My Entertainment Book has been sitting on my desk, untouched save for a couple of raids for coupons in the fast food section, every since I bought it in August last year. F, bored while I was processing photos, started thumbing through the book. He suddenly asked to borrow my netbook and quietly relegated himself on my futon, occasionally emitting lip-smacking noises. Forty-five minutes later, he’s got three restaurants lined up and has already calculated how much to spend to get full maximum value from the Entertainment Card for the first restaurant. I didn’t realise he was that bored!
So the first restaurant he’s lined up is Foveaux and we found ourselves getting there quite early. We were asked and ushered downstairs to a cozily decorated bar room with big comfortable, plush couches and gauzy curtains hanging from the ceiling. It was also quite dim with most of the lights coming from low-wattage bedside lamps, you know, the ones with actual lamp shades!
After kicking our heels at the bar for 15 minutes, we decided to venture upstairs to start on our dinner (I was hungry and too excited to wait any longer). Completely trusting his choice on going for the tasting menu, which was $75 for 6 courses, I barely glanced at the menu as we ordered.
It’s strange that same time last year, we wouldn’t have thought of ordering oysters voluntarily (we would have scoffed at the idea) and yet here we are actually ordering them! F having two for himself no less! Though admittedly, I was a bit hesitant in ordering myself one, as I still find them a bit of a challenge to eat.
I think I don’t quite like oysters because of their slimy, soft texture and if I get a particularly plump one, a bite would unleash a flood of slightly sea-salty taste with, sometimes, a bit fishy after taste. F didn’t think the oysters here were at all like how I described and he possibly could be correct as I am a bit biased. I have to admit though that I quite liked the Chardonnay pearls paired with the salmon roe – they gave a slightly bitter-sweet acidity and popping sensation to the “creamy” (as F described it) oysters.
I always feel inept when I don’t know which cutlery to use when I’m at a restaurant, particularly whether cutlery is needed, which was the case for our appetiser. It was tiny and the spoon we thought should be used for it looked comically gargantuan next to it, so much so, we wondered whether the spoon would even fit (it did). The appetiser could have been one-shotted, but we used the spoon anyway and surreptitiously put it back in the orderly line of cutlery just in case we weren’t supposed to. I figured that they would take it away if we were supposed to have used it.
The tomato water was served cool and spice gave it a bit of heat, but not uncomfortably so. It tasted a lot like watered down tomato soup and the cucumber jelly was quite refreshing.
I didn’t think I heard right: smoked trout ice cream?! I noticed that I kept skirting the ice cream, even though F had some mighty fine praises for it, so I decided to stop being a pansy and took the plunge. It really tasted like smoked trout! It boggled the mind a bit because it wasn’t quite the ice cream one is used to. It was slightly creamy and the smoked trout flavour would lazily curl up on your tongue and stay there until all traces of the ice cream had gone. F had some trepidation regarding the ice cream as well, but found it to have just the right amount of trout flavour that worked rather well with the rest of the dish.
The ocean trout was unbelievably fresh and the cucumber puree was a quite lovely accompaniment. I loved the texture from the popped skin, adding a welcoming crunch. F was surprised how light the dish was, not at all heavy despite the cream involved, and thought it was a perfect starter to the meal.
Although slightly heavier than the trout dish, the goats curd was lightened by the salad (of sorts). It’s been a while since F had goat’s curd and this dish reminded him why he fell in love with its creamy mildness. The salad was so refreshing and had a wonderful crunch to it with the olive jelly injecting a slight saltiness to the overall flavour. We thought the taro “sandwich” was cute and added a nice, crispy contrast to the soft curd.
I used my spoon for both of these dishes and it was taken away, which made me a bit relieved that we didn’t use the wrong cutlery with the wrong dish. That is, until our waitress also took away a pair of fork and knife as well. Oops. Does that happen to anyone else, or is it just me being a silly goose?
I had a bit of a shock when I heard the word “heart” and sneaked a look at F that, had he seen it, would have clearly said “what the heck did you order for us!?”. We both never had heart before and gazed on it for a bit, a little unnerved. I quickly put one in my mouth and started chewing before I changed my mind in trying it. It was surprisingly delicious. I had envisioned it tasting something like liver (which I dislike, but for some reason love most pates I’ve had) and was really ready to not like it at all.
The medium-rare cooked heart was quite tender and juicy with the scallops and crushed beetroot adding a touch of sweetness. F thought his scallops were a tad over-cooked though well-season, but I found mine to be quite perfect in every way.
We both concluded that the black sesame puree was there for show as it’s ethereal flavour was masked by stronger flavours. It most certainly was aesthetically pleasing though.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pork belly, even our resident pescatarian Teresa loves it in small amounts. Well, besides my friend Ruby, but that’s a different story. Anyway, the pork belly cooked in veal stock was mind-blowingly soft and utterly succulent. The rind wasn’t crispy, but F thought this was a nice change from all the crispy skinned versions we’ve had. I think he’s got a point – not everything has to be crispy!
Though in saying that the popped prawn crackers were crispy and perfectly so – not too airy and not too dense, where they had a lovely light prawn-y flavour. I thought the ceviche prawns were okay though F thought they were over-cooked. To be honest, if this dish was served without the ceviche prawns, I wouldn’t have missed it.
The biggest surprise for us was how much we enjoyed dipping our pork belly into the black pudding puree. Normally I don’t like black pudding and F tend to stay away from it, but on tasting the puree we were absolutely amazed at how deliciously rich, deep and bold the flavour was. We were both astounded at how scrumptiously wonderful it tasted.
When our waitress asked us how are dishes were, we enthused over our surprise at how much loved the heart and the black pudding puree. She laughed and was glad that we loved it. They’ve had customers who would order the dish then ask for the heart or black pudding to be left off and she said that it’s a bit sad, as it’s not as awful as they imagine it to be and they would miss out on something rather quite wonderful.
I loved the crispness of the snapper’s skin, which contrasted nicely to the soft and juicy flakes of perfectly cooked fish underneath. The zucchini flowers were fried to a perfect crisp (I wished there were more for me to crunch on) with soft stalks and I found the tomatoes added a sweet, refreshing component to the dish. The pesto wasn’t that over-powering flavour one would get in their pasta dish, but one of a quiet, underlying flavour that brought together the different components and somehow seemed to bring the other flavours to the front.
While the trout was wonderfully moist, soft and perfectly cooked and well-seasoned, I would have to say the sweet corn puree almost stole the show for me. It wasn’t coyingly sweet and it was most gorgeously creamy and smooth. We both couldn’t get enough of it actually and I’m sure I made lots of appreciative noise eating it.
The sauce, which I thought was veal stock might not be and so I’m not sure what it is, was a nice salty addition to the dish, flavouring and seasoning the fish and greens quite well.
The super soft veal seasoned with wakame drew a groan from me – it was so good! Accompanied by caramelised carrot and spring onion that were sweet enough to fool one into thinking it could be something else and a gloriously decadent creamy white onion puree, the dish was simply amazing.
I’ll say it straight up: I thought the chicken wing was an odd component of the dish. While it was wonderfully crispy-skinned and had melt-off-the-bone meat, I could have done without it. Why was it there? It kind of confused me and I thought it made the dish slightly unfocused.
Besides that, the braised rib cap (also cooked in veal stock) was wonderfully succulent and tender, we didn’t really need to use a knife to break it apart! The richness of the meat and jus was lightened by the tangy oyster and chive “salad” and parsley puree. On seeing the parsley puree, it occurred to me that they really like their purees, don’t they? But they work really well with their dishes, so I can’t complain. Hehe.
F is a sucker for cheeses and so we had to get the 4-cheese option. I wish I could remember their names, but our waitress rattled them off too quickly to really register, but there were quite a few French words rapidly rolling off her tongue like butter on a hot knife.
The far left cheese was aged cheddar (a slightly firmer cheese than the rest), while the cheese second from the right was a soft gorgonzola that had a bit of a kick to it and second from the left was cheese made from sheep’s milk, which I thought tasted interesting (it was quite light in flavour and very creamy, pairing very well with the sweet grapes). We weren’t sure whether to eat the outside of the sheep cheese, but F said “it tastes like you’re suppose to” and so we did. Hehe
While the lavosh was okay, I adored the warm (not toasted) walnut bread – I’d totally buy a loaf to take home if I could. I thought the bread went a lot better with the cheeses than the lavosh, but clearly I’m biased.
Strange as it may sound for a dessert (or a pre-dessert for that matter) to have curry oil in it, it surprisingly worked well… in a strange way. All the components of the pre-dessert were necessary to successfully accumulate to taste like a cold curry. It oozed Asian flavours and seemed to transport you to somewhere in Asia.
The sharp tang of the kaffir lime and yellow curry oil was tamed by the coconut sorbet, while the mango added a soothing sweetness into the mix, topped off by a delicate crunch from the rice paper.
F thought this dish was better and more successful in its execution than the main desserts. I, on the other hand, liked it but preferred the actual desserts more.
The watermelon was braised in Campari and from experience, the Campari part for me is always a bit too heavy-handed, but it was pleasantly rather light here. F didn’t like it at all and declared that this dessert could have done without the watermelon. I disagreed as I thought it rounded off the flavours quite nicely: you had the sweetness from the marshmallow, the refreshing component from the sage, a slight savoury tinge from the sheep’s yoghurt sorbet (with crumbs that F thinks may be almond dust) and the bright, slightly bitterness from the watermelon.
F relented and grudgingly said that the watermelon did pair rather well with the fruit salad sage, though for him the best part of the dessert was the wonderfully creamy sheep’s yoghurt sorbet.
This had to be my favourite dessert of the night. The rice pudding was scrumptiously milky and had the perfect sweet-sour accomplice in the blackberry conserve. The white chocolate ice cream wasn’t as sweet as I had expected but went well with the rice pudding.
For me, the best part of a carrot cake is the icing. I don’t know what it is, but I think it just takes the carrot cake from okay to delicious. There wasn’t much icing on the cupcake (I know if I had made it, I’d totally slather lots on, especially because it’s so small), but it was a rather nice mouthful anyway. I enjoyed the soft yet crunchy fudge-on-a-stick more, happily crunching away while sipping on my Earl Grey tea.
F says that there were figs worked into the fudge, but I don’t think there were any. However, he’s so sure of it that he’s willing to bet our bill at Bilson’s that he’s right. Anyone know if there were figs in the fudge? I think I might have to email Paola from Foveaux back. I hope I’m right because that’s gonna hurt if I’m not. [Edit 25-Feb-2010: Paola has told me that F is right and there are figs in the fudge. Bother. I think I’ll be hearing about this for a long time, and he’ll most probably add that he’s always right. Double bother.]
We left Foveaux with impossibly full stomachs and a lot of satisfaction from our dining experience. Foveaux’s wait staff had impeccable manners, but was also quite friendly and knowledgeable, and the food was overall very well done (I found it hard to decide which was my favourite dish of the night). There was a lady sitting nearby who started moaning as she ate (yay! I wasn’t the only one!) and I tried to sneakily see what she was eating but got busted before I could determine what it was.
The quietly elegant decor of Foveaux hides a place full of surprises and firsts, for us anyway. I never imagined that I would ever eat heart or like black pudding, but I did and even enjoyed it, revelling in its flavours. I really like how Foveaux’s head chef, Darrell Felstead, pushes the boundaries with his dishes, challenging us diners to try something different. For me, it just hammered in the fact that even if you think you won’t like, you should try it anyway – who knows, you might just like it.
Foveaux Restaurant and Bar
65-67 Foveaux St,
Surry Hills, NSW, 2010
Ph: (02) 9211 0664