Saturday, March 28, 2009

A comfortable March

Comfort is such a multi-faceted concept. It could mean a blanket and hot beverage; or a favourite outfit; or a fitting atmosphere; or even a conversation with a stranger. A myriad of possibilities which we could all feel comfortable, or indeed uncomfortable. And other than the obviously physical aspects, comfort is really a state of mind. I think you can choose to make a situation as awkward as you like.

Or you can just approach it, feel comfortable and never want to leave. I felt a little like I didn't want to leave the opulently comfortable surroundings of the ivy lounge recently; a very pleasant contrast to other boozing parts of the behemoth complex I've experienced. Luxe furnishings, a lovely Italian pinot grigio, fantastic company, night-out yet intimate vibe - it's all you need for a Friday night.

But the boozing comes after the food, in this instance a March into Merivale dinner with a day-in-advance booking at Teppanyaki. I pity any soul who might try to find venues at the ivy without the help of your standard gorgeous/funky staff member. Even with specific directions we struggled a little to the inner depths to find Teppanyaki. Bathed in moody darkness, it's set beyond the ivy lounge on the second level with a long communal table and a few coupled settings.

In the open kitchen we spy chef Akira Urata and decide against approaching him to say that we've seen naked pictures of him. He probably gets that a lot anyway. We start with complimentary miso soups - a very nice, elegant touch in a night of much elegance.

Miso soup from Teppanyaki at the ivy, George Street, Sydney

Not too much different from a standard miso soup with decidedly fresh, floating and thinly cut shallots, firm white tofu blocks and wakame seaweed hiding beneath the miso cloud. I also elect a few appetisers from their normal menu to settle some ravenous appetites.

Edamame with pink salt

The edamame (soybeans) arrive in a very generous serving, the abundance of pink salt flakes is surprisingly not too salty. Edamame is presented with an empty dish for the bean shells and I laugh because it seems there's always someone who picks up beans from the discard dish, then quickly throws them back down with an "Eww...".

Crab leaves - fresh Queensland spanner crab meat with ginger,
chives, chilli and lime, served on a betel leaf

We also have an order of the pretty crab leaves. I still think betel leaf creations are the perfect appetiser, like an explosive wake up call for all the taste regions of the tongue. These ones are weighed down with lots of crab meat; a sweet, tart dressing; and topped with crunchy golden slivers of something.

There's a bit of an excited wait for the mains as I impart my Wikipedia knowledge on what's to come. Marron is a type of crayfish, and nothing to do with the gooey stuff inside bones as my initial thoughts proposed.

Teppan grilled West Australian marron, tomato and
lemongrass salsa, Asian herbs.

This was the March into Merivale main for the week at Teppanyaki, and a pretty sight of tempting smells to boot. Admittedly elegance was a little lacking as we fought with little forks and wooden chopsticks to remove the flesh from the shell but with individual finger bowls to back us up, I think we did well.

The whole halved marron was nested under a pile of mint and coriander leaves in a light, sweet dressing further enhanced with juicy cherry tomatoes. The marron itself was a delight to savour with the dressing and fresh herbs; its texture perfectly lobster-like with a distinct grilled aroma. It verged on the side of small so an additional main was shared, a bit of a stunner of a simple dish really.

Yellow fin tuna seared rare, served with daikon, watercress &
sesame salad, dressed with a horse radish ponzu

The thickly sliced seared tuna was lusciously red and fresh; delicately soft as I mopped up the ponzu dressing. The watercress was crisp and the grated daikon refreshing, matching superbly with the dressing. It'd be a really tough choice to pick between the two mains. I think the marron wins by a claw simply due to its uniqueness but overall I love the clear sense of direction of all the dishes. Definitely modern, definitely fresh and flavour-packed, definitely want to come back. Now if only the lounge bar weren't such a distractingly expensive comfort.

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