Give them food on a stick. And let them dip.
A last-minute dinner suggestion by Billy sees a flurry of emails, a hungry surf of the web and finally a booking at JPB Restaurant at the Swissôtel for a night of fondue.
Simon and Yas are also grabbing their fondue fork, and Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin--who happen to be in town idling for dinner--also join our fooding crew. I'm bemused when, as I make introductions, I take a moment to clarify, "this is Pig Flyin", and then watch Simon's face change from passivity to utter entrancement. I don't blame him. If I were in his position, I would too.
We're at JPB for two reasons.
Because fondue is fun.
And because we can buy one Swiss fondue Chinoise and get one free*.
Cheese fondue $27
Traditional cheese fondue with gruyere, appenzeller and tilsiter cheese
served with baguette bread
The smell of molten cheese wafts with tantalising persistence throughout the dining room and we make no hesitation in ordering a pot of cheese fondue to share amongst the table. It's a heady mixture of strong sharp cheeses and a generous slosh of white wine that boils and bubbles in a cast iron pot.
Fondue originated as a means of using up old stored cheeses and stale bread in winter by heating the cheese until molten and using the dried bread to dip and eat.
Our bread is fresh and soft and there's a great sense of fun as we fight over the last scraps of cheese. As someone who tends to find fondue quite rich, the shared portion between six is actually perfect as an appetiser.
Dipping bread into the cheese fondue
Fondue Chinoise buffet $42 per person
Unlimited fresh seafood, meats and salad
Patrons who have chosen the Fondue Chinoise help themselves to a buffet that includes beef, veal, pork, kangaroo, prawns, calamari, salmon and cod. We count over a dozen different sauces and dressings with which to annoint your cooked meat.
Veal and kangaroo
Salad from the buffet
Whilst we're waiting for our Chinoise broth, we help ourselves to the salad bar, an offering that includes raw and cooked vegetables, components of a Caesar salad and an odd assortment of pickled mustard fruits and tinned peaches and pears.
My first platter: pork, veal, beef, kangaroo, calamari and cod
I'm quite taken with the plates you use to choose your selection of meat and seafood, a heavy glass compartmentalised platter. I have to confess I went into autopilot mode and presumed I was gathering food for the entire table, being so used to Chinese steamboat buffets where this practice is norm. Only when I returned did I realise I had to eat all of this.
Magically, I did.
Mrs Pig Flyin's first platter
Mrs Pig Flyin has the deal down pat. Not only does she possess self-control, she's also extraordinarily neat in her food gathering and display too.
Simon's first platter
Simon, on the other hand, is not afraid to flex his appetite.
The fondue Chinoise is, of course, a Chinese fondue - essentially a fancy version of Chinese steamboat except instead of a huge cauldron of stock and an array of chopsticks and fishing baskets, we use a small fondue pot and fondue forks.
Each dining pair is allocated two fondue pots - one for cooking meat and one for cooking seafood. We presumed there was a difference in the broths but to be honest, we couldn't really tell.
Each person has two fondue forks of the same colour for easy identification. It means you can only cook two pieces of meat or seafood at any one time, a more elegant and slow-paced affair than the usual Chinese method of "let's throw in everything now and start fishing madly in about two minutes".
As part of the Fondue Chinoise, the table is provided with a serve of roasted potatoes, allegedly "straight from the woodfire oven".
My second plate: prawns, salmon and cod with mustard fruits
Mustard fruits are a particular highlight, sweet and sticky with a slightly nose-tingling heat from the mustard seeds. And I actually enjoy the tinned peaches and pears as a sort of palate cleanser.
The seafood is the winner at the buffet, the prawns flavoursome and sweet, and the cod is soft and tender. I find the calamari a tad tricky to cook, trying to finding the balance between raw and overcooked.
A generosity of protein, salad and roasted potatoes soon makes an impact on my fading stomach.
And yet, did someone say dessert?
The mere word snaps our heads to attention, backs straight and eyes a little wider. We don't require much encouragement to agree a dessert fondue should be ordered.
Chocolate fondue $16
Melted milk chocolate with assorted sliced fruits
Chocolate cake, marshmallows, strawberries,
pineapple, honeydew and rockmelon
A platter of chocolate cake, marshmallows and tropical fruits is soon coated in a generous slather of melted chocolate and consumed with eagerness. There's something undeniably sexy about warm melted chocolate...
The platter of fruit runs out well before the chocolate, and determined not to let it go to waste I head to the salad buffet in hunt of croutons and return with a plate of...
Chocolate dipping plate
Why not have some fun? We seize the opportunity to dip random ingredients into the chocolate remnants.
Verdict: corn and olives are particularly bad, salad leaves are okay, and bacon? Oh yeah, baby, that salty chocolatey goodness is crazy tasty.
I'm not sure the Swiss would approve.
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Level 8, 68 Market Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: +61 (02) 9238 8888
Monday to Friday 7am-10pm
Saturday and Sunday 7am-10am, then 6pm-10pm
The Fondue Chinoise is available Monday to Saturday from 6pm
Bookings are strongly recommended
*The Enliven Your Senses buy one get one free offer expires July 31, 2009
- make sure you quote 'VIVID' when you make your booking and
bring a copy of the Enliven Your Senses card when you dine.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Cheese fondue with friends
Chocolate fondue party
Shangri-La Cafe Mix buffet
Sheraton Four Points Corn Exchange buffet
Sheraton on the Park Botanica Brasserie buffet
Swissotel Crossroads Bar High Tea (Jan09), (Nov06) , (Jun06) and (Oct05)
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7/22/2009 01:22:00 a.m.