We were greeted at the door below the Adelphi and shown to our table. Given that it's christmas party season, the restaurant appeared to be full of mostly business groups, also lucky enough to be treated to one of australia's best restaurants.
Ezard's restaurant is a long, dimly lit room, with white table-clothed tables set up down the length of the room. At the end of the room is a bar and behind that a kitchen, which (unfortunately) you can't really see into, unless you're seated down the back of the restaurant.
On each table is a small bowl of lovely green olive oil, which is infused with Parmesan Cheese (which is available for sale at $30 a bottle. There is also a small dish containing 3 types of flavoured 'salt'. From memory, our waiter explained that these were
- Sichzuan Pepper and Salt
- Icing sugar, chilli and Salt
- Bonito flakes, prickly ash and Salt
(I'm not sure if these are exactly correct as I didnt take a notebook!) My favourite was definately the icing sugar Salt. The slight hint of chilli in the sweet salt was amazing!
It's so difficult to choose something from the menu! Knowing that you don't get to come to restaurants like these all that often, you want to make sure that you make the right choices of what to eat when you do.
We started off with a taster each. Rach had Ezard's famous Japanese Inspired Oyster Shooter with a roll of noodles wrapped in Nori. ($4.50) The oyster was in a shotglass with what tasted like Sake. I had a little deep fried dumpling on a spoon of kind of Japanese Mayonaise ( sorry, can't remember what the little dumpling was, but it was kind of a deep fried mashed potato texture- fantastic!)
For a starter, I had the steamed shitake mushroom dumplings, roast duck, chinese spiced broth and spring onion ($21.50). The 3 dumplings came out on a plate and then the waiter poured the hot broth over them at the table. The broth was deliciously spicy and the dumplings were filled with Shitake goodness.
Rach had the rice crusted kurobuta pork cheek with yellow bean dressing, spiced apples and green mango ($22.50). This dish had all the presentation that I love about Ezard. The clean white plate, the shiny dressing, the almost caramelised apples and the high rise pile of finely cut vegetables on top of the deliciously tender pork cheek. Gimme, gimme, gimme!!
I should point out at this stage, that given the restaurant was full, the waiters were fantastic! They always kept our water topped up, kept the bread coming for our salt dipping, were brilliantly pleasant and explained each dish to us to perfect detail. You can tell that the waiters that work here, love to work here, love what they do and love to serve. They make you feel pleasantly at home, so to them, I thank you.
For mains, I chose Ezard's signature dish: fried pork hock, chilli caramel, spicy thai salad, fragrant jasmine rice ($39.50). Once again, the amazing presentation just screams Ezard! I've been tempted to make this recipe many times (I think I might make it for a Christmas dinner this year) but the recipe suggests that a great deal of work goes into it, so I wanted to taste it before I tried to do it myself. At least then I would have something to compare it to. The crispy skin of the hock was glistening in the dull light, the candied chillis were bright red and almost transparant, gorgeous. The meat itself was so soft - I'd never tasted pork of this texture before, it was delicious. My only criticism of this dish would be that the dressing in the asian salad was overly sweet, to the point that it was almost like eating a dessert. I don't know if it's like that every night or if that night it just happened to be a little too sweet. Apart from that, the dish was amazing!
Rachel had the roast duck, shaosang wine, roasted chilli and spring onion dressing, hand rolled sesame noodles ($42.50). The duck was glazed and crispy like a duck you'd get from Chinatown or Victoria St. The meat inside was so soft and tender. Who knew that ducks could be not only cute when alive, but so damn tasty afterwards! The duck was garnished with the signature thinly sliced and deep fried carrots and other vegetables, sprinkled with icing sugar.
We were unable to make a choice for dessert, so we decided to go for the dessert tasting plate $42.50. The waiter brought out the plate full of goodies for us to try and explained them one by one to us. There was calpico sorbet with fresh watermelon and vietnamese mint, honeycrunch icecream with toasted gingerbread and sugar swirls, bitter swiss chocolate tart, poached pineapple, rosemary icecream, (the rosemary ice-cream was definately a strange one, but after the first mouthful, I began to love the creaminess mixed with the fresh rosemary. Maybe this could go with something savoury too if you added less sugar?) amaretto stack, poached peach, crispy filo, hazelnut callebaut cheesecake, butternut crunch, passion fruit sorbet, mascarpone pannacotta, roasted rhubarb and strawberry soup. I would definately recommend the tasting plate over the individual desserts. Simply because you can taste everything on the menu and also the desserts aren't 'mini' sized. You get a a good taste of everything and there's easily enough for two people. Amazing food, I absolutely loved it!
Overall, I had a fantastic evening at Ezards. The quality of the food and the service speaks for itself as to why it's not only one of the best restaurants in Australia, but at the top of my list to visit at any possible chance. I highly recommend also, that for anyone that really wants to appreciate this food even more - pick up Ezard's cook book. Most of it can be time consuming to make, but how good is it to have restaurant quality food at home! I did want to pick up a signed copy of Teague's new book Lotus on the night, but it didnt appear to be for sale. Looks like there's my reason right there to visit Gingerboy to pick up the new book!