The Grasshopper – French With A Kick
Well, I said I’d begin delivering on posts once again after the 24th and indeed the time has come. Man, that was one hell of a thesis to finish…uhh anyways, onto the food!
The Grasshopper is a pretty chic place tucked into Temperance Lane in the Sydney CBD. You probably won’t find it very easily. When I say tucked in, I mean tucked in. It’s in an alleyway, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was leading to a place of…questionable character. Still, exteriors matter not, and we eagerly made our way in in order to start the 21st b’day celebration of our good friend Safersin – the Avatar of Arrogance. *ahem*
Number of Visits: 1
Date Visited: 12/10/2012
Address: 1 Temperance Lane, Sydney NSW
Specialisation: N/A (French)
Good for: casual dining
Not good for: pork dishes (big quarrel here)
Go-to dish: spatchcock with asparagus and parmesan cream
We went to Grasshopper based on the suggestion of Safersin as he’s been there before and quite likes it. I’m very open to French cuisine, so I put on my usual “why not?” attitude and strolled in looking forward to what delights there we were to feast on that night.
Before we get to the food – I do have to say a few words about the decor. It’s quite lovely! It’s got quite a rustic feel to it – the inconsistent lamps, dim lighting, chalkboard-scrawled menu and overall emphasis on wooden furnishings really exemplify this. It’s oh so French yet oh so familiar at the same time.
I’m not sure who Fluffy is, but did I dare to find out?
Actually yeah I did by looking through the cracks of the door – turns out it’s their way of preventing you from heading out the exit (it’s simply the other side of the street through the doors when I peeked through them).
Nice touch, though.
So here’s a view of most of the restaurant (thank goodness to that wide angle lens…don’t mind the distortion please :P) and you really get a sense of what it’s like to be in it. Just add a whole bunch of loud noises from the chatter of the patrons and you’re set!
We took up the two tables closest to that picture, and were presented with the set menu for the night. Here we go people…
We start off with a funky shared entree (everything but the mains are shared) of meats, salads and cheeses with some condiments. It’s presented in a very Arcadian fashion, and it looks beautiful.
The braised beef is well textured with it crumbling apart in your mouth (as opposed to more fatty/marbled cuts of beef), releasing the briny flavours of the stew it’s been long-cooked in. Goes well with the cheese, actually. Speaking of the cheese – by itself it’s actually quite flavourless. I didn’t quite discern what kind of cheese it was (not a dairy expert unfortunately), but it had a consistency almost like butter. That may work for you. For me, it needed to be with something else. I think that’s the way it’s meant to be…
I tried to prevent myself from eating too much of the duck terrine because this is a shared entree after all. That was kind of difficult, it was quite nice really! Almost like mash, but it’s duck terrine! I don’t actually remember the last time I’ve had it actually…that’s a highlight.
Use the onion dip and tomato sauce with the bread. It works better than the cheese. Actually, just eat the bread by itself. The toasting was done marvellously and brings out its own toasty flavours. I can see why many friends of mine choose bread as their primary carb…
Another shared entree, this did not really impress me. The breadsticks were a bit soft and too crumbly on the inside, but the condiments worked. You can really taste the beetroot in the dip of the same name. I forgot what that other dip was…awks.
Yeah, camera shake got the better of me here. Didn’t see it through the LCD…bad Shen. Bad Shen.
Can’t really go wrong with deep fried stuff. These were yum in a very wholesome kind of way. Potatoes (not in the form of chips) can fill you up quite quickly – I feel like I could just have a small bowl of this and I’d be done. Luckily, I restricted myself to one – they’re quite oily as you’d expect.
Probably the most tasty entree if not the one with best presentation. If you’re going to compare it to KFC chicken you’ll be disappointed – this is done in a very different way. The skin is a little soft and not too crispy, but I was alright with that. The meat on the inside is cooked well and tender all the way through. The dip pretty much tops it off – all in all, one I had to contain myself from eating too much of since I knew mains were coming next!
We had a choice of one of three mains, and the above is the one I chose (I tasted all three though).
I gotta say…this was a huge, huuuuuge letdown. I’m going to be pretty cavalier about this – the pork belly was probably the worst I’ve ever had. The two most obvious problems:
1) The oil content
Holy cow, I know pork belly has high fat/oil content by virtue of its cooking method, but this was over the top. Or maybe they chose bad pork I’m not sure. The point is, it felt like it was slathered in oil and it somehow even makes its way to the inside. I may as well be saying “sir, would you like some meat with that lubricant you’re eating?” Not good, no no.
2) The lack of taste
This is where I believe they may have used low-quality pork. It’s well known that high quality pork has a natural flavour all by itself which is accentuated through cooking it confit-style (or just cooking it in general). The pork here was…flavourless. I could taste texture (see first point) but but I couldn’t taste. I really don’t know what went wrong here. Luckily, I faux-flavoured it with the pickled radish that the belly was sitting on. Still, a rather unpleasant experience.
I know it wasn’t just my pork either – my friend James also made similar comments, and when I tasted a third dish of pork belly – same results again. Argh, what happened there, Grasshopper?
Oh well, let’s move along.
You’ve got to REALLY like your pickled vegetables in order to be able to fully enjoy this dish. It makes up for perhaps half, if not more of the dish. The pickling is done perhaps a bit too excessively – to the point where it tastes like it may have gone off for a day or two. That could be deliberate, but if it is then I have to say I don’t like it. I was not comfortable eating that carrot while speculating whether I’ll be hit with a certain bowel condition that starts with “D” within the next few hours. Disconcerting stuff.
The fish was nice though
My favourite main and dish of the night. If the others were flawed in some way this one really delivered the punches. Grasshopper did its homework, and produced a beautiful spatchcock chicken which was just divine. Tender where it needs to be, aromatic throughout. The skin delivers massive hits of flavour with every mouthful.
Of course, it’s not all rosy – it is actually a tad overdone with the flavouring, but you may like that (as I do with my preference for stronger flavours). Relative to the other mains of the night though this is a star.
Ah actually, if I had to choose a second best dish of the night, the dessert would be it by virtue of its variety. It’s a good plate-up – there’s very nice use of colour contrast to highlight the individual elements of the dish. Presentation points there.
The cheesecake is quite soft – to the point where it’s nearly pudding like. If I don’t think about what the dessert is trying to be but rather what it is, I would be quite satisfied with it. It’s a bit light on flavour as it’s meant to be the creaminess that gets you.
The vanilla donuts (the yellow balls of dough) were nowhere near as good as the ones at Assiette, but since the coconut milk is provided to go with them…that turns it into something else instead. Think of it as vanilla-infused deep fried balls of dough with a creamy but somewhat runny sweet coconut sauce. It does its job as a guilt-trip bite!
Mint chocolate ice cream – it’s more or less as you’d expect in terms of quality. Gelatissimo probably does it just as well, but it’s been awhile since I’ve tried that. Still, sweet and minty as you’d reckon, with enough hints of milk and creaminess one expects from ice cream.
By far the best part is the fondant. I haven’t had a fondant quite as good in quite some time. The centre is gooey and runny – a hallmark of a good fondant. Doubly please I was when the taste was up to scratch as well. The honeycomb – now that’s a brilliant touch. That gooey warm chocolate with honeycomb crunch…oh my it’s just awesome. Just awesome.
One thing I heavily disliked about the dessert was the spicy chilli pineapple (the furthermost thing in the picture – out of focus, it’s that pile of orange stuff behind and between the donuts and the fondant). I don’t know what purpose that served – it isn’t palate cleansing at all. Imaging mixing together mashed pineapple with chilli jam and ginger. It’s a pretty disgusting result I have to say – no “gastronomical” magic here.
Overall, Grasshopper has a gem or two amongst many misses. I hear their steak is quite good, so I’m willing to come here again. I do however, definitely know what to avoid going forward.
I give The Grasshopper a grand total of six and a half Caesars out of ten – 6/10