Gastro Park – Gastronomic Apex
Gastro Park is one of the best restaurants in Sydney. Strong lead there Shen; I know, but when it comes to experimental haute cuisine, Gastro Park is always swimming around in my head yelling “me! Me!” and I just cannot ignore it.
Remember how I once said that when the food is so good you actually have fewer words to describe it? I got that feeling in spades with this fine restaurant. But enough talk, let’s eat.
Date Visited: 27/10/2012
Address: 5-9 Roslyn St Kings Cross, NSW 2010
Go-to dish: soy & mustard glazed swordfish belly, pickled cucumber
The restaurant is located only 5 minutes away from Kings Cross station, tucked into a corner on Roslyn Street, where you would not even know it was there if it weren’t for its name painted on black circles right outside. Quite cool, really.
Overall, the restaurant has a rather natural and organic look to it, no doubt thanks to the indoor plants. Oh and those water glasses – those droplets of water are actually etched into the glass (they ain’t actual water drops from the poured water!).
We arrived at around 5:50, which was 10 minutes before the restaurant actually opened. Despite this, we were warmly welcomed with [holy crap did I just accidentally spin out a five word alliteration?] open arms and directed to a seat by the window, as requested when I made the booking.
There’s also a selection of cheeses on display in some handsome containers, though we didn’t end up getting any. They must taste great though if the standards of this establishment is anything to go by.
Presented with the menu, we were recommended the 7-course degustation. There was a 10-course option, but we had just had afternoon tea at The Westin so for once – and perhaps the only time ever – I opted for the cheaper deg with fewer courses. Let’s see how that went.
Naturally, we start with bread, which was served cold (booo) but with pre-melted house-made butter (yayyy). It wasn’t any special kind of butter, but its distinct oily creaminess shines, palate whetted!
Following this we have the snacks. First up is the wagyu on grissini. The wagyu is dry-aged and has a subtle smokiness to its flavour. Crunchy grissini and the cheesy flavour of the parmesan round it off on a delicious note, making me crave more…
I actually don’t remember what the name of this dish is, but it’s essentially cured black-pepper trout on a form of spelt crisps. This tasted great, particularly the cured fish – it just goes so well with pepper. Once again the snack accomplishes its goal – increasing my cravings!
Oh what a guilty snack this is! All deep-fried and whatnot. But hey, if you’re gonna have it you may as well love it. These little balls of joy are packed with cheesy flavour that’s not over-the-top, while the potato chains are super-airy, crunchy and delicious. Oh screw that, the whole thing is delicious.
It’s a good thing they don’t give you too many – you’d get sick of it pretty quickly. This portion size is perfect.
We now move onto the degustation ‘le proper’.
Slightly blurry pic, forgive me – actually, most of the pics from now on are /slightly/ blurred as Gastro Park’s floors are wooden…prone to vibrations from the mere act of the waiters/waitresses walking on them. Thus, my camera setup was never truly free of vibrations. Ahh, photographer pains…
This was my least favourite dish of the night. The salmon and indeed, all the ingredients that were used are fresh and no doubt tasty; I just can’t really appreciate the method of cooking it. It seems to be quite the experiment, with combining the natural umami flavours of cured salmon with a sweet/tangy iced tomato tea. This flavour combo just didn’t cut it for me – my brain couldn’t decide what my tongue was tasting – was it the umami of the fresh salmon, or was it the sweet juice of the tomato tea?
Gah, hate it when I’m conflicted
Our waitress advised that we should be eating this one together – a bit of the foie gras, a bit of the granita. Going against this advice, I had one, then the other just to see what they’re like individually.
The (obviously shaved) foie gras melts in your mouth and adequately delivers that powerful liver flavour only foie gras imparts. It sure is strong, but with it comes deliciousness. Definitely one of those dishes you can’t have too much of or you’ll get overloaded.
As for the red cabbage granita, this was interesting – it was very much like flavoured shaved ice, except they somehow managed to capture the essence of the vegetable and put it in there. I can’t adequately describe this one, but it tasted very refreshing, but in a savoury way which is quite amazing, since I’d usually apply this description to sorbets.
When taking the two together (yes I did eventually do this), you have a rather overwhelming combination of flavours from the strong foie gras, to be instantly relieved and cleansed by the granita. I can’t fault the combination, despite my brain desperately trying to find one.
This was actually my favourite dish of the night. I’ve never had swordfish belly before, but it tasted incredible. Its flavour isn’t so much incredible in that it’s distinct (I wouldn’t be exclaiming “oh yeah that’s swordfish alright!”), but rather in that it seems to have nailed the combination of texture and umami taste perfectly. So soft and tender its flesh is, and so incredible and pervasive the flavour of the glaze goes through…it’s one of the finest cuts of fish ever plated up to me.
Oh yeah there was also pickled and puréed cucumber. That was also cool, I guess (LOL).
This photo definitely has some strange white balance issues, but I assure you this is essentially how it looked to my eyes (bar the purple specular reflections – that was not so pronounced)
One of the dishes that Gastro Park is known for, this is not your typical gnocchi. “Eat the little buggers in one bite”, the waitress tells us, as the contents will spill out and you’d be missing out heaps!
Oh boy, how right she was. The gnocchi balls are so delicate, their skin so fragile you definitely will destroy them if you use too much force. Delicately scooping one up with my spoon, I put one in my mouth…and bite down.
Explosion of creamy flavour, this liquid butternut just hits the spot. Gastronomic pleasure. It’s so light, yet so rich; so fulfilling, yet so sparse and quick to go. I wish I had many, many more.
Once the few we’ve had were happily devoured, we drank every last drop of the mushroom consomme (and I LOVE consomme). Salty it was, but delicious, it also was. Oy Vey, how incredible.
Gastro Park’s signature dish, this is what propelled them into fame (and fortune?).
Because really, how many restaurants do you know that use fish scales as an edible component in the dish?
Tender snapper, creamily smoked purée, ink sauce, calamari crackling. This sounds impressive even on paper, and just look at how wow it is on the plate.
The scales are akin to hard crisps, but are easily edible, and in fact give the fish an element of texture that just usually isn’t there. Calamari crackling continues the crispy trend which imparts its own umami.
What does the ink sauce taste like? Complicated. Do you know what went into making this ink sauce? Here you go:
eschalots, peeled and sliced
fennel stalks, roughly chopped
strip lemon rind
Serrano ham, diced
over ripe tomatoes, deseeded
tablespoon squid ink
white balsamic vinegar
teaspoon xanthum gum
With perhaps one or two variations. That’s a lot of ingredients to achieve the ink sauce’s flavour. The key here is umami tangy and it goes with the snapper super well. The sauce would actually be pretty normal, if it weren’t for the squid ink added to it. Then again, who’s going to resist making something just that extra bit unique by turning it night-black?
It’s a loaded dish, for sure!
The second of two possible mains (the snapper being the first), the duck is cooked tenderly and tastes as such. I felt there wasn’t enough seasoning though, and found myself wiping off as much sauce as I can to keep my tongue from becoming “duck-tied”. I also didn’t really think puffed barley matches the duck, but they do taste good on their own – crispy and airy with the slightest savoury hints.
Oh and, I’ll probably never understand the fad of roasting berries/grapes; value isn’t really added through this process as far as my taste buds are concerned.
And now we arrive at one of the best desserts I’ve ever tried anywhere, and I’ve been on plenty of Sugar Hits before.
This dessert gets pretty much everything right. The chocolate cracks open with a healthy amount of force but isn’t fragile like an eggshell (oh did I mention it also tastes awesome?). The honeycomb is sweet and crunchy, with enough of a stickiness to it that makes me believe I’m eating the real stuff. The gooey innards, oh my the mandarin cream, the goodness…
Ahhh screw it I can’t even be bothered describing it – just feast your eyes on the pictures below, and you look me in the eye and tell me you don’t want some right now, wherever you are.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Gastro Park, you tick so many boxes it’s incredible. Never close down, I’ll be back.
The Good: pretty much everything. Superlative dessert and fish. Very friendly and explanatory staff!
The Bad: a few over-complicated designs and one dish that misses the palate
I give Gastro Park a grand total of 9 Caesars out of ten – 9/10