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Friday, July 15, 2011

La Brasserie, Darlinghurst

Every Sunday, says Jacques Reymond, he smells disaster in his neighbourhood.

"It's the smell of burning meat. Australians burn their meat until it's black." He shakes his head in dismay. "To cook meat you need to be gentle." He can't understand the Australian appreciation for charred protein.

Reymond, head chef and owner of the three-hat Jacques Reymond - Cuisine du Temps in Melbourne, is visiting Sydney as an ambassador for De Dietrich kitchen appliances. We're at a media luncheon at La Brasserie in Darlinghurst, featuring a special Bastille Day menu.

Vintage posters at La Brasserie

It's my first visit to La Brasserie, a warm and cosy bistro with Parisian charm. Vintage posters line the walls and there's even a piano by the bar at the front.

Entree option 1: Salade de Crabe
Remoulade of crab and celeriac with avocado and grapefruit

Suze and I have carefully coordinated our pre-selections so we cover all options on the Bastille Day menu. The crab and celeriac remoulade is one of the most popular choices, the sweet crab lifted by the nuttiness of celeriac, a refreshing segement of grapefruit and a delicate dice of avocado dressed with extra virgin olive oil.

Entree option 2: Pate en croute
Rabbit and pork terrine in pastry with pistachios and onion confiture

I'd chosen the pate en croute, a thin slice of rabbit and pork terrine set in a delicate layer of pastry. The terrine is hearty yet elegant, with whole pistachios providing a welcome crunch. A quenelle of confit onion is deliciously tacky and sweet.

Jacques Reymond

We break briefly to watch Jacques Reymond demonstrate how he uses induction cooktops to prepare a fried asparagus and shimeji mushroom warm salad. It's interesting to see how he borrows heavily from Asian cuisine to prepare this dish, using wakame seaweed, rice wine vinegar and shimeji mushrooms to accent more classically French ingredients, like asparagus and Roquefort blue cheese.

Jacques Reymond adding the garnish to his fried asparagus and shimeji mushrooms

La Brasserie head chef David Bransgrove

In the meantime, the kitchen is quietly working on our main courses. It's quite a large kitchen out the back, and offers a clear view of all the action to anyone en route to the bathroom.


The pass

Mains option 1: Magret de Canard
Roast duck breast with sweet potato fondant and sauce rouannaise

Roast duck breast, we're told, is a specialty of the south-western provinces of France. Here it's served with a sauce rouannaise, a classic Bordelaise -- red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and demi-glace brown sauce -- enriched with pureed duck liver.

The duck is succulent with a layer of fat and a thin crisp skin. Whole green peppercorns add a piquancy that helps cut through the richness of the dish.

Mains option 2: Selle d'agneau farci a la forestiere
Slow roasted lamb saddle with wood mushrooms, smoked potato mousseline and sauce madiera

I'd opted for the slow roasted lamb saddle, a dish so glorious that I'm reluctant to swap plates halfway with Suze. The lamb is soft and tender, but it's the thick layer of fat and the veneeer of caramelised skin that makes me glad I'm sitting down, lest I swoon.

The lamb saddle is stuffed with wood mushrooms, adding an earthiness that is complemented by a wondrous smoked potato mousseline. My favourite part of this dish is the deep fried sage leaves, shattering in the mouth with a salty crunch.

Jacques Reymond with Grant Jones, Food Editor for the Daily Telegraph

Vincent Gadan

Our dessert today has been prepared by Vincent Gadan, executive chef at Patisse. Whatever you do, he says, don't go on MasterChef - referring to his recent appearance on an Immunity Challenge where he, a pastry chef, was challenged to prepare a perfect roast pork dinner.

Gadan is cheeky and enthusiastic, easily winning over the crowd with his melodious French accent and boyish charm. His demonstration involves preparing a creme brulee which he says is easier with induction due to precise temperature control and speed of heating. Pastry chefs, he says, are always jumping up and down with impatience, waiting for components to heat up or boil.

He has no time for vanilla essences, using only the best vanilla beans he can find. Once a vanilla bean has been scraped or steeped in milk, he washes the used vanilla bean and then places the pod into a container of sugar to create a beautifully scented and flavoured vanilla sugar.

Vincent Gadan blowtorching creme brulees

Finished creme brulees

Vincent Gadan and David Bransgrove plating the madeleines

Gadan has prepared three miniature desserts, including a madeleine which he says is loved by all French people. This buttery sponge cake is Guillaume Brahimi's absolute favourite, he claims, whom he worked with during his stint at Guillaume at Bennelong.

Dessert service

Clockwise from top left: Creme brulee a la vanille; madeleine avec creme diplomat 
and sabyon de fruits rouge

The trio of desserts offers a perfect end to our meal. A rich sabayon -- made from egg yolks, sugar and champagne -- has been spooned over mixed berries and blowtorched, garnished with a shard of crystallised violet.

Creme brulee is silky smooth and fragrant with vanilla bean, but it's the madeleine that proves most addictive, soft and buttery with a sugar-crusted shell.

Jacques Reymond, head chef Jacques Reymond - Cuisine du Temps

Vincent Gadan, executive chef of Patisse

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La Brasserie on Urbanspoon

118 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9358 1222

Opening hours:
Lunch Thursday and Friday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Monday to Sunday 6pm-10pm

Grab Your Fork attended the Bastille Day lunch at La Brasserie as a guest of De Dietrich and Weber Shandwick.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bastille Day dinner at La Peniche, Stanmore

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/15/2011 02:47:00 a.m.


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