Not your average Indian restaurant
First off, apologies for the shocking photos. The light was dim and our lens was struggling with the low light. Time for a better lens I think.
Like a fish to bait, Howard and I were both lured to Beluga by the promising menu consisting of Soft shell crab with wild mushroom; Lobster crepe and thinly sliced Wagyu beef among other mouthwatering delights. Making our booking two weeks in advance, our anticipation to taste test chef Opel Khan’s creations grew with each passing day.
Arriving to the venue right on time, i.e. 6pm, being the first people there, we were given free reign on where we wanted to sit, thus chose the table in the corner. While awaiting the arrival of their menu, I tried to absorb the atmosphere of the greatly designed restaurant. Adorned with modern neutral decore, dim lighting, soft background music and an open kitchen, I sensed that this would join my growing list of great gastronomical experiences.
As time progressed and still being the only patrons in the restaurant with both the chef and presumably the owner/partner fussing about, fidgeting with the ceiling to enable the addition of lanterns, my initial impression of the restaurant was beginning to dwindle. To distract us from the surrounding commotion, we were provided with the menu and some chilled water. As we’ve already decided what we wanted, we flicked past the a la carte menu to the degustation. Opel Khan explained to us that he was experimenting with a new menu in honour of Good Food Month, therefore the degustation menu on offer will be different to what was shown on their website. Feeling a little disheartened, Howard and I decided to give Opel the benefit of the doubt and experiment with his Modern French interpretation of Indian food.
To get things started, we were offered an amuse bouche of sweet corn and tarragon cappuccino with white truffle. As it’s name suggests, the broth was creamy yet light and fragrant yet not overwhelming. With each sip of the cappuccino, a trail of smooth foam and lingering sweetness of the fresh corn followed. Wanting to prolong our enjoyment, we resisted the temptation to gulp it all in one go. The amuse bouche was nothing like we have ever tasted, thus excited by Opel’s personal approach and creativity, we were ready for the degustation.
To start of our meal, as Howard had ordered the matching wine, the assumed partner poured Howard his wine. Noticing that I wanted to taste the wine, he kindly offered to split the wine into two glasses so that both of us could have wine with our meal, however as one of us had to drive, I declined the offer. With the decline, he commented “I thought I was doing you a favour” in an annoyed manner. I have a feeling that this was going to be a long night.
The scallop was quickly pan fried on both sides ensuring a slightly crusty outer layer and a warm soft interior. This method of cooking helped ensured that the sweet flavours of the scallop was retained in its small size. Served with braised lentils with a hint of spices and a complimenting green sauce, I found that both the lentel and the sauce overpowered the sweet intricate flavour of the scallop. However the crispy pori bread when dipped into the lentil and sauce was delicious.
With each cut into the Ocean trout confit, I was left more dissapointed. The ocean trout was prepared to the extent that the meat was flaky and slighty dry throughout, as opposed to the ideal soft translucent centre. Confused by the description on the menu and what was presented on the plate, we asked the assumed partner whether we have received the wrong dish, as there was no foie gras on our plate. We were met with the explanation that the foie gras was actually incorporated into the sauce. Unforunately, the only Foie Gras which we saw was on the menu it seems. However, there might have been foie gras in the sauce but our taste buds were unable to detect it on this occasion. According to the menu, the quail is marinade in garam masala, yet when consuming the perfectly cooked quail, no hint of spice was tasted. Another dissapointment.
After the previous two sets, we were a little apprehensive about the rest of the meal. I’m guessing its because we had such high expectations for this place and a pre-concieved idea of what we would be eating, that when reality hit, it wasn’t able to match it. However, we were quite suprised by our next dish. A simple but delicious and well flavoured butter chicken accompanied by the lentil risotto was in every way perfect. From the moist chicken which was able to absorb the butter sauce with a chicken veloute base to the individual grains of risotto. The roasted coconut garnish added an element of crunch to the dish. In this instance chef Khan was able to weave his magic to successfully glamourise a simple and traditional dish.
To cleanse our palate and prepare it for the next onslaught of dishes, we were provided with a shot glass of tomato water. I think that chef Khan has outdone himself in this creation. The water tasted so pure, with the right mix of sweet, sour and salty, just an explosion of flavour in the mouth.
It was obvious that chef Khan was quite meticulous on his method of cooking the duck leg confit. The piece of duck was cooked in aromatic herbs, allowing the flavours to seep through the fibres. To top off the moist meat, the skin was fried until golden and crispy, cleverly voided of any oil residue. The date chutney worked well with the orange glaze to compliment the flavour of the duck, helping to mask the slightly gamey taste of duck meat. The naan bread was unnecessary as it did nothing to enhance the dish as a whole, only there to soak up the glaze and chutney. Unfortunately, it was mostly soggy by the time it got to our plate.
Prior to the meals being served, noticing beef on the menu, I explained to chef Khan that I did not eat beef, he reassured me that he would serve me a beautiful seafood substitute. So imagine my suprise when the waiter serves us two plates of the beef fillet. After a quick word with the waiter, chef Khan seemed to have remembered our conversation, and sends me my dish. According to Howard, the beef was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was lightly topped with wild mushrooms and the accompaning korma sauce was a fitting inclusion.
I appreciated chef Khan’s attempt to placate the above mentioned mistake by quickly whipping up something for me. However being an avid seafood lover and a great fan of crab, I found it very dissapointing that this dish was the replacement for the beef fillet. The two crab cakes were lacking in the crab, consisting mostly of what tasted like beans or lentils, which was then fried, then presented drenched in the Korma emulsion. The crab cake lacked any real flavour, and thus was reliant on the Korma to offer the dish any substance.
To prepare our tastebuds for the desserts to come, we were served melon ice with black olive granita. The mixture of the opposing sweet melon and salty olive granita was very refreshing and unique, providing a glimpse of hope of what’s to come.
As previously mentioned time and time again, I am a renown chocoholic, therefore at the sight of the chocolate ganache, I was in my element. Each of the item on the dessert platter was succesful as an individual entity or even better when consumed all together. The ganache was rich in flavour and creamy in texture, absolutely divine. The addition of the chickpeas dust may be beneficial for people that may find the ganache too rich, as it helps distributes the chocolate flavour in the mouth. The strawberry caviar was not only aesthetically appealing, but also packed a punch in flavour as well. Eating each jelly like ball was like eating 100 strawberries, the colour, smell and taste was outstanding. Although not seen in the picture, Hazelnut gelato was also served. What can be said of any nutty ice cream or gelato, they just go hand in hand. The dessert platter was pure bliss.
Just when we thought we had the best dish of the night, we were served another platter of desserts. A Bavarois according to Wiki is a Creme Anglaise based dessert, which is aerated with whipped cream and set in the refrigerator with gelatin. Chef Khan’s version is indicative of his culinary experience. The consistency of the bavarois with the inclusion of coconut provides a new dimension to the mundane custard. Kulfi is an Indian dessert made of a milk base and often flavoured with pistachio, cardarmon or saffron, as noted on Wiki, as it is not aerated like your normal ice cram, therefore when frozen, is very dense. As mentioned above, nuts and ice cream are very complimentary, thus I wouldn’t have expected any less from the Kulfi.
Arriving at the restaurant at 6pm, we finally left at 10pm which was a bit of a marathon for 8 courses in a 3/4 full restaurant. Overall I found that chef Khan in his attempt to explore and promote the culture of Indian food by tweeking his original menu was an eye opening experience. I admire his talents and you could see from his new menu he is really trying to introduce some new concepts to the ‘Modern fusion’ category of food. However unfortunately, we were left a little dissapointed with our experience. Was it our inexperience of modern interpretations of Indian food ? Who knows, but one thing I do believe is that Indian food should probably be left in it’s natural state and not amalgamised with modern fusion interpretations. Any else have any thoughts on this ?
Having seen the rave reviews on Eatability based on the old menu, I really want to give Beluga a second chance and taste what Opel Khan is renown for (Modern Australian/French). Hopefully, Opel re-introduces what other Beluga diners have had the pleasure of tasting as we’ll definately come back in that case.
Beluga Wine & Bar Restaurant
St Margarets Complex
425 Bourke St
Surry Hills 2010 NSW
Phone: (02) 8356 9003
Website : http://www.belugawinebar.com