My birthday’s actually tomorrow but because I share it with my junior sous, it means I don’t get the day off. So I settle for yesterday off and I get to have dinner with friends at one of my favourite places in Sydney. I’d been to Bentley previously with my mother and my brother and had the degustation which was heaps fun and awesome. This time round we opted for an ala carte option and decided that we’d sorta make our own degu of sorts.

2 bottles of vino. The first is a lovely sweet, pineappley riesling from Germany, a Willi Schaefer. The second a slightly less pronounced pinot noir from Stoney Rise’s Holyman range. I reckon it coulda benefited from more time but maybe I was just fiending for a sick ass pinot. Flavor was good, regular straight up pinot. Cherry etc. Both bottles were recommended by in house sommelier Nick Hildebrant, replete with tache and hipster glasses. He’s a pretty nice guy and definitely one of Sydney’s best wine guys.

Food, was hella good. We shared 3 appetisers. The first one was my favourite. Smoked Eel Parfait with white soy, konbu and seaweed. I wished I had a whole thing to myself to be honest. It was really really good, delightfully delicate, the parfait itself was wrapped in a black squid ink fishy gelatinous skin and on the plate a swoosh of white creamy sauce and 3 shards of glass like adornments speckled with wakame? If this first course is anything to go by, I’m not really gonna bother to try to figure out which ingredient goes where and what’s not mentioned etc etc. Brent Savage’s food always looks great and there is distinct refinement in the cooking. Whilst he eschews more classic approaches to flavor and tends toward the wild and wacky (we’ll get some of that later), the overall experience is a fun one and some flavor combos always intrigue on the palate.

The second appetiser was a beef tartare which was wonderfully firm and superbly seasoned. The flavor of the central element shone through and it’s a wonderful modern version of a classic dish. It came with spherified wasabi balls that break up and shit but the flavor was quite mild. Put everything in the mouth and even if the ingredients aren’t traditional, the flavor somehow is sorta kinda.

The last one was brill too. Duck liver foie gras parfait sitting on a bed of puffed rice and pickled raisins. This was awesome and again, I wished I had a whole stick of it to myself. Y’know we had to split this appy 6 ways. Which means one little glorious bite. If I coulda done it again, I woulda ordered 2 of each appetiser. Anyway, foie gras parfait, smooth as foie gras parfait. Intense deep rich beautifully glorious flavor heightened when you hit the sweetness of the raisins and also sorta went well with the riesling’s sweetness. Puffed rice bringing dat texture and crunch. Breakfast for champions luxe concept. Rice krispies, raisins and foie gras. That’s on my menu in the future. Ok maybe, scrap everything and just leave the forcefed duck liver pastey thing that tastes like god intended.

Onto the entrees! We’d get our own. My korean housemate gets the jamon poached tuna. I took a hella blurry photo and it also has like bits of jamon and black sausage crumbs blackened even further with the use of squid ink. I think Savage likes black food. Let’s just say I wished there was a streak of jamon but the tuna had a lovely texture and the oils from the ham really went well with it but that was obvious from the start. The black shit all over the bottom, the sausage and stuff, that was intense.

My S/O decides to get my fave entree, the pork belly with wattle, garlic milk and rhubarb. I gotta say first off, the garlic flavor is nice and gentle and the treatment of the pork belly makes it like the best sio bak in the world ever. The appearance as well, sublime. I don’t recall getting too much rhubarb anywhere but I had mostly meat and one bite of everything. I got this piece of fat near the end of the course and then my mind went blam. That was like ooh yea. Pig fat.

Everyone else though, chose the lobster tail with coconut??!?, black bean and lamb sweetbreads. This one I was really intrigued with. Crustacean with lamb sweetbread is pretty classic but coconut, black bean and also shards of tapioca made shit just a tad tropical. I’m not 100% if everything goes together but I’ll say coconut with tapioca and black bean sago was nice with the lobster. The sweetbreads minus the coconut works great. Everything together maybe works. Each component though, was perfectly done. I just get sick of these composed plates where you don’t really know where to start and where to end. In summary, nice if somewhat disparate but this is exactly what makes Bentley Bentley I guess.

Main courses!!! Ok. To start with, Nick messes up. He scribbled our mains right but keyed em in wrong. No biggie. It’s a table of 6 chefs. We’re never fussed about stuff like this. So they apologise and resolve to try again. We ordered 2 ducks that became 2 lambs. S’alright. They do bring out some maize chips with aioli as a freebie and offer free cakeage as well. Maize chips. Crusty on the outside and crumbly on the inside. Flavor wise, it’s not gonna take out a solid french fry but it’s a nice, interesting alternative. Whilst waiting for my main, at least I get to sample everyone elses and also 2 other sides we got. The first one is brussel sprouts with hazelnuts and a creamy sauce. Tasted good, a proper decent side if a little unspectacular. The other side is kipfler potatoes cooked beautifully and served with artichokes and jerusalem artichokes. Awesome. This dish reminds me that side dishes can be great dishes in and of themselves as well.

The first main I get to try is the beef fillet, a generous looking portion served with swabs of adzuki bean puree and sweet tapioca. Yes it’s weird and the beef is obviously perfectly tender but it’s a fillet, so flavor wise, it always lacks beefiness somewhat. The garnish was maybe a touch too out there. The sweet bean puree had a density of flavor and grainy texture that was maybe a little strong versus the beef and didn’t really do much for the savoury element of the steak. Everything else was alright but just the red bean was maybe a little odd.

The other main is awesome sauce. Poached kingfish served with white and black fungus and covered in a pool of fennel puree. There was also streaks of green herb oil and possibly a vinaigrette as well. The plate was beautiful and I wish I had  a pic, might be able to steal from my mate but the flavor and texture of the fish itself was just… superb. W0uld order again.

Another one of the mains, the missed connections lamb rump was not too bad. I don’t remember too much but flavor wise, it was good. The pepper sauce was the best bit but if I recall correctly, the slightly lebanese/mediterraneany flavor profile of the dish kinda bored me if I’m being honest.

I only had one small bite of what felt like a chicken nugget from my mate’s plate of balled spatchcock. You see what appears to be a giant deep fried chats potato sitting on a plate with fresh pistachios, asparagus and sweetcorn polenta. Only the potato thing was the spatchcock. My mate enjoyed it and I trust his palate so it must’ve been pretty good. He didn’t share much the stingy bastard.

Salvation arrives at long last and I suppose some things are worth the wait. Sitting in front of me after like another 20 minutes is the most divine dish. Roast duck breast sliced and rolled into a beautiful pile sits over the most curiously cut cuttlefish and some mushroom, mushroom gelee? and I think pickled fennel. This was a wow moment when that duck breast went in. I immediately thought, dad would DIE for this. Of course sous vide duck is gonna be perfect. You lose the crispy skin but man, that first contact is just… super dope duckness. The whole dish for me, was my pick of the night.

Desserts were picked by two of the girls whilst the rest of us were chatting away. I’d scarcely even glanced at the menu. We got 3 to share. My favorite was the cashew custard. I’ve got no idea what else was on the plate but I can safely say it was awesome. The mild sweetness of the custard is what you start with until it eventually gives way to the rich roasted nuttiness of cashews. The weakest dessert was probably the date tart with rockmelon sorbet. The sorbet was excellent and in fact everything on the plate was too. Little blobs of uncertainty or whatever aside, they were great together. The tart itself however, was kinda weak. I expected a really deep rich flavor but it was surprisingly mild and perhaps not for the best. They caramelized the top and the texture itself was good but you really expect dense, dark flavor with date tarts and this one was like a milder date tasting but smudgy dense textured slice that we were disappointed with. The other dessert was the frozen goat’s cheese mousse, which to my palate did not have that strong pronounced goat’s cheese-ness. In fact, it tasted like fro yo. This one was pretty good and came with little pale blue blobs of violet cream, dark real honeycomb honeycomb and a whole lotta others.

Cake time was supposed to be a sweet potato cake, a korean jawn kopped from Eastwood that maybe lacked the finesse and refinement that Bentley had produced over the course of the entire meal but it wasn’t too bad at all. The main problem was both koreans at the table wondering if this was the correct flavor because whilst the mousse had a certain goguma-ish graininess, the taste was exceedingly mild. It was a pleasant little sponge/mousse combo though.

Highlights

  • Smoked eel parfait. Smoky back end kicks in after fishy, konbu-y, eelyness and hit the palate roof with sudden intensity.
  • Duck liver parfait. Some old standards die hard but new ways of representing them provide some new insight.
  • Pork belly. Lip smacking.
  • Black sausage bits in the tuna dish. Probably the dankest, deepest flavor the whole night.
  • Kingfish. Want to eat this again. A whole plate of it.
  • Duck breast. All duck should be like this.
  • Cashew custard. It goes like this. Sweet creamy > Nutty Rich > bright sweet.

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