Saturday, April 4, 2009

Clever Food at the Tippling Club, Dempsey

A wonderful and unexpectedly good lunch at the Tippling Club, Dempsey today, with a friend for a girly catch-up lunch. This place serves "progressive" cuisine which I guess is an acronym for molecular gastronomy. And indeed it was oh-so-clever and super-stylish in its use of techniques and plating styles.

We were served not one, not two, but three! amuse-bouche with our set lunches. First up, "char-grilled" capsicums lightly coated in batter, with soy wasabi dip, and that you eat using forceps. This was followed by fried calamari rings served with a sweet basil emulsion, slurped up with a straw (yums!). Then my favourite, fizzy grapes with mint julip. What great fun! By this time the two of us were fairly giggly with excitment.

For starters, we both had the truffle soup. The bowls were whipped out and placed in front of us by chef Ryan Clift ... peering inside I could only see dried bits of truffle and porcini mushrooms, and little white bits which he later explained was fried foie gras powder (wah!). Just as I was wondering whether this was a new-fangled way of eating dried soup, chef Ryan produced two chemistry beakers full of brown liquid, and voila, poured truffle consumme into our bowls. Wow, the soup was full of the savoury truffle goodness and super more-ish, although I felt that it was a little too salty towards the end as the soup cooled down.

Our main courses quickly came out. I had the beef daube with baby vegetables while my friend had a smoked samon with caesar salad - this was the smart choice, considering the common-place name. My wagyu beef cheeks slow-braised in a red-wine sauce was meltingly tender and the mashed potato was also extremely refined and smooth. But oh, the smoked salmon! So wonderously sweet and moist, not salty at all (as my friend put it - you can really taste the goodness of the fish). Served with a deconstructed Caesar salad garnished with really good quality Parmesan cheese and anchovies, this was the star of our lunch.

I should also mention at this point that a glass of wine was included in our set lunches - Shiraz and Chardonnay respectively for us, of very decent quality too.

Finally, we shared a goat-cheese crumble for dessert. Oh, wonderfully divine, this was. Fresh, soft, melting and just a little pungent goat cheese with parmesan cheese crumble, garnished with beetroot jelly strips and beetroot & port "toasties". Love love love the cheese!

All in all, a stunning lunch at an extremely good price. Two-course set lunch including a glass of wine at $29++, and three-course set lunch including a glass of wine at $49++. I really loved the stylish and intricate plating, with lots of little unexpected elements and surprises, and I felt that the quality of cooking was high (even though some other bloggers beg to differ). The counter seating, with a semi-open kitchen concept was also really interactive and proffered interesting views of the kitchen preps, which at times looked like chemistry lab preparation.

So go with an open mind, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Lunch only Thursdays to Fridays (I find the dinners, tapas and cocktails too expensive though). They change their lunch menus every month so there's always something new to look forward to.

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