assiette

mainpictureIt was the Bean's Birthday (and oh, I know, it seems like the Bean's Birthday just keeps on going) and there had been mutterings of a celebratory meal. Friday night was out, as plans had been made prior. Saturday was the big party (Hola!) and Sunday was the aftermath. And then, "Can we do Friday lunch?" was thrown into the mix, and "but work!" and then "and uni!" were tossed in as well, until someone (the Bean) remembered something about a fixed price lunch from Assiette, and how nice "that Warren-fellow from the Taste Festival" had seemed, and all of a sudden, plans had been made.

It was to be an exercise in timing. Collect the Bean, collect me, drive & park, eat, collect car, drop me back off at work, drop the Bean back off at uni. But somehow, what could have been a rushed, uncomfortable, too-much-work-for-so-little-return meal ended up being just perfect. A lesson in elegance and simplicity even.

assiette
the dining room

We entered through the hooded door into a simple, yet elegant dining room. "We booked for three, but we have four. Is that ok?" asked mum. A quick scan of the dining room, a smile, and a nod. "Certainly. Not a problem." responded our maitre'd, whose name I didn't catch. "Wonderful" said we.

assiette
complementary bread

We were the second table in, the first being a twosome of ladies who had been peering in the windows when we arrived ("Oh! Thank goodness you're here!" they had said. "We thought we were going to be the only ones eating here"). And when we had all been seated, menus were brought and the fixed price $30 for three course menu was selected. Which meant two plates of each course and faint "Yes, I'll let you try mine, but only a bit" deals were made.

Hot sourdough rolls were brought to the table, accompanied by the kind of butter you only find at restaurants. Rich and creamy, salty and wonderfully spreadable. "I love this bread" said the father, with a beam on his face.

assiette
sweet corn veloute with spanner crab & basil oil

Entrees were served a short wait later. "It is such a big bowl" thought the mother, out loud, "for such a little bit of soup". But then, as the spoon dove in, we realised that it wasn't a small serving at all, and we were silenced by the flavour. Because oh! There was the sweetness of the corn, and then salty sweetness of the crab, and the fragrance of basil all thrown together in a harmonious melee. The freshness of the corn came through - not a hint of that over-sweetened flavour sometimes found in the tinned variety. And the pieces of crab (I say pieces because they were more substantial than a sliver, but not large enough to be a chunk) were firm without being tough. I must admit, I tilted the bowl to catch the last drops, and, if I were at a lesser establishment, would probably have tried to lick it off the bottom. But didn't.

assiette
thai style crispy pork with chilli vinaigrette

The Bean and the father had been drawn in by the promise of pork. And crispy pork at that. I traded "a spoonful of soup for a forkful of salad" and grinned at the satisfying crunch from the pork crackling. A crunch in food is said to instigate a hightened sense of taste, and ah! how the flavours came through in this dish. I am told that the fresh herbs and rocket added fragrance and pepperiness that contrasted nicely with the pork. Most of the pork fat had been rendered out, leaving only the lean meat and the crispy skin. And the verdict? A big thumbs up.

assiette
roast chicken thigh with mushroom duxelle and polenta chips

Another Bean & father choice, with mum & I going for the fish. And another sidenote. My dad doesn't do chicken thigh. Not really. He prefers breast meat (though he also, confusingly, has a weakness for the wings). And so we were all surprised when he decided to go chicken. And we were, truth be told, a little concerned that he would be disappointed with the meal. We should not have worried. The chicken skin was crispy. The polenta chips crunchy on the outside and giving way to a smooth, fluffy interior. The mushroom duxelle ("Is this rice? Is this the polenta?" they asked) was flavoursome and hearty without being overly heavy. I was, not entirely ungrudgingly, given a mouthful to try. And I felt like I had been transported out of the dining room and into a warm, cosy place where all was good with the world and everyone in it. Mmmm... It was entirely unsurprising then, that I wasn't offered a second mouthful.

assiette
pan fried sea bream with colcannon and red wine jus

Not that I minded at all, because I was eagerly consuming my own choice of main. The sea bream was fork-flakingly tender and yet firm enough to feel it in your mouth. The flavour of butter came through on its exterior, salty and golden. But it was the colcannon, a traditional Irish dish made from mashed potatoes, cabbage, butter and seasonings, that was a revelation to me. Creamy and crunchy, flavoursome and muted all at the same time. And, depite its relative heaviness, it complemented the fish well. The red wine jus that circled the plate (a slight concern for me initially due to its often too-heavy nature) added a richness to the dish that, again, complemented rather than clashed. And when I not-entirely-ungrudgingly offered a mouthful to the Bean, she rather enjoyed it too.

assiette
chocolate parfait with raspberry sorbet

And almost too quickly, it was time for dessert. I say this not because we had been rushed along (far from it in fact) but because time had simply flown. The Bean & mother's chocolate parfait was rich and creamy. A ground up bed of caramelised nuts added texture and the raspberry sorbet perched atop added a refreshing touch. Simple, elegant, delicious.

assiette
rice pudding with quince, and prune and Armagnac ice cream

But it was this course that really won me over (and the Bean will disagree here and cite others as her basis point). Father was curious about rice pudding, having eaten (and not enjoyed) it in the past. I was captured by the idea of poached quinces, and an icecream containing prunes. So we decided to take a risk. Mother's eyes flew open. "Are you sure?" she had asked. "Yes." replied the Father "I'm trying different things today." He couldn't have made a better choice. We loved it. The creamy, still al dente, grains of rice were infused with a rich-but-not-cloying vanilla flavour. The quinces were poached throroughly, without turning to mush. And that ice-cream! It was pruney, without being pruney. The Armagnac, already a well known partner of prunes, instilled its distinct flavour in the ice-cream without being overly alcoholic. And, again, I scooped up every last grain.

assiette
the open kitchen

We had been seated next to the open kitchen. And oh, how quiet it was. Like a well-oiled machine. Cogs turning without strain. Each had their place. One at the pans, gently sauteeing - not a bang, clang or firey flame to be seen. Another stood at a benchtop, fingers movign deftly. And there, at the pass, carefully fixing plating, checking up on timing and calling orders, was Warren Turnbull. We almost didn't notice them. Which suited really. Understated, yet powerful. Simple, yet elegant. Generous, yet not excessive. Bliss.

assiette


Restaurant Assiette
48 Albion Street
Surry Hills, Sydney
ph 02 9212 7979

Prixe Fixe Lunch available Fridays from 12 midday - 2pm.

6 bites more:

Arwen from Hoglet K said...

Ooh, prune icecream sounds divine! This sounds like a great place, I've seen a few good reviews now. I like the sound of that warm and cosy mushroom feeling too.

FFichiban said...

Yuumm ^^! I want to go again! What time did u go? cos when we went we were the first in there haha but it quickly filled up.
Hee hee so your dad is a breast man ;) sorry had to say it :P

Simon Food Favourites said...

great review. i've tried the $30 set friday menu a while ago and was good. the latest menu choices look great. hope to try again soon.
s :-)

Stephcookie said...

$30 for 3 courses seems like great value for this place. Mm that sweet corn veloute looks fantastic! And that rice pudding dessert too, sounds like your Dad got rewarded for being adventurous!

Simon said...

Love the account of this place (esp. the specific gradations of the size of crab lol!). I've been wanted to come here ever since I had some of their food at Taste of Sydney.

shez said...

Arwen: oh it was! and you'd never expect it to be nice what with all of the prune misconceptions that fly around the place.

FFichiban: we were there early. 12:30 I think? mmmyes. and there were a decent number of tables by the time we left.

Simon: i'm all geed up to go again. maybe for a nice dinner next time.

Stephcookie: it's an amazing price for the quality of food and the service and, well, everything! especially when you consider that mains are normally $35 each.

Simon: oh do. it was tops!

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