Monday, February 14, 2011
It's hard not to be knocked out at Restaurant Arras. Every dish seems to blaze with high-resolution colour and the flavours are just as carefully, exquisitely rendered: elegant, playful and thrill-seeking.
I've already written about this great restaurant but it's difficult not to re-praise the people who cast this dinner-long spell on us: the incredibly inspired chefs and co-owners, Adam Humphrey and Lovaine Allen, and the highly likeable floor staff led by Alon Sharman (who deservedly won the Good Food Guide's Silver Service Award last year). The food is so eye-dazzling that one of the waiters even uses pictures of the dishes as his desktop wallpaper.
I'm not going into the mega-detail that I did in my previous review; instead, this is a grab-bag of highlights from our recent visit.
Like the buzz you get from clicking instantly with a book's first chapter, I love how the awesomeness of a restaurant's bread selection is a dead cert that the meal ahead will be pretty great. It's the best kind of spoiler alert. On offer at Arras was a fine array, including sushi bread (thus named because it's studded with sesame seeds and hides pickled ginger inside!) and the caramelised onion bread (I committed bread-plate theft for it, it was worth the charge of felony).
The amuse-bouche (top) was a smart and stunning take on witlof salad – a-swirl with flowers, Spanish blue cheese, seasoned pear and a painterly smear of avocado puree.
My entree, the Fruit and Veg was the sequel to the The Raw and The Cooked dish I had last time – a 14-part mystery that doubled as a gorgeous salad. Follow-ups usually struggle to live up to the original's glory, but the colour-blitzing Fruit and Veg, with its sculptural curls and spheres of tomato, cucumber, radishes and stone fruits, really wiped out its predecessor.
It was also a dish with viral pull – as soon as the neighbouring diners saw it arrive on our table, they ordered it, too. It's that visually entrancing. (Also, it reconfirms that Arras has dependably great and imaginative vegetarian options; there's no afterthought mushroom risotto on this menu.)
Although I'd wanted to return to Arras for a while, what fast-tracked our revisit was seeing this tweet by Gourmet Traveller's Pat Nourse:
Popcorn "cinematic" soufflé just one of the detour-worthy hits at Restaurant Arras. Definitely worth a fresh look if it's been a while.
It's true, the Popcorn Souffle is highly worth singling out: studded with puffed kernels, it also comes with a mini bag of popcorn and a scoop of popcorn sorbet. You tip a jug of caramel sauce into the souffle and the rich trickle is what makes the souffle disappear in about five record-breaking spoonfuls. All that's missing is a mini film projector. (And, sadly, this popcorn dish is not yet available in jumbo at your nearest cinema.)
Of course, the legendary petits fours plate is unmissable at Arras. It was impossible to pass up the passionfruit ganache, grapefruit jelly and (I couldn't stop laughing at this name) the sour "dib dabs". Such a feelgood ending to a night that was genuinely fun and thrilling; it was sad to walk out the door and, reluctantly, break the spell.
Restaurant Arras, 24 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay NSW (02) 9252 6285, www.restaurant-arras.com.au