I’m kind of stuck for any words for my intro. Attica is purely a restaurant above so many…above so many with big names at the helm. Though a little out of the main part of town with minimal décor, darkish interior Chef Ben Shewry’s food is being noticed on a world scale. His food is not to be “just consumed”.. it is created to evoke extreme sentiment and thought appeal to all our senses. Last year he gained a rare invitation to communicate his fare at Madrid Fusion…and also was part of the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore. Attica also garnered a mention in the 2010 San Pellegrino Best Restaurants in The World list, it came in at number 73.
Entering at 8.45pm I opened the taxi door to return to my Hotel at 1.10am…an adventure of epic proportions.
2 pre courses were presented before the main component of the Degustation menu (235 dollars w wine) One, a selection of Heirloom carrots, white, yellow and orange.
An intense carrot concentrate sat beneath the olive oil cooked specimens with a discerning shave of aged blue cheese atop. Then an abalone broth with shiitake and confit chicken wing followed. The chicken in 2 bite size pieces gave a textural shock, describable as chicken ‘crackling’ similar to the pork rinds I use to eat as I played the tabletop spaccies down the corner store. The menu hadn’t even begun.
We were then passed the knowledge that our first course had been delayed, due to 1 body down in the kitchen…I didn’t mind at all as it gave me more time to peruse the space and gaze at Chef’s rotavapor he had on display in a room I gathered was set aside for desserts only…Oh a rotavapor distils solids and liquids at very low temperatures enabling the purest aromas to be captured and the best essences obtained…we experience the fruits of this tool’s labour when course 5 hit’s the table.
Snow Crab is now here…a mound of snow is what I’m looking at. Told that we are going to have a blind tasting…all that is revealed is that the snow is in fact horseradish powder that dissolves into a pure taste of horseradish nonexistent of the heat. As it is consumed I guess salmon pearls tick, coconut tick, and freeze-dried raspberries wrong..they were actually barberries, and burnt onion, wrong again charred leek in this instance…close though. What I overlooked was the addition of verjuice ice that added a chill to the mound of “snow”
A dish of pure health followed in young peas, grains and pea juices. The grains consisting of puffed quinoa, green wheat and Israeli cous cous. The shells from the peas made the intense green fluid you see in the picture. Ben Shewry’s fare has been described as representative of the area’s he grew up in…New Zealand is his country of origin. The snow crab presentation a depiction of the snow-capped peaks he may have seen as a child. The next dish of Potato cooked in the earth it was grown, a symbol of the NZ hangi. Cooked (I don’t know how) in a recreated earth oven smothered in hot coals that injected an amazing essence of smoke into the texturally perfect fingerling potato. Sitting on soft goats curd the tuber had sprinkling’s of coffee powder and mojama (salt cured tuna) cress and fried salt bush, more than likely the saltbush foraged the morning of consumption…chef does like to forage for a lot of his ingredients. These flavours added a complete earthiness of a dish that reeks of Ben Shewry’s originality in all that rests on the pass.
Fish dish was a Bass Grouper with rosemary and garlic. Uncertain of the fish? I think maybe a Blue eye trevalla, but am even more certain it could have even been Hapuku/Hapuka a NZ beloved. Came with some candied lemon planted on the base. First initial aroma was a sweetened garlic enhanced by fresh rosemary blooms that sprinkled the top along with buttered brown almond nibs. When eating, it gave way to the garlic but as the flesh was penetrated more the lemon underneath was seemingly making a mark as well, strange when a dishes flavour morphs in front of you. The base sauce for this was a bold clarified Chorizo stock, clear essence.
A Bangalow pork loin ensued, small 100 gram piece sitting on a knoll of cauliflower puree (standard) strewn with wild foraged fennel pollen (not standard) God help me if Iever come across a better dish than this….To the left was what looked like a perfectly formed reasonable sized truffle…(see the pic) that was in fact a portion of house made Spanish style blood sausage (Morcilla to be exact) coated in a squid ink-stained fine bread crumb. This was sitting on a rotavapor distilled apple extract…Umami explored. I was without speech!
Red meat next, and here comes some more bewilderment. A portion of well marbled beef sitting with some purposely burnt potato, thin planks of white cabbage, sea grass (samphire I guess) and a mound of toasted black sesame seeds. Now as we were getting through all this I saw a constant smokiness through all that we were eating. The beef was super rich, fatty and unctuous. The potato when broken revealed a white inner sanctum, while the outer a resounding black, charred to be precise, but by no way inedible..in fact it was like a smoked chip, I’m guessing that took the brunt of a Smoking gun?
Savoury out of the picture we now had the pleasure of the bridging course. Simply titled “Terroir” this again was symbolic of Chef’s background, where he grew up or spent time in his life (so far)…I say that with sureness he will advance to grounds he has yet to visit.
I’m glad I’m able to provide pictures here as looking at it as I did I pictured a hill a mound of earth, a structural component of our earth with which we live.
What we had when consumption took place was Fromage Frais sorbet covered in grated dried beetroot cake, freeze-dried raspberries covered in sorrel granita and young sorrel leaves. Hard to describe the taste that was experienced. I leave the plate empty thinking…is it a sweet dish readying us for a more cloying finish or a savoury dish hanging us out to dry with a final slap in the face? The textural balance top drawer, the natural sweetness noted while the overall concept of this dish was somewhere lost in chef’s mindset.
Only remaining was the “Violet Crumble” This dessert came to us in a stemless brandy balloon. I saw it and could only think of when man finally lands on Mars, yes it looked like the moon landing, what you would see when peering out the window of the Lunar module. Sorbet made with wild violets, with caramel sauce, honeycomb, frozen chocolate powder/earth/pumice I don’t know exactly and a scattering of freeze-dried sugared violets. What do you think it tasted of…Nirvana that’s what.
When in Melbourne you must dine at Attica, that is all I need say….how bout this even…when in Australia you must dine at Attica.
74 Glen Eira Rd
Ripponlea VIC 3185
P – (03) 9530 0111
W - www.attica.com.au/