Thursday, September 8, 2011

Assiette Friday prix fixe on my mind

On the extremely rare occasion that I had an entire Friday off from any kind of work, I immediately knew what I wanted to do: prix fixe lunch at one of the fine establishments in Surry Hills that offered it.

One email later, I was booked in to lunch at two-hatted (well, it was when I dined there) Assiette. I think I could definitely handle the 'ladies who lunch' lifestyle.

Kreglinger 'Vintage Brut' from Assiette, Albion Street, Surry Hills
The dining room was absolutely packed as we arrived (except for our table), the restaurant bustling with the noise of Friday lunch. The two of us seemed somewhat youthful in comparison to the rest of the dining room, other than the under-5-year-old hoeing into her three-course meal with coloured pencils on the side.

The $35 prix fixe menu was evidently popular, with a choice from two of each entree, main and dessert, along with suggested wine matches.

Being not too long after breakfast, I wasn't sure I could stomach three glasses of wine. We started with a festive glass of Tasmania's Kreglinger Vintage Brut; a sparkling with a fun and fruity beginnings, and a drier finish.

White bread roll
The warm bread roll was crusty to a point of embarassingly messy, served with butter and salt flakes, to numb the initial hunger. However, it wasn't long at all before the entrees arrived.

White bean veloute with duck rillettes
I had no strong preference for either entree as they both sounded quite satisfactory. I end up with the white bean veloute in front of me; a thick and hearty concoction of more cream than bean in taste.

In the middle sat a stump of duck rillettes; unexpectedly sweet on its lonesome, but making more sense when eaten with the soup. The hazelnuts in the rillettes were in sharp contrast with the soft and silky textures of the rest of the dish; while the drizzles of presumably basil oil made it look like an artist's palette.

Salt cod croquette with potato puree
I was very impressed with my few bites of the croquette; far superior to any other salt cod croquette I've sampled (which can be too salty, too potato-ey and so on).

Assiette's was insanely perfect: light with seasoned mashed potato and populated with chunks of salt cod flakes that had gorgeous texture with a bit of resistance. And if I thought the veloute was creamy, it had nothing on the potato puree beneath the fine, cylindrical croquette.

Pan fried mackerel with pumpkin, feta, raisins and pine nuts
Going by the menu, I was happy to go with the mackerel main - a fish I've been having a lot of lately in some very good dishes; though perhaps it's in season too. Its presentation was a little surprising in its less refined, thrown-together look, but also with a Middle Eastern slant.

Pumpkin, feta cheese, sweet raisins and pine nuts aren't the hallmarks of French cooking, but they seemed to work together. While the raisins and pumpkin were entirely appropriate for the salty feta and some parts salty fish, the mackerel itself had a slight fishiness that was difficult to conceal.

The three thin slices of pan fried mackerel formed a triangle over smashed pumpkin and the array of other ingredients, although it all just ended up feeling like disparate but well-cooked parts as opposed to a unified dish.

Roast pork belly with pearl barley and apple sauce
The pork belly looked a picture of perfection: a square tile of crackling topped pork, sitting neatly on pearl barley with a nice, big dollop of apple sauce. It was difficult to attack the meat, what with its crackling armour and slippery grounding - in the end it was easier to separate the crackling from the flesh and consume each separately.

The crackling was fabulous, except for the thick layer of fat beneath it which turned the chewing exercise into something like that for stickjaw toffees. The meat, however, just melted - even more tender than the very tasty and homely pearl barley, and was pure comfort with the classic pairing of apple sauce.

Chocolate brownie with caramel ice cream
Our desserts arrived as the restaurant started to empty, the workers heading back to their offices and the others delighting in their Friday afternoon freedom.

The slice of chocolate brownie looked threatening with its gooey fudginess. The chocolate hit wasn't huge but it was just the right sized slice, while the caramel ice cream started to make it all a little too sweet. I liked the shortbread crumbs beneath the ice cream, and the vice-versa chocolate crumbs on the ice cream.

Strawberry Eton Mess
The less rich Eton Mess arrived in front of me in a martini glass; a gorgeous mess of vanilla bean speckled cream, gyprock-like meringue shards, strawberry puree, strawberry segments, pistachio crumble and ever-present micro herbs.

There was more meringue mixed into the whipped, light-as-air vanilla cream and swirled with the ruby red puree, it was a taste of a girly childhood without a sugar high. Happiness, of another kind, in a martini glass.

The prix fixe three-course Friday lunch menu is simply incredible value, and with a different menu every week, there is now even more reason for Fridays to be on my mind.

Assiette on Urbanspoon


joey@FoodiePop said...

I agree the value of this lunch is great and with the menu changing every week, it never gets stale. shame it's lost one of its two hats though, but there is so much competition these days.

henry said...

nothing wrong with being the pretty young things at any type of venue!

MissPiggy said...

I'm going to take a Friday off work one day and go here for lunch - just need to find someone to take a day off with me (PS, I always seperate my crackling from the pork and save the crackling for last - yum)!

Jacq said...

You've just reminded me that it's high time I head back to Assiette! I love their prix fixe menu, definitely one of the best value lunches out there.

Richard Elliot said...

I think I'm one of the few people who didn't like the Assiette prix fixe menu.

When you go to Marque for their Friday speacial you feel like you are still getting three hated food at a great price. I didn't feel I was getting two hatted food at Assiette.

Although overall complimentary would it be fair to say you thought some of the dishes slightly missed the mark as well?

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That is a really great price for the calibre of food. I was so pleased when I went there and it's good that they're keeping it on :)

Anonymous said...

I wish I had Ftidays off to do this!!

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

Such great value for the price!

thehungryduck said...

Did you have to book ahead? I remembered once trying to book the Marque lunch and it was a 2 month wait :(

Tina said...

Hi joey - Hats schmats; it's about how much you enjoy yourself, I think.

Hi Henry - Absolutely agreed! :)

Hi MissPiggy - Shouldn't be short on takers for that offer, I'd think :)

Hi Jacq - Total bargain meal!

Hi Richard - That's fair; not everything was spot on for me.

Hi Lorraine - It's a great concept. If only I had more Fridays off.

Hi minibites - I think it was my one and only Friday :S

Hi mademoiselle délicieuse - Definitely!

Hi thehungryduck - Yes, you do need to book. I think I booked one-and-a-half weeks in advance.


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