Est. – What’s In a Name?
[Woo! I managed to actually keep a degustation review under 2000 words...what an achievement *rolls eyes*]
I really don’t know why Est. has its name as it is…it’s probably short for “Establishment” – this would also explain the full stop that’s at the end of the name. But why not just call it Establishment? It preceded the Establishment Bar, after all.
Whatever the reason, Est’s (I’m going to omit the full stop from now on because it really gnarls at my OCD side) quality of food, and of its service, have firmly implanted its name into the minds of all fine dining lovers as one of the premier restaurants of Sydney, one of only six that has earned three coveted “chef’s hats”.
Well, at least, that’s what the critics say. Still, a restaurant that has acquired this level of prestige (one that Momofuku Seiōbo obtained in a very short timespan) certainly does not escape my eye – thus, it was inevitable I was going to sample Est for myself. Indeed, on the 9th of November, two days before mum’s 48th birthday, this happened.
Date Visited: 9/11/2012
Address: Level 1 252 George St, Sydney, NSW 2000
Go-to dish: I can’t pick one
In true Shen-style, celebrating birthdays mean fancy dinners, and no fancier the dinners than for the birthdays of my own parents! They’re not that used to fine dining, so it’s always fun to bring them in for such an experience. Two days before mother’s 48th, why not?
Est’s decor is naturally exceptional (see cover pic) – white and cream with dark wood make up the majority of the colour palette, with bits of greenery dispersed throughout. It’s not trying to be ultra-modern, it’s refining simplicity.
Trolleys with expensive wines and champagnes are pushed around the place to all the patrons, and for once, I decided to break the rule of no alcohol (where I have a choice) by getting a glass of Dom Pérignon for each of us.
Why not, it’s for a birthday!
But we’re definitely not getting more than one glass thanks to that rather…exquisite pricing. I expected as much however – we were never going to get hammered off of wine anyway.
Without too much waiting, I got the degustation (of course) for all of us, with slight variety in choice of main and dessert (you’ll soon see below).
With an exceptional simultaneous flourish of a trio of waiters bringing and setting down our plates at the same time (this is actually quite awesome – no other restaurant I’ve been to has done this and it actually makes a tangible, if not particularly important difference) , the first course arrives.
A great start to the degustation, this exotic mish-mash of veggies with cured bonito fish is a merryland of textures. The crosnes and salsify roots (look ‘em up) are crunchy and tangy, which is then married to the salty umami of the bonito. It’s a very satisfying dish as it gets many elements of texture right when it comes to vegetables, as well as taste – even despite the fact that vegetables generally are extremely subtle with flavours (if indeed they have any).
This little lobster was less memorable than the first dish, but still left an impression with its fusion of the lobster’s natural succulence with the herbacious flavours delivered by the vegetables on the plate (mainnly the chervil – French Parsley, and the cavolo nero – fancy name for kale). Seafood and root vegetables seem to be the order of the day here, and so far it’s been a pretty good combo.
Best seafood dish of the night, and probably the best Western-style steamed fish fillet I’ve ever had. Usually, steamed/boiled fish suffers from a lackluster taste palate due to the simple nature of the cooking – fish meat by itself doesn’t have much of a taste unless you bring it out with something else. Why would sashimi be served with shoyu?
A result of this is that I almost never would order steamed fish from a non-Asian restaurant (I’m biased towards Asian steaming methods). Est has rectified this, by using a very familiar combination of a flavoursome and tangy green shallot vinaigrette. This, when paired with some strong sides – ginger, black fungi & shaved abalone (which when shaved, is much better than whole I think!), decorates an excellently steamed fish in both flavour and texture companionship.
Or in other words, this is good.
I’ve decided – I will now always prefer my foie gras to be roasted, rather than served cold/room temperature. I can’t believe I’ve never had it this way before, but it’s awesome. Foie gras is a very strong dish to serve, and the result of eating this particular morsel is that it’s almost like eating pure flavour. It’s a giddy experience at just how tasty it is. I could eat this with rice, even.
Super cool stuff, and be sure to try some of it with the blood orange reduction, it’s an unexpected flavour combination, but somehow, you can’t help but appreciate it.
One of two possible mains, the venison is slight overcooked and as such is somewhat tough. Not a big deal – it’s very difficult to cook leaner meats but I guess I expected more of Est. Flavour-wise, it’s got a very piney, but meaty taste coming from the juniper. The addition of blood sausage gives a predictable flavour boost. What was a surprise was the watermelon radish – that was…interesting. I can’t really describe the taste of it!
The second of the two mains, I am very impressed with. This lamb is a lean cut, but I didn’t even care about that – I was blown away by the consistency of flavour and texture across the two cuts. It’s lean and mean, yet perfectly cooked (holy crap I don’t think that’s ever happened for me before), with that succulence only found in lamb. It’s delicious!
A good thing the veggies weren’t forgotten – considering how evenly-textured the lamb is, a crunchy texture boost is just what the taste buds desire. And satisfied, they are.
This is a great pre-dessert that would easily be an excellent dessert taken by itself. The pineapple sorbet is the star of the show, and tastes refreshing almost to the point of ridiculousness. It’s the kind of thing you want to keep on eating, which means they got it right, alright.
I still don’t fully get the idea of putting in edible flowers into desserts – never really liked them but I eat them anyway just to clean the plate. All it does is make the plate look pretty? Hmmm…
The first of two possible desserts, the souffle is unimaginably light and airy. I swear it’s 99% air, not that you’d be able to really discern that from pictures. Check the second (below) pic!
It’s got a very light flavour, as you’d expect of 99% air, and is completely blown away by the blood orange sorbet which as you’d expect, is delicious as blood orange always is.
You almost feel ripped by how airy the souffle is, but that’s just the way it is!
The second of the two desserts, this is awesome. It’s awesome because it’s doing so many things by combining so many different dessert types into a tasting platter of sorts, as it were. I’m not sure if the chocolate delices are actually sourced from Valrhona in France, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were (and to use the name). Delice – delicious! Full of sweet choclatey and creamy goodness.
Bananas are always a good fruit choice to use in desserts, and goes really well with the mandarin ice cream. Actually, do eat it like this, as the ice cream by itself tastes a bit too much like mandarin skin, which wasn’t really to my liking.
There’s also that stick which I’m going to call a churro because it tastes almost exactly like one – so you know what you’re getting into with that.
A great dessert!
Don’t know why I bothered with a picture of sugar cubes…
Petit fours are served with a variety of bite-sized biscuits.
Far left: dark chocolate truffle with “est.” all over the top. This tastes like it would.
Second from left: I didn’t have this one
Third from left: a gooey kind of mint candy. It’s very, very chewy! Taste-wise, not so great
Middle: turkish delight, delightful!
2nd from right: milk chocolate – standard stuff.
Far right: almond/chocolate macaron. I had no idea what that green powder was…from memory I don’t think it added anything to it. Biscuit crunch was great! It tasted nice overall,
Est., with its funny little name, is a fabulous restaurant and it has a price tag to match. Fine dining lovers will always appreciate this stalwart of contemporary cuisine.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: great food, great service, great decor
The Bad: predictable, doesn’t experiment (but why fix what’s broken?)
I give Est. a grand total of eight Caesars out of ten – 8/10