After discovering his French-Japanese cuisine at S’Age Bistronomy, I followed Chef Tomoyuki Usui to his first solo venture: Restaurant Plage. His fledgling restaurant sits a short walk from the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne. It’s a two-room affair with the front white-curtained room playing host to tables and a curved white bar that you can also choose to eat at.
We’re tucked into a corner of the cosy back room. We’re here to take advantage of the well-priced opening special - a five course Chef’s Selection Menu ($59/head) - running until Saturday 12 August 2017.
The Plage team are also generously allowing BYO ($8/bottle) even on a busy Saturday evening. We take advantage of this opportunity to match our meal to two different sakes. Yuki Usui Arai quickly arranges us four sake glasses and our tasting adventure is off and running.
We begin with a flavoursome amuse bouche of roasted potato broth with medium rare scallop. Over delivering us some house-made bread and butter, Yuki asks us how we come to be at Plage, then thanks us warmly "for being a fan of my husband." From her sparkling eyes and enthusiasm for the dishes she’s presenting, it is clear Yuki is a big fan of Tomoyuki’s cooking too.
Our meal proper begins with a clean and simple salmon tataki presented with daikon radish, crisp dehydrated kale and a dab of spiced yoghurt.
We move on to what will undoubtedly be the restaurant’s future signature – wagyu carpaccio – presented with a dashi broth that is poured onto the thin slices of raw beef at the table.
The heat of the broth turns the red slices slightly brown as they gently cook before your eyes. The process envelops your head in an aromatic cloud, making your mouth water in eagerness to taste the wagyu beef and the cured egg, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms hidden beneath. It's texturally pleasing and likely to have you tilting the bowl to spoon out every last drop of the broth and floating pumpkin seeds.
Western Australian mulloway scrubs up well against seasonally appropriate Jerusalem artichokes, cleverly cooked in their skins. The fish is offset by a dabs of celeriac puree and finger lime, and united by a fish and lemon jus.
As the wait drags on for our next course, my dining companion is driven a little mad by the fifth repetition of Blue Bayou. We’re offered more bread and an apology both for the delay and for the music, which is quickly switched to reggae. The restaurant is quite busy, with both chefs galloping around the small kitchen.
They make regular trips into our room to use the vacuum sealer, which accounts for the perfectly set protein in our next course – roasted chicken breast. This was probably the most disjointed of the dishes we tried. While individual elements like the sous vide chicken, maple glazed carrots, broccolini and pickled cherry slices were good; the burnt buttermilk sauce needed more oomph to give the dish unity. The fried cartilage was texturally interesting, but added nothing in terms of flavour.
Texture and flavour were in perfect harmony however in the caramelised white chocolate finale. It’s offset by fizzy pink peppered meringue, tart nectarine sorbet and chamomile, and will send you off into the night with a smile on your face. While my meal’s pacing was off, it’s easy to forgive with dessert like this on your lips, a reasonable bill, and an eye to it being Plage's third week.
8/255 Military Road, Cremorne
Ph: (02) 8384 9043