Assiette – A French Assortment
Before I start I have to excuse myself for the shotty quality of the photos taken – we visited Assiette back in December of last year (before I got into photography which was around February this year – and food photography much later than that) and the only camera I had on me was my Galaxy SII. Yikes.
I took the parents to Assiette to celebrate mum’s birthday (though because it wasn’t her actual birthday the restaurant didn’t give us any freebies :P) and because I had wanted to try it for some time. At that time, French/Asian fusion was not something that I had much experience with. This did give me the “advantage” of walking in with zero expectations in terms of what to expect – just that the food had better be good.
In French “assiette” refers to an ‘assortment’, usually pertaining to cheeses. Not that we actually end up having any cheeses. But we did get the ultimate ‘assortment’ – the degustation menu. Surprise, surprise.
Number of Visits: 1
Date Visited: 7/12/2011
Address: 48 Albion Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Specialisation: French & Japanese Fusion
Good for: anniversaries, important/celebratory occasions
Not good for: cheap eats (but you’d be surprised)
Go-to dish: Sashimi tuna with crustacea cream, pickled octopus, hibiscus and almonds
The ambiance as as one would expect of such a place. The restaurant isn’t very big and doesn’t seat many people, and as a result it feels quite cozy, especially with the warm, yellowy-orange lighting and the smallish (but not too small) square tables dotted around with just enough spacing to let people get past. Oh, and they’ve got a pretty impressive rack of wine which covers an entire wall. I wish I had taken a picture of that, ah well…onto the food!
Seasonal oyster with Vietnamese dressing and baby coriander
For me, oysters are incredibly hard to appreciate. BUT, when I eat a good oyster – boy is it GOOD. If not, I’m repulsed and would literally have to swallow it while holding my nose to prevent the gag from creeping up. At Assiette, I don’t actually think I’ve had a better oyster to this day. There may have been one or two places that had oysters that were as good, but Assiette was the first to top all previous oysters I’ve had.
It’s a two part equation with raw oysters – the oyster itself has to be of supreme freshness. Pretty much as fresh as one can get it! It has to be cleanly shucked and if possible (as sometimes done in Japan) even massaged. I don’t think Assiette went that far but they didn’t need to. The produce was of excellent quality.
The other part of this equation is the dressing – it absolutely cannot overpower the natural flavours and textures of the oyster. Thus thick, sloppy dressings are an absolute no no unless you like to drown your oysters, in which case you might as well eat something less expensive. The sauce has to be light but prominent in its flavour while bringing out the subtle notes of the sea that the oyster imparts. Assiette’s oyster more or less ticks this box and ticks it well. The coriander was a nice touch, but ultimately unnecessary as the tangy Vietnamese dressing is married to the oyster in prime fashion. A great starter.
Kataifi quail egg with mushrooms, duck consommé and crispy pigs ears
Kataifi is the Greek version of an Arabian sweetened cheese pastry. The Greek version often has finely chopped nuts in the mixture.
Though a sweet pastry, this is actually a savoury dish. Before you ask yes – it does work. I mean heck – sweet and sour pork works doesn’t it? Exactly.
The quail egg – yes you only get one is a pocket of flavour. Assiette was somewhat wise to let the natural flavour of the egg stand out on its own. Still, I felt that a dip in the consommé wasn’t a bad idea. The pig ears were a bit too crispy for my liking if that were possible. If you soak it up in the consommé it’ll end up a bit tough. I usually don’t consider pig ears part of my regular diet (that is, I’d avoid them). Having said that, you probably can’t even tell that it’s pig ears they’ve got in the batter. The batter kind of overpowered it to an extent. Overall though, it was a fine morsel.
Sashimi tuna with crustacea cream, pickled octopus, hibiscus and almonds
This was a yummy dish. One of my more preferred dishes. Getting straight into it, the sashimi tuna is of the chu-toro (medium-fat) variety. No, they don’t advertise this – I was lucky to be able to discern it thanks to the experience I built up while in Japan and from my love of Japanese food in general.
Chu-toro was probably the right choice for this particular dish since lean tuna (Akami) requires supremely fine produce (even above what one-hatted restaurants may be willing to purchase) in order to deliver the subtlest of flavours. On the other side fatty tuna (O-toro) carries much natural flavour borne by the higher fat content. Thus it’s better served without any dressing. Chu-toro strikes a balance which is met on the other side by the crustacea cream.
Oh my the cream – such a good dressing and something I’ve never had before even to this day. Ever so sweet and tangy at the same time, you feel like it’s a bit too much to taste by itself but something amazing happens when you pair it with the chu-toro. The texture of the tuna is very fine indeed, and will simply part on the lightest of bites to let in the creamy dressing run through, tantalising you with its light, yet surprisingly full-on taste. It’s a standout dish and will give many Japanese restaurants a run for its money. Of course, a direct comparison isn’t possible because this is a classic example of the Fusion that Assiette specialises in – the dressing is Western, while the main ingredient is Eastern. What a lovely marriage indeed.
Oh and that seaweed – lovely crunchy texture. Almost like chips!
As for the octopus…well I pretty much forgot about them as the star of the show really did take up 99% of the spotlight.
The go-to dish at this restaurant, though the ballotine (further down) may be to your fancy if you like richer, stronger flavours.
Seared mackerel with avruga, cucumber, cauliflower puree and dill emulsion
I didn’t think too much of this dish. I’m not a big fan of dill (probably for similar genetic reasons as why some people don’t like coriander). Also, seared mackerel can be found pretty much anywhere. It’s of decent enough quality though but I found the cauliflower puree to actually be more fascinating in its flavours in this dish. Again, my first experience with any kind of cauliflower-based cream. That was quite yum! It’s almost like rediscovering truffle potato mash.
Ballotine of quail and foie gras with croustillant of confit leg, braised salsify, walnuts and date puree
I was tempted to crown this dish the best I’ve had at Assiette and thus making it the go-to dish, but in retrospect I did genuinely enjoy and appreciate the sashimi more. That said, this one is still a close second.
Ballotine – how about that, just in my last post (on Aria) I talked about their own ballotine and more or less raved about it. This ballotine is better. Not absolutely so, but subjectively and from a personal preference perspective – yes it is better. The flavours are fuller and richer, the quail adds a certain lean flavour you can’t get with other, fattier birds, and then the foie gras ties it all back together in a smooth creamy texture which goes down as smoothly as melting candle wax. Wow, it’s amazing stuff I tell you.
Oh and that croustillant of confit leg (croustillant – ‘crispy’ – sigh…all these big words) was quite stunning as well. It’s almost like it’s a gourmet sausage roll, wait no, such a comparison is criminal. Suffice it to say you won’t find it disappointing unless you don’t like meat or pastry. How many people is that? Yeah, exactly.
Roasted denver leg of venison with boudin noir, dauphinoise potato and heirloom carrots
Actually the least impressive dish of the night. Venison is a fairly tough meat due to its higher protein content and lower fat content (yes I saw your heads turning bodybuilders) and we all know leaner meats are harder to cook well. Thing is, it was actually cooked fine – tender and consistent throughout, but no real flavours stood out from the meat. There wasn’t the familiar “mmmm” feeling you get when you take your first few bites.
It isn’t a bad cut, but one has better from elsewhere.
Pre dessert palate cleanser – a nothing-special sorbet.
For completeness’ sake I mention this palate cleanser here – a plain lemon sorbet. Parents were shocked as they thought it was ice cream. That was a funny reaction
Strawberry and cherry salad with yoghurt sorbet, vanilla doughnut and mint emulsion
Oh yum! What a good dessert! Seriously! When it got plated I thought it was way too busy with too many different types of ingredients – I felt like it was all thrown together. I realised that a) I was so wrong and b) YUM.
Top quality fruit was used for this dessert – it had better be because I hate a sour or tough strawberry. They were just right. Tick!
The yoghurt sorbet – that was delicious and a new flavour experience for me as well. I love sorbet already so hitting me with a new flavour is sure to take me to high places.
The star is the vanilla doughnuts – desserts that involve pastries are often underwhelming but this was very delicious. Probably a bit too sweet for some of you, but heaven for the sweet tooth. Mouth-melting pastry with vanilla all around everybody!
And yeah, mint to garnish all around. You can choose to avoid it if you like, but that would be doing yourself a disservice.
To wrap it up, the sprinkling of pistachios and other nuts add that layer of texture that while not needed, is very much appreciated.
And that is a degustation from Assiette – at only $105. Now that’s value. Well, not by normal dining standards (still tagged “expensive”), but for a degustation this is definitely one of the cheaper ones out there.
Assiette is a great restaurant and definitely worthy of its hat.
I give Assiette a grand total of eight Caesars out of ten – 8/10