Attica (Melbourne, Australia)

Many would want to dine at Attica simply because of its rating on the Top Restaurants of the World and the big price-tag so that they can instabrag. And as such many dine at Attica expecting the wrong things which is reflected in the “reviews” at Urbanspoon.

Attica is, in my humble opinion, a place you would want to go to see a different side of food. It gives you an insight to what can be done with ingredients that are local and “simple”. It is this locavorist approach that makes the Attica experience so good: the best characteristics of the ingredients shine in a way that you would have not thought possible. Examples include using fermented corn (read:rotten corn) and paperbark in their dishes.

If I had to condense the whole meal into a nutshell: Flavour Progression. Layers of layers of flavours and aromas, masterfully set into a symphony. Not just one symphony, but many symphonies overlapping each other but ultimately achieving a balance.

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The way ‘balance’ is achieved in each individual dish varies. Started the meal with a curd with fresh honeycomb (super good), pine fruit with a cream dip, baby corn cooked in its husk and mushrooms and walnut. These starters served as a preview to what the actual course of dinner would represent: stark contrasts or mutually complementing ingredients.

First course was the Snow Crab with Sour Leaves. The leaves are actually sorrel leaves which provide a rather sharp contrast to the sweetness of the crab. The dish might seem ‘2D’ at first but the fragrance of the sorrel is lifted by the chrysanthemum flowers.

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Second course is the Marron and Ground Greens. Comprised of a marron sitting on a bed of leeks topped with fermented corn sauce and finished with local herbs. The sauce was similar to that of a Bearnaise or mustard and provided a very nice kick to the umami-sweetness of the marron. Personally I think that the addition of the leeks is perhaps what brings the two contrasting ingredients together.

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Third course is the Salted Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya. The freshness from the vegetables, the earthiness from the Bunya Bunya (pine nut), the deep richness and saltiness of the cured Kangaroo. This dish screamed harmony. The amazing part is the simplicity: the ingredients speaking for themselves.

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Fourth course is perhaps THE reason why I came to dine at Attica: the potato. In this case it is a Minted Potato cooked ‘medium rare’. Essentially the potato is slow cooked in brown butter to impart that lovely nutty taste and smell. It is then finished with one of the most awesome sauces I have tasted. Savoury, Earthiness, Acid; perfumed with the mint. Piece de resistance.

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Fifth course was the King George Whiting in Paperbark. Super delicious, the bark imparts the woody fragrance and slight earthiness to the fish, which is perfectly cooked. The lemon myrtle sauce is also awesome and balances perfectly.

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Sixth course was the last savoury course: Cape Grim beef served with parsnip puree with…kimchi. No, it isn’t kimchi but was pretty damn close to it. This dish was probably the most ‘mainstream’ Western dish with the beef taking center stage and the other components playing supporting cast. And oh, the pink stuff is raspberry powder. Perfect complement to the beef man.

We were then brought out to the garden where they grow some of their herbs and given an ‘ANZAC biscuit’ and an ‘outback tea’. I thought it was a nice touch to let diners see to what goes into your food. We were also given the opportunity to taste the herbs. Dessert was served once we got back to our table. Maidenii cured pears were served in a curd sorbet. The combination was very good, once again using sour sweet and the acid and fragrance blast from the madenii to create a refreshing dessert.

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Next dessert was simply awesome: the Industrious Beet. The flavour progression is insane: the sourness followed by the sweetness of the orange meringue followed by the earthiness of the white beetroot and finished with the fresh nutty perfume of coconut. Magnifique. Lastly, we were served ‘pukeko’ eggs as a form of petit four. I actually liked it very much, because it came with a short explanation of the Chef Ben Shewry’s food philosophy.

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I really liked this meal. I will probably be back to try the more experimental menus they have on Tuesdays but it might be some time before I can do so judging by how full they are these days.

Attica on Urbanspoon

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