Monday, November 10, 2014

Pei Modern takes over at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

In a growing sign that restaurant empires are the only way to go chef/restaurateur Mark Best, of globally-acclaimed Marque and the more casual Pei Modern in Melbourne, has brought the latter restaurant brand to Sydney, replacing the still relatively new The Woods just beyond the Four Seasons Hotel's front lobby.

Woodfired sourdough bread and butter from Pei Modern at Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney
I'm not one for politics of any sort, so I'll say that the restaurant's current look and feel is a bit slicker than previously, and leave it at that. The huge wood-fired oven remains in the kitchen and so wood-roasted dishes also continue to dominate the menu, starting with wood-fired sourdough bread.

Pei Modern dining room
While Pei Modern Sydney will be headed up by Pei Modern Melbourne chef Matt Germanchis, it was nice to see chef Best at the kitchen's pass during the restaurant's first week, in which I'm told it was very well received by Sydney locals.

Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol
In typical fine dining and/or top-end hotel style, it's always a great option and educational process to leave the wine to the experts.

For a sizeable group sharing a large proportion of the entire menu, the sommelier did well in pouring the Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol white wine, which matched exceptionally to a broad range of starters.

Clyde River rock oysters
Pei Modern's menu is split into a number of cutesy titled sections (one includes the term "go Cray-Cray" - seriously), but basically snacks and appetisers, salads and vegetable sides, larger dishes, meaty mains, and desserts and cheeses.

There's no better place to start than with "Some raw"; namely the simply stunning specimens of Sydney rock oysters from the Clyde River on the NSW south coast. These Sydney rocks were just outstanding; so fresh, creamy and packed with flavour.

I couldn't comment on the vinaigrette as a few drops of lemon were all I needed for oyster heaven before I started to worry that there was no way the rest of the meal could reach the heights of the oysters.

Culatello 'King of prosciutto'
Seeing my favourite salumi land on the table was reassuring though, with the culatello cured pork leg (literally translating from Italian as "little bum") served with pickled pear slices.

The culatello was thoroughly satisfying in both texture and flavour. Cut thin, but not too thin, with a slight edge of fat and some marbling, it had a real creamy, melt-in-the mouth characteristic and none of the stringiness you sometimes get with normal prosciutto. Personally, I didn't need the pickled pear although it made for a unique partner to the dish.

Anchovy, parmesan shortbread
We continued on raw snacks with a fairly intense combination of a salty Ortiz anchovy fillet on a crumbly parmesan shortbread with a dab of parmesan custard.

There was something quite striking about the simple presentation of the anchovies as a snack, and then palate-wise too with the major hit of salt from the anchovy which I found a little overwhelming with its cheesy accompaniments.

Beef tartare, local sea urchin, horseradish on toast
The last snack was the beef tartare with baby capers on toast, finished with crème fraîche, a casual draping of local sea urchin and grated horseradish.

I adored the velvety texture of the well seasoned raw beef which was piled generously onto the toast thin, though I'm still yet to appreciate sea urchin and its rather alkaline-y flavour.

Young dandelion, blood orange, bronze fennel
We moved on to the 'clean & green' section of the menu with an interesting salad of dandelion greens, which was definitely a first for me.

Crisp and slightly bitter, the dandelion leaves were paired with sweet blood orange slices and segments and topped with bronze fennel fronds in a very modern, very Australian and very sustainable dish.

La Luna goat cheese custard with asparagus
There was much more interest in the roasted asparagus dish which featured a blob of the most sensation custard made from La Luna goat's cheese. With the gorgeously charred asparagus spears dipped into or drizzled with the cheese custard, this may well be the one of the most impressive vegetarian dishes of the year.

Burrata, Romanesco, egg yolk jam
That full honour would probably go to the dish of burrata, sourced locally from Italian cheese masters Paesanella.

The stretchy, cream-filled cheese was an utter delight and anything but subtle, made only prettier and more desirable with its playmates of green Romanesco broccoli and a vibrant egg yolk with jam-like consistency.

Salt cod croquettes
The TV snack-worthy crumbed, potato gem-like croquettes were more traditional than I had expected and not at all oily, with hot, fluffy salt cod and potato innards and a golden outer, served with aioli.

Tiger prawns and slow cooked pineapple
Still on the snacky, appetiser menu, the large butterflied and roasted tiger prawns came dressed with a vadouvan spice blend which was enhanced by the small dice of sweetly and slow-cooked pineapple in an unexpected pairing.

Ricotta dumplings, kale, hazelnuts
The 'bigger bites' menu is designed to be a more substantial main or shared amongst the table, and the ricotta dumplings were pure comfort.

The large, soft pillows of gnocchi were paired prettily with kale leaves and a browned butter sauce, and contrasted nicely with the delicious crumble of roasted hazelnuts.

Whole Holmbrae chicken with yams
The whole Holmbrae chicken is a feat of kitchen technique. Not satisfied with a simple roast, the chickens are brined, steamed and smoked before being roasted in the wood-fired oven for beautifully crisp, golden skin and ridiculously tender flesh; pink bones to boot.

Salmon tail cooked on the bone, samphire and rouille
The most gorgeous main/shared dish had to be the salmon tail which is roasted on the bone in it's full skin and tail-on glory. The fatty flesh was cooked to flaking perfection and was simply divine with the sea-salty samphire, roasted tomatoes and traditional rouille sauce.

Milly Hill lamb shoulder cooked in chamomile
Sydney's favourite cut of lamb also makes an appearance on the menu, with the slow cooked Milly Hill lamb shoulder cooked and dressed in chamomile. The lamb shoulder wasn't quite falling off the bone, but the tender slices of self-sliced meat with the pan juices was as homely a dinner as could be.

Throw in some hand-cut sebago potato triple-cooked chips and it's a party for at least four diners to share.

Tamarillo, vanilla ice cream
We somehow made room for dessert, at least shared among the table. I loved the look of the roasted tamarillo dessert which featured the uncommon fruit with house-made vanilla ice cream. The softly roasted, tart fruit made for a lovely contrast with the creamy ice cream.

Spiced doughnuts, blood orange, whey butterscotch
I'm not one for doughnuts but I couldn't resist the cute, squat spiced ones filled with blood orange curd - just about as sophisticated a doughnut can get, served with a whey butterscotch sauce.

Meringue, white chocolate ganache, blueberries
The eye-opener was the brown sugar meringue served with a spectacular, thick, gooey ganache of caramelised white chocolate. All the sweetness was cut by fresh blueberries and lime zest, and even as a non-sweettooth, I was enamoured.

Duck egg sauternes custard and crostoli
We headed into classic Mark Best territory with the sauternes custard, served in a cropped egg shell with crostoli designed for dipping into the egg, soldiers style.

The duck egg custard was pure faultless luxury with the toffee-sweet sauternes, and satisfying enough on its own without the fried pasta strips.

Chocolate tart, eucalyptus cream
And it just kept going with Pei Modern's take on a chocolate tart, not so much deconstructed but reimagined. The biscuit base topped with chocolate ganache and tempered chocolate shards was a beautiful composition alongside a pool of rich salted caramel and eucalyptus-scented thick cream.

Cheese selection with quince paste and crackers
There was strong interest in the cheese selection of Holy Goat Brigid’s Well goat's cheese, the Pyengana 20-month clothbound cheddar and my absolute favourite of the lot, the Benison Blue from Gippsland, Victoria.

With quince paste, jam and some fabulous crackers, this was a classic cheese board promoting the very best of Australian cheeses.

Feeling like we'd eaten half the restaurant's menu, the clear highlights were the starting Sydney rock oysters, the burrata, the roasted salmon tail and the cheese selection. But with coverage over both standard hotel fare (read: steak and chips) and line-pushing modern Australian cuisine, Pei Modern is a key pillar of Best's restaurant empire that looks to dominate both casual and hotel dining in Sydney.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Pei Modern as a guest.

Pei Modern on Urbanspoon


Vivian - vxdollface said...

i loved the holmbrae chicken! It was so succulent ^^ think i'll need to go back to try the lamb shoulder!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Salmon tail on the bone sounds so tasty! And loving the use of yams with the chicken.

Amy zhong said...

the ricotta dumplings sound so good, keen to check this place out!

Amanda @ Gourmanda said...

Fantastic to see a rarer fruit like Tamarillo on the menu - it's certainly something different.

Tina said...

Hi Viv - I liked them both but found them almost of the same texture... strangely.

Hi Helen - And pretty too! As ever, I was more taken by the entrees than mains.

Hi Amy - I felt they were pretty classic compared to some more modernised dishes.

Hi Amanda - Yes, and such a strikingly beautiful fruit too!

Amy zhong said...

the culatello and chocolate tart looks really good!

mackyton said...

I hope this further evolves the quality and is better for its customers. When here some take over takes place it generally happens for the good. Recently my cousin’s event management was taken over and it has grows leaps and bounds.

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