Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bécasse: Chef's Table

I usually take my time posting about some of my dining experiences but last Friday night was a special occasion so I thought it was worthy of posting straight away! Plus there's a bit of a story...

It was my friend's birthday so we had discussed going to Bécasse, Justin North's two hatted restaurant which has reopened in Westfield Sydney. I'd been to Bécasse back when it was on Clarence Street and of course anyone who reads this blog would know I love Etch and the North's other foodie ventures.

Anyway, we unfortunately couldn't get a booking (even 3 weeks in advance!) so opted for sister restaurant Quarter 21 instead and I popped myself on the waitlist. Fast forward to Friday and to cut a long story short, they were able to offer us a booking last minute at BécasseNot only that, we were offered the unique Chef's Table dining experience - a beautiful table for 6 nestled within the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.
It was of course amazing in every way! The vibe is exciting, being able to stop mid conversation and look up and realise you're able to watch your food getting plated up and prepared. We all agreed that it was far more relaxed and enjoyable being able to still chatter at a reasonable volume and snap photos without feeling self conscious. Compare that to the actual dining room, which while lovely, has that air of fine dining to it that just wasn't as laid back. And I mean what is a meal if it isn't fun and an opportunity to come together with friends and laugh? Excuse me now while I post a tonne of photos...
We chose the 5 course degustation and our lovely waiter for the evening Lily was wonderfully detailed in explaining the specials and allowing us to mix and match menu items from the specials list and the 3 course set menu so that we could try the most dishes. We all tried each other's food to so that we could see what we liked the best!
Our menu and bread from Becasse Bakery of course!
My overall impression of the food was that it was hearty, colourful but yet accessible. I mean of course every morsel was exquisite and the balance of flavours 'just' right, but my favourite fine dining is the type of food that doesn't take itself too seriously and to me, Becasse achieved that perfectly.

Hopefully you can see from the photos the action of the kitchen behind - others have commented previously how quiet it is there which was definitely the case on our visit! Plus one of the surprising things is how many chefs are in action despite the restaurant serving only 20 or so diners at a time. They do have a private dining room, but when Lily took us on a tour we learnt that it is shared by Quarter 21 (more on that later!)
Marinated local yellowfish tuna, confit octopus, mandarin and white radish
Blue eye trevalla cooked in wasabi leaf, cuttlefish, grilled oyster and cucumber
This was my favourite dish so it gets special attention - pea puree risotto with prosciutto and spanner crab. It was punchy, yet smooth and delicately put together and exactly what I was saying earlier about being homely simple but exquisitely executed food!

The chef was cheeky too and presented both of the two dishes above (which we had as alternate second courses across our table) in the same beautiful bowl so that we would think it was for another table. Usually the blue eye trevalla in the middle picture is contrasted on a black japanese inspired dish.
Head chef Monty in action putting together signature dish 'Forgotten Vegetables'
'Forgotten Vegetables' has to be one of the signature dishes at Becasse which I'd heard a lot about previously. As with all dishes, our waiter went to great detail to explain the ingredients, where they came from and the inspiration of Justin North's childhood in bringing together this dish, complete with smoking cedar.
Forgotten Vegetables, smoked pork jowl, yabby tails with aromas of cedar
Now by this time we were feeling extremely full so our waiter kindly asked the chefs to stagger our dishes more to help us digest. Because it was a Friday night and the kitchen was hectic, they let us know that there would be a longer delay than they anticipated but we were quite happy to enjoy the great company and take in our surrounds. Plus it meant we were able to take a quick tour around the rest of the kitchen, Quarter 21, the bakery and the providore. 
Throughout the night, all the staff were so obliging in answering any of our questions and we were able to watch some of the 9 course degustation dishes get created which was fantastic also. The picture photo is the wall behind us with windows to the main dining room. Those are meant to be 'tastebuds' we were told! How novel!

As we took our tour we were able to see the joint kitchen section of Quarter 21 and Becasse - apparently they work well in sharing the space but they're very careful to not share staff. The chefs also work a full lunch and dinner shift, but there are separate kitchen staff who come in to do prep for them. The kitchen definitely is a well oiled machine though, as when we were there everyone knew what they were doing with little noise, no catastrophes and just everything falling into place without us even noticing. Perhaps we were enjoying ourselves too much to notice though?

18 hour pork neck, sherry, chickweed, garlic soubise, black pudding jus
Lamb special (so I don't have the full description unfortunately)
Visiting the bakery, we saw all the busy bakers at work. We learnt that one adorable man was making burger buns for Charlie & Co - a staggering 900 for Saturday's trade! Lucky for him he had an intriguing 'dough divider' machine which we learnt was new. He first weighed out something like 3kg of dough to be divided evenly into 30 buns at a time. He told us he used to do this all by hand back in their Clarence Street 'Plan B' days!
Pre dessert - rockmelon sorbet and jelly

Now for dessert! We couldn't resist choosing one of the special 'Still life' desserts from the 3 course menu which was presented like a cute garden complete with sweet treat mushrooms.

68% Alto Beni Zokoko chocolate cadeau and salted black cumin caramel
This signature chocolate dish was rich but with bite so that it didn't become too sickly sweet - plus it came with a side of chocolate sorbet which added some texture to the dish.

Silken Lemongrass and blood orange caramel, strawberry crunch with vanilla yoghurt sorbet
I love this close up photo that ended up turning out better than I thought! I actually ended up with this dessert and thought, oh no, this won't be that good but it was my favourite dessert of the night! Even though on the menu I would've been my last choice, it had a balanced mix of sweet, texture, meringue and delicate fruit so it was a perfect way to end a meal.

Petit Fours - with a special happy birthday message!
The lightbulb decor above our table
I'd read about many food bloggers dining at the Chef's table as guests of the restaurant, but with a fairly lofty minimum spend it's something that us mere mortals wouldn't usually get to experience. The restaurant was gracious in waiving that for us due to the last minute nature of the booking, but if any of you ever have a special occasion it's truly an experience worth paying for! 


  1. Aahhh so hungry! It all looks amazing.

  2. Every dish looks like a work of art! What a wonderful experience. x