Sunday, September 27, 2015

Automata - Chippendale

There's several new exciting restaurants opening up, some in the up and coming buzzing area behind Central Park on Kensington Street. Automata - with ex-chef from Momofuku (Clayton Wells) - is one of these new kids on the block setting up shop in the newly refurbished Old Clare Hotel.

The vibe is on-trend. Hipster and slightly industrial with funky looking lights and part of an aircraft engine as it's decor. Several shared long communal tables both down and upstairs which seem good for groups but slightly too close for comfort when eating with strangers. Waiters here also give off  that 'I'm uber cool and chilled' vibe.

Offering a 5 course degustation, Automata sets us off with some tasty snacks. There is the really tender and sweet storm clams with a rosemary dashi and cream, as well as fried fish skin with a yuzu kosho. Both are delicious starts for the evening. I found the combination of rosemary and dashi to be a daring pairing - but it worked surprisingly really really well.
The first course was a plate of asparagus, lots of little stumps of them - all wrapped with sesame leaf and with a umeboshi paste sandwiched between the asparagus and the leaf. It was quite interesting. The flavour of the umeboshi is a tad overpowering, but it's not a taste I disliked. Oh - and there's some wakame on top just to make it more visually interesting.
Bread comes in after the first course. This is really soft and warm house made bread rolls with an absolutely amazing pumpkin seed and anchovy whipped butter. I was not eating bread with butter. I was eating butter with bread. This whipped butter is SOOOOO delicious I want it on everything!!!
Course two is a steamed hapuka - perfectly perfectly steamed - sitting on a bed of really smooth and super flavourful cured roe emulsion and topped with a roasted sheet of seaweed. It may not look like much, but it smelt and tasted amazing! The fish just flaked off and was smooth enough to melt in your mouth. I think that this was my favourite dish of the night.
I'm not sure if it's teething problems of if we were just dining (on a Wednesday) at a bad time of the night, but after the fish, service slowed considerably... like really really slowed. Being seated so close to other diners on a communal table meant that it gave you tons of time to eavesdrop (unintentionally) on everyone else's thoughts, feelings and dreams. The first of the meats to come was the slow roasted quail - cooked two ways - served with red witlof, and a burnt apple and caper sauce. The witlof was a pleasant bitter addition to the reasonably well cooked quail. Again - the dish required you to 'unwrap' the parcel.
Again after a really long wait, our last savory course arrived. It smelt AMAZING! It was a slab of inside skirt topped with a variety of mushrooms and embellished with a tamari and brown butter, and a glop of eggplant puree. It was good. It was packed full of flavour. The meat is a little chewy but definitely forgivable because of all the delicious tastes mixing in your mouth.
Last but not least, there is dessert. The couple sitting next to us didn't like it much. I don't think it was sweet enough of their tastes. However, hubby and I loved it! It was a pumpkin seed sorbet (more creamy than a sorbet... it was really just an icecream), with a bitters meringue and dehydrated mandarin. It was a good combo of crunchy and smooth, subtle sweetness and light bitterness. I'm pretty sure we both polished it off.
So all up, this new restaurant lives up to it's hype. Pretty tasty food. Reasonable value for money. Some daring flavours and combinations. Definitely worth a try!

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 30

5 Kensington Street
Tel: (02) 8338 1708
For online reservations: Click Here

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