Sunday, August 22, 2010

Restaurant Balzac - Randwick

My partner and I had been meaning to try out Restaurant Balzac for a while. A long long while. However, being a typical Gen-Zer where everything is in 'whateva/wheneva/doesn't matter' mode, we had somehow managed to put off visiting this restaurant during the whole 6 years I was studying down the road (at UNSW). Instead, we make the trek back to familiar country - and was running a typical 15 minutes late (we did have the courtesy to inform them) - only to be met with a rather flustered wait staff on the phone telling us about how busy the restaurant was BUT he guesses he can hold the table for us.

Guesses? Well, service was not starting off well. In fact, as we were seated, it took around 15 minutes before we were presented with the menu. But I guess the guy wasn't lying. There were soooo many people and rather loud voices were echoing off the sandstone walls. A shame really, as the ambiance (if it were quieter) was a romantically soft-litted room with comfy seating, albiet a bit too close to the next table.

Anyway, we opted for the degustation ($95 per person, $140 with matching wines), but I really really wanted to try the chocolate fondant here and so we changed it (with a surcharge of $10). My partner decided against the matching wines for this meal and instead, asked what beers were available. The waitress kindly said that she will return with an extensive beer menu - only to never return with it LOL.

Restaurant Balzac

For a French restaurant, the bread was pretty dissappointing. Almost (but not quite) as bad as Italian bread. White and wholemeal was offered but the soughdough was a bit too tough (not soft and warm and awesome like how French people normally do their bread), and the crust was definately not crusty. We did get a heap of yummy spreadable butter though.

sour dough with creamed butter - white and wholemeal

The starting canape for the night was a cube of pressed corned beef with a parmesan Gougere (french savoury choux pastry puff) with precisely dotted mustard drops. The corned beef was done nicely. Stringy soft tender salty tasting beef was complemented almost perfectly by the drops of mustard. Not sure if I liked the cheesy puff with the beef, but the elements separately definately did wonders. The cheesy puffs were alright, and they reminded me of those we had at Taillevent (which were really omg awesome).

pressed corned beef, parmesan gougere

For the amuse bouche a tiny cup of Jerusalem artichoke veloute was offered. TEmpting to down it in one go, but why would you not want to savour the moment? It was sooo smooth and soooo creamy, kind of just melts down your throat. The truffle bits on top didn't do too much for it though. Personally, I think that people are only obsessed with truffle because of its rarity. Make it common-field and no-one would really care about too much.

Jerusalem Artichoke Veloute with Truffle Mousseline

Next dish was just as awesome. Ocean trout done four ways. The two on the edge were cured and the two in the middle were smoked. The trouts were accompanied by fennel, spanner crab, lobster bits and other things that I don't quite remember as the waiter who introduced it spoke really really quick. Whatever it was I was eating tasted amazing! The smoked ones bought with it more of a flavour explosion but the dish as a whole was very refreshing and delicious.

Cured and Smoked Ocean Trout with Fennel and Spanner Crab

The onslaught of good food continued with the dory. The steamed dory was accompanied with a pea and spring onion emulsion, a bit of spring oniony buttery foam, peas on the bottom and strings of deep fried salt and pepper cuttlefish on top. This was soooo good. The spring onion buttery emulsion was to-die-for. Tasted soooo good, must be extremely bad for you. The fish was well cooked. My partner said that it would have bought a bit more omph if it was grilled, but personally, steaming the dory meant that the texture was smooth and soft, the sauces matching perfectly and bought good contrast with the deep-fried cuttlefish.

Mirror Dory, Pea and Spring Onion Emulsion with Salt and Pepper Cuttlefish

Next came the scampi and pork. Lightly grilled and lightly salted scampi was subtle and light yet delicious. The pork belly had super soft tender meat with crunchy crackling. And in the middle of this was the cassoulet of suckling pig. The tomatoey bean stew with salty tasting bits of suckling pig, deep fried basil and some crumbling of some sort was definately my partner's type of dish.

Scampi and Pork Belly with a Cassoulet of Suckling Pig

There was a choice of two mains. My partner opted for the roasted rack fo lamb with lentils whereas I chose the short rib of beef. The lamb was a nice pinkish flavour but my partner said that he's had better. My beef on the other hand ... WOW. Falls off the fork, melt in your mouth goodness. The bordelaise sauce with the beef was sooooo good, it must have been doing some kind of dance in my mouth. Sooooo tender and sooooo succulent. The parsnip fondant and the bone marrow accompaniment (which I usually would have loved and savoured) were readily forgotton and overshadowed by the loveliness of the beef. YUM. More please :)

Roast Rack of Lamb with 'Petit Sale aux Lentilles'

Short Rib of Beef with Sauce Bordelaise and Parsnip Fondant

After the main came our pre-dessert. This was a shotglass of blood orange jelly with spiced panna cotta, almond puree and crunchy toffee on top. First bite into this and I was like... hmmm... not sure I like it. The blood orange was intense. The spice kick came on a bit too strong. But you know what? After the first bite and your palate has a bit of time to recover from the intensity that comes from this small shotglass, the flavour grows on you. I found that I actually finished off the whole thing in no time.

Blood Orange Jelly with Spiced Panna Cotta and Almond Puree

The dessert on the degustation was the poached meringue with bay leaf custard, rhubarb cubes and blackberry swirls. The whole thing reminded me of the snowegg featured in the Masterchef finals. The caramelised toffee substance on top provided perfect crunch. You could tap tap tap on it all you want. The meringue was soft and airy and some fruity substance lived in the middle. It was better than I had expected.

Poached Meringue with Bay Leaf Custard, Rhubarb and Blackberry

Nonetheless, if the two desserts were to compete for my liking, my chocolate fondant would win hands down. Supposedly the best chocolate fondant in town, it was pure indulgence. Warm and soft, with a gooey spewing out chocolate center. It was deliciousness and accompanied with peanut brittle sprinkles (but with banana >.<), and porter icecream. I could have 2nds and 3rds of this anyday!

Chocolate Fondant with Peanut Brittle, and Porter Icecream

Last but not least, our coffees with petit fours. Don't know why but Sydney coffee just isn't quite there... As my partner says, Sydney coffee has the art (as Sydney-siders are about appearances?) and Melbournian coffee is about taste (as Melbournians are about quality?). LOL Ok - maybe I am just biased, but why does Sydney coffee lack that smoothness that coffee ought to have? Petit fours-wise, the mini raspberry macaroon was good. The meringe was airy light yet crunch comes from the outsides and the creamy middles were just that - creamy and sweet. The chocolate truffle was really awesome and dark and smooth and everything! Good finish to the night I think.

Coffee and Petit Fours

So all up, this busy busy restaurant did well food-wise. Almost every dish was immaculately executed, delicious tasting and temptingly presented. Service-wise could be upped a bit. Slightly noisy but that's not really the restaurant's fault. And as for price? So much awesomely done food for less than $100 is pretty good (and even better value when you have the entertainment book).

Food - 9.5/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 8.5/10
Overall - 33.5/40

Restaurant Balzac
141 Belmore Road
NSW 2031
tel: (02) 9399 9660


chocolatesuze said...

wow everything looks fantastic you lucky thing! the smoked and cured ocean trout looks beautiful!

bbsnoopy said...

yeh - all the food was amazingly delicious! definately worth it :)