The Noble Experiment
Experiment or experimental and cooking, when I read or hear these two words together I become very nervous. Should the two words and food go together with something so important as food? Years working as a chef have taught me creativity and cooking consistently please, experimental and cooking can be, well...hit or a miss.
So it was very pleasing indeed, albeit a few culinary hurdles, to read a menu from a young and upcoming chef littered with good eating, bold and uncomplicated flavours and food with a sense of place.
The place being largely a bar with some vintage American flashes, a kind of north side version Baxter Inn meets New Orleans dive bar. And the type of menu designed to partner great drinks, be it craft beer, brown spirits, aromatic wines, big reds, or luxe cocktails - this menu seemingly has a food solution for them all!
There was so much choice we had to leave it to the kitchen, ordering the chefs menu at $55 per head. After a craft beer or two, then a bottle of Chianti, we were primed and ready to experiment. Starting with the heading Meat Free Snacks, a nice idea as it allows the palette and appetite to keep grazing we thought!
We started with Crispy Brussels Sprouts w/ coconut and green chilli caramel, a sign of a confident cook. This experiment in the wrong hands would certainly fail but the humble sprout, when exposed to high temperatures, transforms from the ugly duckling Christmas hangover to a sumptuous, textural unami overload of salty, sweet, crunchy, savoury and caramelised luxe petit choux bites fit for any gastronomes table. It was a perfect start to the meal.
Next was probably a good example of not knowing when to stop experimenting, an unusual dish which I imagine sells very well possibly out of curiosity. Best described as stoners delight or dude food porn! A dish called Confit Duck Nachos, so that is duck legs (typically slow cooked in fat for 8 hours) shredded and mixed with a spicy chipotle chilli sauce, guacamole, sour cream, and melted cheese, then mixed with outsourced commercially fried and seasoned tortillas chips. One mouthful and your brain says STOP!! But you go back for one more forkful to qualify the decision and your palette and tummy becomes, well...a trifle polarised by the experiment! Especially as the next dish was titled Crispy, Fatty Pork Cheek, our hearts fluttered nervously.
Indeed, the fatty crispy pork cheeks appeared and was surrounded by another creamy sauce and a scattering of fried crispy shallots. My friends tucked in with some naughty laughs and found the sauce too miso enriched which indeed supported the richness of the pork. It was a good dish on its own but not as a successful counterpart to the aforementioned duck nachos.
We asked for a well earned break, enjoying the surrounds of young and middle-aged hipsters feasting and professional bar tenders mixing what appeared to be exciting cocktails for the busy bar areas out side.
Next was a foray into some meat, we were really impressed by the North side intellectual steak choices, flank, flat Iron and hanger steaks. These are indeed the thinking person’s steaks because of their texture and flavour we chose the hanger a unique cut one per cow hanging between the liver and kidney resulting in subtle offal favours.
Whilst this was cooking, the confident young chef Cameron marched to our table with a handsome platter of Short Ribs, slow cooked for 38 hours he told us. This silenced the table - sweet, sticky and mildly gamey - excellent they were too. But the dish of the night was the outrageously titanic Whole Roasted Head of Cauliflower w/ beer and cheddar. This Mount Everest of snowy white cauliflower cheese goodness was coated in crunchy and coarse thyme flecked breadcrumbs served with a steak knife to slice and share.
I really like the chef’s approach to vegetables being an equal to the meaty counterparts. Bravo chef Cameron, more veg-enius and less dude foolish would be my fatherly culinary advice.
Finally the hanger steak was brought to the table, my friend’s tail was wagging and with good reason! The steak was perfectly cooked, rare to med rare, anymore it can be too textured, sliced and served with a lively whisky and Zinfandel reduction - we were in bootleg heaven!!
More wine was dispatched to digest this orgy of flavour, it was indeed a fine and noble feast. Very happy indeed because it was a dinner experience of note, fun and value. Something out of the norm and why we used to go out so often.
By now my guests were hypnotised by the consistent precession of espresso martinis to nearby tables and so we dutifully ordered a round for the table, this was followed by our last course bourbon and butterscotch flourless chocolate brownies. Sweet salty, peanut snicker bar type cakes, superb and a perfect partner for the dessert cocktails.
This finally and thankfully silenced the crowd who had succumbed to the noble experiment with much merriment and laughter, this is a great new business full of fun and flavour.
What Wilson says - Another great reason to head North-side!
When can we go - Wed to Fri: 11am til Late; Sat to Sun: 10am til Late;