A three course meal at Automata for $55? Yes please. The lunchtime-only offering on Fridays and Saturdays provides an express ticket through Automata's regularly changing menu. And we're not talking a meal that'll leave you ravenous. Appended to your three courses are complimentary snacks plus the famous chicken jus butter that accompanies their housemade bread. Now we're talking.
Clayton Wells' first solo restaurant has been open for over a year now, the culmination of a CV that has included stints at Quay, Tetsuya's, Noma and Momofuku Seiobo. In September this year, Automata was awarded two hats in the 2017 Good Food Guide Awards.
We're led to the long comnunal table that runs down the middle of the dining room and start with a duo of snacks. Neat little bundles of enoki mushrooms are wrapped up tightly in a scroll of wagyu beef. The thin slices of meat are incredibly tender, a terrific contrast against the gentle crunch of enoki mushrooms. Both work brilliantly with the umami saltiness of miso.
The green orb is a cherry tomato wrapped in sesame leaf. It's a game of suspense as we pop these into our mouths, enjoying the sweetness of tomato before an explosion of umeboshi pickled plums revs up our appetites.
Bread with chicken jus butter
The chicken jus butter at Automata needs no introduction. Everybody loves this stuff. The recipe seems to have changed a little since my last visit - it tastes like more butter and less jus - but it's still crazy addictive. The bread has changed too, switching from individual buns to slices of a mini wholewheat loaf.
The lightness of the butter is still a marvel. My dining companion is initially modest with the butter dispensation, but after only a mouthful, quickly dips his knife again to slather on more.
We have a complimentary serving of bread with our snacks and accept another portion offered between our entree and main. In a city where most places charge for bread, this gesture still stands out for its generosity.
Tuna, asparagus, arame seaweed and malt vinegar
Our entree comprises of three fat slabs of seared tuna splayed across a bed of asparagus and seaweed. There's more at play here than initially meets the eye. The tuna is fresh and firm, seared to a textbook measure of evenness on all sides. I relish the textural contrast of soft tuna against crunchy slices of young asparagus and the slender strands of arame seaweed. There's a balance too in flavours with the malt vinegar providing an acidic counterpoint to the sweetness of tuna.
Smoked duck, grilled greens and fermented pumpkin
Our main yields a whole smoked duck breast served with a panoply of greens. There's nothing to fault with the duck, cooked masterfully so the flesh is a succulent pink. The duck skin has been rendered to a crisp, snapping like a thin sheet of crackling.
Yogurt sorbet, tamarillo, mulberry, shiso and kelp oil
Dessert looks deceptively simple but again, there's more here than meets the eye. The yoghurt sorbet itself is instantly cooling, with an airiness that makes you feel like you're eating a frozen yoghurt marshmallow. Mulberries and tamarillo have been macerated so they tread a wavering line between tart and sweet but it's the inclusion of kelp oil, shiso leaves and sumac that really make your tastebuds question every mouthful, and then ask for more.
Squeeze this into a Friday lunch during work hours and you'd still have money left for the weekend. Win.
5 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8277 8555
Lunch Friday and Saturday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6pm-12am
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Automata, Chippendale - 5 courses for $88
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11/27/2016 03:00:00 pm