EDIT 18/08/14 - After reading about a change in ownership resulting in a Brazilian barista being denied work due to the colour of his skin, I would not recommend eating or drinking at this venue.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2727063/Sydney-Cafe-owner-admits-told-Australian-citizen-job-black.html
In a post-Masterchef generation, it’s nice to see a restaurant go back to cooking dishes you couldn’t whip up at home. It's also nice to be back in the old Dov space again performing once more at the peak of Sydney cooking - as one friend put it eloquently: "FAB is back!" (You'll understand what I mean if you look back HERE at a visit under a previous owner.)
From his little bunker with a view to the streets of Darlo, Chef Paul Pereira (who I last saw at Finefish) shows he can work culinary magic with more than just fishes. From your first glimpse of his amuse bouche featuring smoked Jerusalem artichoke and vanilla, salmon roe and puffed wood sorrel, you know you're in for a magical night. It actually amuses too, with textures, flavours and frivolity (and frankly by being more interesting than another bloody vegetable soup).
By the time the bread arrives you're gagging for more. (Of course it's great Sonoma bread and Little General oil.) I was momentarily distracted by the 2008 Bress 'Gold Chook' Chardonnay from Macedon Ranges ($14/glass) - cracker of a wine - crisp, elegant wood (half American, half French oak), modern style...
Enough about wine, let's talk about oysters! Paul might have been showing off a little when he sent out these babies. They're briny Nambucca Heads Oysters ($4/each), heading towards creamy. He sent half au natural, and half dressed in tamarind, ginger, crispy eschallots, salmon roe and candied jalapeno chillies. So many flavours, but damned if it didn't improve the oysters without losing their tell-tale taste. Texturally interesting too - Paul likes playing with texture as you'll see.
Paul’s keen palate makes gonzo dishes – like Oven Roasted Boneless Quail ($23) with saltimbocca, chicken liver parfait, dates, hazelnuts, a runny lil’ quail egg, maple syrup and wicked jelly cubes of hazelnut liqueur – totally seamless. The best bit was cracking the egg so it ran into the maple syrup on the jamon wrapped quail portions - it made me laugh by being totally American breakfast in flavour.
Of course I still preferred his slightly simpler Pickled Beetroot ($20) with salted walnuts, goat’s curd sorbet and juicy orange jelly, but I’m fussy, no? So far, this is the best take on the ubiquitous beetroot deluge this spring, showing off three different textures of beetroot. You'll find it juilienned, you'll find it raw, washed with walnut oil, matter of fact I'd like to find it right now. It melted into bright gelato colours on the plate, even looking pretty when it was er... gone.
Mains follow suit; the Slow Cooked, Roasted, Free-Range, Corn Fed ‘Marget’ Duck ($37) took line honours (the zucchini flower is filled with duck too; that's a lily bud on top of the dish, and goji berries dotted here and there) until I tried a side of Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Almonds and Perigord Truffle Butter ($8.50).
It looks like a salad, but tastes like dirty sex. By this time I'm drinking a Domaine Jean Fournier Bourgogne Rouge Pinot Noir ($64/bottle) with one hand (it's great) and stabbing off any forays my dining companion makes towards my precious Brussels sprouts with a fork in my other mitt. I love it when meals are so good they enable the diner to degenerate into er... something more primal.
There was also a fish dish, labelled Pan Roasted Hiramasa Kingfish ($35) but it was line-caught snapper on the day I dined. I've already told you Paul's a genius with fish. Him changing the printed fish to what looked better on the day should fill you with even more confidence. If it doesn't, I overheard that he uses the same fish supplier as Fishface. It's a sledgehammer of a fish dish too, with globe artichoke, piquillo pepper, patatas bravas and chorizo crumbs...
Desserts are the bomb – more whacky but workable combos and whimsical plating. It’s only a matter of time before Paul’s clever Petri dish Pineapple and Coconut Panna Cotta ($15) pops up all over town – every bite’s different with toppings like basil seed, lime tapioca, fresh young coconut (not from a can), honeycomb, black rice and pineapple. No more boring bottom of the panna cotta which outstays its welcome here!
The green eggs and ham inspired Meringue ($15) was even better - mango puree inside loops of sticky Italian meringue, an amazing black sesame icecream, green tea icecream and passionfruit curd. It goes gangbusters in the mouth.
Add a wine list bursting with interest, an engaged owner, and the warmth and beauty of Alice Pamment (ex-Aperitif) on the floor for win, win and more win! You can even buy the art right off the walls, pay by credit card, and take it home immediately!
I'm told they do a Darlo Degustation once a month too - sized perfectly at 5 courses (you've seen how many things Paul puts on a plate) with a line of Columbia's finest at the end. Okay, I made the last bit up... but book in fast anyway. I predict this one's going to take off like a rocket when the word gets around.
Forbes & Burton
252 Forbes Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9356 8788