14 February 2010

Universal Restaurant: Contemporary Cuisine, Darlinghurst (13 Feb 2010)

Republic 2 Courtyard, Palmer Street (between Burton & Liverpool Street), Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Contemporary tastes at a price

Situated next to Phamish which makes my favourite Duck and Prawn Pancakes is the modern and slick looking Universal which I've been curious to try. It's great when a 2 Hatted restaurant meets all your expectations but sadly Universal didn't quite hit the mark for me for a number of reasons. If you go when it's raining you can expect to see a distracting performance by waiters every few minutes sweeping the canvas awning above diners heads trying to push the water to the end where it buckets down. Amusing at first but then becomes an atmosphere killer — they should get their awning replaced with one that works properly. The website promotes an a la carte menu of tastes inspired by flavours of the world but tonight the menu forces you to choose 3 savoury and 1 dessert item for a set $110 plus wines. I overhear one of the waiters saying to our neighbouring diners it's a Valentine's Menu which was never mentioned when I made the booking, nor when I received the confirmation call or when we were seated and the menus provided to us. I was hoping to try their unofficial signature dish of Galangal and Green Chilli Wagyu Beef Shin which Here Comes The Food reviewed as well as their Raspberry Ripple but they weren't available. I understand the menu is seasonal and changes but I was at least expecting I could pick how many dishes I wanted to try — and $110 for four dishes makes for a very expensive $27.50 dessert.

The service was friendly and knowledgeable of the menu but I'm not a fan of being asked if I want to start with a glass of champagne when I've just been seated and haven't even seen the drinks menu yet to check options and prices, and also being asked if I want sparkling water when I just want to have tap water — I guess they have to up sell when there's an opportunity. Finally settling into the well-presented and comfortable dining area we start off with some sophisticated cocktails which you could actually taste the alcohol (which is good in my books). Out of the six savoury dishes ordered I mostly enjoyed the Veal Sweetbread Fritters, Roasted Murray Cod and Spiced Duck Sausage with Seared Scallops and Lamb with Mint and Barrel Aged Feta Pastry — these were considered the heavier taste dishes. I found the Prawn Ceviche quite full of fresh flavours but just too overpowering on the taste buds. I didn't mind the Dry Aged Beef Teriyaki but preferred the other dishes.

I'm no expert on wines but the only matching wines which I enjoyed were the 2007 Chateau de Beauregard 'Classique' Fleurie Gamay ($11) with the Spiced Duck Sausage and Seared Scallops and the 2008 Massolino Dolcetto d'Alba ($10) with the Lamb and Mint. I found the other savoury wine matches had too much tannin for my liking and seemed too young on the palate and had not fully matured to their best potential. Both desserts tried were very satisfying and thankfully ended the night on a good note. The thin layer of caramelisation under the Snow White was delightful. The 2008 La Purisima 'Enesencia' Monastrell Dulce ($11) was an interesting and good wine match with the rich chocolatey Cheeky Devil which I believe is one of their signature desserts.

PROS: Friendly and professional service, Excellent desserts, Nice cocktails, Well-presented dishes, Romantic decor
CONS: Don't go when it's raining, Didn't fully enjoy all the matched wines tried, Expensive
MUST TRY: Desserts

Arriving for 7 pm reservation

Tangiers (left): Belvedere Pomerancza Vodka, Aperol, Lemon Peach Puree $17, Turkish Apple Rose (right): Rose Vanilla Bean Syrup, Square One Vodka, Apple Liqueur, Lime $17

Turkish Apple Rose-Rose Vanilla Bean Syrup, Square One Vodka, Apple Liqueur, Lime $17

Cocktail menu


Awards page

Menu: Three savoury tastes and one dessert taste $110 per person plus wine

Dining area

Waiter clearing water from awning

Complimentary bread and olive oil

Garam masala veal sweetbread fritters, roasted parsnip, spinach and pea pakoras matched with 2004 Les Creisses Vin de Pays d'Oc Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet $11

Prawn ceviche, palm sugar popcorn and green chilli salsa

Prawn ceviche plate size

Roasted Murray cod, spiced coconut, blue swimmer crab and green mango salsa matched with 2008 Pyrette Shiraz $10

Dry aged beef teriyaki, shiro miso baked eggplant, toasted sesame and sea urchin matched with 2009 Foster e Rocco Sangiovese Rosé $8

Lamb, mint and barrel aged feta pastry, cucumber yoghurt matched with 2008 Massolino Dolcetto d'Alba $10

Spiced duck sausage, seared scallops, celeriac, caraelised apple and morcilla matched with 2007 Chateau de Beauregard 'Classique' Fleurie Gamay $11

Snow white: White peach curd, strawberries, marshmallow and fairy floss matched with 2007 Paolo Sordo Brachetto d'Acqui $11

Cheeky devil: Cherries, dark chocolate mousse, chocolate fudge cake matched with 2008 La Purisima 'Enesencia' Monastrell Dulce $11

Dessert menu

Bill $325 for 2

Business card

L'Occitane liquid soap and mini towlettes


FFichiban said...

Hmmm I still need to give this palce a go esp those desserts!

SoRMuiJAi said...

oooo I've always wanted to try sweet bread! But every time its on the menu, there's something that just much more tempting. What is the texture like? Is it similar to brain?

joey@FoodiePop said...

A shame you didn't enjoy the experience as we have. I quite enjoyed the spectacle of the water clearing from the awning, but I bet the staff secretly curse under their breath! Not very good either about the Valentine's Day menu but I guess it came with the day and was half-expected. I love the food here, so much flavour and depth. Will return one day when the menu changes.

Phuoc said...

Oooo... cocktails and desserts look fab! Lucky someone wasn't standing where they tipped the water because that would have been embarassing..

Simon Food Favourites said...

hi ffichiban, hopefully they'll have the raspberry ripple when you visit. supposed to be pretty good too.

hi sormuijai, texture is a bit like brain i guess or soft chicken perhaps. not too mushy. thankfully it's crumbed and deep fried because i probably wouldn't be a fan of it any other way.

hi joey, i'm definitely sure the waiters would rather not be water clearing the awning. they didn't look too impressed having to do it. actually went on saturday 13 feb so was thinking it might have missed the 14 feb valentine hype. they're not open on sundays. have you posted your experience?

hi phuoc, there was a table sitting pretty close to the water downfall and they didn't look particularly happy. i think i would have moved if i was them.

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