There's nothing like a sense of humour in the bathroom.
Female patrons at Etch push open the bathroom door to find themselves face to face with an undressed female mannequin. Step through the antechember and you'll find the rear view of another nude mannequin, her buttocks majestically illuminated.
By the sinks of course, is the angel-winged mannequin I remember so fondly from my last visit here. It's funny how these quirky additions make going to the bathroom such an adventure. Is this why women always go the bathroom in pairs?
And the men's? After waxing lyrical to Billy about the joys in the ladies, he reports that the men's toilet door is actually a disguised entry to the Intercontinental Hotel, where men must use the lobby amenities.
Exciting bathrooms aside, tonight we're actually here for Australia and New Zealand Seafood Safari, one of the special dinners held as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
The quirky bathroom reflects the eclectic decor of the main dining and bar area at Etch, the modern European restaurant run by Justin and Georgia North of Becasse, Plan B and Le Grande Cafe.
Broken Bay oysters
The theme of the night is sustainable seafood and we start with canapes at the rear of the restaurant. Broken Bay oysters are plump and creamy Pacifics and king salmon is served two ways, curls of velvety smooth smoked salmon and lightly cooked and marinated and served in spoons. The King Salmon comes from New Zealand, reared in fresh water ponds before migration to sea cages for its final stages of development.
We snack on deep-fried clusters of whitebait, a seasonal treat in New Zealand that usually lasts for only six weeks, as the six-month old fingerlings swim up the West Coast of the South Island.
Cloudy Bay clams
All canapes paired with NV Matua Valley Sparkling Sauvignon Blanv, Marlborough, NZ
and Vale Ale, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Cloudy Bay clams are my favourite. These surf clams are huge, briney but tender and delicately flavoured.
Fishing for a Difference is a celebration of sustainable seafood from Australia and New Zealand, spearheaded by John Susman of Fisheads Seafood Strategy, and Rachel Taulelei of Wellington-based Yellow Brick Road.
Etch napkin collars
Whilst the word 'sustainable' has become an increasingly common catchphrase, John and Rachel are committed to educating the public on its true meaning, best encapsulated in excerpts from our program:
"Sustainable seafood is an ethic. Sustainable seafood is also a market trend; a movement; an ideal, but increasingly it is an overused and abused cliche being exploited by those wanting to get on - or perhaps make sure they are seen to be on- the green bus.
Put simply, sustainable seafood is farmed or wild seafood harvested without harm to its population or habitat or to any other species in its ecosystem. It about keeping an eye on our future resource.
... the best eating seafood from Australia and New Zealand inevitably comes from catchers and growers who care - they care for their fish, they care for their environment and they care for their family's future - this is sustainability."
MC Matt Preston
With MC Matt Preston handling proceedings, we hear heartfelt words from John and Rachel as well as the two chefs representing Australia and New Zealand respectively, Matt Moran and Justin North.
Justin North and Rachel Taulelei
Jokingly touted as a trans-Tasman match-up, Matt and Justin have each prepared four dishes, showcasing sustainable seafood in a seven-course piscatorial feast. Each dish has also been paired with a matching wine.
Bread and extra virgin olive oil
Etch: Wild New Zealand kingfish, salad of marinated paua,
oyster mushrooms and citrus miso emulsion
Paired with 2009 Tupari Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand
The first course is exquisitely plated, and worth pausing to admire for a minute or two. Tiny buds of enoki mushroom have been snipped off the stem and carefully placed on each piece of kingfish, as if they had suddenly sprouted. A tumble of broccoli floret shavings look more like casually growing moss. Fine shavings of marinated paua or abalone are slippery and tender, and the wild New Zealand kingfish has an intensity flavour I'd never encountered before.
Aria: Sashimi of hiramasa kingfish with Queensland spanner crab,
pink grapefruit and pickled Thai shallots
Paired with 2007 Scarborough "White Label" Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW
I'll always have a weakness for sashimi, and the neat pillows of hiramasa kingfish (also known as yellow tail kingfish) by Matt Moran is buttery and soft as satin. Spanner crab is sweet and delicate, but the pickled Thai shallot is a revelation with its refreshing zingy crunch.
Etch: New Zealand yellow belly flounder, groper throats and scampi tails veronique
paired with 2009 Matua Valley "Regional Series" Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
Everyone is intrigued by the idea of eating groper throats, and Justin explains that these are a particularly undervalued delicacy. We pick up the battered groper throat and bite through the crisp shell to find a fatty melting ball of soft deliciousness.
"Oh my god!" says John, who is sitting next to me. He grabs my arm and turns to me, eyes open wide. I can only nod in mute agreement.
We slip our forks through the fillet of yellow belly flounder, a curl of scampi tail and skitter through dollops and swirls of evocative sauces. It's my highlight of the evening, a harmony of textures and flavours, including an incredible lettuce sauce. The sauce veronique is worth licking clean.
Aria: Spencer Gulf wild king prawns with curried mussel sauce and salt cod croquette
Paired with 2008 Jinks Creek Pinot Gris, Gippsland, VIC
We'd been a bit wary of the idea of a curried mussel sauce with prawns, but this is actually quite mild and more creamy in flavour. Salted cod croquette is fluffy and sticky with a golden crumb, and the Spencer Gulf wild king prawn has a pleasing firmness.
Etch: Farmed New Zealand Hapuka, cucumber, wasabi and kaffir lime
Paired with 2009 Matua Valley "Estate Series", Paratai Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
Farmed Hapuka is a result of seven years and NZ$15m in research to breed this New Zealand favourite. A foam of cucumber, wasabi and kaffir lime is light and ethereal, although when only knives and forks are provided, I'm tempted to pick up the bowl and drink the dregs.
Aria: Roasted fillet of Cone Bay barramundi
with braised white radish, bok choy and Peking duck consomme
Paired with 2007 Pooley "Butchers Hill" Pinot Noir, Coal River Valley, TAS
Our final course has a decided Asian influence, with Peking duck bones use to create a consomme. The barramundi doesn't have the crisp skin it visually promises, but there's much to admire in the skilfully turned white radish and cucumber.
Etch: Caramel date tart, burnt butter ice cream, Earl Grey syrup
We conclude at 11.30pm with a finale of the signature Etch dessert, caramel date tart. Flecked with gold on its surface, the caramel date tart is sticky and satisfying, served with burnt butter ice cream and a streak of sweet Earl Grey syrup. I survey the room and every plate has been scraped clean.
Grab Your Fork attended the Australia and New Zealand Seafood Safari: Fishing for a Difference as a guest of Yellow Brick Road.
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62 Bridge Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9247 4777
Open Monday to Friday 12pm - late
Saturday 5pm - late
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10/07/2010 03:34:00 am