Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Question: What is an Octopop ...?

Answer: The first of ten courses culinary feats served performed by Australian chef-to-watch Adam Melonas at an amazing dinner I recently hosted in Sydney.

Chef Adam Melonas preparing his signature Octopops

At just 28 years old, Adam’s technical skills and knowledge of food are both amazing and inspiring. I met him two years ago while he was working at the Al Mahara Restaurant in the 7 star Burj al Arab Hotel, Dubai. Since then he has further developed his love of creative cuisine (known in some circles as molecular gastronomy or progressive cuisine) during a two year stint as Head Chef in Charge of the Lab at La Terraza del Casino (recently awarded a second Michelin Star) at the ultra-exclusive Casino de Madria in Spain.  he has also worked with the international hero of innovative, progressive cooking, Ferran Adria at El Bulli, also in Spain.

Now back to the Octopops … as one of Adam’s signature dishes they were the first of ten courses prepared and presented by Adam to showcase his culinary skills to some of Australia’s top food and publishing glitterati. 

Guests included internationally renowned chef Tetsuya Wakuda, award winning chef Brent Savage from Bentley Restaurant & Bar, ACP editor-in-chief Neale Whitaker, Editor of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living section Sue Bennett and presenter of Weekends on ABC 702 Sydney Simon Marnie. 

World famous chef Tetsuya Wakuda and me

Simon Marnie, ABC Radio & Brent Savage, Bentley Restaurant & Bar

Before I go into detail about the menu, Adam was assisted by an old friend, the gregarious Darren Purchase who came up from Melbourne especially to assist. Have a look at Darren’s website – he is a truly talented pastry chef (his celebration cakes are to die for!) with a wealth of experience in the UK, France as well as Australia where he worked at Shannon Bennett’s Vue du Monde. Darren now runs a consultancy business that includes producing aforesaid amazing patisserie as well as writing for food publications and tv appearances.

The menu:

Octopops - the edible centrepiece

Cooked for 18 hours, fused into a flower shape, dipped in orange and saffron gel and served suspended on dill flower stalks, this was octopus as you’ve never seen it before … actually it looked a lot like a cross-section of garlic.

Chef Adam spooning the foam on the oysters

The freshest oysters were anointed with delicate foam made from cucumber and sesame oil.

Tuna sashami?

It wasn't tuna at all though it looked like it! This dish was a miracle – wedges of watermelon, marinated in oil from tinned tuna (a Spanish staple), coated at one end with wasabi mayonnaise and dusted with crisp seaweed were dotted with watermelon ‘seeds’ of soy sauce jelly. 

The plated Sichuan beef tendon dish

The toughest cut of beef, made tender and unctuous by slow cooking with Asian flavours, was topped with olive oil poached peanuts and coriander and served swimming in a robust broth.

Chef Adam putting the final touches on the salmon miso

Salmon miso with horseradish sorbet was a textural delight, featuring slow cooked salmon belly served with pickled fennel and orange salad topped with horseradish sorbet.

Creamy Yoghurt Risotto

Full of flavour yet delicate, creamy yet light, this dish was a revelation. Technically speaking the lactic acid in the yoghurt created a surprisingly creamy sensation in the mouth.

How yummy does this look?

Surf in Turf - a modern take on the perennial favourite – lobster tail embedded in beef fillet, pan fried just rare, served simply with its juices, wilted spinach and celeriac puree.

Heinz & Mozz almost ready to be taken to the table

An interesting take on the traditional Italian Caprese salad, Heinz & Mozz featured a cone of dehydrated Heinz tomato sauce filled with a light and airy buffalo mozzarella mousse topped with baby basil leaves.

Cooking the banana slices until golden for the tart with olive oil toffee

Gorgeous vanilla scented banana slices (which had undergone a liquid dehydration using ascorbic acid, then simultaneously rehydrated with vanilla syrup) were served with yummy olive oil toffee and pastry shards.

Battered and fried Liquid Nutella Chocolate doughnuts

Mmmm, balls of chocolate and hazelnut which burst in the mouth, perfect with coffee.  

To read more about Adam’s progressive food and upcoming projects – including creating tapas for Ikea in Spain and Portugal and a ‘sensory’ restaurant in Manhattan – visit his blog.

To read the story I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Living section click here.

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