You know that capitalization in the title? It’s not a mistake. It’s Grant King’s way of putting his name up there on his new restaurant. Gastro parK is located on Roslynn Street, just off the middle of the strip in King’s Cross. Previously, I’d dined at his his last restaurant Pier twice and the media and I think everyone in the food biz in Sydney has been waiting for him to show his next hand. A friend’s birthday was on the cards so this seemed the perfect chance to go.

I arrive early with two of my housemates and we proceed to start with a drink before the rest of the crew arrives. I am pleased to find an 09 Valminor Albarino by the glass and quaff it, remembering that I first drank it at Pier.

The menu is smallish and simple. It’s separated into snacks, entrees, mains and dessert. Nothing really screams out. There’s just a lot of good flavors, combos and you see a little bit of the old Pier if you look carefully enough.

Today, they also happen to be doing a truffle menu at the same time featuring Western Australian Manjimup truffles, which may not be quite the same as your French or Italian ones but it’s good enough. I remember when I ate at Pilu some time back and there was a truffle pasta on offer that I passed on. Head chef Giovanni Pilu actually came out to shave the truffles on for another table. I’m not expecting Grant King to do that but I was resolved not to pass up on something possibly hella tasty for once.

Alright when everyone gets there, I settle on the most sensible option for drinks. Sparklies! My pick was a Pelorus Cloudy Bay. Duh. It turned out to be really easy and tasty. We then decide on the food and the bread arrives! Well, first the stoneware plate arrives with a swab of butter and sea salt. Then the Sonoma miche slices are plopped onto them. In my case, the waitstaff couldn’t quite reach so it got plopped on the table. Wtf! Actually the service as a whole needs quite a bit of work imo if they wanna chase some hattage.

To share, we would first get a Putanesca Wafer, some octopus and a brioche with foie. The wafer is clever, it’s a play on the classic parmy wafers which are made by laying out parmesan on a tray and baking it. This one takes the elements of a putanesca sauce (anchovies, olives, tomato) and combines that with the cheese in a more free form look I didn’t think of before. It was presented standing up in a pebble with a groove cut into it.

The octopus comes with a smoked potato puree and lightly dressed parsley and sliced eschallot. This is fucking perfect. The smoked mash rends this deep richness and goes really well with octo. The salad meanwhile brightens things up and lifts the flavors altogether.

The brioche though, is a disappointment for me. If you have any item on a menu which mentions foie, I expect some decent amount of it. This version though seemed a little paltry and whilst the bread stick itself was good, the rhubarb served with it overwhelmed the foie. How the hell do you do that to one of the stronger ingredients on earth? Kind of an epic fail for me. My non foie loving housemate loved it though.

It’s ok, onto the entrees! 5 diners on the table. One serve of scallops, one serve of kingfish carpaccio and 3 serves of slow cooked egg with truffle soup. I had no idea what the scallops tasted like but according to my mate, it was rather nondescript. Good but you know, kinda blah as well. The carpaccio immediately reminds me of a dish at Pier with similar ingredients; sliced raw white fish, micro herbs, lime… However on this plate you get thicker chunks of fish (not quite a carpaccio) plus tuna bone marrow, fake caviar that is really sago and a lime gel. The tuna bone marrow sounds fuckin awesome but believe me, the biggest flavors on the plate were the fish and the lime. It’s still the same understated dish that its forebear was, more or less. Of course, I don’t have too much time to dick around. The star of the show was in front of my face. I tried some of the soup, which was deep and earthy, rich and tasty as all hell. It was just black like sesame soup but tasted like insane mushrooms. The egg hid below a few slices of truffle, which were pretty good. This is actually my first proper truffle dish so I don’t know what really really good stuff is. I’m just looking forward to that. However, put the whole egg in your mouth with the soup and the truffle slice and its like MMMMMMMMMMM! I am a truffle fan fo sho. I was hoping to lick my plate clean but the wierdly shaped bowl didn’t let me. It was shaped like a plate got squeezed by someone really strong before they fired it. I couldn’t put my face in and the spoon could only attempt to scrape at remainders. It was pretty bloody good.

When the place got reviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald, the dish they tried was the Crisp Scaled Snapper, which is what 2 of us got for the mains. We also had some lamb and another 2 serves of blue eye. I can’t remember the lamb much. The blue eye looked like it had an awesome texture because it was confit but I didn’t get a taste. I think in general, the resounding feeling was that mains were good but not quite great. Everything’s executed brilliantly and the flavors are good and it looks good and all but nothing really shouted EAT ME! My dish was apparently the brainchild of another chef in Spain. It involves leaving the scales on the snapper, and drawing them upwards so they stand before cooking and probably frying the scales so they turn crisp. It’s beautifully cooked and the scales are interesting. It is crispy and it does make the dish different but at the expense of the skin. Well, snapper skin doesn’t get super crisp but if you wanted something crispy with your whitefish, I’m sure you could do kingfish or blue eye or whatever. I could see the dish go awry all too easily. Fail at the scales and it’s game over. In fact, I had one or two myself that weren’t crisp, which makes things a mite hard to chew. The accompaniments were tasty but in my opinion not the best match with snapper. I had more smoked potato puree from the octopus dish earlier, some calamari, squid ink sauce and a squid inked crisp.

Dessert time! I went for the Pain Perdu with Apple and Balsamic Ice Cream. We also managed to try a Nitro Pavlova and a Chocolate dessert with honeycomb, frozen chocolate bits & mandarin sphere. I loved my dessert. It was pretty kickass. The french toast was insane. It was a cube, perfectly glazed all over and when you bite into it, you get the intense richness of sugar which was eased off by the balsamic ice cream. More smaller cubes of compressed/poached apples also went really well. The only absurd thing about it is the use of snow pea sprouts as a garnish. WTF? The nitro pav was good. It came accompanied by coconut, ribbons of pineapple and kiwi and inside the pav was some mangoey thing I think I’m 100%. The choco dessert was great. You break the sphere and out oozes the cream and sauce. The frozen choc bits were awesome.

All in all, I enjoyed the dinner even if it had curious moments, the stellar ones helped outweigh things. I really hope they work on serving because my table at the window is a little hard to serve for the waitstaff who just can’t bloody reach in. The food itself is probably on the prettier side rather than the tastier side but some things are really really good. Actually, I think the desserts on offer are pretty damn strong and some portions of dishes are also really good but some bits do raise my eyebrows. Pretty sure it’s deserving of a hat in the next good food guide and two if it keeps polishing things up.

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