Monday, September 1, 2014

I Dream of Pork - thanks to Bishop Sessa

I've been dreaming of pork since a themed dinner at Bishop Sessa in Surry Hills earlier this year.

And not just any pork - I'm dreaming of wonderfully innovative porcine creations like smoked bacon aioli and sweet pork fat fudge that came from chef Paul Cooper's kitchen in the underrated neighbourhood restaurant.

Pork terrine at the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner at Bishop Sessa, Crown Street, Surry Hills
Located down the somewhat grungier southern end of Crown Street where Tabou restaurant formerly was for years, Bishop Sessa inexplicably flies under the radar.

Chef Cooper promotes a genuine head-to-tail philosophy, best evidenced in the restaurant's special degustation dinners held regularly throughout the year - like the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner I attended - in addition to its usual degustation offering.

Upstairs dining room
Restaurateur Erez Gordon plays the perfect host and sommelier who really shines during these dinners, selecting unusual drops to match with Cooper's exciting food and serving them generously during degustations. I've heard that at some dinners he'll even match two wines per course.

This neighbourhood-style generosity extends to the food - before we even looked at our first sip of booze at the pork-themed dinner we were presented with some of the best chicharrĂ³n pork rinds in town - light, airy, and all crunch - and then a chunky slice of excellent pork terrine on a bread crisp.

For the I Dream of Pork dinners the restaurant had sourced a rare breed black pig from John Corduke's farm in the south west of NSW - presenting the beast head to tail in a number of wondrous dishes and tastily cute add-ons.

Honey bread with smoked bacon aioli
Our appetisers were matched with the exotically dry Delgado Zuleta La Goya Manzanilla Sherry prior to the second mind-blowing moment of the evening - before the meal had even started proper.

Served with house-baked honeyed brown bread and butter was a small jar of aioli in a novel, on-theme flavour of smoked bacon. Almost everyone bypassed the butter for the ridiculously good aioli which was thoroughly smoky with the true flavours of salty, fatty bacon.

It was quite something, to start the night with a revelation like the smoked bacon aioli and indeed, there were requests throughout the room to bottle and sell the divine spread.

Salad of pork leg 'bacon', pine needle mayonnaise, wild flora
We progressed to our first course of a salad: of the best sort featuring pork leg bacon in both a cooked cured form and in crisp, browned nubbins. The pink bacon was delightfully ham-like, pairing well with the caramelised eschallot, soft parsnip and green-tinted pine needle mayonnaise while the crisp bacon was as good as it gets.

Our bacon salad was matched with the Bella Ridge Estate Trebbiano 2013 from Swan Valley, WA which was ideal to cut through the saltiness of the meat.

Corned pork jowl, jerusalem artichoke reduction, chestnuts, pickled pine mushrooms
I just couldn't wait to sink my teeth into the corned pork jowl - one of my favourite cuts of the pig post Italy and discovering guanciale. 

The salted hunk of pork cheek was finished in the pan for a golden top to its deliciously fatty and soft flesh, and was paired thoughtfully with a segment of pickled pine mushroom and a chestnut puree.

Matched with Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2013 from Margaret River, this was my favourite dish of the night (perhaps aside from the aioli).

House made pig's head black pudding, fermented cabbage, caramelised apple puree, pig trotter jus
Leg and cheek covered, we moved on to the pig's blood, head and trotter - both made into black pudding that featured a centre circle of pig's head meat.

While I have no issue with the fabulous, all-sorts type of meat from the pig's head, blood isn't really my thing although the rich, crumbly slab was one of the more refined and reserved versions of black pudding I've had.

The sauerkraut-like cabbage and apple puree were ideal for refreshing relief from the rich pudding and jus, as was the matched Opawa Pinot Noir 2011 from Marlborough, New Zealand.

Poached pork loin, red wine braised carrots, spatzle, quince, green peppercorns 
We were already getting seriously full by the time the last savoury dish arrived:  a thick slice of poached pork loin and a square of crackling topped pork belly, served with wintry red wine braised carrots and spatzle.

While both cuts of pork were beautifully prepared, it was almost a little unfair to put anything up against pork belly with crunchy crackling. The heavier Vina Tobia Seleccion Tempranillo 2009 from Rioja, Spain rounded off the savoury courses and propelled us to sweets - of the porky variety.

White chocolate and banana pork fat fudge, cinnamon toast, macadamia nuts
I wasn't sure I could handle the thought of white chocolate and banana flavoured fudge - made with pork fat. Turns out I could and it was luxuriously rich and creamy as anticipated.

Served atop a cakey version of cinnamon toast with creme anglaise, whole roasted macadamia nuts and a cracker that tasted like it was cooked in pork fat, it was a decadent dessert that ticked the pork box.

It was served with warmed glasses of Maxwell Spiced Mead from McLaren Vale, South Australia which is just about my favourite boozy discovery of the year. A honey wine, it exudes cinnamon, cloves and the spice warmth you associate with winter and mulled wine and was a beyond-perfect match for the pork fat fudge dessert.

Bacon doughnuts
But wait, there was more. There was one last porky surprise from the kitchen - petit fours, if you will, featuring bacon. Not in any way your typical doughnut, it was an almost fudgey chocolate cake 'dough' component with a white icing glaze in contrast to the lovely saltiness of the crisp bacon on top. I'm not sure if the doughnut glaze had any pork fat content but at this point, I didn't really want to know.

I certainly felt like a piggy rolling out of Bishop Sessa that night, but also one that was somewhat enlightened on the whole head-to-tail philosophy. As a neighbourhood restuarant, Bishop Sessa is doing some seriously spectacular things, especially in the pork department where the food is smart, considered and completely dream-worthy.

Food, Booze & Shoes attended the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner at Bishop Sessa as a guest, with thanks to Savannah PR.

Bishop Sessa on Urbanspoon


Bianca@forfoodssake said...

I'd be a little apprehensive about the blood pudding but everything else looks Deee-vine!! :)

Vivian - vxdollface said...

so much pork! hehe the pork jowl sounds divine

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

I dream of pork every night :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The idea of the fudge isn't as appealing as I'm sure the taste is. What an interesting and creative meal! :)

Tina said...

Hi Bianca - I don't generally like blood foods but this was sort of manageable. Sort of :/

Hi Viv - It was... I want more, just looking at it!

Hi Helen - hehehe, not fried chicken?

Hi Lorraine - No, it doesn't sound great but tasted OK - if you didn't think about the fattiness... It was a great meal; such an eye-opener.


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