Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review - Oscillate Wildly

Hi everyone - to kick things off, here is a recent review I previously posted on Facebook after visiting the fabulous "Oscillate Wildly":

As most of you would be aware, I was very excited last week to finally get to experience the recently "hatted" (2008 and 2009 SMH Good Food Guide) and much talked about Oscillate Wildly. This tiny 25 seat restaurant has been a fixture of Australia Street Newtown for a number of years and it's reputation has grown as a place to experience something special. It previously offered an a la carte menu and degustation, but now focuses on degustation only, the menu comprising only of the 8 degustation courses. There is no choice - and in this case, no choice is a good, good thing.

To me, there is something incredibly exciting about placing your tastebuds entirely in the hands of a chef who really knows their craft. You buy a ticket and you take your chances. It is fraught with risk, both for the chef and person on the receiving end. There is no fallback position and no substitutions. No,this is not the place for those who demand their dressing on the side or obsess about the inclusion of the unfamiliar.

So, to the menu.....The evening began with new season's chestnuts, roasted with walnuts and served with a light foam of watermelon and apple. The menu stated that it was also served with honey and the suprise was that the honey came in the form of a honey wafer. This dish had the most sublime texture - the crunch of the nuts, the lightness of the foam (the tang of the watermelon and apple a great combo with the earthy nuts), then the honey wafer that dissolved on your tongue, sweet and mellow.The raw tuna, cucumber and pomelo salad that followed tasted clean,clean,clean. Light, citrusy and slightly salty with just a touch of wasabi - not enough to make it hot, just enough to give you a crisp finish. The tuna was very thinly sliced and incredibly fresh - it practically melted as soon as it hit your tongue.

Coffee and gnocchi are not two things that you would normally associate with each other, but here they were in dish number three. Pillow soft potato gnocchi were served with roasted pepitas, coffee beans and a slightly salty,slightly bitter coffee emulsion. The emulsion and the gnocchi were pristine white against the chocolate tones of the pepitas and coffee beans. Again, the two textures provided such a contrast and it was as if the ingredients were made for each other. Who would have guessed?

Dish number four proved to be the savoury dish of the night for me - house made squid ink pasta and tiny whiting fillets (caught off the coast of Newcastle the waitperson advised) served with a velvety roasted corn custard, salmon roe, and a foam as salty and bracing as the sea itself. It was as if they had just gathered sea foam as the tide came in and spooned it on the plate. Oh-my-god!!!! What can I say about this dish???? The fish was so sweet and perfectly cooked, the little explosions of salmon roe, the salt, the sexy black of the pasta with a clean, sea flavour, the rich,rich corn custard. Sensual, decadent and goosebump making.

Dishes five and six saw us change gear flavour wise - a lot denser and very much autumn/winter style dishes. Firstly corn fed, free range chicken medallions the size of 50c pieces, served with puffed grains -buckwheat, wild rice, quinoa. A sprinkling of dehydrated celeriac leaves gave a lovely aromatic touch. The chicken was super moist and flavoursome, a great combo with the nuttiness of the grains. Next came venison rump served with roasted beetroot (tiny and sweet, the size of your thumb) and a mille- feuille of chocolate. The sweetness of the beetroot with the slight bitterness of the chocolate was so lush and was a perfect foil for the rare venison. The mille-feuille was like a small square of brownie to look at, but light as a feather on the tongue. Divine.

The first of the dessert courses arrives - watermelon served with tiny squares of clear coconut jelly, rich coconut puree and tangy lime marinated palm seeds - perfect after the richness of the venison course. The second dessert course was highlight number two for me - poached pear, a dark, dark chocolate ganache, a light chocolate wafer (think, brandy snap, but chocolate) sweet jellied basil seeds and sitting on top, a gleaming green orb of celery sorbet. The chocolate and the celery were a revelation.The chocolate so heavy, sweet and with a bitter edge, the celery so fresh and clear. How is it that these two things go so beautifully together? I think I may have actually swooned on the first spoonful.Trust me. This combo has totally turned my tastebuds onto a whole new frequency. I feel like my palate has been revitalised with just one bite.

If you think that this culinary tale ends here - hold up a second! Whilst enjoying after dinner coffee we were treated to house made jasmine flower lollipops and orange blossom jellies with what we were told was "sugar" on top. In a gorgeously quirky twist, the "sugar" turned out to be orange sherbet flavoured pop rocks! Yes, the stuff we ate as kids that explodes in your mouth. Loved ending the meal laughing as the pop rocks exploded in our mouths. Kind of tastebud fireworks! Which was only fitting really :)

It was worth waiting two and a half months for a reservation to experience something truly unique. Walking out of the restaurant, I knew that I had done more than eat good food - my palate had received an education. Oscillate Wildly makes me want to do just that. Superb.

You will find Oscillate Wildly @ 275 Australia Street, Newtown. NSW, Australia
$95 Degustation (without wine)
Reservations on (02) 9517 4700


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