Saturday, January 21, 2012

Restaurant Reviewing

I try to stay away from restaurant reviewing. Perhaps its knowing the hard slog in the kitchen or having experienced first hand, a chef calling, completely bereft, to say if I published a bad review it would be the end; that he would lose his house. We pulled the review. But another publication did not and he closed doors. I was comfortable not publishing the review - he would have lost his restaurant anyway - as I see it diners vote with their feet and the reality is restaurants are being reviewed at every meal every day. Which brings me to one of the most heartfelt brilliant reviews written by a diner,not a "professional" to Rockpool Bar and Grill, Sydney. Its brilliant and kudos to Rockpool for publishing it. Its a great read.

Dear Rockpool Restaurant,
On Saturday the 28th of May, 2011 I attended your fine establishment with my girlfriend, Laura, to celebrate our 2 year anniversary.
We had a wonderful time, and I was inspired to give you some feedback in case that sort of thing matters.
I am not a restaurant reviewer, or a journalist in any capacity, and I must confess; restaurants of Rockpool’s standing are not venues I attend with any frequency or experience.
I am a young man (a ‘dude’ or ‘bloke’, if you will) from the western suburbs of Sydney, and if I might call your eatery a “fancy restaurant”, I think that may be the best way to convey my personal perspective and context for this review, gleaned from my sum life experiences of steakhouses, fashionable sushi joints, and maccas drive-thrus (which are largely expertly managed by Kristys, but frequently let down in the ordering department by Nathans and Beths).
We ordered the 8 Course Grand Tasting Menu which was overall exceptional, but I will comment on each course if you do not mind, because they were not all equal.
Sterling caviar on prawn toast
This opening dish was fabulous. Mum used to put anchovette paste on Jatz crackers when we were kids, and I thought that was alright until tasting the Sterling Caviar.
Wow! Turns out mum was just cheap and lazy.
I could have eaten ten of these babies, alas only one each came out.
Perhaps mum had the edge on quantity, but Rockpool definitely wins in the quality stakes. I would be sure to order these specially, in the future.
Queensland spanner crab with broccoli and jerusalem artichoke
Another great tasting dish.
I can not stand unflavoured seafood. Without being too narcissistic to believe it is impossible for me to be uncouth, I still think there are a lot of wankers out there who love crab and lobster because they are told it is crab and lobster.
You could probably serve them diced Vietnamese lung fish, call it Macedonian Reticulated Shellblob, and they would fall over themselves to comment on it’s texture and timbre on the palette.
Please note, this is not a suggested ingredient change. The crab was excellent, and the point to my diatribe is that it was superbly accompanied to form a complete dish, instead of something that would require an assertive personality-type to order lemon juice to the table.
Chirashi zushi of kingfish, bonito, prawn and squid
The zushi was a cool, refreshing dish, and showcased the high quality of ingredients that Rockpool uses – and raw fish MUST be high quality, because when you are making sushi you can not just chuck some garlic and butter in the wok when you reckon the squid’s a bit iffy… but I am sure your chefs know this.
Perfect heat to the kimchee. Whoever is dicing the chili down there has the same taste I do, which makes a nice change from ordering the “spicy” dish and then having your tongue punished with the fire of a thousand hells.
Green lip abalone, red braised thirlmere goose, chicken crisp and fine noodles with xo dressing
Wonderful again. The abalone was excellent and xo sauce just speaks to my taste buds on a magical level, which is your chef’s luck and my gain.
I understand there is some controversy about the inclusion of goose in certain restaurant dishes. This is probably because geese are pretty (although tempermental)… which may also be why a lot of women identify with them.
In case you were worried about such public opinions, please be reassured: I rate animals on their deliciousness only, and the way that goose was prepared leaves me as a reliable vote in the “OK to eat” camp, and a full supporter of the inclusion of water fowl on your menu.
The chicken crisp was intriguing, though. How is that made?
I told Laura that a whole baby chicken is liquified then pumped into a shallow biscuit mold and baked, but she accused me of just making that up, and well, she was right.
John dory and scampi with macadamia, bamboo pith, scampi broth and tofu made at the table
By far the best smelling dish that arrived at our table. The john dory and scampi was rich, and served steaming hot which tempered perfectly with the cooled tofu.
The macadamia nuts really set it off, and I do believe everyone this dish passed by on the way to our table was wondering “Ooooh, what is that?”
Quail hot pot with eight treasures and quail tea egg
I have been quite complimentary up until now. Please remember that.
It would be unbearable to have your chefs hate me, as I hold them in extremely high regard.
I have not eaten quail egg before, so perhaps that makes my opinion on this dish, ahh, “disadvantaged”?
Well anyway, here we go:
Overall the quail hot pot’s flavour was singular and underwhelming. I did not find myself picking out ingredients, or appreciating how they blend. It just tasted of ordinary all over.
The quail tea egg did look and behave more like a raw human eye, than I could have imagined, but tasted a lot less like I would imagine a human eye would taste (if I were to imagine such a thing) which might be actually be a plus, I am not sure.
The ginger crisp was a most considerate inclusion, as one could use it to cover the uneaten remainder of the ey… I mean, quail tea egg, and get on with finding the eight treasures.
Now Treasure is a beautiful word one naturally affiliates with wealth and discovery. Unfortunately everything in this dish tasted the same – except the tofu, for as most know: tofu avoids flavour better than society avoids personal responsibility.
One could probably be forgiven for feeling misled by the menu at this point.
I do not believe tofu can be classified as a ‘treasure’ in the rich and romantic sense.
I think the only thing tofu has in common with treasure, is that it should be buried in dirt, on a far away island, and separated from innocent people by the gypsy curses of one-eyed, sea-faring bandits.
 The best thing about this dish, was that it was not the last one.
Rangers valley beef short rib, braised and barbecued, with old skin stir fry, snake beans, soy milk skin and hakka nam yee sauce
Now this was something special.
Many people go to expensive restaurants to experience meals they have never had.
My secret pleasure is to experience a meal I have had a thousand times, but have it the best I have ever tasted.
This is one of those dishes.
Again, superb ingredients, and a perfectly cook cut of meat. We were given very sharp knives for this dish, but with meat this tender you could easily use a spoon, or a fish-knife, or your TV’s remote control, instead.
This dish totally ruined the conversation at our table. All we could manage were approving noises, for a good 5 minutes.
Green apple sorbet with bircher muesli
This lovely, light dessert, rounded out a delicious and filling menu.
I would not normally think to mix sorbet and muesli, but it works perfectly.
Jasmine candle scented brulee with quince, grapes and almond sorbet
As I am not a brulee person, I will just let you know what Laura thought:
“It’s incredible.”
Coffee and petits fours
Perfect and well presented.
Your staff
In case anyone who works at Rockpool is still reading this after my possibly offensive quail egg review, I would like to make the following points:
- I have never experienced a higher standard of service at… well, anywhere.
- Every staff member I encountered was smiling, friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.
- Our water glasses never reached empty.
- When we were discussing a dish and had forgotten one of the ingredients mentioned (apparently loud enough to be overheard) a menu was kindly placed back on our table so we could see what had arrived and what was on the way.
- Every little thing was taken care of.
If I write any more, I think I will run out of compliments.
Thank you for an amazing dining experience.
We will be back.
Best Regards,

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