Dining Date: January 2009
2009 Rating: 16th
2009 Star rating: 2
Chef: Ben Shewry
Location: 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, Victoria
A couple of weeks ago it was Daz's birthday. And as some of you might have read, for lunch we went to The Grand. For dinner on the very same day we went to Attica. For me, it was an awesome day, two fantastic restaurants on the same day, however by the end of it I was well and truly full! Ohhh, the tortures I go through for this blog.
There is one thing that I really love about the blogging community, besides the fact that everyone posts about the subject matter that I really enjoy, food, by reading peoples blogs you can experience a place without even going. Before I went to Attica I thought I would try to read other peoples experiences of the place. I found reviews at where's the beef, tomato, 1001 Dinners just to name a few. What I found surprising was that most of the dishes were different from blog to blog, so I knew I was going to be in for something a little different.
The actual dining room is extremely pretty, modern, well lit with a buzzing atmosphere. The atmosphere might have been attributed to the fact that everyone in the room was eating the same dishes in the same sequence. On Saturday night, they only offer the degustation menu. If you wanted to know what the next dish was going to be, you could just look over to the next table, and if you wanted to relive a particularly good dish, you could go through the whole experience again, although only visually. There was a very vocal table to the far left of us, and when ever we heard squeals we knew the next dish was going to be a knock out.
The wait staff were impeccable. Very attentive without being overwhelming and incredibly knowledgeable. Each dish is astonishing complex, with flavours accented with textures, the wait staff do an incredible job at explaining every detail of the dish, a dream for us food bloggers. I toyed with taking a note pad to jot down notes, but decided not to at the last minute. I wish I had as soon as the fish dish came out. I tried recalling all the details as soon as I got home, but after a few glasses of red, my brain wasn't much help. So apologises for the lack of details on certain dishes. So here we go, a journey through Attica.
Appetisers, almonds, formage blanc made daily with fresh cows milk; sourced from the Yarra valley topped with olive oil and chives, kalamata olives and rye bread with fennel seeds. I was a huge fan of the bread, especially when it was dipped in the cheese, a truly great combination.
Almonds, kalamata olives, formage blanc cheese topped olive oil and chives, butter and in the background (left hand corner) a piece of rye bread flavoured with fennel seeds
The first "proper" dish of the night. Snow crab. The dish consisted of puffed rice, for crunch, freeze dried coconut, snow crab, and salmon roe. The saltiness of the salmon roe was a perfect accent for the delicate crab and coconut. Not my favourite dish of the night, but it was quite pleasing visually and texturally.
I particularly enjoyed the next dish, for the simple fact that black Russian tomatoes are my favourite tomato variety. It consisted of black Russian tomatoes, kind of pureed, mojama - which is thinly slice cured tuna (thanks wikipedia!), walnut oil, quinoa - which is kind of like a cereal (thanks again wikipedia) and edible flowers. To me this was the most complex dish of the night, probably because a few of the ingredients were extremely unfamiliar to me. But now I can say that I know what mojama and quinoa is. Who said eating wasn't educational.
Black Russian tomato, mojama, walnut oil, quinoa
The next dish was another strange combination. Smoked trout broth, crackling, basil seeds, and fresh smoke. Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of the fresh smoke, but it was very entertaining indeed. There is a good picture of the entire presentation process on the Attica website, but I'll try my best to describe it. The dish comes out with only the central ingredients and a clear drinking glass placed over the top. Entrapped within the glass there is some fresh smoke, as the waiter removes the glass the smoke fills the entire plate along with your nostrils. Then the waiter pours the broth over the top. When the broth hits the crackling a few pops and cracks can be heard. Both entertaining and appetizing at the same time, I couldn't help but salivate as soon as I smelt the smoke. The stand out feature of this dish to me was not the smoke, but the basil seeds and the unusual texture they provided. When they are cooked like this the outer casing becomes very gelatinous and almost slimy. Another first for me. I usually plant basil seeds, not eat them.
Smoked trout broth, crackling, basil seeds, fresh smoke
I felt like the next dish was the beginning of the main course. John dory which has been slow poached in butter, baby squid which has been grilled, once again edible flowers, asparagus, fennel and chorizo topped with a squid ink bread stick.
John Dory in brown butter, asparagus, baby squid, chorizo
Oh yeah, we have definitely hit the big time. roasted wagyu rump sitting on a potato puree, candied lemon, fresh ginger, chives, egg yolk, in the foreground we have a flat fungus wrapped around some fresh cherries in a beetroot sauce. I really loved this dish, but I have to admit, I couldn't taste all the flavours that were supposed to be making the entire ensemble. Could be due to my untrained palate or the fact that everything went so well together that it just became one uber flavour. I like the second explanation better.
Roasted Wagyo rump, candied lemon, chives, egg yolk
The last of the main dishes. To the right hand side of the picture - Slow cooked free range pork which has been poached in butter until medium (Ben Shewry likes to poach things in butter I think), topped with homemade black pudding, to the left side of the picture - slow roasted pork neck, bits of spec strewn around the plate, red onion, the tiny triangular things around the plate are pieces of apple and to top it all off, a piece of deep fried cabbage. Now this was my favourite dish (until dessert arrived). I could not fault a single thing, in fact I would have been VERY happy just having a big plate of this, it was very well done. The only problem was that Daz has an affliction to black pudding, he asked the waitress how it comes, apparently he is find if it is crispy. She told us that indeed it would be resented in the crispy form, however when it arrived it was very soft and far from crispy. So to end the story, I got two servings of this spicy gooey goodness, and I LOVED it!
Slow cooked free range pork, red onions
The first of the desserts, in fact this dish is not too sweet to help transition to the dessert part of the meal, or so the waiter told us. Terroir, which according to the guys from where's the beef, means 'sense of place'. I was confused when the dish was presented and I'm still confused today, but anyway back to the story. This was truly and outstanding dessert. It consisted of formage frais sorbet (hidden beneath the velvet red carpet), freeze dried berries, edible flowers including cabbage flowers and violet flowers, topped with lime ice/jelly. The waiter suggested leaving a little of the sorbet for the very end, and boy was she right. It truly was a work of art. The tangy berries and the smooth sorbet worked together beautifully. Another highlight.
To end the dessert section of the meal we were presented with this Sauternes custard. It consisted of, starting from the bottom of the glass - chilled Sauternes custard, raspberry sorbet, blackberry foam, fresh blackberries, isomalt toffee layer and topped with some more freeze dried berries. The picture below is taken after I cracked the top. I think I ate this is about 2 seconds flat! This was by far my favourite dish of the night, even more favourite than my other favourite dishes! I cant even begin to explain how good it was, it was just heaven. The custard was so divine that despite being so full I was seriously thinking about asking for seconds. YUM!
Sauternes custard with blackberries (cracked version)
And to finish the meal, we were presented with very simple but cute petite fours. Dark chocolate fudge topped with black volcanic salt. The salt and the chocolate go together so well that I am considering only eating chocolate topped with salt from now on.
Chocolate fudge with black volcanic salt
If you intend to visit Attica on a Saturday night, be ready for some real indulgence. It was amazing and I would definitely go again, but I think I would like to check out their Al la cart, just so see if they are as inventive with their stand alone dishes.