Zumbo’s Pâtisserie – Can a Dessert Train Fly?
Dessert…it’s the last course you have before the ‘end’ of a meal, and as such, it really has to make an impact. Of course, you could have ‘dessert’ anywhere, any time, but it is considered as a sweet finisher to a meal. After dining at Sokyo at The Star (review coming up soon), it was natural that, having never been to the famed dessert train before, it would be my next destination.
Dessert train, you say? Indeed, such a thing exists. It’s probably the only one of its kind in Sydney, and that surely adds wonderfully to the uniqueness of it all. But still, taste is king, and that’s where things get quite the shake-up.
Date Visited: 16/11/2012
Address: 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont 2009 (Inside The Star)
Good for: the pâtisserie
Not good for: the dessert train itself
Go-to dish: the macarons “Zumbarons”
So the location itself is actually two places in one – the pâtisserie, which you can buy your desserts to go like any normal sweets shop, and the dessert train section. Both share the same kitchen, and you can essentially go from one to the other with just a few paces. We went on a Friday night and surprisingly the wait for it wasn’t too long – maybe three minutes, tops. Lucky us, as after we sat down we noticed the line getting exponentially longer. Dodged that bullet!
The decor of the place is very…pink, is a nice way to put it. The walls are cream, while the columns and train decorations are all very pink (mixed with other bright colours). The glasses are pink, and the water bottles are pink. Oh, the menus and plates are pink too (with the exception of a few black ones which are higher-priced). I felt out of place for a moment, until I saw other males (one other male…) in the room. Phew.
So we took our seats, and for awhile observed the plates that were coming and going…and coming and going…and coming and going…
Finally, we grabbed our first plate.
Whoa, this did not taste good. Almost immediately, I can begin to sense where this dessert train experience is going to go in general. The watermelon had already somewhat ‘curdled’ in the yoghurt (which itself tasted like it was going to curdle) and hardly tasted fresh. ‘Twas soggy, and lacked crisp taste (imagine that perfect, chilled watermelon had on a Sunny day – this is the opposite).
The main problem here is that the ingredients for this dish, in order to taste good, need to be fresh. This is advice that applies to all food, not just desserts (particularly so for sushi). You can see how this could be a problem for what is generally the antithesis of freshness – a train. This is why sushi trains can never match a proper sushi-ya, and it’s the same ailment that will foreshadow all the desserts on this train. I became very apprehensive after this dessert…but let’s see what happens.
Okay, the macarons are an exception, since they can be stored for quite some time without losing their freshness – maybe a few days (or less if your sense of smell is extraordinary). Thus, these were indeed one of the only things that were suited for the train. The choc doughnut macaron tastes almost exactly like what its name suggests – it’s got a sweet chocolate ganache with a heavily sugared crust that really is reminiscent of a semi-dried/fried doughnut. No qualms with this ‘Zumbaron’ – it was pretty good.
I’m less impressed with the choc mint macaron, the chocolate ganache was under-flavoured to allow the mint taste of the biscuit to overpower it. Flavour imbalance, oops. But ah well, I’m rather intolerant to mint/choc combinations (but I’d happily consume both in large amounts individually).
The salted caramel macaron is a classic and you just can’t go wrong (you can, but it’s Zumbo, come on). It’s a fantastic flavour and one of my favourite macaron flavours. The saltiness is just right, and the caramel is not overpoweringly sweet. Pair it with the crispness of the biscuit and mmmm, away we go!
Lastly we have the blackened vanilla macaron. I couldn’t really discern what it tasted like. I suppose it did taste like vanilla, albeit with a very strange and very powerful secondary flavour…almost like a salty burn/toast taste. I didn’t find it unpleasant, just…odd. Give it a go, I suppose, it’s not a flavour I’ve had before – I thought it was licorice due to the colour but…*shrugs*
Okay, so after 2 plates, faith is somewhat restored.
Well, until we brought down a third plate.
Interesting to have a dessert that’s named after a Christmas celebration. Names aside, we have what’s essentially a block of dark chocolate ganache that has a fairly thick, rich and creamy taste. The dessert overdoes it on each of these fronts. But perhaps for this particular plate that’s our fault – having already had several desserts earlier (including the one at Sokyo), we may have already saturated ourselves and could no longer appreciate something like this.
Maybe. But I’m still going to question its sub-par quality.
I liked this dessert – salted caramel wins me over even if it’s been going around on a dessert train for god-knows-how-long. It still retains that yummy, salty/sweet/caramel taste that’s a pure winner. The hazelnut meringue works quite well with the crispy base – I believe it is feuilletine. Overall, this plate is sweeter than the others, and perhaps too sweet for some. Still, yum yum. I’d get this one again next time if I were to come again.
This last dessert we ordered has the same issue that plagues most of the others – freshness. The curd tasted like it has curdled beyond what it was meant to be, and the result tastes far less than satisfactory. The crunchie retains most of its crunchiness, but also succumbs to a bit of “moisture creep”, kind of like if you leave fresh bread out in the open for half a day and it becomes more rubbery and tough, and not as soft. In this case, its a case of losing the crunch. Ahhh not so great.
Well, you saw this one coming – freshness is the biggest issue when you put heaps of mass-produced desserts onto a train and don’t take them off until somebody takes it off. Who knows when that will be? I suppose you could sit at the front of the train so you can grab the desserts as they’re put onto the train…but that’s not totally fair to the people at the back…
Oh and there may have been a case of dessert fatigue that affects how I’ve been tasting these desserts. I don’t believe that’s really the case – I’ve had multiple sugar hits on the one night and I’ve never been fatigued. Besides, these plates are tiny, and between my friend and I, our exposure to each plate was minimal.
I’d recommend just going to the pâtisserie if you want your Zumbo fix, but by all means, try the dessert train if you haven’t before. And maybe, just maybe, make the desserts yourselves. They’re likely to turn out better when you’ve the hang of them. You can buy the recipe book!
The Good: novel concept, variety is possible for reasonable prices
The Bad: the desserts are not that great
I give Zumbo’s Dessert Train (NOT the pâtisserie) a grand total of five Caesars out of ten – 5/10
For funzies, I’ll put up some pictures of yum yum macarons.