August 26th, 2010

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Universal Restaurant

Trip the tangerine light fantastic into Chrissy Manfield’s mostly al-fresco restaurant; packed and unpacked Tetris-style each evening. A Geisha Girl ($17) cocktail of sake, plum wine and elderflower shows exceptional balance, but it’s hard to take your eyes off the award-winning wine list. It’s so wide reaching it’s almost intimidating, but savvy staff offer good guidance.

Or put your faith in menu matches… I wrinkled my nose at the NV Primo Joseph Sparkling Red ($17/glass) with the exceptional Wagyu Beef Shin ($30) only to have the smiling sommelier offer a complimentary glass. Lesson learned – magnificent match!

The world palate of flavours makes each dish a journey for mouth and mind. The textural shock of a briny oyster rolled in cabbage in the Pork and Kimchi Consommé ($26) won’t be for everyone.

Nor will the sharp acidity of Sticky Rice and Salted Duck Egg with Wing Bean, Pomelo and Cashew Salad ($23) which turns the matching 2008 Salomon Grüner Veltliner ($7) sweet; but both are adventures worth having!

The Prawn Ceviche ($26) was definitely my kind of dish - big sweet, creamy raw prawns against palm sugar popcorn and zingy green chilli salsa.

This is the Veal Sweetbread Fritters with Iberian Ham, Barrel Aged Feta with Pear and Walnut Salad ($26), probably the least remarkable of the dishes I tried. I laugh somewhat wryly as I write this though, remembering back to when when offal was new and challenging, and driving at break-neck speed to Captain Torres Deli when jamon iberico was the new ham on the block. So take me being underwhelmed with a grain of salt...

Simpler and suavely seductive, the Surface Ripened Goat Cheese with Black Truffle Mushroom Tortellini and Gruyere Chantilly ($28) goes down like a hot cheese course, setting the stage for dessert fireworks.

Dismantle the sculptural Bananarama ($19) layer-by-layer, and marvel at the clarity of sorbet, cream, marshmallow and hidden crunch!

By the way, dishes are all approximately the same size, and you're advised to order three savoury and one sweet from the menu which flows from lighter to heavier. We found this to be more than enough food, and ordered randomly from all over the menu. By the end we found ourselves only wanting to share a single dessert.

Our seven courses with two cocktails, some matched wines, expensive foreign water and a bottle of imported wine still came in under $400, making it about the equivalent of other fine-diner degustations with matched wine, especially considering portions here are bigger than degustation portions. As a person who dines at fine-diners quite often, I thought this was quite competitive when compared with Sydney's other top end establishments.

Universal Restaurant

Republic 2 Courtyard, Palmer Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9331 0709

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