Went to Attica, #63 on the list, tonight. It was my second visit. It being (well, the day before) Mother's Day, I took along my dearest mother for her first degustation experience.
Apologies for the quality of the photos--I was using an iPhone in the corner of a dark room.
Along with the obligatory housemade butter, the sourdough rye is served with a smoked olive oil emulsion. Thanks, xantham gum! The powder, in case you're wondering, is black salt.
An appetiser of walnut puree with walnut oil. There are, as you can see, two versions of this dish. My mother ordered a vegetarian degustation without mushrooms (she disagrees with the texture of mushrooms) so her walnut was topped with, well, walnut. Mine was topped with shaved pine mushrooms. The mushrooms were the strongest flavour and for a good couple of moments I thought that maybe they had stolen the show, but no, the flavour of walnut crept up, ninjastyle, and eventually made itself known.
Two different takes on a theme. A rye-crumbed shallot (part of the vegetarian menu, obviously) and a rye-crumbed mussel (which was steamed at some point, I think). The crust was very crisp and the contents very soft. No chewy shellfish here.
A shiitake and bonito dashi jacked with licorice flowers. The mushroom-less alternative was based on a vegetarian dashi but was otherwise the same.
The first course of the standard degustation: tomato with 'eleven basils' (all grown, I was told, in the restaurant's garden) and smoked black seasame seeds. The strip of red capsicum was slow-cooked in olive oil. There are also a few stray hazelnuts loitering about. The smoke/sesame element was really subtle, avoiding the trap of being too strongly flavoured.
'Textures of cauliflower', inspired by some mountain in New Zealand (the chef is originally from New Zealand) and not some scene from Scarface
. At one point, a fixture of the menu was a similarily presented dish of 'snow crab' (the 'snow' came from powdered horseradish and, yes, the crab underneath the mountain was snow crab). This was the first course proper for the vegetarian degustation. The tomato/basil/etc course would come later on the vegetarian menu.
Marron, leek and native pepper with a surprisingly subtle mussel and prosciutto broth. Marrons, by the way, are native freshwater crayfish and are a fixture of Australian degustation menus.
The vegetarian version of this dish arrived at the same time.
Seemingly unchanged since I was last at Attica was the 'simple dish of a potato slow-cooked in the earth in which it was grown'. Inspired by the hangi
of New Zealand, potatoes are cooked in, well, dirt. This is a very, very, very nice potato. The sour cream-style base is a nice nod to the baked potatoes sometimes sold as fast food. This dish appeared at the same time on both versions of the menu.
At this point, my mother's tomato/etc dish arrived (unchanged from the standard menu) and I got
'Meat from the pearl oyster.' Not being a fan of many forms of cooked oyster (I really dislike the texture) I wasn't looking forward to this dish, but I started to calm down when I was told the shaving makes the texture a bit more like scallop. I don't know if that's quite true, but it certainly had lost the ... unpleasant texture that, say, poached oysters can have.
We were both served the sweet potato with almonds, egg yolks and cheddar. The sweet potatoes were slow-roasted in a salt crust. This was, as you'd expect, a very rich dish.Wallaby
fillet, served rare. Nice to see this on the menu--much more interesting, to me, anyway, than yet another wagyu course. An even more interesting choice than 'roo, which I also would've been happy with.
The vegetarian alternative: it should be mushrooms with mulled wine and pearl onions, but instead my mother was given Jerusalem artichokes prepared in the same fashion.
Silly me, I got so caught up in noting down all the elements of the first dish that I didn't actually take a photo of it! Instead, here's a photo of the decoration on the table. Why did I get a photo of it? Those little pods, they're quandong, a native fruit. And quandong (in their cooked form--those little pods weren't in an edible state) was part of the dish (entitled 'native fruits of Australia'), as was lemon aspin, rosella, 'emu eggs' (not eggs, but the nickname for some sort of berry-like fruit), rye berries, native lime and a wattleseed custard. There was also a granita made from some sort of native berry I didn't catch the name of: just imagine a big serve of granita atop the custard with some different poached fruits floating around. Nice. Basically a sexed up fruit salad.
'The plight of the bees' arrived in a little hive, on top of which sat a rock. This many-layered dessert included mandarin, fennel and lemon thyme granita, thyme honey, Jap pumpkin (it formed the 'skin' you can see being peeled back), apple and some sort of honey (a name was kicked out and I failed to catch it) that is made not by bees, but by aphids.
The petit fours arrive after you've had time to look at print of a painting by the chef's father. On the reverse is an essay that talks about birds and foraging and cooking. Why would something like this be sent to the table?
Because the petit fours are salted caramel-filled white chocolate 'Pukeko's eggs' (a species of bird from New Zealand).
Attica serves an excellent meal. If/when you're down in Melbourne, it's worth the detour and the 'effort' (i.e. booking a couple of months in advance and then actually leaving the confines of the CBD) to get out to the 'burbs.
Edited by ChrisTaylor, 12 May 2012 - 07:02 AM.