As we planned our trip to New Zealand and Australia we were particularly excited to explore the local dining scene as we’ve heard nothing but praise about food in the Down Under. While this time around we focused more on casual eats, we did have a few memorable (and not so much) fine dining experiences. The one that stood out the most was dinner at SidArt, a cozy restaurant owned by Sid Sahrawat, currently one of New Zealand’s most exciting chefs revered for his talent and experience as an innovative and inspirational cook. The restaurant has collected a fairly full quiver of awards and accolades, including Metro magazine’s Best New Restaurant in 2010, Cuisine magazine’s Good Food Guide Chef of the Year 2016 and Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year in 2017. All of these is topped with SidArt’s Cuisine awards for Restaurant of the Year – 3 Hats, as there are only seven three-hat restaurants in the country.
We were both greatly impressed by how creative yet delicious each dish was. It is so often that chefs lose track of flavors in pursuit of inventiveness, and thankfully we experienced opposite of that at SidArt. Everything was crafted masterfully using excellent cooking technique and adhering to the contemporary aesthetic, while also showcasing excellent taste profiles of locally sourced ingredients and expertly pairing flavors.
The ambiance at SidArt is quite intimate and welcoming, it felt more like visiting someone’s apartment than a restaurant. While we were sitting in the main dining room, the open kitchen provided a nice peek into the heart of the restaurant where the magic happens.
The restaurant has an impressive array of drinks. A cocktail (for me) and a glass of white wine (for Justin) later, the first trio of appetizers arrived. The standouts were miso meringue (in the form of a macaron) accented with olive and thyme; white asparagus topped with smoked salt and almond gazpacho which had delicious smoky flavor; and a perfect bite of cured kahawai fish foam served with tomato, lemon and farro.
Next set of amuse bouche was equally memorable: light shiitake consommé with a hint of white soy and kaffir lime; little “pockets” of eel; ricotta, walnut and orange “shells” – an unusual pairing which worked so well together.
The first course featured a purple potato with chive emulsion, sour cream, a potato wafer and grated comté cheese. The dish balanced savory and sweet flavors perfectly and was complimented with a bit of tanginess from sour cream and sprinkles of delicious pancetta on top.
For our second course, we enjoyed scampi cooked with leek ash butter. It was topped with slices of green strawberries and kohlabi which gave a crunchy texture and complimented scampi with acidity. A dollop of leek emulsion on the side added an extra layer of delicate flavor to the dish.
The tasting menu continued with yet another seafood, this time New Zealand native fish hapuka. It was pan-fried to perfection and serve with nettle purée and mushrooms.
Moving on to the meat course, we sampled New Zealand beef wrapped in nasturtium, which adds a nice peppery taste and nice texture to the bite, as well as horseradish cream and buckwheat emulsion. Quite honestly, most of the ingredients were new to me, but it was so refreshing to be in the new part of the world and be able to try the ingredients native to the region we were visiting, especially when they were showcased in such a beautiful way.
Our final meat course featured wild venison cooked sous vide before being pan-fried for a few minutes. It most certainly was my favorite dish of the night. I could smell the captivating aroma of curry and coffee (!) as it was served, and I couldn’t have enough of the mouthwatering savoriness coming from the brown butter. Meanwhile, the pickled carrots beautifully layered on top cut through the richness of the butter and balanced the dish with a touch of acidity.
After so many exciting savory courses, we were more than keen to see what the chef had in mind for dessert. We started with pre-dessert: parmesan ice-cream, red wine syrup, Sauternes (French sweet wine) jelly, all sprinkled with black garlic on top. As a person who loves cheese and an element of savory in her dessert, it was a pure indulgence and I wish I could have had more of it.
The two main desserts continued in a similar excellent vain: the first one being a blissful combination of tropical flavors like lychee, raspberry, pine, and elderflower; while the second one marrying chocolate, fennel pollen custard, apple and fig leaf.
As you can tell it was an excellent dinner. We liked every bite and, to be honest, it was one of the best dinners during this trip.
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