View from Guillame

Guest post from Damo about Guillaume

View from Guillame

View from Guillame

A couple of weeks late, but here’s a post from Damo about our dinner at Guillaume at Sydney Opera House.

Another post-marathon celebratory degustation dinner, this time at the two-hat-rated Guillaume at Bennelong restaurant in the Sydney Opera House. I’ll try keep these notes to the point, as I’ve been told I can waffle on a bit (“wanker” was I think the term James used…)

Basil-infused yellowfin tuna with soy and mustard seed vinaigrette: A solid chunk of essentially raw tuna, with a marvellous creamy texture and pure flavour. Served with a high quality Japanese Sake. Quite a large and forceful combination for the first course, but very good.

Mojama with olives, pimento, fennel and quail egg: Otherwise known as a ham and egg salad. Nice, but rather forgettable. Served with a small glass of dry Lustau Manzanilla sherry.

Duck fois gras parfait with truffle brioche: Now that’s better – a rich creamy fois gras spread, and a petite bun flecked with truffle to wipe it on. A little on the heavy side overall, but the wine match was surprisingly delicious: a sweet botrytis-affected white from France (2005 Montbazillac).

Seared scallops on cauliflower puree with shiitake mushrooms and veal jus: I don’t know how they do it. Good chefs can produce barely-cooked scallops with a gently sealed surface and a marvellously smooth and evenly textured flesh that conveys flavour perfectly. Not too tough, not too raw, no variation in texture from the centre to just below the skin. This place does them as well as anywhere. Served with 2005 Curly Flat chardonnay from Victoria.

Blue Eye Trevalla on ink pasta with clams, Jamon Iberico and baby carrots: And a good hit of chilli, which for some reason didn’t make it into the description above but did spike the heat considerably. Almost too much for the wine match, you would think, but they pulled it off (2006 Portsea pinot noir, Mornington Peninsula).

Wagyu beer striploin (marble 9+) with a tombe of field mushrooms, baby spinach, confit of shallot, merlot sauce: This was the dish that both James and I raved about for days afterwards. Everything I’ve read about cooking wagyu says it should be served medium, so the marbled fat can melt to moisten and flavour the flesh. Guillaume must read different books. In this dish the meat was raw apart from a quickly seared outer edge, and sliced into large strips a quarter-inch thick. It was so raw the thick veins of transparent fat were clearly visible, and god it was good. The super-rich merlot sauce certainly helped, as did the glass of powerful Barossa grenache shiraz (2005 Torbreck The Steading). One of the best meat dishes I’ve had in a long while…. (the only thing better was the steak tartare I ate here last Christmas).

Slice of Opera with coffee ice cream: “What is Opera?”, we wondered. A multi-layered chocolate sponge cake, it turns out. Good not great. Served with a glass of 2003 sweet white from Bordeaux. Two glasses actually – we think the somellier took a shine to us.

Tea, coffee and petit fours: Normally you wouldn’t bother to mention petit fours after such a meal, but here they were a highlight of the whole experience. Four different intricately made sweets – macaroons, caramels, chocolate ganache buttons and meringues – that were much better in taste, quality and inventiveness than the “proper” dessert above.

Overall: The setting is simply spectacular. Widely spaced and very comfortable tables all have good to sublime views of the city and/or Harbour Bridge. Lighting is low but you can still see your food, and the noise is quietly buzzy without ever becoming a din.

Service was deferential but a little too attentive – more than once we had a waiter inquire about something when we’d actually told a different waiter the answer a minute earlier. I counted five different waiters through the night (over three and a half hours, admittedly…)

The price is way too much for ordinary mortals, and if half the meal wasn’t paid for by my boss (birthday present) we wouldn’t have eaten here at all. And there are better and/or more interesting places to eat in Sydney regardless of the money (Bentley Bar or Becasse spring immediately to mind), plus of course places like Quay, Est, Marque and Tetsuyas have great reputations and more hats for simlar prices.

However my comment on price only applies to the degustation, and to a lesser extent the full a la carte. What is superb value and highly recommended, however, is the pre-theatre menu. Available only between 6pm and 8.30pm, this offers a more limited but still highly appealing range of choices at a very competitive price: two courses for $63 or three courses for $75. The quality is as good as you will find anywhere (the steak tartare mentioned above was part of the pre-theatre menu), servings are decent and the very large wine list has a number of gems at all price points. Do it.

Overall: great food, great setting and great conversation – another top night!

Pick The Mistake

Inside out, back to front.

Inside out, back to front.

I had a drink tonight with a mate who shall remain nameless.

Used with permission is this photograph of the DOUBLE MISTAKE he made in getting dressed today.

Oddly enough, he only discovered this after a day out and about on the town.

“Why didn’t anyone say anything?”, he asked rhetorically.

Fox News Confession

Dave, the one whose name I cannot recall, Clayton

Dave, the one whose name I cannot recall, Clayton

There is an unfounded perception that pay television in Australia is nothing more than re-runs of American sit-coms. In the early days, that probably was the case, but I gotta tell you… in 2008… I love my Foxtel. I hardly ever watch free-to-air television these days. In fact, I recently removed the coaxial cable from the back of my television (to use for another purpose) and am now watching everything via the Foxtel box, including listening to all of my favourite radio stations.

I love World Movies, I love The History Channel, I love the concerts on Ovation, I love Dexter and the repeats of Six Feet Under, I love being able to tune into any of my favourite sit-coms at a time that suits, and I love Fox News. Yes, I said it. I love Fox News.

I know it’s not very “pc” to say you watch (and enjoy Fox News), but I do. Despite their oft-repeated slogan, they are “Fair and Balanced”, Fox News continues to have a clearly identifiable right-of-centre political slant. Even if they always have someone from both sides of American politics in their discussions, those on the Republican side are always given an easy ride, while the Democrats are always under fire.

And this was explored in the documentary I remember watching a couple of years ago called “Outfoxed”. At the time of seeing the documentary I wrote…

It’s interesting enough, although the polemical nature of the program means I probably won’t watch it all that closely. Why watch a program that’s sole role is to reinforce a viewpoint, rather than open up a debate, unless of course it’s entertaining? I’m not sure if watching it will tell me anything I didn’t already know or suspect.

What I think the documentary failed to identify were the reasons why Fox News is so incredibly watch-able. Yeah, it’s biased, obviously, but there needs to be an explanation of why people from a range of political viewpoints still watch it.

For those with an interest in how the media works, Fox News is an a “text book example” of how to increase your time spent viewing or listening. Nothing ever goes on too long. In fact, most of the time the interviewer will ask a question and then cut the guest off before they have the opportunity to answer. Mostly, this leaves you either shouting at the television or screaming out for more. They also usually concentrate on just half-a-dozen stories, which means they’re always showing you stories which are at the forefront of the national consciousness.

The hosts are also usually very personable and watchable characters. There’s Bill O’Reilly, an Alan Jones-like character, Hannity and Colmes (a Republican and a Democrat co-hosting), the Fox & Friends Breakfast Team (I have a bit of a crush on the weekend presenter on the right), Geraldo, and they have a late night comedy show. Oh and they have this kinda-gay looking Catholic priest who comes on regularly to talk about issues of faith and ethics.

Significantly, almost all of the women are blonde and attractive (including all the guests) and in their 20s and 30s, and the men are usually 30-40 years old and good-looking too, mostly talk dark and handsome. There are some African Americans and one or two Hispanics, and I don’t recall having seen an Asian presenter or reporter, so it’s hardly an example of social inclusion. But interestingly it’s in contrast to most other news services which tend to rely on a lot of grey-haired men.

I guess most of my fascination with Fox at the moment relates to their coverage of the US presidential election. I’m not one for politics anymore, but I love elections, because of the theatrical nature of them all. And on that level, Fox delivers. Even if it’s incredibly dodgy on many levels, it’s great fun to watch.

That said, I had to turn off last night when the business show posed the question “Will the cyclone in Myanmar mean higher rice prices for American consumers”. I was appalled. Fox News – you went too far on that one!