Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: Assiette, Surry Hills

Well well well, hasn't it been a while?

Having survived an incredible, career-defining period of epic-stress (where everyone here at Team Nom practically realised a whole new level to their stress-o-meter), the time has finally come to pick things up where we last dropped off...

Last night was the first time in a VERY long time that JL and I had even thought of going out for a random impromptu "date night". The special place we picked, Assiette, has been a place long raved about by AL (for those who don't know, AL is a fellow foodie and a long-time friend with whom I travelled around Vietnam with earlier this year). All the raves had made me worry that I had set my expectations too high for the occasion.

Left: Seasonal oyster with Vietnamese dressing and baby coriander (1); Top-right: Granny smith apple jelly with Vanilla syrup and apple granita (9)

First impression inside was excellent - an elegant, intimate dining space where the lighting still allowed one to see the face of the person sitting opposite you at the table. The floor staff seemed polite enough, though somewhat robotic as they rather monotonously listed what was sitting on the plate before you without so much as a smile as they tacked on "Enjoy." at the end of the briefing. Nevertheless, the food is what we were after, and the food is what we really cared for.

Left: Pan-fried dory with seared scallop, onion bhaji, cauliflower puree and mango chutney (6); Right: Cured Malborough salmon with prawn beignet, pink grapefruit, mandarin and fennel (2)

To say that the food was anything less than amazing would be the understatement of the century. The balance of texture, taste and artistry was beautifully choreographed on almost every plate that was presented on the night. I say almost because there was a pretty bad boo-boo in one of the courses- more on that later.

Being the seafood-addict that he is, JL loved the Indian-inspired pan-fried dory with the onion bhaji. I personally fell in love with the smooth and almost velvety texture of the cauliflower, pureed with the slightest hint of curry to delight the senses. Tasting the air-dried mandarin (it was like dehydrated awesomeness in a mouthful) was a first time experience for both of us - it provided a lovely crunch against the backdrop of silky salmon.

Terrine of Macleay Valley rabbit with celeriac, raisins and Waldorf Salad (4).

JL was a little bit apprehensive about being served bunny again. That only meant good news for me because I've long given up trying to convince him to give things a go and simply learnt to resolve the situation by gobbling down his share as well. This bunny and celeriac concoction did not disappoint.

Seared tuna with smoked eel, beetroot jelly, wasabi cream and baby basil (3)

The standout of the night for both JL and I went to (might I add, surprisingly), the Seared tuna with smoked eel and beetroot jelly. Even as I sit here today typing this, the smoky taste of the smoked eel mousse inside the beetroot cannelloni still lingers in my mouth. The pairing of the sweet tang of the beetroot to cut through the smokiness really just had one's senses wrapped around its little finger.

Ballontine (sic) of quail with prosciutto, chestnuts, white asparagus and crispy quail egg (5)

When the ballotine of quail arrived before me my heart sank a little:
"...Dangit I think it's raw."
"Are you sure?"
*Cuts into the piece - or rather, struggles to cut through the piece*
"Yep. Definitely raw..."

So I sat there for a while pondering my options:
  1. Send the dish back Matt Preston style (Pros: Get a cooked dish, Cons: We had to be out before the next sitting started - so probably end up with no dessert)
  2. Eat around the uncooked parts (Pros: Eat, Cons: Miss out on the ballontine and possibly still die from salmonella poisoning anyway)
  3. Eat the whole thing (Pros: Research for what it feels like to eat raw poultry, Cons: possibly die from salmonella poisoning)
I'll just say now that I did not take option one. I'll leave it to you to decide which of the other two options I picked, but judging from the fact that I'm still here today to type this epic blog post for you all, I did not died from salmonella poisoning - though do NOT take this as advice to start eating raw poultry. It was possibly just a stroke of luck.

Either way the rest of the dish was excellent. You probably can't tell from the picture, but there were the most BEAUTIFULLY fluffy sauteed gnocchi sitting beneath the ballotine. There were also little cradles of sweet baby brussel sprouts next to the gnocchi which were to die for. Literally.

Left: Banana Mousse with white chocolate ice cream and peanut brittle (10); Right: Selected cheese with pear puree and toasted fruit bread (8)

Lastly came the round of desserts which included a composition of apple jelly and granita (with perfectly sized brunoised apples mixed in with the granita), a cleverly-deconstructed effort of "cheese-cake" and an absolutely lickable delight of banana and peanut. My heart was won by the train of thought behind the "cheese-cake" - a quinelle of some sort of blue cheese (guesswork) with pear puree and a crumble base - rather like a typical cheese cake. This was served with a small muscatel and mango chutney with fruit bread - a combination that is seriously more-ish. I could nom on this all night with a glass of wine and a book.

JL absolutely adored the banana feature. The banana mousse was so soft and fluffy, wrapped tightly in a cylinder caramellish cone (?). The peanut brittle gave a lovely crunch with the cone against the smooth and silkiness of the mousse and ice cream. The combination of flavours really was the perfect way to finish off a lovely evening.

We'll definitely be back again.

48 Albion Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9212 7979


  1. Hooray for being back with posts, presenting us an absolutely beautiful meal (at a place which the husband keeps talking about taking me) and for taking one for the team and risking your life with salmonella risk experiment!

  2. glad you survived the poultry. are you definitely sure it was raw. if so i would have told the waiter. you'd be surprised how fast they can correct a dish if it's not quite right. have you heard about their $35 friday lunch deal of 3 courses? :-)

  3. @mademoiselle: thank you so much for coming back to us! We were really up to our eyeballs with work and other commitments to just properly sit down and type up a decent post!

    @Simon: the photo I posted was JL's dish, but on the night I could definitely still see the shiny redness of the meat on my plate. (And it was squishy too!) I've always had a problem with sending the plate back because of all the horror stories which have surfaced over the years - it just almost feels like you could potentially make your night even worse? I don't know - any tips on learning how to send food back??

  4. That banana dessert looks and sounds so good! I want to go there just for that!

  5. hi there
    I have seen many reviews of this restaurant already trhough aussie food blogs and I must admit this is amazing I am in awe in front of all these dishes you are very lucky to have such a standard of cuisine !! Pierre de Paris

  6. That was indeed a mega post, but hurray! I thought you'd gone MIA like I did ! Really need to go somewhere non-japanese hmm...