Friday, September 24, 2010

Ties that bind

It’s intriguing and uplifting to know that people can get along with all walks of life, despite the differences between them. Whether it’s a shared childhood, work environment, travel experience or passion in life, or indeed if there really are complete opposites, there always seems to be some tie or linkage to allow human nature to be beautifully open and accepting. Otherwise we may never learn or know things, or change preconceptions like, hotel restaurants aren't any good.

I probably don’t venture into local five-star hotels to dine all that much, although Sydney’s Hilton probably started a real change in attitude. Kable’s Restaurant on the first floor of the Four Seasons overlooking the lobby feels like a hotel restaurant: plush but vivid carpets, relative dimness, big padded chairs, elevator music, and the quiet murmur of politely dining hotel guests or the chatter of business deals and networking over dinner.

Olive bread from Kable’s Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney
With several loitering and unattended groups waiting to be seated on our arrival, I wonder if the maitre de wasn’t prepared for a near-full seating for the night. Nonetheless, bread arrived shortly after wine and menu decisions were made: a choice of two or three courses, or the choice of two degustation menus, one vegetarian.

From the bread basket, the house-made olive scroll was to die for, fashioned like a cinnamon scroll but filled with a tapenade-like mix of olives. The bread itself was soft and almost buttery, so I’d rather not know the nutritional information and just have another scroll, please.

Cape seed roll and sourdough bread
The miniature baguette was covered with a random load of seeds and was definitely the tastiest seeded bread I’ve had, with almost a little spice coming from one of the toasted seed variants. The locally-sourced artisan sourdough was filled with fluffy, chewy holes of full-of-flavour bread, simply scrumptious slathered with butter.

Amuse bouche - zucchini soup with parmesan foam
The amuse bouche for the night was a warm zucchini soup with tiny pieces of the vegetable itself, slightly bitter in a creamy base, beneath a cloud of parmesan foam which was strong in flavour whilst light on texture. I’ll admit to mopping up the foam from the tiny cup with bits of sourdough bread.

Assiette of pork - braised pork cheek, crisp pig ear, pig's tail tortellini
There was quite the exciting choice of entrees on offer, somewhat prolonging the initial decision-making process. For the game, pork three ways – and not just any parts of the pig. The pork cheek seemed to be the star of the show; a small block braised while retaining the fatty structure of the cut beneath a thin layer of skin. The overriding flavour was the utterly unctious fattiness of the pork, helped by the quenelle of green apple sorbet peering out from the jungle of cress salad.

I was a little dubious of the pig’s ear (this was no beer) as I’ve generally steered away from the bits and bobs of animals. The ear was crisply and golden crumbed, and I probably shouldn’t have looked at the cross section of the ear before eating it. Layers, several of them, multicoloured, lay between the crumbed outer. The ear was probably best paired with the beetroot on the plate as the sweetness of the latter could cut through the unexpectedly gelatinous texture of the ear.

Lastly, the single tortellini (I don’t expect a great deal of filling from a tail) was probably the safest looking item on the assiette; a rich and pure filling of pork pulled off the tail in a pasta wrapper – quite moreish in fact.

Eight treasures quail with black vinegar
I chose the quail for the promise of eight treasures although I'm still not quite sure what the eight were. It seems to be a Chinese cuisine concept – I do recall shitake mushroom amid the glutinous rice within the just pink, rolled quail. The quail’s flavours were a little muted such that the sweet black vinegar sauce was the main flavour profile when I think it probably should have been secondary. It was also quite a substantial dish that could almost pass for a main.

Pan seared scallops, watercress, apple, raisin puree
Three scallops come out tanned very brown all round, with an adorable cylinder cut out of cooked green apple. The scallops are overcooked for my liking and the raisin puree just a little too sweet, but the puree and fried sliced cross-sections of cauliflower are a match made in heaven for the scallops. The watercress and green apple juliennes add a refreshing touch to the entree.

Veal sweetbread, salsify, quail egg, hollandaise
The veal sweetbread arrives as a pretty array of ingredients encircling a quail egg. Golden nuggets of the richly-flavoured sweetbread are topped with a cheesy looking hollandaise sauce, with a leafy salad hiding the salsify (of which I missed out on a taste). The quail egg reveals a runny yolk that is mopped up with sweetbreads, as too the dabs of an unknown brown sauce.

Beef tenderloin, dauphine potato, Bordelaise sauce
On to mains, red meat proved a popular choice. The beef tenderloin was close to well done or medium-well, but still incredibly tender, as the name might suggest. The menu listing didn't mention bone marrow, so the quivering, jiggling blob was a nice surprise. The stalk of the King Brown mushroom was beautifully braised and flavoured, but just outshone by the dauphine potato - a fluffy football croquette of potato that I'm sure was more complex to make than it looked.

John Dory fillet with crab and parsley risotto, scampi beignet
There was a slight tussle over who was going to get the John Dory dish, with each of us sold on the scampi beignet. In hindsight, I prefer scampi raw, sashimi style rather than like a cooked prawn in it’s coat of batter - so conceding this dish wasn’t all too bad after all.

The fillet of John Dory was pan fried to a golden outer plus crisp skin, but still moist inside, and sat atop a risotto that was much like a golf green. While I’m not sure I tasted any crab, the green-ness of the parsley certainly came through taste-wise in the risotto.

Roasted vela cutlet with gratin potato, carrot and celery plus veal jus
My roasted veal cutlet was one of the best pieces of beef I’ve had in memory. Expectedly tender, the cutlet ticked all the right boxes for juiciness, envy creation and flavour – although it’s noticeably less flavoured than a regular, older cut of cow.

This rather large cutlet was paired with the best carrot side I’ve ever had – though you wouldn’t pick it from the menu description. Almost like minced carrot (not puree but not a dice either), combined with a touch of creaminess and chopped herbs, this is one sure way to get non-vegie lovers to eat their carrots. The gratin was somewhat under-seasoned, topped with a celery stalk which appeared to be broiled then roasted, maintaining its distinctive taste.

Lamb three ways, fondant potato, garlic puree
The lamb dish was yet another winner - with two cutlets, two leg pieces I think, and a confit wrapped into a ball with a lettuce of sorts. The leg was done medium but couldn't compete with the cutlets for tenderness. However, my favourite would have been the confit, lightly spiced with cumin and mustard seeds.

The dish came with two purees - one light coloured but strong in garlic, and the other a caramelised possibly garlic again or onion - as well as fresh artichoke and a decadently buttery fondant potato cylinder; although my favourite would had to have been the fresh, braised shitake (I think) mushrooms hiding beneath the cutlet stack, firm with a bit a chew and an unexpected star of the dish really.

Petit fours
After my quite large entrée and simply gigantic main - not to mention a couple of olive scrolls - there wasn’t a crevice of space left for dessert – not even a soufflé could tempt me. There was consolation in petit fours: an apricot jelly with a slight sour note and a caramel reminiscent of a soft Werther’s Original or Pascall Columbines. There really is some kind of psychology behind ending on a sweet note, which is what we do.

While service was mostly fabulous after a splotchy beginning, I couldn’t quite shake the hotel tie-up with the restaurant – which was particularly depressing when leaving and realising that I wouldn’t be retiring to a five-star suite. But with the quality of food from the kitchen of quite newly-appointed head chef Jeffrey de Rome, perhaps I wouldn't mind at all being bound to a hotel in this case.

Kable's on Urbanspoon


flying carpet said...

Hi, just stumbled across your blog from the VF. Just wanted to say, that bread is most definitely courced from Iggy's Bakery in Bronte. The seeded stick is the best, most delicious bread i've tasted in all of Sydney! Actually, it's all pretty delicious. You should check it out, but get there early, the lines are crazy!

Tina said...

Hi flying carpet - Thanks for the tip. Did you recognise it by look? :D


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