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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ester, Chippendale

Twice cooked quail at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney

Still sexy. It's been almost five years since Ester first flung open its doors in Chippendale. That's a long time in Sydney restaurant years. Last week it took out 2nd place (behind Brae) in the AFR's peer-voted listed of Australia's Top 100 Restaurants for 2018.

But it's not hard to see why Ester has remained a firm favourite with diners. There's an understated simplicity to the menu. Most dishes showcase just one or two core components. Forget fancy plating and tricked up ingredients. Ester is all about celebrating the freshest produce, majestic vegetables and the smoky roar of a wood-fired oven.

Potato bread with kefir cream, dashi jelly and trout roe at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Potato bread, kefir cream, dashi jelly, trout roe $22

The menu has enough breadth to pique the interest of even the fussiest diner (usually six snacks and ten shareable dishes) without feeling overwhelming. And while some dishes have earned multi-seasonal runs (the blood sausage sanga has been a menu stalwart since day one), there's always a few changes to maintain the intrigue of regulars.

Potato bread with kefir cream is a long-running menu favourite, and with good reason. The puffy and blistered potato bread bun, dusted with sea salt and singed at the very edges, is reason enough to celebrate. It's splitting open the bread, watching the steam escape, and then slathering on as much kefir cream, dashi jelly and trout roe as you can. There's the soft bun, the cool hit of umami, a slight tang to the kefir cream and then those little pops of brine.

Buffalo curd pie at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Buffalo curd pie with fermented hot sauce $16

Buffalo curd pie is the ultimate hand pie, bubbled across the surface like an Italian woodfired pizza and filled with oozing cheese.

Calamari, lardo and squid ink skewers at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Calamari, lardo and squid ink $16 per skewer

I've had the calamari and lardo skewer several times over subsequent visits. It's not a combination that immediately comes to mind but it all makes sense with that initial mouthful. The lardo softens for an added richness to the ribbons of tender calamari, doused in its own ink.

Eschalot tarte tatin at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Eschalot tarte tatin 

Recently we managed to score one of the last off-menu specials of the eschalot tarte tatin. I'm so glad we did. The buttery pastry base is flaky perfection but it's the caramelised eschalots that bring new meaning to vegetal sweetness, so toffee-like this dish veers deliciously between savoury and dessert.

Potato pasta with potato dashi at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Potato pasta, potato dashi and pepper leaf $18

Potato pasta has taken on a few renditions. The latest version we encounter is subtler still, a silky sheet of potato pasta set atop mashed potato in a lake of potato dashi stock.

King prawns with fermented shrimp butter and capers at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
King prawns, fermented shrimp butter and capers $39

Half the joy of ordering the king prawns is watching every other table's noses twitch as their intoxicating aroma follows its pathway through the dining room. These prawns are gargantuan in size, but more importantly, they're firm, plump and sweet. The fermented shrimp butter is so good, some members of our dining party have been known to ask for a container to take the leftover puddle home (not me, this time).

The best part is undoubtedly the head. You earn more respect in my books by using your fingers to get into every nook and cranny of this crustacean.

Woodfired cauliflower, almond and mint at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Cauliflower, almond and mint $25

Wood-roasted cauliflower is another Ester staple, crisp and smoky. Its nutty richness is set off cleverly against the almond sauce (almond meal, extra virgin olive oil and egg yolks) as well as the crunch of toasted almonds and the freshness of whole mint.

Sugar loaf cabbage with sesame and sesame sambal at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Sugar loaf cabbage, sesame and sesame sambal $18

Sugar loaf cabbage is a sight to behold, like a coral reef filled with schools of sesame seeds.

Pumpkin with pumpkin seeds and kombu oil at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Pumpkin, pumpkin seeds and kombu oil $18

The humble pumpkin is elevated too. We revel in a wreath of grilled and salted pumpkin curls surrounding a pile of pumpkin seeds braised in kombu oil. The pool of pumpkin butter is almost drinkable.

O'Connor grass fed, dry aged steak on the bone at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
O'Connor grass fed, dry aged steak on the bone $140

The O'Connor grass fed dry aged steak on the bone is best attempted in a large group, and not just to share the cost. It's a hefty hunk of protein that goes further than you think, each slice concentrated in beefiness and capped with a protective layer of fat.

Potato galette with smoked whey sauce at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Potato galette with smoked whey sauce $24

The potato galette is so pretty it's almost a shame to destroy its intricate layering. Smoked whey sauce is an ingenious addition, enhancing the caramelised char from the oven-roasted potato. The edges are definitely worth fighting for.

Twice cooked quail with desert oak and burnt honey at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Twice cooked quail, desert oak and burnt honey $36

Everybody chortles at the sight of the twice cooked quail but there's nothing but silence at first bite. The burnt honey works harmoniously with the woodfired smokiness. It's cooked masterfully with crisp skin and just-cooked pink in the middle.

Lemon meringue burnt pav at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Lemon meringue burnt pav $16

Desserts? You bet we did. The burnt pav is always a winner, its latest riff marrying chewy crusted meringue with a zingy lemon curd.

Roasted cocoa Portuguese sponge cake at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Roasted cocoa Portuguese sponge cake $15

Roasted cocoa Portuguese sponge cake is one of the newer additions I've had, aromatic and almost savoury in flavour profile.

Pear, custard and caramel at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Pear, custard and caramel $16
and left over sourdough ice cream $6

A wobble of custard is nuanced with pear and dots of caramel but I only have eyes for the malty left over sourdough ice cream strewn with crisp sourdough crumbs and black sesame seeds. It's another Ester signature, and one I suspect will never - fingers crossed - leave the menu.

Entrance to Ester in Chippendale, Sydney


Ester Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ester Restaurant
46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8068 8279

Opening hours
Lunch Saturday and Sunday 12pm-4.30pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm-11pm


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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/11/2018 12:36:00 am


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