So it appears that my reviews are appearing…pretty much three months late (for the restaurants/events that don’t demand immediate attention). Wow, either I’m just really slow, or that I eat out so often, I’m lagging behind like crazy.
Actually, at the rate of thrice a week, I’ll never actually catch up with the number of times I go out a week. Dangit.
Come to think of it, I should be glad that I get to eat out so often. Okay, I’m happy again 🙂
Marque is one of the six 3-hatted restaurants in Sydney. Thus, one of Sydney’s top 6. Well, as rated by a handful of food critics. That always makes for interesting discussion. Let’s talk about the culinary adventures of head chef Mark Best.
Date Visited: 22/12/2012
Address: 355 Crown St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Go-to dish: Murray Cod w/cabbage, green strawberries, fish milk & roe
Whenever there’s ‘reputable’ sources plugging a place as being one of the best/worst of something, you always wonder whether it’s been subjected to the hype treatment. The short answer is ‘yes’ – there’s always hype. Whether it’s justified or not…well that’s another story.
Marque’s interior is very modest. Apart from a somewhat interesting piece of art (as seen in this post’s cover pic), there’s really not much else to comment on. The only noteworthy thing is unfortunately not a good one – the tables are not spaced far apart enough. The table for two next to our table (for two) was less than 50cm away. We could easily hear their conversation and no doubt, likewise. It felt kind of restrictive in that sense, and that stayed with us the whole night. It’s understandable that restaurants need to maximise seating for obvious profitability reasons; but for a restaurant known for its romantic setting, you’d expect a bit of privacy.
Some random shots I did grab…
Because I’m random like that, here’s a photo of yours truly. Because, you know, gotta spoil your appetite before I begin to whet it with the food photos 😛
Okay, onto the food. Marque serves its dinners in the form of a $160, 10-course degustation with an optional course (making it 11) for an extra $12 (or was it $20? I honestly forgot). Yes, we got that optional course. It’s time to degust.
I’m going to try and keep the lengths here manageable – going forward I’m going to use dot points for main highlights, with paragraphs only when I need to elaborate on something. It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff!
The amuse bouche, these quinoa crackers, are really good – that’s the summary.
- A very wheaty taste, very crunchy
- The main flavour is an umami tang, brought about by the wakame and the oyster emulsion
- The overall flavour is extremely strong and punchy. It may be a little over the top for some, but worked quite well for me. I love this kind of dish
Mmmm, detail (Y)
You’d think this is some sort of ice cream/dessert combo, but it’s actually a very savoury dish of blue swimmer crab & almond gazpacho + jelly, w/sweet corn & avruga.
- The top part is very much like meringue in terms of texture, super creamy and airy. Kind of like…a light and airy fish paste/cream?
- The crab itself has a very nice texture, smooth but resistive – it tastes like crab
- I’d have expected a strong flavour out of the avruga caviar but it wasn’t as potent as I thought. Not a bad thing, because it didn’t overwhelm the dish
- That crumbly stuff – that’s popcorn powwder. Pretty cool stuff, and tastes like…really good popcorn haha
This tiger prawn w/avocado is perhaps one of the most beautiful looking dishes I’ve ever seen. The elegance is just amazing.
- The prawn is surprisingly springy and creamy, it was perfect.
- That prawn goes so well with the yoghurt-like buttermilk. It’s a very subtle complement that is a match made in seafood heaven
- There’s less to speak about regarding the avocado, it’s seared pretty well and the top part has just enough saltiness to keep the dish interesting.
I just can’t get over the elegance of this dish. It’s really something to look at.
I think calamari rings are so common and popularised I can’t even remember the last time I had calamari in a different way. This dish of S.A. Calamari w/celtuce broke that streak though.
- The calamari is quite tough and skinny, which is exactly how we’re used to it when we eat them good ‘ol rings
- As for the mushroom consomme, it’s quite salty, and you really should be eating everything at once otherwise you’ll get pretty thirsty, so to speak
- The celtuce, next to the saltiness of the broth is very sweet, and I suspect it’s again a counter-balancer
Definitely my favourite dish of the night, the Murray cod w/cabbage is just a brilliantly cooked fish fillet.
- Fish meal & fish candy were all really good complements to the main fillet and accentuated it with both a fluffy texture, as well as a sweeter tang
- The fish is just perfection. Soft, supple and tender to a fault. The umami, just magnificent. Nothing more needs to be said.
- I’ve never had green strawberries before (also they look yellow ahem), but I don’t even remember their flavour. Awkward…that fish was just too good.
I was not impressed with the organic free range chicken at all. It was quite disappointing really.
- For one, I found a bone in the chicken. I’m very sure that’s not meant to be the case, since it was just one small piece. If it were there deliberately, it should be prominent, jutting out, not hidden in the meat.
- The meat itself was quite tough, and somewhat dry.
- The pate was pretty good – very strong like pate should be; saved the chicken slightly
- That leek seemed kind of pointless…I usually like eating leeks, but I wasn’t even sure what to eat this leek with to provide a good flavour harmony.
Another pretty looking dish, this is actually raw Mandagery Creek venison which is served like a tartare.
- It tastes quite good, the beets are smoked and the redcurrant provides a good flavour mask for whatever raw psychological imaginings you may have
- The texture is surprisingly tender for venison – there’s some kind of tenderising going on here. I don’t know what it is, but I really like it
- Egg yolk is a nice touch, and definitely welcomed as I didn’t want to just keep eating mouthfuls of venison
This was our optional course, and I’m glad we got it. The Pyengana cheddar w/lady finger banana, spinach, pepper & nougatine has a bevy of flavours to keep you salivating.
- The cheddar is a very fine cheese sample. The flavours are rich and strong, and you could almost taste its milky beginnings. Top notch cheese here.
- Sweetness is provided by way of the nougatine crisps which were VERY crispy and VERY sweet. Think of a biscuit/cracker that’s made purely out of caramel. It’s absolutely delicious. This is an extremely guilty food and boy you WILL finish all of it (unless you don’t have a sweet tooth)
- The most interesting piece of this dish is actually the spinach. It has the texture and firmness of very tough seaweed – it’s nothing like normal spinach. I think they pressed and somehow…concentrated it. It also has much more of a seaweed flavour. Weird stuff, but since it tastes good, I’m all for it.
- And then there’s the pepper. I’m not sure what that’s there for…
Our pre-dessert sweet is a curious little charred rhubarb (soup) w/blueberries & tarragon.
- It tastes like a date pureé, but with a more minty kind of tang (that would explain the green part)
- Overall it wasn’t awfully interesting; the blueberries didn’t help much
- My friend didn’t like it very much, and I was rather neutral towards this – not impressed, but nothing really wrong with it either
Our main dessert of chamomile w/white chocolate, yoghurt, lemon aspen & milk cookie arrives a short time later. Boy, it’s just a field of different shades of white (is that even technically correct? Shades of white? :S)
- This was a plethora of sweet sensations.
- The ice cream had a slight spicy sensation to it, and its flowery nature showed through
- The sweetest component is the chocolate ganache (of course), which was just guiltily superb
- The milk cookies can be best compared to rice cookies, except they’re so fine and delicate that the slightest tap of the cutlery will crumble them. This must’ve taken quite some skill to make – I’m impressed.
Overall, the dessert isn’t overly experimental. It’s functional, and tasty, but isn’t “wow this is awesome”.
One of the more interesting dishes of the night mainly because I’ve never had it before and its presentation, the sauternes custard is a curious little beast.
Sauternes is a type of sweet French wine (dessert?). Mark Best’s recipe makes this into a very thick custard, dumps it into an open egg shell (yes, it’s a real egg shell), and has some very interesting tasting notes…
- It’s very strong, it hits you quite hard. Definitely harder than the wine itself would, but it’s so concentrated it just attacks you like crazy.
- There’s a dominant bitter flavour in the first few seconds of tasting, followed by an intense alcohol taste (of course), followed then by a very sweet aftertaste.
- Whoa, what a flavour trip.
- My friend did not like it, but I definitely did. I want to try it again.
Good job in making that hole in the eggshell 😛
It’s a bit difficult for me to evaluate Marque – its got some pretty solid dishes, but I feel that not much is overly impressive – good – but good enough for three hats? I’m not so sure.
Well, I guess it’s time to see what some of the other three hatters are like…for other restaurants that are supposedly on equal level with Marque (but for different reasons), take a look at my reviews of Est. and Momofuku Seiobo.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀
The Good: generally excellent quality of dishes
What could be improved: table spacing, quality control (that chicken bone), the dishes just don’t seem that exciting (with few exceptions)
I give a grand total of Caesars out of ten – 7/10