone's cup of tea.
The backward dining still seems a little peculiar to me, my tastebud doesn't seem to cope by having savoury after 5 courses of sweet desserts. The beef mince pie is an open pie of beef mince in rich gravy housed inside a crunchy pastry cylinder. Intentional or not, the beef mince pie is very salty. What I find most interesting in this dish is the contrast between texture, flavour and even temperature. The frozen cold tomato sauce powder is a nice surprise in contact with the hot pie, the sweet umami with a hint of harissa spice really gives the pie an exotic touch.
Ironically, we conclude our meal with Tomislav's signature starter of rice crackers with sea salt and vinegar served in an atomiser. Three or four sprays is all your need to give the wafer thin rice crackers a subtle hint of sour, salty flavour. These delicious crackers are light as feathers, we all trying to guess how they were actually made while happily nibbling on them. Some believes that it is Vietnamese rice paper dipped in egg white then deep fried, it is still a mystery only Tomislav would know the answer.
We are also given a box of not-so-petite fours from Black Star Pastry as parting gift. A big white chocolate macaron with rose buttercream filling is a tad too sweet for my palate and the maracon shell is a little mealy. The little dome of Canele probably has been baked since morning, as the vanilla custard center is now dense and solid, the toffee caramalised crust is also no more but turning into a blanket of chewiness.
My favourite is the little lemon curd tart, a dollop of lemon curd is tangy and smooth atop a crusty shortbread that is buttery rich and crumbly. I perhaps enjoy this delicious morsel a little too much and only then realised I am covered in crumbs when I finish the last mouthful. The beautiful fig and orange cake is also another favourite, a sponge cake is beautifully soaked in orange syrup, moist but not dense; a sweet slice of fig is surrounded by a garden of fragrant dried rose petals and pistachio crumbs are adhered to a bed of mascarpone vanilla cream.
If I was on Candid Camera, I will be the little 3yo kid who couldn't resist and take a few sneaky peeks what's inside the box and eventually succumb to temptation, take one out and sink my teeth into it then quickly put it back while no one is watching. It sure is a naughty sweet journey all the way home.
"Just Desserts" is a $125 seven-course degustation dinner at Tomislav Restaurant for 2 nights only, 19th & 20th October as part of the SIFF 2010. But keep an eye out for the dessert degustation menu.
Tomislav Restaurant 2/13 Kirketon Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9356 4535
Tuesday to Sunday 6pm-10pm