Monday, December 5, 2011

Marque, Surry Hills

Quaint little restaurant almost unnoticeable from the outside but charming on the inside

After weeks of planning, we've already decided very early on that what better way to end our EPIC 4-Day Sydney Food Trip than with a nice degustation dinner on our very last night at a 3 Hatted Restaurant. (Now you know where all my savings went, lol). Being a student that lives on a budget, I've never brought myself to spend such a huge chunk of my hard earned savings from my part-time job on a meal like this. That's the reason why I've never actually had a degustation dinner before until then.

As it was going to be my first time (and I doubt I'll be able to afford a meal like this again for a very, very long time, heee...), you can imagine the countless hours I spent on the Internet (at home and also in lectures looool) researching for the PERFECT place for us to go. There were lots of great choices that we considered. Tetsuya's, Est., Quay, Marque, Rockpool... You name it.

In the end, it came down to either Tetsuya's or Marque. And for a number of very good reasons, we finally went ahead with Marque, being:

- Our 8 course meal (+1 for pre-dessert) was only $150 whereas most other places go up to almost $200 for their degustation or on average $120 for only 3 courses, which made this extremely worth it IMHO
2) Awarded Restaurant of the Year in 2011 by the SMH
3) French cuisine (more unusual compared to Japanese or Modern Australian)

I've been so eager to blog about this meal since I been back and I'm so excited to share with you my experience here today! Great way to wrap up the last of my Sydney posts. SO, here goes the most unique and unforgettable culinary adventure of my life! ENJOY!!!

Eager faces all-round, hur hur hur...

We took LOTS of photos of each other to entertain ourselves before the meal, lol

Complimentary Brown Rye and White Sourdough with House Butter

So good that my friend, S, couldn't stop asking for more. It was funny because the waiter was so happy to keep bringing more because he considered it the biggest compliment to them lol

Course #1:
Bonito with Foie Gras & Olive Truffle

Interesting starter! Every element brought a very distinct taste to the dish and the thin, crisp potato was a perfect shell for all of that. Bonito fish was definitely the star but everything else complemented really well. D-d-d-delicioussss...

Eating with our hands at a fine dining restaurant, yeeerp... SO GOOOD

Course #2:
Almond Jelly with Blue Swimmer Crab, Almond Gazpacho, Sweet Corn & Avruga

Man, this was amazing because the smell of the corn immediately filled the air as soon as it hit the table. The swimmer crab was SO umami sweet, best I've ever tasted. Though the mousse and custard felt almost the same, but tasted completely different in the mouth. Add the lovely jelly-like texture of the caviar, it was such a great dish overall. One of my favourites that night!

Course #3:
Yellow Fin Tuna with Campari Turnip, Ruby Grapefruit, Radish & White Soy

The Amaranth grains were actually from the Himalayas. There, the locals use it as source of protein but the restaurant bought the seeds to grow it themselves. Was a very interesting concept of a dish. How I interpreted the dish was that the star was really the Tuna, which acted as a vessel for all the other elements on the plate, each representing the flavours of the basic tastes.

Bitterness from the campari turnip and grapefruit, sourness from the round wheat, saltiness from the Amaranth grains (which were incredibly delicious, btw!), and also spiciness from the peppercorns

Course #4:
WA Marron with Paprika, Wakame, Avocado & Lemon

Already so happy from the first 3 courses, I had no idea that we were JUST getting started. This was hands down my FAVOURITE dish of the night!!! First of all, my jaws dropped as soon as the waiter presented this dish before us. One of the most remarkable food I've ever seen -- LOOK at that!


My oh my, the marrons were sooooo good!!! And buttery too. I highly suspect that they used the French sous-vide method to prepare this because it was SO incredibly moist and succulent. The seaweed was great and chewy too without bearing too strong a flavour of the sea. The purple potato (which was thinner than paper!) was just a great accompaniment to the prawns and just looked so friggin' cool. I also enjoyed the crepe-like texture of the lemon sheets a lot too. ABSOLUTE WINNER, seriously.

Course #5:
Smoked Duck Egg with Sorrel, Green Strawberries, Tea & Toast

The herb puree was UNREAL and so was the uber delicious toasted brioche (which basically tasted like a giant crouton, lol yum). Foam was REALLY fun to eat too because it disappeared INSTANTLY in your mouth but didn't fail to leave its flavour behind. What a play of textures! Cooool... And I was thoroughly surprised, yet entertained to see the strawberries pickled this way. Enjoyed this a lot too.

Beautifully rich and viscous consistency of the duck egg yolk

Course #6:
Spatchcock with Mullet Roe, Sauteed Lettuce, Cucumber & Dill

Another mind-blowing dish! Most of us considered this one of the top dish that night too (and there were so many to choose from!). The meat of the spatchcock -- WOW!! For some reason, we didn't taste any of the fibre or rough texture even though it was the breast meat. Instead, it felt like it was all coalesced together into one piece of soft, moist meat. Amazing.

The cucumber ball and cabbage tasted damn good too, so sweet and crunchy and with that sauce, mmmm.... And foahhhhh that skin was crazy delicious and tasted FRIGGIN' good LOL!! The seawater gel really tasted like water from the ocean, coool...

Course #7:
Blackmore Grain Fed Wagyu Sirloin with Beef Tendon, Wasabi & Spring Peas

COOL way to serve the Blackmore Wagyu!!! The meat was raw and uber thin, but placed on a really warm plate just to cook it ever so slightly. The little peas were just bursting in flavour and the shards of fresh wasabi contained the smell but not really the heat of our regular wasabi, which was nice.

The meat was truly delicate and fresh with beautiful, fatty marbelisation and it's no wonder they chose to serve it like that. But, the best part of this dish really has to be the tasty, gelatinous tendon you see at the bottom left of the picture. YUM

Optional course:
Carles Roquefort, Beetroot, Guava, Rose Petals & Raspberries

Three of us decided to share this additional course between us because it sounded so interesting. The cheese wasn't as pungent but just nice actually and the crumble was delicious. Lovely~

Pre-dessert course:
Sauternes Custard

This course was complimentary and I'm glad they didn't give us your usual sorbets as a palate cleanser. This beautiful custard, which was made with French wine with rather strong alcohol on top, was perfect to soften the pellets before entering the dessert course. We really enjoyed this!

Course #8:
"Tomberries" with Chocolate Jelly & Crème Fraîche

The candied raspberry sheet were so delicate and fruity. And OMG I couldn't believe that round ball there was actually a tomato! Hence, the "tomberry" name. Totally unexpected but tasted soo good and subtle, yet rubbery on the outside. I like how the dark chocolate was nicely balanced by the syrup and crème fraîche. Interesting flavours from the chocolate, to the raspberry, crème and tomato.

Some tea to wash down the great meal

Complimentary petit fours:
Apple Ginger Pate, Salted Caramel Chocolates, Lemon Drops & Bitter Bon Bons

First of all, I love how much thought went into even the petit fours that they served. Designed to have a consistent progression of flavours from left to right. Apple ginger pate was YUM. The lemon literally bursts while the chocolate actually collapsed in the mouth.

Decided to take a picture of our very final bite of food that night, haha...

Last group photo with the Head Waiter to end our night

Final thoughts:

Really enjoyed the whole experience from beginning till end. The food was great and so was the company. But I'll be honest, some of us did think that even though the food was great, it wasn't as "WOW" because they were sorta expecting a molecular gastranomical experience. Something involving the pouring of liquid nitrogen or frozen pellets of food, that kinda stuff.

I, personally didn't see it that way at all. Every single detail was really well thought out. What I liked most is that NOTHING on the menu comes close to anything you can find anywhere else. Totally original and full of surprise, one after another. We weren't given a menu to keep us in suspense and were clueless about what we were gonna be served next! It's also great that when asked which were our favourite dishes that night, most of us had different answers.

Also thought that everything was perfect and saw that they went to extra lengths just to source ingredients from around the world, even if it's just for a tiny element of the dish. Mark of their truly well deserved 3 Hat accolade and worthy of their title of "Restaurant of the Year". Milessss ahead of all the other restaurants in the 2 Hat league.

Finally, I also noticed that even though the service that night wasn't as "formal" or "professional" as what you'd expect from a Hatted restaurant (like the ones we received from Vue De Monde or The Press Club), but I enjoyed the meal even more because of that! It felt less robotic and made the mood even lighter because they were so friendly and cheerful. We felt so comfortable that we were exchanging so many jokes with the staff throughout the night. Personally, I prefer it that way and appreciated it even more!

Looking past the "lack of liquid nitrogen & stuff" and bearing in mind that our amazing 8-course meal was only $150, you can see why I HIGHLY recommend Marque Restaurant for degustation dinners. It was so great and it's times like these that really make me count my blessings and think of my parents.

I hope you guys get the chance to dine here someday too! Take care!!

Marque on Urbanspoon

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