Monday, July 6, 2009

Does a fish have a face?

In a similar vein of questioning as "Do chickens have lips?", we ponder away one chilled night under blush-inducing outdoor heaters. If anything, doesn't a fish - like some humans - have two faces? It's these funny questions in life that ensure I never take things too seriously.

Front of menu from Fish Face, Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst

We find ourselves facing fish and their sea cousins on the warm footpath outside Fish Face after a short stint at nearby Darlo Bar. Not really recommended for a large group, we strategically huddle our seven selves around the table so that the benefit of the heaters is maximised.

With a glass of BYO wine in hand, I'm sure I'm not the only one who struggled to catch the detailed descriptions of four or five entree and three main specials. Never fear, they're written on the board inside where peering in I can see high round table and stool seating plus a well-stocked sushi bar complete with sushi chef. I think his name was Koji.

Amuse bouche of crab omelette

Now I'm taking a stab at the amuse bouche because when questioned on the ingredients of the omelette, the waitress conveyed that Chef Koji was a little more than coy on the topic. Looking like the Japanese tamagoyaki, this amuse is served at room temperature and is decidedly sweet with what seems to be crab, or other crustacean, throughout. Its delicacy is in contrast to the bold branding of the chef's name and Chinese characters for 'fish head'.

Scallops with heirloom tomatoes and chives

If happiness were distributed in shellfish, this would be it. The vibrant tri-colouring of the scallop entree delights the initial senses; some quicker than I can whip out a camera. They look so pretty and dainty in their shells; so appetising and mouthwatering that expectations have risen to dizzying levels.

Up close with the scallop

Luckily there's no disappointment here. Both the yellow and red tomatoes are sweetly juicy with the chives imparting a serious amount of their personality. But it's the scallop that sweeps the palate away: fresh as the sea and cooked to a perfect rare, it embodies everything that is good about scallops and shellfish generally. I manage to stretch it out to two bites but it's nowhere near enough.

Parsnip and black truffle soup

There was raving down the other end of the table about the soup of the day; a thick and creamy looking parsnip soup infused and topped with truffles.

Mud crab salad

There was also a less wintery picked mud crab salad with coriander and peanuts among other ingredients I didn't catch.

Pot roasted Wollongong bugs

Bugs always interest me - not of the insect variety - though I've often seen them done poorly. This impressive pile of the halved critters is served without a sauce, letting the bugs do their own talking. The flesh is firm but mild, perhaps needing to be eaten with the fried leaves.

Hiramasa kingfish with beetroot, crisp pancetta and chilli

I was exceptionally pleased - and full after - with my main of the kingfish; a mighty thick fillet beneath a hefty helping of julienned beetroot and a rasher golden crisp pancetta. Like the world's crispiest bacon strip, the pancetta was an attempt to balance the sweet beetroot and while it struggled against the sweetness, the overall flavour matching was inspired. The kingfish itself sported a cracker-like crisp skin and was cooked to a medium-rare, with the waitress advising that I should start from the thinner end. True to word, the fillet magically cooked itself by the time I reached the thicker end, though I am a slow eater.

Crisp skinned turbot special

The turbot special looked very inviting though I'm not sure how it fared on taste, so engrossed with my kingfish I was. It had a welcoming golden-skinned hue and I don't recall hearing any complaints.

Petuna ocean trout with musrooms and leeks in
filo pastry served with sorrel sauce

The ocean trout was one of the more intensely and diversely flavoured dishes: a complex filo pastry wrap containing minced mushrooms and leek around the fillet of ocean trout. The creamy sorrel sauce was a surprising flavour burst richly bringing together the components of the dish.

My main meal was unexpectedly filling so I'm surprised that the desserts request to the waitress is "One of everything, thanks." Thus the path to sugary overindulgence.

Seven-spiced rum baba with creme anglaise

I've never really been a fan of rum, in beverage or food form, so I'm not enthralled by the rum baba in a pool of milky creme anglaise. For me, the rum flavour overwhlems everything else so I can't taste a single spice, let alone seven.

Quince and frangipane tart with vanilla bean ice cream

My dessert pick would have been the quince and frangipane tart, which is a generous block serve with a rather forgettable vanilla bean ice cream. It's exceedingly sweet and though I love a frangipane filling, it seems to dominate the quince in this instance.

Creme brulee with date

The brulee looked an absolute treat with its cracking toffee lid and dates on the side (for the brulee purist, anyway). But breaking through the toffee barrier into gooey, near-liquid custard was a saddening anti-climax; our brulee enthusiast utterly disappointed despite information that this is the stlye of creme brulee by this kitchen.

Buttermilk pudding with coffee accompaniments

The buttermilk pudding was the standout in terms of originality. Something similar in texture and flavour to coffee grounds accompanied the delicate, wobbling pudding next to an imposing-looking, dark chocolate-covered bar. The bar was uniquely textured and hit salty notes in addition to more of the coffee hit. I still have no idea what this dessert was but once over the initial novelty of new flavours and pairings, I don't think it made the winner's podium.

Considering the savoury versus sweet faces of Fish Face, I see a definite strength in one over the other. After a few drinks and loads of food, I don't think anyone minds if a fish has a face, two or only a head - it's about how much of a smile it can bring to your face.

Fish Face on Urbanspoon


Belle@Ooh, Look said...

I like the title of this post – and you’ve answered the question. I think the parsnip soup looks like the best dish of the night though the faceless fishes don’t do too badly, either.

Tina said...

Hi Belle - Ha ha, I guess I did. So much for a rhhetorical... :( I didn't actually try the soup but it certainly sounded delicious...

Leona said...

OH man those scallops!!!! I wanna lick my screen now especially cos i had such a shiet dinner.

And the king fishhhh I have a thing for sashmi dishes and fish with crispy skin

Sounds like you had fully bellys after eating all this food. ^_^

Linda said...

I absolutely love jap food. Glad to add another one to my must try list. btw the creme brulee looks delicious.. I can't go pass the crispy caramel layer.

Tina said...

Hi Leona - Too bad about your dinner... but that kingfish skin was out of this world crunchy! :P

Hi Linda - It's not exclusively a Japanese restaurant though they do have a sushi chef. :)


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