Saturday, September 6, 2008

La Brasserie - Darlinghurst, Sydney



Gigantic posting: My birthday dinner!
(now with extra descriptions and pretentious French words to bore you all!)

Continuing our French odyssey, what more suitable than to have some French fine dining soiree to celebrate this...this...'joyous' occasion (of me getting older). *sob*

La Brasserie in Darlinghurst is the venue of choice - often cited as one of the best French restaurant in Sydney, it's certainly très charmant. The decor is very Parisien, rather dramatic even - dark red drapes reminiscent of cabarets at the Boulevard de Clichy, menu specials scribed on mirrors, Toulouse-Lautrec posters, very chic - very Moulin Rouge.


Most of the staff are French, and that means service is impeccable. Prompt, friendly, attentive, without being too pretentious. Most of the crowd that night were French, too - and they are quite the delightful bunch - albeit the occasional raucous laughter. In short, atmosphere-wise, it's like I was transported to a brasserie on rue de la blablabla in the city of light itself.

The Bread Roll

-> France has a plethora of exquisite wines and cheeses, but that's not all. If you think that the only bread the French eat is the baguette, think again. They've got tons of different types of breads. That's what fascinates me about French cuisine - the variety of their foodstuffs is literally endless. I honestly don't know what this bread is, but if my guess is correct, it's a Pain brié, which is a traditional bread from Normandy.

2005 Château Laroche, Graves
Sémillon (Bordeaux, France)

-> The wine list is quite excellent here in La Brasserie - with an adequate selection of French wines. As usual, I decided to go for white because I feel that white wine is more 'universal' considering that we ordered different types of food. This Sémillon comes from Graves, which is a commune in Bordeaux, France. It is delightfully crisp and earthy. It even goes well with our desserts, too.

...at least that's what I think, LOL. I still maintain that I'm not very knowledgeable about wines. I always try not to ask the sommelier when choosing wines because I want to learn more about wines myself...

Rating: 7.5/10


Civet de Calamar
braised squid with saffron pain perdu, sauce nero

-> Ho ho ho, for those not in the know, 'pain perdu' may sound fancy-schmancy, but it's none other than good ol' French Toast. The saffron, however, pimps this thing up to the level of gourmet food. LOL! It's a delightful interplay of flavor and texture - the pain perdu serves as the perfect base for the rather strong sauce nero (squid ink sauce).

Rating: 8/10


Soufflé au Fromage
twice-baked Gruyère soufflé with cauliflower and salsify

-> My, how posh. I don't think I've eaten salsify before (it's a root-like vegetable) - at least not that I'm aware of. Anyway, this souffle is simply stunning. Rich, tasty, amazing texture due to the fact that it's twice-baked. I love Gruyère cheese, it's one of the Swiss cheeses I'm actually quite familiar with - Ever since I'm little, I remember whenever I'm in Amsterdam and went to one of the cheese markets, my dad always insisted on buying at least two types of cheese - the very aged Dutch Gouda and the Gruyère. We don't go to Amsterdam that often (yeah, 'cause we live in Indonesia!!), but somehow, my mom always manage to have a steady supply of Gouda and Gruyère (either she buys them abroad herself or at local gourmet supermarkets, or by asking someone to buy it for her from abroad). Her famous (and world's BEST) macaroni and cheese is baked to perfection using Gruyère. Mmmm...

Rating: 9.5/10



Escargots à la Bourguignonne
snails baked in their shells with garlic parsley butter and sliced baguette

-> Très délicieux! What can I say!
Instead of sprinkling the butter with some chopped parsley, they actually puree the butter and parsley to create this amazing sauce. The snails are delightful - tender and tasty. Here's a little-known fact: Snails in France (for consumption) are imported mainly from Indonesia.

I must say, it was escargots that made me fell in love with French cuisine. I remember when I was 9, my aunt (a.k.a. my food guru) took me to this Italian restaurant called Maxis Cucina Italiana at Plaza Indonesia. They served mainly Italian food, with a small selection of French food as well. In fact, at that time, there are not many French restaurants in Jakarta - and Maxis is perhaps the only place you can get escargots at that time. I fell in love with escargots the minute I sank my teeth on them. And it's not easy for a nine-year-old to be convinced to eat snails, mind you - especially when my idea of snails were those slimy, crawly things that used to give me nightmares when they infested my garden every rainy season!

Rating: 9/10


Terrine de Campagne
country-style pork and rabbit terrine with onion confiture and sauce gribiche

-> A cold hors d'oeuvre. I really wanted to have some terrine in Sydney - this one is okay, but I was hoping of having a more complicated, elaborate terrine (like those uber-expensive and impossibly decorative terrine served on French restaurants in Japan). However, it is understandable - since La Brasserie is, after all, and old-school French restaurant, and Terrine de Campagne (literally means country-style terrine) is the quintessential terrine. The green stuff is the sauce gribiche, which is a sauce made from oil, capers, and pickles among others. Very nice.

Rating: 8/10


Saumon grillé
crisp skin New Zealand king salmon with étuvée of leeks and savoy cabbage, pomme sautée, watercress sauce

-> Okay - for those who aren't quite knowledgeable about the terms, here we go: étuvée is a method of cooking in which a tiny amount of water is added to the ingredients, and then tightly covered and cooked over very low heat. Pomme sautée is a fancy-schmancy name for stir-fried potatoes.
Anyway, this dish is so pretty. The watercress sauce is splendid - a surprise at first (because of its contrast to the flavor of the fish - the fish salty and tasty and the watercress sauce is fresh and slightly bitter) but pleasantly compatible. A memorable dish!

Rating: 8.5/10


Coq au Vin
red wine braised free range corn fed Thirlmere chicken, Brussels sprout, girolles and lardons

-> What a magnificent dish! Thirlmere chicken is a premium free range chicken from Thirlmere, Southern New South Wales - and what a difference does it make. Succulent, tender, perfect - and that's just the chicken. The sauce is amazing (notice the cutely-arranged girolle mushrooms), the combination of the chicken, sauce, and lardons (bacon strips) are to die for. Couldn't imagine a better Coq au Vin.

Rating: 10/10


Poitrine de Porc
crisp pork belly with wild boar chartreuse, duxelle and cabbage

-> Today's special. Strictly speaking, this dish, to us Chinese, is like a glorified siew yoke (Chinese roast pork!!) LOL LOL and the way they charge 40 bucks for siew yoke may bewilder some Chinese patrons. LOL!! Anyway, in all seriousness - it is somewhat different from Chinese roast pork - I'm not saying that it is tastier, but it's just...different.
Ergo, the wild boar chartreuse becomes the highlight of this dish - delicious, slightly spicy, totally cured and marinated shredded wild boar wrapped in cabbage leaves. Duxelle is basically chopped mushrooms cooked with butter and wine.

Rating (not considering the resemblance of this dish to siew yoke): 8/10
Rating (considering the resemblance): 7/10


Confit de Canard
crisp maryland duck confit with carrot cumin puree, orange-glazed endive, and sauce Rouennaise

-> After some research, I found out that Confit is a specialty of Gascony, France - whereby meat such as duck is preserved using salt and slowly cooked in its own juice. Again, another resemblance to a common Chinese dish - this time, it's the Hakka-Chinese delicacy lap ap (preserved duck). Not as salty, but the texture is very similar. Lap ap (in Mandarin: la ya) is a Chinese delicacy mainly produced by the Cantonese and Hakka people in which duck meat is preserved in salt and oil. It is so salty - my family only consume it once a year - during Chinese new year on which we always order some lap ap from China. This dish, Confit de Canard, however, uses considerably less salt. The puree is sweet and delicious - the cumin gives this puree a hint of curry taste.

Okay. Now I'm going to talk about the Sauce Rouennaise. Remember my whole lecture about French sauces and how HELL it is to make them? Refer to this post:

http://eatlikeacow.blogspot.com/2008/07/kttbullar-by-erique-fat-owl.html

You see, this sauce, Rouennaise, is a step BEYOND Bordelaise sauce. This means, in order to make Rouennaise, you need to make Bordelaise, Demi-glace, Espagnole, Glace de Viande, and Brown Sauce. Each sauce requires more than 3 hours to make, so in order to make this Rouennaise sauce, you need...oh, say...3 YEARS?? No wonder French food are expensive.

Rating: 7.5/10


Fondant au Chocolat
soft-center dark chocolate pudding with coffee foam & hazelnut brittle ice cream

-> Apparently, delicious enough to make my lady friends let out orgasmic screams. Gawd, women DO love chocolate. Warm, gooey chocolate pudding encapsulated in coffee foam. It IS incredibly indulgent.

Rating (according to me): 7.5/10
Rating (according to the laydeez, apparently): 10/10 *AAAaaaHHH*


Gaufre
Belgium waffle with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce

-> I love this one. Belgium waffle, as you know, is far heavier than normal waffles, and that's why a tiny piece is enough. The chocolate sauce is to die for - warm, just the right viscosity, melts in your mouth...mmm.

Rating: 8/10


Crêpe Suzette
orange crêpes with rhubarb confiture and yogurt sorbet

-> Now this was rather disappointing. Crêpe Suzette is actually one of my all-time favorite dessert, and I was looking forward to traditional Crêpe Suzette. This one, however, is a slightly modified version. It's still very good, though - but the traditional Crêpe Suzette should be completely soaked in sauce and served immediately before the crispiness has gone. That's why Crêpe Suzette should always be made in FRONT of the guest - every five-star French restaurant should have full Crêpe Suzette service, which consists of a cart, portable stove, and suitable pans and utensils. Making the crêpe, flambé-ing it, and serving it right in front you is part of the excitement of having Crêpe Suzette. It's been a long time since I had real Crêpe Suzette served in such manner...

Rating: 7.5/10


Conclusion:
So, another year gone by. I'm getting old, life is so short, blablabla.
French food rocks. Gotta have some more. But for now, as I quote Voltaire from one of my favorite books he wrote, "Candide":

bien amicalement, et mille tendres adieux!
(Best wishes, and a thousand tender good-byes!)

6 comments:

FFichiban said...

Happy Bday! and the dinner looks exquisite! I am not a big fan of the French but I cannot deny their food... and I'm with the ladies on the fondant :P

Leony said...

Happy Birthday, Erik !! Hooray you wrote as promised hehehe..the celebration was held on Friday evening and by Saturday the posting is here... Will you take me there if I go to Sydney? Hehe..

Big hug from Jakarta !

Erique Fat Owl said...

@ffichiban

Thanks for the wishes...any reason why you're not a big fan of the French?

@Leony

Non, when you're in Sydney, I'll take you to Astral...it's also one of the (if not THE) best French restaurant in Sydney, but prepare to dig DEEP into your pocket because I can't afford to traktir you!! Ahahahahah...

(in order to fully appreciate Astral, one has to spend around 500 - 1000 bucks per head, although for the stingy ones, around 200 bucks per head is probably enough...)

FFichiban said...

haha just some bad experiences when I went to Paris a while back but their food is awesome. And :( to ur creply to Leony cos Astral is on my list of to-try restuarants but damn thats steep.

Erique Fat Owl said...

FFichiban, you can also try Marque in Surry Hills, according to SMH Good food guide 2009, it's even better than Astral...their degustation *only* costs 145 bucks (w/o wine)...and it's 8 courses...

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