What a pleasure it was to return to Lumi Bar and Dining! I’d engineered my return visit by suggesting it to a friend for their fiftieth birthday celebration. The friend had asked me to triangulate the near impossible juncture of water views, great food, and a restaurant that deals well with vegetarians. Knowing he was a discerning drinker made an excellent wine list another must.
My hat is off to Chef Federico Zanellato and his team, who exceeded my expectations on all fronts. While I usually dine as a two-up when reviewing - celebrations can be pretty distracting - I couldn’t help but publish something about this extraordinary meal.
We kicked off with Oysters ($30/6) and an Alma Cuvee Bellavista so dry it sucked all the moisture from my mouth. This Italian sparkling wine is mostly chardonnay, and impressed with tiny, frothy bubbles and mingling hints of bread dough, pear and citrus, without intense acidity.
It made me want a second glass, which was kind of awkward, because the next wine of our Wine Pairing ($95/person) didn't really kick in until after the rye & spelt brioche arrived, much later in the meal. This is a fabulous bread with the ancient grain and rye both adding more texture and taste into the crust than one usually finds in brioche.
The slow booze is probably my only niggle at LuMi, because just like the array of snacks that arrives to ease your hunger quickly, I always enter a restaurant keen to get drinking underway before slowing down later in the meal. With such a pricy pairing package, ordering a side drink to tide you over shouldn't feel necessary. I did avail myself of my favourite Gin Mare ($13/30ml) and Capi Tonic ($5) combination from their dedicated choose-your-own gin and tonic adventure list.
Before the bread, there are snacks, rapid fire, to convince your stomach that the rest of the meal can occur at a more leisurely pace. There's uni – sea urchin roe – an indulgent lobe each on a nori-wrapped ship, swirling in your mouth like a rock pool.
Tiny cones of pale pink tuna are turned quasi-Mexican with spicy mayo.
Crisp rye crackers hide crunchy zucchini flower under a mound of Parmesan.
They are quickly eclipsed by a raw kangaroo tart, with shaved foie gras adding a layer of richness and complexity to this texturally impressive bite.
The unveiling of the chawanmushi momentarily distracts our whole table. The tiny pots of Moreton bay bug and dashi-infused savoury custard are eaten in silence; long wooden spoons ensuring that even metallic clinking doesn’t detract from the pleasure of eating this subtle dish.
The ensuring three and half years since my first visit have brought added maturity to this restaurant. Despite the labour intensive degustation menus – our group of twenty all ate Ten Courses ($150/head) – the open kitchen is quiet and unhurried.
Floor staff take their time at our table, showing patience and generosity, with a willingness to repeat dish descriptions even after I’d actually eaten my achingly beautiful Moreton Bay bug tart.
And that's even after I ignore their instructions to pick it up rather than thump it with my fork.
The creamy raw bug is sandwiched inside a tart made of seaweed pastry with a wafer-thin Jerusalem artichoke lid dusted with sea lettuce powder. It’s delicate but intense; with the Japanese and Italian elements interacting like strands of a DNA double helix, intertwining in a dance between shadow and forefront.
Tomato & Strawberry is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The soft subtle dressing allows the interplay between the hyper-acidic tomatoes and sweet strawberries be the point.
Agnolotti on the other hand, look unexciting, but explode on your palate “like a savoury Lindt Ball,” as one of my dining companions exclaims. They’re matched very nicely to the 2012 Gewurtztraminer M. Shatzel from Alsace. This is one of the meal's better wine pairings; though next time in terms of both value for money and matching success, I'd choose to find my own way through their interesting chardonnay list.
Seeing my interest in photo documentating my own dishes, my vegetarian dining companions eagerly offered up their own. Their delight in not being an afterthought was palpable, and their dishes looked equally intriguing.
We moved through Glacier 51 Toothfish, glazed but left reasonably unadorned. Shitake mushroom and fermented chilli-glazed turnips were all you really needed to offset the pork belly-like luxuriousness of this deep sea-dwelling fish. Sake, in the form of the Dewanakura Omachi ($20/60ml) was a pleasant, if obvious, match.
Wrapping up our savoury eats, duck, marinated in kombucha for a week, arrived in three glistening bands of skin, fat and flesh.
Their richness is balanced by little pots of duck rice flavoured with mandarin peel and star anise, then dusted with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice powder). Portion control here is so exacting, I'm satisfied without losing any of my eagerness for dessert.
We cleanse our palates with kakigōri – Japanese shaved ice – in lemon myrtle and plum, made beautiful by fresh plum vinegar. It’s all the better because we’re dining on a blisteringly hot day, the kind of day where you feel faint after walking between your car and the restaurant.
Salted Geranium knocks dessert out of the park, particularly against the 2012 Visner di Pergola Selezione Vino di Visciole, a wine co-fermented with cherries. Combining meringue, salty cherries, violet mousse and a blackcurrant reduction, this little pink mushroom has everything I didn’t know I wanted in one dessert: sourness, sweetness, saltiness, richness and complexity, all scaped up into each spoonful.
Just when I thought I was done, kaput, sated, satisfied and more than ready to nap, I was enticed into a moist square of pistachio and pumpkin seed cake.
You know it's in the little things, like your last bite of cake, where you can really feel this restaurant’s measure. Nothing is faxed in or forgotten.
NOTE: Read my 2014 review of this restaurant back HERE.
LuMi Bar & Dining
56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9571 1999