Friday, February 22, 2013

Albion Street Kitchen: The new casual

I was surprised to see a deal voucher on offer so soon for Albion Street Kitchen – Warren Turnbull's and head chef Grant Astle's very recent rebirth of Assiette. I snapped it up quick-smart and booked in, admittedly a little wary of the changes.

Complimentary milk bread at Albion Street Kitchen, Albion Street, Surry Hills
Albion Street Kitchen is a more casual restaurant than its formerly-toqued predecessor. As soon as I walked through the doors on Albion Street, however, I missed Assiette.

The music playing in the intimate dining room certainly was more casual (Mrs. Robinson?) but the space still feels like Assiette, except for the new bright blue wall. The white tablecloths are gone but in their place are completely lust-worthy, heavy, marble-topped tables.

Complimentary milk bread with rosemary olive oil
The new, more casual menu features five entrées and five mains that all sound pretty exciting, with a touch of international flavours which I remember from Assiette days. Wines by the glass are very well priced, with the fruity yet buttery Chenin Blanc possibly my new favourite white wine.

Adorable, shiny milk bread arrived at the table on a board with a tiny carafe of olive oil and a sprig of rosemary that seemed more decorative than a flavour infuser. The pull-apart style of the fluffy and softly dense bread was perfect for a hungry stomach.

Cheese on toast, truffle, asparagus, Pedro Ximenez, raisins
This may well be an early contender for signature dish at Albion Street Kitchen – and I know I want it again on my next visit. Cheese on toast is easily one of my favourite lazy, comforting meals, but I can’t say I often have Pyengana cheddar delicately melted over toasty brioche with truffle shavings.

I also don’t tend to cook raisins in Pedro Ximenez sherry to add on top with delightfully buttery mushrooms and grilled asparagus spears. For this luxe version of cheese on toast, I’ll be seeking out Albion Street Kitchen.

Seared veal tongue, sweetbreads, pickled turnip, salsa verde, almonds
The veal tongue entrée was a little surprising in its form; basically a steak slice of the tongue, surrounded by golden pan fried sweetbreads, small but vivid pink pickled turnip and a bright green sauce of salsa verde.

Both the pickle and salsa verde were perfect flavour matches for the offal but it was the veal tongue that really surprised me. It was as far from chewy as you could get (in contrast to some experiences with ox tongue) and bordered on spongy, which isn’t a particularly appetising descriptor but worked excellently with its sear treatment and dish accompaniments.

Ranger's Valley bavette, miso glaze, eggplant, sesame seeds, spinach
There was serious to-ing and fro-ing when it came to the mains options, with all the protein options sounding delectably worthy.

My second pick was the Ranger’s Valley bavette or flank steak, which was served with wilted spinach and a halved, miso-topped grilled eggplant. While I adore the Japanese nasu dengaku miso glazed eggplant dish, I found the miso glaze a little too strong on the soft eggplant here.

A muscular cut of beef, the pink-centred bavette was wonderfully tender with an appropriate bit of chew to go along with loads of beefy flavour, somewhat offsetting the sweet miso glaze.

Chatham Island cod, cauliflower, vadouvan, tamarind gel
My top pick was the Chatham Island cod; a slim fillet that flaked to perfection and had plenty of flavour on its own.

The vadouvan spice dusted cauliflower gave the dish an affable Indian touch while the cauliflower puree, dotted with the sweet brown tamarind gel, added richness and depth. This also came with wilted spinach, making the main meals quite complete and reducing the need for side dishes.

Panfried zucchini, garlic butter (front) and chips, chilli salt (back)
In any case, I’d recommend one side shared between two diners, especially given the generous sizes – the thick cut chips were served in a bowl in a pub-size serving.

Crunchily golden with a seasoning of salt and chilli powder, there was a definite umami component, almost like powdered katsuobushi dried bonito flakes or similar. They were a little on the dry side, so the tamarind gel from my main meal made for a fitting dipping sauce.

Meanwhile, the zucchini were at just the right firmness with a surprisingly subtle garlic butter and crisp pangratatto style breadcrumbs sprinkled atop. We were defeated by half bowls of each side remaining and finishing my wine, I couldn't even look at the dessert menu.

In all, I wouldn't call Albion Street Kitchen a casual restaurant but it is certainly a step down from hatted fine dining. At its heart I think it’s just the new, casual Assiette, but with quality and flavours like this on the plates, I'm really going to like the new casual.

Albion Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon


joey@FoodiePop said...

I think I'm going to like it too. Looks enticing.

Missy Piggy said...

We went to Assiette *just* before it changed over to Albion Street dining. I have to say the food still looks scrumptious.

Sherrie Huang said...

What amazing looking dishes! That cheese toast has me drooling...

Gourmet Getaways said...

Oh it all looks so delicious! I would have been happy with any of those dishes :)
...especially the cheese toast with truffle shavings :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

We're set to go here in a while. I didn't realise that they have a voucher though already!

john | heneedsfood said...

I'm really surprised they're doing a voucher already. Tina, you chose everything I would have. Your tastes are so much like mine! Hope to get there someday.

My Kitchen Stories. said...

The food looks fabulous. When I heard it was going to be more casual I kind of dint expect this kind of food. I really want to visit

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

Didn't even realise assiette had changed to albion street. I guess I was lucky to have gone to assiette. Now i need to make a return for the street kitchen. Love the idea its more casual, though sad to see assiette be no more!

Jacq said...

I just missed out on this voucher but I'm still keen to check out what the new Albion St Kitchen has to offer. It looks like the food is just as delicious as what was served at Assiette :)

Shanshan Lam said...

LOVED the cod fillet and the garlic zucchini at Albion Street. Those were the two winners for me!

Tina said...

Hi joey - I think it's still very Assiette but a touch more casual, which is not at all a bad thing.

Hi Miss Piggy - I think there's a lot of the same kitchen staff so the quality is all still there, just under a different name :)

Hi Sherrie - Thinking about it again makes me drool...

Hi Gourmet Getaways - Yep, I think that was my favourite of the meal :)

Hi Lorraine - Yes, I was very surprised. Perhaps just a one-off to get things going.

Hi John - I'll have to admit that the tongue wasn't my choice at all, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the dish :P

Hi My Kitchen Stories - Yeah, not at all casual as it is in my mind, but perhaps, the new casual?!

Hi Tina - Yeah, it is kinda sad but I can see that Assiette is living on through Albion Street Kitchen - quite fitting really.

Hi Jacq - Yeah, there's lots I'm keen to go back to try :)

Hi ShanShan - The cod was very impressive. So often, fish mains are Ok but a bit meh. This was great.

Excuse Me Waiter said...

I had always wanted to go to Assiette but never found an opportunity to...Albion Street Kitchen still looks lovely though!

Ramen Raff said...

Love Albion St Kitchen! Their honeycomb parfait with fennel ice cream kicks ass!

Chris (@ MAB vs Food) said...

Albion St Kitchen is awesome! I hope they re-open soon following that terrible fire cos I want to go back!


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