Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Classic Combo Never Fails

A wet and chilly Spring last year saw to it that I, along with two close friends, happened across a friendly little place in Crows Nest one night called The Burlington. My first job as an apprentice four years ago took place at this very site, back in the day when it was known as Sabatini's - a horrendously run French-inspired Italian restaurant. It was the sort of eatery where the owner Mr. Walker had grand visions of an oyster bar and fried chicken was the biggest seller. I remember the head chef calling me over in hushed tones, so proudly, to show me the "secret ingredients" in his duck confit which turned out to be nothing more than a small handful of star anise and black peppercorns, oh and that time when he tried to demonstrate how to core a pear and failed miserably.
Since then it's been transformed and improved somewhat. A chef's jacket hangs clean and starched by the door, as if waiting for Liam Tomlin to miraculously appear and direct his way into the open kitchen. I spot an ex-Claude's chef working behind the bar and there's not an oyster in sight, much to my relief. We each order a glass of wine as we peruse the menu - I have a preference for the sweeter things in life, and so I select the 2006 Escarpment Hinemoa Riesling which is lively with fruit, honey and spice. Eventually and with a little coaxing, we settle on the scallop veloute, chicken liver parfait, ham hock terrine, veg tart, baked mackerel salad and a small portion of sirloin, all to share between the three of us.
I quite prefer to nibble on little amounts of everything as I find that consuming large quantities of one or two things seem to dull my senses contrary to a rather more enriched dining experience. As we debate over what to order afterwards, the scallop veloute and chicken liver parfait arrive, forcing us to put our thoughts of dessert aside. The veloute made with baby garden peas is seasoned to perfection and an invigorating green, the scallops cooked just so, balanced delicately with a splash of lemon. A slice of liver parfait encased with truffled butter is presented beside a quaint pile of dressed green beans and a small plate of various toasted brioche. Fi who is not a big fan of liver conveniently changes her mind as we dig in and as the brioche disappears, we end up spooning it into our mouths solo, savouring the rich presence of butter and red wine.
Ham hock terrine and veg tart follow next. Unfortunately the terrine seems a little dry, perhaps lacking in jelly and doesn't live up to our expectations after reading numerous gushing reviews. It's nice to see pig ears being utilised. Simply breaded and fried, it holds no flavour of its own but coupled with the teaspoon of celeriac remoulade underneath, provides a nice textural juxtuposition to the terrine. The tart is simply a square of puff pastry with a few fire-roasted peppers, olives, chevre and basil thrown on top. The Mediterranean flavours would work well together if the peppers were not so bitter. Jane is somewhat unimpressed and describes the dish as being wholly underwhelming. I eat a little more just to be certain. Ex-Claude's chef comes by from the bar on the other side of the restaurant to check on us in-between courses, perhaps because we're the only patrons under 45 and it seems, the only table not to have ordered the poached chicken pot pie. How wildly inappropriate of us.
Our skinny waiter friend forgets to reset the table again before setting down our mackerel salad and sirloin and when we point it out to the maitre d' crockery is promptly fetched with a smile. The mackerel sits atop a simple salad of sliced tomatoes and anchovies, stuffed with Sicilian olive tapenade, the flavours are intensely satisfying. My companions nonetheless shy away from this one and prefer the grain-fed sirloin served with a side of hand-cut chips, rich bearnaise and jus - a dish I'm certain I could convince them to return for. The sirloin is medium-rare and cuts like butter. Dredged in jus, it's profoundly beefy. The chips are pre-blanched with an interior so creamy and yet so crisp and the bearnaise has such an incredibly satiny mouth-feel. Or at least what I imagine eating satin would feel like were it edible.
We need a little help deciding on dessert as the eton mess we'd heard so much about is no longer available. The waitress isn't able to aptly describe the trifle or creme catalan however and when queried on which she prefers, she replies with: "Oh! I don't really like any of them!" and scuttles off to attend to customers at the door. Very encouraging, thank you very much. When she returns we select a different platter, the treacle tart. Another disappointment unfortunately. It is rich and moist (plus, plus) but we find it overly sweet and overly salted. The balance is there but the overall flavour is much too intense for enjoyment.
Perhaps I'm being a little pragmatic in saying this, but in the chance of experiencing so many ups and downs in one sitting that make me feel like an unmedicated manic bipolar, I most likely will not be returning. Although ex-Claude's chef and Maitre d' are both wonderfully welcoming and professional in all aspects and deserve more Friday nights off.
Back to my Christmas menu, this dish looks awfully posh and required a bit more time to put together than my usual "Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma'am!". I must say though, lobster and hollandaise is a classic combination which works so well that when stuck for recipe ideas as I was, it should never be far overlooked.

I did a quick search on lobster dishes for ideas on presentation and well, when things like this come up, it's not altogether inspiring nor appetising. So I thought about fish and chips and fush and chups. Lobster on shoestring frites perhaps? Grilled with a little lime butter? Maybe halved and sitting on top of a pickled potato salad a la Gary Rhodes? Nothing really appealed to me.
I'd put the idea aside and cut the menu to five courses when I came across a recipe for foaming hollandaise in one of Delia Smith's cookbooks. Foaming hollandaise.. Sounds fancy.. What's a fancy chip? Pommes pont neuf? I settled for fondant potatoes as I prefer the taste of butter over oil. The pulled pepper glass was inspired by ingredients in onion glass from
Ideas In Food and the poached lobster is done in a similar method to Chinese poached white chicken which is just fabulous served warm with the foaming hollandaise. Onto another creation for Culinarty: ORR!

­Poached RocklobsterPlace everything but the lobsters in a large pot and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Throw in enough salt for the water to taste salty.
Bring back to the boil and place the lobsters into the pot.
Bring back to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer for 5-6 minutes then remove from heat and leave in liquid until blood temperature. If your lobsters are frozen thaw them first or simmer them for a little longer.
When cool, cut off the head and remove the tail flesh in one piece.
Fondant Potatoes

2 medium rocklobsters
3 L water
3 g coriander seeds
20 g ginger, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 shallots
sea salt

3 medium desiree potatoes
120 g unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, sliced thickly
3 sprigs of thyme
Cut potatoes into 6 neat oblongs about 6 x 2.5 x 2.5cm, placing them into cold water to prevent discolouration.
Drain and pat potatoes dry.
Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat with garlic, thyme and potatoes thrown in.
Let them cook on one side without agitation for about 10 minutes or until they're golden.
Turn over and repeat until cooked.
Remove and drain.
Pulled Pepper Glass

32 g glucose
15 g water
10 g light agave syrup
2 g sea salt
1/2 g black peppercorns, ground
Place everything into a small pot and bring to 160ÂșC.
Pour onto a silpat and working quickly with gloves on, carefully stretch the caramel to make ultra-thin wafers about 8.5 x 7.5cm.
Foaming Hollandaise

1 (55 g) egg, separated
15 g lemon juice
10 g verjuice
55 g soft butter
2 g sea salt

Whisk egg yolk, lemon and verjuice in a medium bowl over a baine marie (about 5 mins).
Add butter a little at a time, whisking continuously.
Combine salt.
Whisk egg whites in a separate bowl to soft peaks.
Whisk into first egg mix until combined.
To serve, place 3 fondant potatoes in the centre of a plate.
Carefully place a piece of pulled pepper glass on top.
Slice lobster across the grain into 4 or 5 pieces and place on top.
Drizzle over with foaming hollandaise.
If you like, garnish with baby coriander and pickled eschallot brunoise


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  1. First I thought you were the only one eating that big order lol :D.
    I love fondant potatoes, it's the best way one can cook them!
    Thanks for sharing your dish with the Original Recipes Round-up :)

  2. haha no way! i think i'd barf before i'd manage to finish all that.

  3. Hi Cathy, thanks for visiting my blog, and I think you should try something without eggs - maybe for the fun of it! Do you have eggs in every dish? Try and make it without - will love to see you on FIC:) The fondant potatoes sound delish!

  4. This looks lovely! There is a lot of work but the results are worth it! Especially the fondant potatoes.


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