Restaurant Absinthe –
A luxurious custom menu planned by Chef Francois Mermilliod himself, warm service from an enthusiastic team and personal attention from charismatic, playful general manager Phillipe Pau; my dining partner’s friends at Absinthe pulled out every conceivable stop – and then some – to ensure my dinner there was absolutely unforgettable. $247.15 was well worth it for two people to enjoy an experience so perfect and magical that world peace actually seemed within reach.
(A stock photo of the interior will have to suffice as I was so jittery with excitement that I forgot to snap one.)
A belated birthday celebration presented the perfect excuse for flutes of
The amuse bouche of Sourdough & Baguette kept my hunger pangs at bay with the former’s soft fluffiness and the latter’s dense chew equally yet disparately divine with salted butter.
I could not hold back my grin at the mere description of the first course,
Beautifully dressed yet full-flavoured, our salad of King Prawns Sautéed with Spicy Chorizo & Pine Nuts looked wonderful and tasted even better. The crisp watercress was lightly dressed in a slightly tangy vinaigrette but the real magic lay just beneath this green crown. Massive king prawn halves were accorded a sweet richness by a sprinkling of pine nuts and infused with the lovely smoky spice of chorizo. The creamy, potently-flavoured reduction was absolutely divine when mopped up with soft sourdough.
No classical French meal would be complete without Pan-fried Foie Gras with Warm Blinis & Morello Cherries. The liver was excellently done with a crisp outer layer right next to a sweet, creamy, wobbly inner core. This obviously indulgent richness was balanced by beautifully plump dark cherries, cooked to a fragile softness to release their tangy juices.
Already beside myself with luxuriant bliss, my eyes threatened to pop right out of my head at the sight of our off-menu Seared Veal with Bruised Potatoes & Truffle Jus. Right there, next to the gorgeously milky-pale, pink-hued veal was a black truffle CHUNK! Not a shaving, not a disk but an actual chunk of Tuber melanosporum the size of a raisin. Little did I know that a still larger piece lay hidden underneath the gorgeous slices of meat. With trembling hands I sliced off a fragment of truffle, wrapped it in a sliver of veal and placed it in my mouth. In an instant I was transported into a state of heightened sensory perception, each overwhelming pleasure so acute to border on the point of pain; the veal was a gradient of texture, crisp char giving way to a firm outer halo and a pillow-soft pink centre. The rich, milky flavours exploded into pungent earthiness reminiscent of mushrooms and garlic as I began to chew, black truffle did its magic and turned wonderful into incredible. Sparingly, I spread truffle fragments between sweet squash, sweeter broccolini and bruised potatoes which I infinitely prefer to formless mash, each mouthful rendering me speechless.
All that numbing pleasure was washed down with a light, fruity and slightly oaky
Peach Tart with Sorbet was an excellent finish to the successive waves of glorious heaviness and richness. Crisp yet moist, light yet buttery the lovely flaky pastry was a harmony of opposites in perfect balance. This dessert elegantly presented the peach in three forms; caramelized in a tart, tangy in a sorbet or sweet and juicy in a sliver of fresh fruit. Vibrant berry notes bounce off the warm sweetness of peach in the form of a vibrantly-hued coulis by the side.
We hopped across the French-Italian border for an Affogato to go with our Petit Fours, something not on the menu but they obliged with a smile. While it might be blasphemous to French purists, I could think of no better way to bring the meal to a close. Strong espresso with creamy and just subtly sweet vanilla ice cream have always been a match made in heaven and it was so prettily presented ad-hoc in a martini glass with a deliciously sugary burnt-caramel wafer.