Time for young guns to dish up
Thanks to Kimberley Salt from Merivale for inviting to this special event which stands as one of the most quickly booked out dinners of the March into Merivale lineup. Six apprentice chefs were part of the final Time Out Taste Test held at Felix under the watchful eyes of Head Chef Lauren Murdoch and her team of professionals. The diners became the judges in the end to determine the winning dish of the night which deservedly went to Zen Jay Ong for his Crisp confit of pork belly followed closely by runner up Jay Richardson for his Crumbed carrot cheesecake. I think from the outset the first three dishes were at a disadvantage being all raw seafood which were presented similarly and seemed to use an abundance of micro herbs. Perhaps it was no surprise that the only warm dish and dessert dish won the hearts of the diners, but they were also my top favourites as well.
Scampi tartare was the first dish up which had generous amounts of scampi but could have been held back a bit for me to help other flavours come through in the dish. I liked the addition of the compressed watermelon, crunch of pomegranate and pork crackling dust but I couldn’t really taste the lemon olive oil snow which was fairly invisible on a white plate. I think the presentation could have been tightened up and the watermelon juice seeping on the plate didn’t work in its favour. Next was the Organic tofu with bluefin tuna nicely presented but I found there to be too much going on and my palate was getting overloaded and lacked direction. I loved the cucumber pickles though which took centre stage over the tuna. When the third dish of Snapper sashimi was served many at our dimly lit table thought it was the same dish they’d just had. I’m not sure about the presentation looking like it had all accidently tipped to one side of the dish but the chilli kick was welcomed. For me there just didn’t seem to be anything particularly exciting about it to kick the wow factor, but it was nice.
The fourth dish of Galantine of rabbit was nicely tender although cold and the rabbit belly scratchings were superb and worthy of being a regular bar menu item in their own right. Unfortunately the acidity in the delicate pickled mushroom salad was as subtle as a slap to the face. Finally a warm dish of Crisp confit of pork belly nicely presented and flavoured with notes of sweet corn which worked well. The smoked salt popcorn was an interesting touch but I'm not sure if I fully appreciated it. I would have loved the crackling to be even more crunchy for my liking but maybe it was just my piece. I liked the inclusion of the plum but wondered if finely cubed or being caramelised would have helped to make it more harmonious with the dish for me rather than being a side of fruit.
I really enjoyed the final dish and only dessert of Crumbed carrot cheesecake which had the Time Out table in a feeding frenzy. All the flavours combined well but I wasn’t sure if the micro herb of parsley(?) worked on flavour and perhaps was just playing visual homage to the carrot top. I think a missed opportunity of including a mini chocolate Easter bunny might have tipped the final votes. Congratulations to all the apprentice chefs that made it to the final and all the efficient and hard working service and kitchen staff that I’m sure made it a special and memorable night for all.
Other Time Out Taste Test events:
• 11 April 2011 - Zen Jay Ong wins at Felix
• 22 March 2010 - Stephanie Coupland wins at CBD Bistro
PROS: Nice restaurant décor for the event, Large kitchen and preparation area for the chefs to work in, Watching the new talented chefs in the kitchen take on the challenge
CONS: The event books out quicker than a bat out of hell, Couldn't appreciate the artistic presentation of dishes on a table with only dim lighting
MUST TRY: Crumbed carrot cheesecake by Jay Ricardson and Crisp confit of pork belly from Zen Jay Ong, Hopefully attending next year
Dish 1: Scampi tartare, pomegranate, compressed watermelon, lemon olive oil snow, pork crackling dust, baby coriander by Stephannie Liu, 2nd year, Felix
Dish 2: Organic tofu with bluefin tuna, shitake and cucumber pickles and Japanese pearls by Matthew Stevenson, 2nd year, Rockpool
Dish 3: Snapper sashimi with pickled hasuimo, baby beetroot and blackened chilli by Lyly Nguyen, 3rd year, Lotus
Dish 4: Galantine of rabbit with pumpkin, pickled mushroom and rabbit belly salad by Riley Kamsler, 2nd year, Restaurant Balzac
Zen Jay Ong
Dish 5: Crisp confit of pork belly with sweet corn, plum, coriander and smoked salt popcorn by Zen Jay Ong, 3rd year, Berowra Waters Inn
Dish 6: Crumbed carrot cheesecake, confit orange puree, carrot jelly and orange carrot sorbet by Jay Richardson, 2nd year, est.
RUNNER UP DISH
Chef Simun Dragicevich and Head Chef Lauren Murdoch
Chandon sparkling on arrival
Domaine Chandon Shiraz 2008
OMG, where do these go?
Myffy Rigby, MC for the night
Michael Rodrigues, Time Out Director
The calm before the heat in the kitchen
Guests enjoying a glass of sparkling on arrival
Madam Wu from Music Munchies Review perusing Time Out Magazine
Daniel Boud taking the shot
Doni D Photography helping out with the shots
And the winner is ...?
OK, are we ready for the announcements?
Six young gun apprentices standing in their aprons sponsored by Fraser and Hughes
Zen Jay Ong (left) winner, Jay Richardson (right) runner up