Wednesday, November 5, 2008
End of an era for Oscillate Wildly in Newtown
It's hard not to get keyed up about Oscillate Wildly. After jumping through the barriers of getting a booking (phone-wrangling a date for many months ahead - if you make it through the unending engaged signal), you end up having an incredible, ambitious dinner in a cosy, relaxed setting that will chart highly on your list of great restaurant experiences. All that super-bureaucratic organisation pays off in the end.
There's no doubt a key part of Oscillate Wildly's success has been Daniel Puskas, who has been head chef at the restaurant since he was 23. Now, he's leaving to start his own place, along with "right-hand man" James Parry (both are winners of the Josephine Pignolet Award, which honours young chefs). As Good Living reported, Puskas says, "Whatever I do it'll be similar food but a little more refined, using organic and biodynamic ingredients we can't afford to use at Oscillate." If you were hoping to dine at Oscillate Wildly before he leaves in late December, it's too late - the joint is booked out until next year.
I didn't get to go to the restaurant as much as Tabitha - considering most people can't get a booking at all, she managed an impressive three sittings in a very small amount of time - but I feel a little sad to have missed out on going once more before they change the stars in their kitchen.
Our last time there was a huge amount of fun, and I was impressed that they not only put out a fine vegan degustation for Tabs, but catered to my vego restrictions and Will's weird anti-seafood policy, all without grumbling, and all with impressive culinary invention (no second-rate salads or afterthought risottos for us).
My memory of the menu swirls from Tomato & Watermelon Gazpacho with Tomato Snow to Eggplant Creme (hidden in an eggshell on a bank of salt) to Wild Mushrooms on Pumpkin & Amaretto Puree and Chocolate Soil (which made Chris ask, "where do you dig up this chocolate soil?").
I'll always remember that unlikely savoury dish with Donut, Chickpea Puree and Vegetable Confit (the donut flourish divided people, but totally had me waving its flag) and the ever-awesome Apple-thyme in Sorbet, Sweet bread and Apple Soup. The crisp bite of that thyme biscuit, I can still recall in a snap.
And those toasted milk marshmallows and hibiscus jellies... ! If I ever get stuck in Groundhog Day moment, I want it to be during this dinner...!
Of course, you can't get all hopelessly crusty about the past. Oscillate Wildly will get a new chef - Karl Firla from Est who is "a little more classical in flavours but still modern in technique" and there's undoubted excitement (from me, at least!) about whatever new venture Daniel Puskas and James Parry end up opening next year. As long as it's not a steakhouse.
Oscillate Wildly, 275 Australia St, Newtown NSW 2042, (02) 9517 4700