12 April 2011

Time Out Taste Test Final: March into Merivale Special Event at Felix, Sydney (11 Apr 2011)

2 Ash Street, Sydney NSW 2000

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 d├ęcor 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

Stephannie Liu
Dish 1: Scampi tartare, pomegranate, compressed watermelon, lemon olive oil snow, pork crackling dust, baby coriander by Stephannie Liu, 2nd year, Felix

Matthew Stevenson

Dish 2: Organic tofu with bluefin tuna, shitake and cucumber pickles and Japanese pearls by Matthew Stevenson, 2nd year, Rockpool

Lyly Nguyen

Dish 3: Snapper sashimi with pickled hasuimo, baby beetroot and blackened chilli by Lyly Nguyen, 3rd year, Lotus

Riley Kamsler
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

Jay Richardson

Dish 6: Crumbed carrot cheesecake, confit orange puree, carrot jelly and orange carrot sorbet by Jay Richardson, 2nd year, est.

Chef Simun Dragicevich and Head Chef Lauren Murdoch

Chandon sparkling on arrival

Fresh bread

Domaine Chandon Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Domaine Chandon Shiraz 2008

Time Out Taste Test event menu

My score card

Chefs in the kitchen

The support team

Some apprentice fans

The guests

Time Out
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


Anonymous said...

Zen could have a 'quiff off' with Lee from My Kitchen Rules! Hair spray at 10 paces! He is an incredibly talented young chef, to be sure. Gobsmack'd

Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said...

Great round up of all those impressive dishes and you're right, looks like diners were the winners on the night!

Monica ^o^ said...

Trust you to write a post as soon as you got home Simon ! LOL
The pork belly was amazing, I still can remember the taste and the smoked popcorn was amazing as well. Great night, crashed as soon as I got home though :P

OohLookBel said...

How great to be part of this event! Amazing dishes from talented chefs. Do you know how many servings they each had to make?

Anonymous said...

The pork and people were stand outs. Great photos Simon!

susan said...

that pork looks amazing! all the dishes look pretty great actually.

sugarpuffi said...

whoa! all the dishes looked amazing! must be a really hard choice to pick a winner.

muppy said...

Love the look of that carrot cheesecake, very interesting :)

kewpie said...

i do wish i was there....

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Gee - you practicially live at the ivy these days, Simon :)

Those sashimi dishes all look great - and gorgeous plating too!

Madam Wu said...

I still think that the crumbed carrot cheese cake was the best. It was clever, crafty, innovative and most importantly, damn delicious. I would pay good money for this dish and I hope that I get the pleasure of tasting it again!

Phuoc'n Delicious said...

COOL! Know of the two girls cooking that night, good to see that they got that far! Looks like a talented bunch of youngsters!

Jenn Brigole said...

Delicious line up! I agree with the carrot cheesecake. Very enticing in the eyes and I don't just say that because I love the color orange. Thanks for sharing the experience, Simon.

Simon Leong said...

hi gobsmack'd, i'm thinking zen would win the quiff off hehe

hi forager, was quite a fun night for all.

hi monica, if i had an ipad i probably would have started it at the restaurant :-) i was crashing too after i got home but some managed to get the post done.

hi bel, they each made one dish each but all helped out on each others when platting up

hi tamara, thanks for the positive feedback

hi susan, i think everyone was a winner that night. quite an achievement for these young chefs to be in the final

hi sugarpuffi, i know i'd be hard pressed to cook anything better so it can be a hard choice to pick a winner

hi muppy, it was very interesting indeed and so yummy

hi kewpie, hopefully next year you'll be there

hi tina, i wish i was living at the Ivy, perhaps the Penthouse, but sadly i'm not.

hi madam wu, i think a lot of people would have paid for that dessert. definitely a crowd favourite and it showed in the final results.

hi phouc, i hope they've invited you around for dinners :-)

hi jenn, glad you enjoyed the carrot dessert as well. was a winner in my eyes :-)

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