Thursday, September 01, 2005

Edna's gone but the lesson's there

I know it’s been a few weeks but I'd like to wish Jennice and Raymond Kersch from Edna's Table all the very best in their new ventures. Their Clarence St restaurant closed its doors recently and with it, another chapter in the development of Australian cuisine.

Raymond had a passion for arty food and his dishes were always visual masterpieces. From his self-made uniforms to the Aboriginal inspired restaurant decor the eatery oozed a visual theme which could only be Australian. That Edna's Table lasted so long, is testimony to food being eaten first with the eyes before the palate tests the meal.

My frustration with many restaurants using my collection of indigenous ingredients is that meals can look great but lack that Wow! factor which makes them valuable in terms of culinary expression. I have a tested belief that there should be surprise (and science) in every dish created and great dishes can be conceptualised well before the hob is hot and the mise en place is started. I have written previously on the merits of delivering the 7 tastes - sweet, sour, salt, bitter, aromatic, pungent and Maillard as well as maximising the textures - in every dish and the benefits ensuing from tantalising all our senses of taste and mouth-feel. How much better is a dessert with all of these notes than one which is just sweet? What about a salad which lacks half of the flavours - it's probably one tenth as satisfying as another salad which has them all.

Consider the Caesar salad which is indisputably the most popular salad/light meal in any Caucasian food outlet in the world. A well made Caesar has all of the component tastes and lessens in appeal as the pungent anchovies or the Maillards of well-fried bacon are left out. A vegetarian Caesar needs a lot of thought in adding back the Maillard products.

Think of a creme brulee and ensure that there's bitter and pungency from the burnt sugar (the crunch), aromatics and Maillard products from Wattleseed (if you can bastardise a French dessert with Polynesian vanilla, why not Wattleseed) and salt in the cream (smooth firmness as well). How much better is it with some sourness from an accompanying fruit garnish? The same applies to the Australian classic – the Wattleseed pavlova (soon to be available as a ready-made, frozen dessert).

So with Edna’s gone where is the Australian food industry’s iconic restaurant now? Well, out of the ashes comes the 15 strong Black Stump chain at one end of the market, Deep Blue Bistro at Coogee Beach and Gunya at Redfern.

But you’ll have to wait for my next blog for more details ...

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