Food, Glorious Food!

July 17, 2007 at 7:09 am (Uncategorized)

I keep smacking my lips together every time I think about Saturday’s meal at Bistro Balzac. It’s got to be the best one I’ve had in recent memory… In fact, maybe it’s the rose-coloured afterglow of a happy dining experience, but I really can’t remember anything I’ve had lately that was even mildly in the running up against this level of competition. I should ask Llew about this. I know we did have something, somewhere, that we both really enjoyed once, but now I can’t seem to recall it clearly…I think I’m suffering from dining amnesia. It’s either that or the fact that I’ve rarely ventured out my front door in recent months – restaurants have become quite an alien concept this year. Oh, it was probably Sailor’s Thai. We went to the upstairs canteen for Flic’s birthday a few months ago, and that was a fantastic meal. We’ve had some decent food since, sure, including another excellent Thai meal at a place in Kirribilli – Thai Phoon or Thai Foon, you get their drift – with dodgy decor but great nosh. But this was different. This was the whole nine yards, with wines…

We started with an amuse bouche of a freshly shucked oyster in a delicate red wine vinaigrette. I feel sorry for people who don’t eat oysters, I really do. During this little tester, I stuck to my pre-lunch drink Pelorus, a delicious NZ sparkling I order as often as I can. As sparkling wines go, they don’t really get much better.

Next was a pretty fabulous risotto of bugs, prawns and courgette. Lovely sweet, fleshy meat and a creamy, flavoursome white risotto. This was served with a William Fevre 2005 Petit Chablis. Life was good and getting better all the time. This probably came in at a close second place in the line-up for me. It was great.

We moved on to the shoulder of lamb with Jerusalem artichokes and white beans – a little sliver of lamb’s tongue wasn’t for everyone, but I polished mine off and am still glad I did. All the flavours were balanced and I wanted to lick my plate. This dish was accompanied by a 2004 Minervois Chateau Coupe Roses. Yum.

Skate wing and beef Bourguignonne was a nice contrast especially when washed down with a Spanish wine – I don’t think we had the one that was listed but I am sure no one cared.

Okay, I think the next course was my personal favourite: rare roasted venison with red cabbage and celeriac puree, served with a 2003 Provenance shiraz. Bliss. The venison was perfectly cooked, so tender and just delicious with its accompaniments. Divine food, brilliant eating.

We had a little break and some more Pelorus before the pre-dessert. Let’s take a moment to appreciate a concept as golden as pre-dessert. It’s basically a polite way of saying “You pigs are getting two desserts,” in this case strawberry compote with cream and meringue. I was expecting a sorbet, just a palate cleanser but one of my favourite desserts anyway, so the richness of the pre-dessert was a shock, but by this time I was literally ROLLING with the punches!

A word on our dessert wine. I’ve always enjoyed Noble One when it comes to this end of the wine-drinking spectrum. A lot of offerings are disappointing if not downright nasty. But we had a 2006 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon from NSW’s very own Hunter Valley that was just superb, and it wasn’t because it was my seventh drink of the afternoon…truly. With it we enjoyed another favourite of mine (and really, the entire menu felt that way. I wasn’t the guest of honour by any stretch of the imagination, but talk about a few of my favourite things!): citron tart with creme fraiche. The gods might be crazy, but sometimes they are so very kind.

Oh, and then I got a truffle with my espresso, I think, but I was experiencing a fairly high-range foodie euphoria by that stage so it’s all a little hazy. The whole thing was such a potent reminder of why I love eating and drinking. There’s so much to love! A beautiful sandstone building, a lovely table, our obliging and indulgent waitress Marie, such memorable food and wine, and all enjoyed with our wonderful friends… I just don’t think a winter’s afternoon in Sydney gets any better than that.

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