Reynold Poernomo. Or, as some of you may call him – the dessert king. Watching this 21 year old execute all manner of sweet creations, continually defying expectations again and again has been one of the greatest highlights of this year’s Masterchef run. To say the man has talent at desserts could use a quenelle of hyperbole. Who else ever received a perfect score on Masterchef?
But it’s one thing to /watch/ him on TV. It’s quite another to meet him in the flesh, and to have the opportunity to sample four of his incredible handiworks. Of course, that was going to be a bit of a pipe dream, at least until he opened up a permanent place. Right?
Hmmm, better click on that “read more” link, eh?
Date Last Visited: 23/8/15
Address: Sydney Dance Studio, The Rocks
Standout Dish(es): Moss / Panna
Getting a booking for Reynold’s dessert experience was not easy. They went faster than I can say “dessert king”. There were four sessions – two last Sunday, two this Sunday. 60pax only. Future sessions are scheduled, so be sure to follow his Facebook & Instagram accounts for details!
For those of you feeling an epic case of FOMO – let me be the voice of reassurance: Reynold has more or less confirmed the opening of his dessert bar in Chippendale in November this year. If you missed out today, the wait won’t be long! You could almost think of these dessert popups as a way to field test his ideas before he goes permanent. The gig? Four dessert courses for $80. Pricey, but that’s popup pricing. Besides…you get to meet the man himself. That’s priceless, right? My food-enthused homies Isaac, Anna & Steph were more than keen to be his guinea pigs, dental health be damned.
Without further ado, let’s skip the mains and jump straight to dessert!
A recurring theme of Reynold’s desserts is that they are all separate components which both work well on their own – but at the same time, join together to become greater than the sum of their parts.
The first course is simply called Moss. Damn Reynold, matcha? You know me too well. If you didn’t know I liked matcha, welcome to I’m Still Hungry – A Sydney food blog. You are clearly a first time reader ????. Okay, jokes aside, some of you might roll your eyes and think “yet another dessert capitalising on the green tea trend”. Oh yes, no denial – but gee, if this ain’t already going to be one of our favourites.
Take the sponge, which is of the fluffiest possible texture, more chiffon than sponge – like eating pieces of heaven itself. Times like these I wouldn’t mind believing in it. While quite nice by itself, it plays tag team with the next major element on the dish – the chilled yoghurt. This is a blast of chilly freshness that completely won me over. An instant palate cleanser, it’s meek sweetness joins with the sponge – which absorbs the yoghurt – and the slightly-over dulce caramel to form what could be described as a mouthgasm – amongst other emotions that all point back to a sugar high.
You see how it all goes together? I could easily eat any of this by itself – fluffy sponge, salty/sweet beurre dulce, and even the slightly charred but still crunchy apple. All at once? A synchronised performance. Everyone at the table, myself included were already (though illogically) thinking that this could be the best dessert out of them all.
The only oddity? I could barely taste any matcha. To be fair, I didn’t think it was required, but that the dessert does look quite green made me double take. It honestly did not matter very much at all.
The nomtella is cutely named after Reynold’s girlfriend Sarah. While a nice gesture, I say double the portion and name it nomzilla!
But of course, that would detract from the spirit of Nutella that’s got Sydney in such a feverous grip. The dual stars of this dessert’s otherwise ensemble cast is the hazelnut brownie and the espresso ice cream. As the lingo goes these days: “that brownie tho”. Very moreish. It’s well-portioned as it’s rich, so two morsels is all that’s required. Full of chocolatey & hazelnut sweetness, moisture and satisfaction.
Of course, not eating the brownie with the ice cream would be a crime. The espresso ice cream is smooth, creamy and a hit of vanilla & hints of espresso when taken in with the vanilla rum on the bottom. There’s a little bit of chocolatey crunch that goes through from the base which provides the time-tested ice cream + crumb combination that wins our taste buds each time, every time.
A particularly delicious aspect of the dish? Those white, nitrogen chilled rum globules I mentioned earlier. I’ve had good and bad experiences with alcohol in desserts, and this definitely falls into the former camp – when it works, alcohol adds a bitter savouriness which helps cut through the sweetness of the ice cream, caramel and brownie. A few spoonfuls of this vanilla rum “soil” is just what was needed to keep the dessert interesting.
In the end, well-executed. I was left wanting more – and in the end, that’s really the only test that matters, right?
The Forest will be very familiar to avid watchers of masterchef. This is similar to a chocolate log Reynold cooked in an earlier episode which, like most of his creations, floored the Masterchef judges.
I’m usually not the biggest fan of heavy, chocolate-dominant desserts, but this is a combination that’s fully effective in the portion that’s provisioned. There’s a solid dollop of ganache at both ends of the log, which provide a potent, dark chocolatey hit. Texturally, it also happens to be smoother than a veteran pickup artist. This is deliberately and adequately tempered by the coolness and acidity of the cherry & raspberry kirsch, which itself packs quite a punch. I wouldn’t have the sauce by itself though – it nearly ached my teeth, but give me a break – I’m on my third dessert!
In terms of the greenery getting a bit of the side action, my dining companions were divided – some liked the addition of mint & dill, as it brought a savouriness to the dessert. Others, myself included – thought it somewhat superfluous. I’m biased against dill as I appear to have a genetic inclination to dislike it, similar to how some can’t stand coriander. I do however appreciate that the greens added a much needed colour boost to the dessert, which further enhances the idea of a tree log and brings forth the vividness of a forest. The presentation does matter, particularly for chocolate-based desserts as they tend to be quite mono-coloured.
One final compliment I will pay is on the log’s textures – Reynold obviously knows how to temper his chocolate, and the log itself is simply textural heaven. A hugely satisfying thing to eat, with every crack, crunch and bite satisfying to the extreme. That’s not even mentioning the crumb which, by now, is a given as its calibre is consistently right up there.
The Panna is very similar to Reynold’s Masterchef audition dish – the ticket that he cooked to get in the game. As such, it’s a fair bit special, and also happens to be the table favourite. Ha, and we thought the matcha dessert was going to be our pick.
Seriously, my particularity and specificity with dishes is no secret, but I found this dessert to be almost faultless. It’s really, really difficult to nitpick.
The panna cotta – “perfectly made”, as the judges would say. Smooth, and just the right bouncy texture. The flavour? Never overpowering, never bland, punchy with coconut overtones. The meringue? I’m normally not even a fan of meringue but this is actually the best I’ve ever had. Crunchy at first but then melts into an impeccable harmony of milky creaminess to which no other meringue can get close.
The mango sorbet is as refreshing as a mango sorbet can be, fully smooth and backed up by a bit of textural milk crumb, while the pineapple pieces on the side add a realistic fruity element which I found served well as a way to cleanse off the dessert. There might be just a little too much of that, but that’s neither here nor there.
If anything, the only fault I could find were the white gelatinous sago clumps on the plate. They had a chewy and bouncy texture, which was fun to eat, but packed no flavour. I could see them being removed to no difference on the overall outcome of the dish.
All in all, if this “meal” was considered a normal four course, the previous three were mere palate cleansers – the Panna is the dessert of desserts. The real deal, a remarkable way for the dessert king to show off every last bit of his talent.
I will ruin my teeth for this guy. That he’s a great guy in person is just another bit of icing on what is already an incredible cake. All the best on your future endeavours, and I will be the first to line up when your permanent gig opens up in November!
This post is based on an independent visit to Reynold Poernomo’s dessert experience.
- One for the sweet tooths – this will rock your socks off…once he opens in November
- He is as good as Masterchef says
- Wait times between some desserts were excruciatingly long. However, it’s a popup, so this isn’t a judging point
- Three more months for a return visit is as painful as the toothache I had the next day. Totally worth it.
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F8 = 8/10 Caesars