Can’t quite remember the last time I put something in my mouth, masticate briefly, smile, and nod across to a similarly happy dinner companion:”Why, yes. This is exactly right, isn’t it?”
Was, frustratingly, delayed by complications related to flexible capacity systems. So the spherical ice-cube in poor VH’s cocktail was already sweating badly by the time I rushed in.
Nevermind the slightly schizophrenic grungy-modern decor mix of Ralph Steadman and Aussie cafe. Under the pink neon sign that read “Obey your tongue/Taste everything”, we made a tentative foray into some fat:
the lardo was melty slivers of pork fat drizzled with truffle honey and sprinkled with chilli, a combination I’ve used on smoked salmon on blini. I thought the combination just about worked, though still thought salty cured fish made for a more robust interaction.
Definitely, said I, not in a conciliatory fashion, but thinking fondly of the absolutely tasty thymus last summer at the Hotel du Louvre. Salted and Hung’s came breaded, on a spicy fermented cabbage foil, topped with crunchy granola and crispy saltbrush leaves (?). A study in texture.
We ordered the ‘roo on the back of these, because a man who can handle sweetbreads can surely be trusted with kangaroo ceviche/tartare. The acidity of these tender chunks was well-balanced, the blood orange not numbing to the tongue as is usually the case when the cook is both zealous and nervous.
The scallops were properly-seared and the interior cooked just right. Sweet, juicy and delicious alone, so even the lardo (yes!) and samphire seemed extra, not to mention the apple puree. But it was fun alternating between slightly saltier (with the samphire) and slightly sweeter (with the apple puree).
A chef with a Josper grill either means business or has made a major investment in hipster-ness. Since Nocente had so far shown himself to be more of the former than the later, and since it is a rare chef who does vegetables well, we went for the cauliflower (roasted, slathered with burnt butter tahini – very very good, with a dollop of piccalilli),
and wait, umami in mash potatoes? This black mash had it by the spadeful – squid ink (and is that muscovado sugar?) for the umami, and charcoal for that comforting stick-to-your-ribs quality. We scrapped the flower pot clean.
After seeing one too many squid get whisked past, we ordered the sotong too. Nocente does love playing with his fruit acids. Laced with yuku and seasoned with wakame, with plenty of Josper-grill-hei, this firm and tender creature was a fantastic end to the main part of dinner.
And boy did this chef have real pride in his food. For many meat places and nose-to-tail outfits, the dessert course is an after-thought. A necessary evil. So you get offered a dry brownie or a lacklustre cheesecake. But not here. Both the peanut tim tam and the roasted pineapple (that was rustled up for the gluten-intolerant) were a joyful medley of flavours.
VH and I managed to taste all this through stuffy noses and a heavy cold. How much more amazing they must taste with clear nasal passages.
After I dropped VH off and went home to work on a Bible Overview, I thought too that as mind-blowing as our glimpse of what God’s plan for humanity and what he has been doing and is doing in the world is (from what our puny minds can gather from Scripture), we are but seeing through a glass darkly. How much more dazzlingly glorious a full view of reality must be!