As part of October's Good Food Month celebration, the Great Australian dinner with Rene Redzepi is one of the most exciting culinary events of the year. A fascinating feast of Australian flavours from David Chang, Mark Best, Kylie Kwong, Ben Greeno, Brent Savage, Neil Perry, James Viles, Martin Benn, Peter Gilmore, Dan Hunter, and of course the extraordinary Rene Redzepi from Noma, three times Number 1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and currently Number 2.
Each of the 10 most inspiring chefs in Australia prepared canapes served with drinks on arrival. The canapes showcased some of Australia's best native produce, such as kangaroo, wallaby, lobster sashimi, oysters, to something more exotic, like edible insects from Kylie Kwong. This lady is completely obsessed with adding bugs to every dish and I believe she spiked Rene's dish with ants while he went for his interview (just joking). Being bold and brave, Mr M tried all the bugs and commented that they are crunchy like chips. Kylie heard his comment and told him that "they are healthier than chips!" :P
After trying out all the amazing canapes and mingling with some of the most remarkable chefs in Australia (in the likes of Peter Gilmore, Mark Best and Neil Perry), we are invited into the dining room inside the Star Event Centre. Rene Redzepi prepared the first course: Alliums lighted cooked. Allium refers to the onion and garlic family, and this dish is completed with Australian ingredients such as green ants, rosella buds, salt bush, riberries and samphire. Rene said with the exception to onions, he has never worked with any of the ingredients in the dish before! It is a dish with interesting texture and flavour - erring on the sour side of things, quite an acquired taste I would say.
The mains are cooked by the remaining 10 participating chefs (9 Aussie chefs and 1 grumpy American as Rene called David Chang :P). Each chef created their own personal expression of Australian cuisine and each table is served the same main. The main dish you get depends on the table you are at. Browsing through the menu, there are several mains I had my eyes on - Marrion in the shell with seaweed butter, roasted cauliflower, fermented mushrooms, confit potatoes and parson's nose (David Chang), Wagyu short rib with lettuce, eggplant and seaweed (Ben Greeno) and Kurobuta pork belly with macadamia sauce and wattle crumb (Brent Savage). Being a picky eater, there are also a few that I'd rather stay away from: smoked native oysters, bar cod and wallaby tail with roasted mealworm cake (you've probably guessed who's behind this dish).
When the waiting staff came and told us they are from Sepia and our table would be getting the charcoal-smoked marron from Martin Benn, our entire table looked pleased. After the first bite, I am in heaven. The West Australian marron is so fresh and perfectly cooked over Japanese charcoal. The marriage of flavour is simply amazing with the sweet and citrus yuzu curd. It has got to be my favourite dish tonight and a dish I will be dreaming about every now and then. At this moment, I thank God for the couple that asked us to swap tables with them so that they could sit with their family from out of town.
Ben Greeno, who currently works at Momofuku and interestingly enough is the first chef Rene Redzepi recruited at Noma, is responsible for our dessert. He created a dish of blackened pear, sunflower seed puree and chocolate spiked caramel. As Ben explains, it's Australian in a way that it's light and sunny and a dish that hopefully makes people smile. And it certainly made us smile.
It had been such an extraordinary evening to not only watch amazing chefs work their magic, but also to meet delightful food enthusiasts - 2 at our table have dined at Noma and shared their fascinating experience there with us. Most of us at our table thought one thing they could do differently is to let everyone taste a selection of main dishes, rather than just one. But I still believe Martin Benn's marron dish would be pretty hard to beat.
Enjoy the photos :)
|Outside on the beautiful balcony at the Star|
|Native oyster crème, sea lettuce, lemon aspen - James Viles|
|Bread by the Bread & Butter Project. |
Extra virgin olive oil: premium hojiblanca from Cobram Estate.
|Our favourite Masterchef Adam Liaw|
|Kylie Kwong promoting edible insects!|
|Live green tree ants - yes, live and running around!!|
|Roasted baby crickets|
|Some interesting native Australian ingredients for tasting|
|Rosella marshmallow with pepperberry - Mark Best|
|Momofuku sous chefs dishing up their canape|
|Smoked eel and apple - Ben Greeno & David Chang|
|M's fav... Sashimi of local lobster, grapefruit, |
green almonds, bergamot jam - Peter Gilmore
|Brent Savage from Bentley Restaurant & Bar promoting Kangaroo meat|
|Kangaroo tartare with horseradish - Brent Savage|
|L Loves... Bonito, flavours of roasted chicken, |
salted plum, green tea, nori - Martin Benn
|Steamed biodynamic siu mai of marron, goji berry, |
dehydrated Australian black ants, organic Korean fish sauce.
You've guessed it, this one is by Kylie Kwong
|Wallaby, flax and wattle seed - Dan Hunter|
|We caught Rene Redzepi doing an interview during intermission|
|Rene Redzepi during his photoshoot|
|Rene Redzepi during his interview|
|The sit down dinner begins|
|Rene being interviewed in the busy kitchen|
|First Course by Rene Redzepi: Alliums lighted cooked|
|David Chang giving his thoughts on Australian cuisine|
|Martin Benn explaining the concept behind his utterly delicious marron dish|
|L Loves... Main course by Martin Benn:|
Charcoal-smoked Western Australian marron, yuzu curd,
sea samphire, lemon aspen, ginger, shiso and shell powder
|L Loves... Main course by Martin Benn: Charcoal-smoked Western Australian marron, |
yuzu curd, sea samphire, lemon aspen, ginger, shiso and shell powder
|10 of the most inspiring chefs in Australia, along with Rene Redzepi & |
"that grumpy American" (aka David Chang) as referred to by Rene
|Terry Durack, chief restaurant critic for SMH|
|Festival Director Joanna Savill and Rene Redzepi|
|Ben Greeno explaining the inspirations behind his dessert|
|Plating up the beautiful dessert|
|L Loves... Dessert by Ben Greeno: Pear, sunflower and caramel|