Degustation, Dinner, European, French, Hats Off Dinner, SIFF, Sydney, East
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2009 SIFF Hats Off Dinner – Restaurant Balzac

Are you ready for your “Hats” to be blown “off”?

For the past few years, as October approaches, details for the food festival are advertised. I read through each event intensely and even jot down the ones I’d love to go to. Then it occurs to me that they are on the weekdays, and being interstate during the week, I’m never able to attend. However, this year was different; I was back in Sydney for October! Rejoice!
This year, Restaurant Balzac was once again awarded TWO hats for the 2010 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards. I went to Restaurant Balzac for my birthday three years ago and wanted to reminisce back to that night where I had some of the tastiest bread ever: warm, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Tonight, I was back for the ever-so-long awaited Hats off dinner for the Sydney International Food Festival.


Beach-themed table setting


Getting ready to dine!

The theme for tonight’s HATS OFF dinner was called “From the bottom of The Deep Blue Sea”


Theme for tonight's dinner

Me, (being THE Pescatarian of the EST team, or the “Pest” as they like to call me), this 10-course hats off dinner was perfect as the degustation involved (basically) all seafood dishes. What was more exciting was the theme and inspiration behind each dish. Each course was inspired from some country on each continent. Have a go and guess the country/cuisine from where each dish is inspired from…!

So here goes with the “beachy-themed” dinner…


Pacific Oyster with Vietnamese Dressing

Occasionally, I have that *small* craving for oysters (or perhaps its the attraction to this “aphrodisiac”…) and this starter was such a teaser! The fresh and sweetness of the oyster complimented very well together with the sweet/savoury dressing. It was a nice, light starter to entice our palate for the other 9 dishes to come.

Soon after, the waitress arrived with a plate of complimentary bread. MMM! This is what I returned for!

The bread was just how I remembered from three years before: warm. crunchy. warm on the inside. The butter spread so well on the bread. nomnomnom!


Salt Cod Manresa-style

The second meal of the night. The bland flavours of the beans mixed with the rather salty “Salt Cod” attempted to balance the salty flavour, but I felt it was still a little too salty still. However, when washed down with a sip of wine (supposedly for the next course), it was a lot easier and more pleasure to consume.


Boston Bay Clam Chowder

(matched with nv Jed Wines Sparkling Blanc de Blanc – Argentina)
The first time I had chowder was in San Francisco (home of the chowder) many years ago. Cream-enriched, flavoursome, and warming, tonight’s chowder was just like the first time. The bits of clam was rather fun to find and eat! It had a nice strong seafood flavour, mixed together with a hint of ham.
The matching wine came from Argentina. I was informed that West Australian wine merchants, Jed Wines travelled to Argentina just to produce this wine. This was a favourite for everyone that night; sweet, light and complimented well with the freshness of the snapper.


Ceviche of Line Caught Pink Snapper

(matched with 2008 Tomich Hill Riesling – Adelaide Hills, S.A.)
Ceviche is a peruvian-style dish: citrus-marinade raw seafood. Tonight’s fish was the Pink Snapper. The snapper, being a light-flavoured fish, was enhanced by the tomato-ey citrus dressing. Very fresh & sweet!
The lightly flavoured Riesling matched well with the citrus-y dish.


Linguini of Spanner Crab and Asparagus

(with matching wine 2007 Torbreck ‘Woodcutters’ Semillon – Barossa Valley, S.A.)
“This tastes just like noodles! My favourite”, exclaimed my dad. *shakes head*. The handmade linguini did have a noodley texture but it was still pasta. The lemon-flavoured sauce for this dish was sweet and made the dish simple, yet interesting. This was my dad’s favourite that night.


Poppadums with mint yoghurt


Curry of Prawns and Basil with Poppadums

(with matching 2007 Domaine Coteau de la Biche – Vouvray, France)
The yellow curry itself was light and sweet… although, I felt that if the prawns were cooked in the curry itself so it could soak up the curry, the prawn would have tasted fantastic. There was only 1 small poppadum each to dip with the mint yoghurt. If only we were given more to dip with the curry, or even consumed together with some sort of legume. This dish was just missing this factor, otherwise this may have been my favourite.


'Surf n turf', Lobster and Wagyu

(with matching wine 2007 Pommier ‘Bourgogne’ Pinot Noir – Burgundy, France)
A classic Australia dish. Obviously, the “surf” was the lobster and the “turf” was the wagyu. This was the only meat dish of the night and I was highly disappointed when informed that the sauce had bits of truffle. As you all may know, I’m a HUGE fan of truffle; the smokey/burnt flavour is my favourite due to its uniqueness and it fascinating taste. My brother and dad inform me the wagyu was not very fatty which perhaps made the beef a little tough to slice, however, it was perfectly cooked.


The brother slowly and carefully enjoying his wagyu...

By this time, I was pretty full, but there was still dessert to come…


Coconut Caviar with Mango

I have and will always love sago. The mango sago drink readily available in Hong Kong @ Hui Lau Shan makes me love sago even more. The use of the sago in this dish was very similar to “caviar”. My brother was merely disappointed when he realised it was not REAL caviar. At first, I thought it may have been caviar and I wondered how they could work caviar in together with mango (a sweet taste). This was a nice refreshing re-dessert to ready the palate for dessert.


Sand, Cones and Umbrellas

(with matching wine 2008 Josef Botrytis Rieling – Tamar Valley, TAS)
I thought this was the most creative dish for the night. The “sand” was crushed shortbread and sugar, the “person” under the umbrella was a handmade waffle with a raspberry swirl ice cream. This dish was so fun to eat! Dipping the cone in the sand… The waffle was crunchy and not too sweet to be eaten together with the icecream, and the sand was not too sweet to be dipped in. MY favourite of the night!
The matching wine was very good as well. It was not too sweet, and very easy to drink. This was my favourite wine of the night too as it went so well with the dessert together.


Tea with salted caramel chocolate seashells

The night ended with a pot of green tea, enjoyed together with salted-caramel chocolate seashells. The sweetness of the caramel was downplayed by the salt. I didn’t think too much of salted caramel, but the seashell had a unique taste. I found this very interesting to eat.


The service was adequently attentive and there was a nice (not-too-long-not-too-quick) break between each meal. This allowed for better digestion of each dish and I quite liked this. I didn’t leave the restaurant feeling like passing out from food coma, so the quantity was perfect for everyone that night. With a price tag of $160pp (or $185pp with the matching wines), I would have expected better quality ingredients, but the creativeness to the theme of the menu made up for this. I enjoy the french/english-style of the food at Restaurant Balzac, but next time, I’ll go for the a la carte.

Restaurant Balzac
141 Belmore Road,
Randwick NSW, 2031
Tel: (02) 9399 9660
Fax: (02) 9399 6929

Tues to Sat – from 6pm
Friday Lunch only – 12pm to 3pm
Last Sunday of every Month – from 6.30pm (Seasonal Degustation only)


  1. Arwen: It’s rare to find a degustation with JUST seafood, so this is why I chose this hats off dinner. And I was so impressed with the sand cones! so cute and fit in so well with the theme for the night.

    Campgrenada: The food was great! and nice site :)

    mademeoiselle delicieuse: I love those cocktail umbrellas. I even took this one home 😛

    Betty: I think there was a lot of preparation for the presentation of each dish and also with the dishes for the night. I think presentation is so important when dining, makes you want to eat the dish more! 😛

  2. Ive always wanted to go to Balzac. one day one day.. Beautiful photos. Totally missed all SIFF events =(

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