Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Etch, Sydney

Christmas has rolled around once again, and I'm always sad once I reach the other side of the festive season. No more presents, no more decorations, and no more Christmas parties.

Above all else, there is a particular thing I look forward to during the lead up to Christmas, and it's the multitude of work parties and lunches that occur during the period. Sadly, I heard that many work parties were downsized this year as a result of the GFC, but luckily for me, I nevertheless had the chance to pick the restaurant to book for our midday feast this year.

There was one criterium and one only. That is, the place had to be located somewhere close to where SK is currently doing her vacation work so that she may be able to join us during her lunch break.

Because of the late notice, finding a place proved to be a little difficult. However, with a little luck, I rediscovered Etch - the brainchild of Becasse's Justin North. The restaurant was situated in the perfect place, and thus it did not take me long to pick up a phone and lock ourselves in.

As one walks into the restaurant, the immediate surrounding will undoubtedly strike you as a form of subdued elegance and pretty. There's a hint of playfulness in the quirkiness of design - it's almost like a place taken straight out of a page of Frankie Magazine.

The service here is attentive and professional. As we settled ourselves into the comfortable chairs, we sneakily eavesdropped another table to listen to a very well informed waiter carefully divulging the intricacies of each dish.

We first nibbled on a little ciabatta to satisfy the peckish. (Like me). The Ciabatta was soft and full of flavour. Definitely more interesting than your standard Foccacia.

6 hour braised beef cheek, baby vegetables, Madeira consomme - $34

We skipped entrees and dived straight into the mains. I have to say, however, that it was incredibly hard to resist the temptation to go for a 3 course lunch and stuff myself to the absolute brim.

The decision for the Boss was straight forward. It took her less than 2 seconds to decide on the Braised Beef Cheek - something which she has been dying to dig into since our visit to Mad Cow during the Winter Feast. She had tried to order this dish on a second visit, but sadly it was no longer on offer.

The cheeks were absolutely divine and melted away the minute it touched your tongue. The madeira consomme provided a really robust and flavoursome backdrop against the sweetness of the meat - I think I almost cried a little when I tasted it.

Provencal potatoes, aged prosciutto, smoked garlic mayonnaise - $9 (Please do yourself a favour and try this.)

Local sea bream, crumbed scampi, fennel puree, citrus a la grecque - $31

DW and JH both ordered the local sea bream, which was a beautiful piece of fish cooked to absolute perfection. Both were really taken away by the fennel puree (something which has given me motivation to slave away in the kitchen to perfect), and were overall just in gleeful happiness as they slid each morsel into their mouths.

Spaghetti, sauteed prawns, peas, prawn bisque - $30

While I was tempted to try the Lobster Thermidore, I eventually decided to leave that dish for another day while I examined the particulars of prawn bisque. I know it was just a single element to the dish at large, but since the early days of foodie adventures, I've grown particularly fond of assessing individual elements of each dish in hope that I may be able to replicate them in my own kitchen one day.

Yes, some people have suggested that it would just be easier going to a culinary school...but I often prefer the scenic route.

Either way, I absolutely LOVED the prAWniness (hehe) of this dish. The bisque was an absolute explosion of flavour in my mouth. Then there was the Spring-freshness of the peas, then the satisfying bite of the spaghetti, and then the pure indulgence of a well cooked and flavoured prawn - all of which was then signed and sealed by an almost palate-cleansing taste of the cress.

Pear and Lillet blanc trifle - $15

While dessert had not been part of the original plan, as soon as we were handed the dessert menu, deep down we all knew that it was going to happen, whether we wanted it or not (but seriously, who wouldn't?)

Upon seeing the option of a trifle, JH cheerfully reminisced the times when her mother made her version of trifle back in Kiwiland. The next thing we knew, everyone was sharing the own visions and memories of a trifle made and enjoyed. It was interesting to see how a simple dessert, with its myriad of transformations, could spark a strange unity in a table of people from very different backgrounds. Spiced nougatine parfait, figs - $15

Lastly we happily shared a plate of Parfait - which was really one of the best dessert dishes I've ever had. The parfait was lusciously smooth and creamy - and only just mildly sweet. JH and SJ both commented on how this dessert simply wasn't sweet enough to their liking, while I happily nommed away on what I thought to be a dessert with the perfect level of sweetness. I had often discussed with JH (who is an absolute sweettooth) the Western vs. Asian dessert issue, and why if you enjoyed one it was always easy to be disappointed by another. It may just be the two of us and we are by no means a good sample for the entire population, but there are obvious differences between the two.

To be fair I would often point out my general apathy towards chocolate, and my utter dislike of dense and immensely sweet flavours. The confusing thing is, JH says the exact same thing about Asian desserts? So my gut feeling tells me that the problem probably lies in textural differences too, but I'm not too sure.

So I hand the problem over to you. What does it take to turn a "good" dessert into a "great" dessert?

Etch Restaurant
62 Bridge Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9247 4777
Opens: Monday to Friday 12pm - late, Saturday 5pm - late


  1. the dishes look beautifully presented and so yummy. i'll have to try in the new year if i get a chance :-)

  2. yum that parfait looks delish! you guys should totally order the lolly tray next time!

  3. That beef cheek certainly brought back great memories for me! Hehe.

    Re desserts, I don't mind one that's not overly sweet; it depends what I've had as previous courses too.

  4. I keep hearing wonderful things about Etch but have yet to successfully get myself there! There is nothing to explain about the comfort pairing of potatoes with prosciutto *drools*

    The thing about desserts is that they need to be seasonal - winter should be about warming comfort, summer should be about refreshing zing - and that they shouldn't just be about the sugar. A great dessert needs to showcase its ingredients, just like any great dish.

  5. Awwww envy! Been trying to go there, but never happened yet!