Five months has smoothed out the kitchen at Restaurant Plage. Chef Tomoyuki Usui has cleverly cut a path between the innovative modern Japanese food he wants to be cooking, and dishes that build trust with Cremorne locals, so they can eventually share in his vision.
A chalkboard advertising well-priced bar snacks gives skeptical passers-by another easy way in.
From this menu, the well-priced Duck Liver Mousse ($12) sees earthy beetroot wafers and pork crackling draped over creamy duck liver mousse. The whole plate is dusted with a raspberry powder that is as tasty as it is visually spectacular.
The Dassai Junmai Daiginjo Sake ($24/300ml) is a pleasant first drink. It suits the amuse bouche style snacks the kitchen sends out, starting with a Brussels sprout nobody could dislike! The split sprout has been given a good cook before being coated with egg yolk cured in soy sauce and sweet sake. It's dusted with fluffy white truffle and vinegar powder, and is likely to have you asking why you ever maligned this excellent vegetable in the first place!
Tiny one-bite tarts of raw scallop, dashi, quinoa and finger lime enliven the palate.
While the snacks are fun, it’s the bar menu’s Sake Steamed Pipis ($16) that really sing. Employing the same sake we’re drinking, the beautifully cooked pipis swim in a broth of sake, butter, salt, pepper and their own juices. They’re kept simple with black garlic, some vividly green Brussels sprout leaves and dill, and of course match the sake a treat!
You’ll also find Tomoyuki’s house-made black garlic put to good effect with vinegar ash in a dressing for his salad of Heirloom Tomatoes and Feta Cheese ($18). When you eat the white nectarine, crisp dehydrated kale, grapes, tomatoes and salty feta all together with the dressing, you’ll find this dish caresses all corners of your tongue - salty, earthy, tart and sweet.
Aburi Paradise Prawns ($20) are seared so delicately, they get a thin skin that bursts with raw creaminess when you bite into them. They’re accompanied by crunchy tapioca crackers, white miso, and dehydrated shiso powder (Japanese mint) that's high in tannin and almost tea-like.
For our main courses we move onto warm sake: Kiku-Masamune ($18/300ml) from the Kumamoto Prefecture of Japan. It’s rich, savoury and yeasty, making it a good foil to the Grilled Chicken Breast ($28). The earlier version of this sous-vide chicken dish jangled a bit on my last visit, but this time it gels with intense preserved blueberries, and char-grilled cabbage and koji (Japanese yeast starter) puree, tempered by more of those beautiful Brussels sprout leaves.
Grilled Angus Beef ($32) is tender and compelling against a slightly sweet jus, and four-hour roasted onions that are served whole and as a puree balanced by vividly green kale.
Turmeric and ginger ice cream is the highlight of the Mandarin Compote ($14) peeking out from under broken sheets of langue de chat (cat’s tongue) French cookie.
The Ash Meringue Ice Cream ($12) has an almost gelatinous texture. It’s stomach settling and intriguing against mango and coconut mousse, white cherries, lemon balm and an almost salty hazelnut crumb. Believe me when I tell you all of these elements eaten together on one spoon are a super modern palate adventure that you won’t have any reference points for. This chef is very capable of surprising you, and five months of maturity have done Restaurant Plage the world of good.
8/255 Military Road, Cremorne
Ph: (02) 8384 9043