Who knew chickpeas could taste so good? They're deep fried of course - crunchy promiscuous butt-cheeked orbs, tossed through with flakes of sea salt and sprigs of deep fried rosemary. And get this. They're free. They're the complimentary snack dispensed to diners at Ester in Sydney's latest burgeoning dining hot spot, Chippendale.
Counter seating at the bar
Ester is backed by the same people behind Vini, Berta and 121 BC. Mat Lindsay (ex-Billy Kwong and 121 BC) heads up the kitchen. The wood-fired oven takes centre stage.
The dining room is large but understated. You could easily walk past the largely unmarked doorway out the front. Inside it's high ceilings, clean-lined chairs and tables, a few shelves of preserves and wine bottles along one wall, and a row of high stools snaking its way around the bar.
Chicken liver pate $15
The menu is split into snacks, small plates, woodfired and sides. The chicken liver pate is a no-brainer. It's a thick and generous slice, and enough to share between two. Some may prefer to meticulously slice it in half at the start, just to make sure the portioning is even.
The pate is light, ultra smooth and sweet enough on its own that we abandon most of the accompanying mandarin chutney.
Pig tail with smoked oyster and cucumber $22
The pig tail is deboned and impressively flattened, draped across a bed of petite smoked oysters, super sour cucumbers and curly fronds of crunchy black fungus. There's been a valiant effort to crisp up the skin, and although some parts have been rendered well, other parts are a little on the chewier side.
Bone marrow with XO $15
The bone marrow, on the other hand, only requires a spoon. The trough of quivering fatty goodness is topped with a generous slather of XO, that spicy Hong Kong seafood sauce commonly made from dried scallops, dried prawns, ham, chilli, eschalots and garlic.
The XO sauce is amazing but to my tastebuds at least, it seems to overwhelm the flavour of the marrow. I scrape the XO off and eat it separately with the herb salad. That makes two dishes for the price of one. Win.
Woodfired steak with bagna cauda and radish $30
Fat slices of woodfired steak are ramped up with bagna cauda, an emulsion of garlic, anchovies, olive and butter. Paper thin shavings of radish offer a delicate palate cleanser.
Ester dining room
Three milks $11
We choose the three milks dessert over the neapolitan ice cream and the strawberry, watermelon and ginger ice. It's an unexpected twist on the South American version of tres leche cake, usually a sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream - three milks.
Here we find three separate milk desserts nestled together on a plate: a light-as-air quenelle of ricotta pancotta (it rhymes!); a piped rosette of sheep's milk yoghurt foam; and a trail of dulce de leche dragged across the plate. Olive oil biscuit crumbs, a slurp of olive oil and a scattering of rosemary leaves provide interesting textural and aromatic accents.
It's the kind of dessert you skip around at first, tasting each separately before mixing up different components ad hoc.
Salted caramel semi-freddo $4
And whatever you do, order the salted caramel semi-freddo. In a world of manic salted caramel excess, this little frozen ball is a reminder of why we first fell in love with salted caramel in the first place. It's not overly sweet, but definitely a little bit salty, the smoothness of the dessert broken up by a shower of black sesame smithereens.
Already a firm favourite with locals, be advised to book a reservation or turn up early.
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46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8068 8279
Lunch Thursday and Friday 12pm - 3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Friday 6pm til late
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11/07/2013 12:44:00 am