Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cara&Co Restaurant: A flavour of creativity

Things are not quite what they seem at Cara&Co Restaurant, which is squirrelled away within the luxe Westfield Sydney Level 4 retail shop of the same name.

While there's window shopping aplenty in the international boutique clothes and accessories store, any preconceived thoughts of stuffy fine dining in the restaurant go right out the window.

Amuse bouche: Olive cake with capsicum jelly and bonito cream at
Cara&Co Restaurant, Level 4, Westfield Sydney
Instead, it's a creative and boutique offering, much like the retail store. Firstly and lastly, it’s all about flavour and they go to great lengths at Cara&Co – through innovative techniques and new flavour combinations – to pack in awe-inspiring flavour in every instance.

For example, our first amuse bouche was a tiny pudding-like black olive cake, topped with a disc of red capsicum jelly, bonito cream and olive crumbs. I was transported to the Mediterranean with the one mouthful of explosive and well-considered flavours – and we'd barely started the meal.

Hand towels
The intimate, floor-lit dining room of Cara&Co forms its own attraction, as do the knowledgeable waitstaff who are obviously passionate about the artful food that comes from the small kitchen.

The waiters have my full attention every time they describe the components of dishes which have technique and imagination written all over them – as do the hand towels.

Even if they initially look like large mints on the table, don’t pop these in your mouth. The compressed and scented hand towels grow into little towers with a light watering by the waitstaff, and set the scene for the innovative and creative meal to be had.

Sour Puss cocktail
Cara&Co has a small list of signature cocktails but can also cater to classic tastes. My Sour Puss is properly sour (oddly, an uncommon attribute of many ‘sour’ cocktails in Sydney) with big hits from calvados, sour apple liquor and plum pisco.

Amuse bouche: Tapioca cracker with rocket puree and mushroom
We were treated to a second amuse bouche which had me swooning. Served on a polished stone, the pock-marked cracker of tapioca was impressive on its own with a softly crisp, airy texture.

The match with green rocket puree and a tiny half of a pickled mushroom was ingeniously fun and surprisingly well balanced – I could even imagine a pack of these crackers and a bowl of the puree as a snack in front of the television.

Complimentary bread and butter
In addition to having the most wildly imaginative amuse bouche, the perfectly round sourdough rolls at Cara&Co are reason alone to eat here. Crusty and warm from the oven, I’ll admit to devouring two of these excellent white rolls with lashings of black salt flake-sprinkled butter.

Rump Kissed by the Sea
It isn’t noticeable at first glance of the menu of cutesy-quirky named dishes, but there are no pork or pork products at all (Cara&Co Sydney owner Rozalia Alpert is Jewish). But therein sprouts innovation, such as Cara&Co’s other-worldly delicious wagyu bacon – all salty, fatty and bovine.

It features in the wagyu rump steak entrée, which borders on a main serving size. Served as a pretty, tumbled array, the medium-rare beef showcases sous vide done well, with plenty of wagyu bacon along with sea urchin, grilled fennel, creamy potato puree and 'egg yolks' of a sweet, fruity sauce oozing out of pickled onion rings.

Scampi Grapefruit Rhapsody No. 1
I couldn't go past the scampi entrée, which has a tomato water poured over at the table. The scampi is lightly torched but otherwise raw, which is the perfect way to eat the shellfish.

It's served with creamy and cheesy flavour matches in the circles of parmesan custard, blobs of cardamom cream and parmesan crisps.

The strongly flavoured custard was the surprise match with the scampi, while the cherry tomatoes added sweetness and acidity. The strong cardamom flavours rather overpowered the delicate shellfish, but were easy enough to avoid.

Ten Peas in a Soup
New to Cara&Co's current menu are a selection of cold soups. I was sold on the wagyu bacon that appears again in a semi-traditional pea and mint soup. The vivid green soup came topped with milk foam and dotted with pieces of asparagus and sharp-flavoured caperberries.

The fresh peas were contained what turned out to be rounds of apple that added sweetness and texture to the chilled soup, while the mint refreshed the palate.

Behind the Iron Curtain almond soup
Modern history buffs might like the chilled, creamy and toasty almond soup that's thicker and richer than the pea soup. Served with rounds of potatoes (not scallops as may look like), rolls of cucumber flesh, dill and onion rounds, salty Avruga caviar offered the finishing touch.

Glass of 2010 Schild Estate shiraz
We requested wines to go with our mains and there are several on offer by the glass. Most of all I adored the approachable and logical wine advice offered by the waitstaff.

The Schild Estate shiraz was a great, mature match to the rich beef main while a lighter 2008 Yarraloch cabernet sauvignon was divinely berry-rich to match the lamb main.

Jus being poured on When Bull Meets Goose
The beef tenderloin main is about as luxurious as it gets – I shouldn't have been so surprised when we were told that the goose component of the dish was foie gras.

Rounds of white onion, assorted mushrooms and I think, an artichoke puree danced around the bull and goose in pretty neutrals while the juicily pink tenderloin was beefed up with veal jus.

When Bull Meets Goose
But the block of fattened goose liver was the star of the show. It was pure indulgence as the foie gras mousse meltingly matched each mouthful of beef with its buttery, smooth creaminess; seriously ramping up the posh quotient.

A Lamb's Neck of the Woods
My main of slow-cooked lamb neck was served with an ethereal garden of green and cloudy white accompaniments, each bringing new, different flavours and textures to the ridiculously soft and tender meat.

A Lamb's Neck of the Woods
Crumbled pistachio was a interesting contrasting texture while the strongly flavoured anchovy foam was the stand-out flavour among comforting cauliflower and broccolini.

Frutti di Bosca in the Tropics
There was barely room for dessert, so a light, fruity one to share was the order. A mix of fresh berries, coconut ice cream and a green herb sorbet played the tropical notes, while the jellied coconut flan had to be the most intriguing part of the dessert.

Petit fours (clockwise from back): Tonka bean  madeleines, passionfruit and white
chocolate lollipop, and lemon verbena and violet marshmallows
And yet there was more. After dessert there was still petit fours that all diners are served, and there's just as much serious pride in these after-dinner treats as with the pre-dinner amuse bouche.

Firstly, fluffy, sweet clouds of marshmallow in two-toned blocks of lemon verbena and violet. Then my favourite, a white chocolate lollipop with a liquid passionfruit filling that exploded in the mouth into a sublime moment.

And to finish, their trademark tonka bean madeleines which were toasty warm with crisp, golden surfaces.

The Cara&Co dining room
By the last bite of the madeleine, I was completely and utterly stuffed, and completely and utterly content.

Cara&Co really is something special: while the creativity of some dishes at can be overwhelming, the flavours are always there to back up a dish. There's always a place for a flavour of creativity in Sydney dining.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Cara&Co.

Cara&Co Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Genie said...

Wow. I am floored by the level of artfulness and creativity. Do you know what category of dining this restaurant falls under? Fine Dining doesn't seem to quite give it justice.

Jacq said...

The food at Cara&Co is amazing. I loved the madeleines that were served at the end of my meal too! The scampi dish looks like something that's right up my alley

Sherrie Huang said...

Cara & Co was such a wonderful experience! The food was creative and the flavours danced on my palatte. Definitely worth returning to :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

We really enjoyed our meal there too. It's quite unique and quite unexpected tucked away in the shop.

Simon Leong said...

Dish presentation looks very cool

Anonymous said...

No pork! Seriously? Food looks great, though.

milkteaxx said...

wow all the dishes look amazing, i havent had a chance to visit this place yet! must check it out soon!

My Kitchen Stories. said...

Everything looks like there is a lot of attention to detail. Id love to go

thang@noodlies said...

Beef tenderloin looks hot!

Tina said...

Hi Genie - It's fine dining like no other in Sydney, and to their benefit (and in some cases, detriment) I don't think they can really be categorised... Modern European, at a stretch perhaps?

Hi Jacq - Isn't it great? I think it's a perfect and unique special occasion restaurant :)

Hi Sherrie - Totally agree!

Hi Lorraine - Isn't it? I still love walking through the retail store to find the restaurant :)

Hi Simon - It's amazing; right up there with Sydney's finest ;)

Hi lateraleating - Yup, but I didn't even notice until I was told..! Wagyu bacon over normal bacon any day!

Hi milkteaxx - You're in for a treat when you do!

Hi My Kitchen Stories - Absolutely; in every aspect too.

Hi thang - It sure was! Cooked to tender, juicy perfection!

Lola said...

Oh my gosh hahaha you guys ordered the exact same dishes as we did! Great minds think alike xx


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