When chef Aaron Carr left Vasse Felix in 2017 after nearly a quarter of a century at the helm, the restaurant seemed to lose its penchant for high-wire food that so characterised the Carr era. Vasse is now a different proposition – it’s good, very good.
The food is still exciting and memorable and damn pretty, but it’s also more cohesive, less “look at me” and, well, a little chic too. The menu is a small, exquisite document: four entrees, four mains, two sides, three desserts and petits fours. The lack of choice is somehow liberating.
An amuse of marron, kelp and artichoke were served on a warm rock with instructions to wrap up the marron in the kelp sheet and eat it as a taco. A superb small treat. The thick kelp had been compressed with a pickling liquid, trimmed and cooked for two hours, assuming an almost plasticised translucence.
Chef Pratt loves his hibachi grill. Many of the dishes come with a full-flavoured char, including his “corn, mushroom XO, daikon, wakame” (there’s the seaweed again – all part of the quasi-Japanese stylings). Whole roasted corn kernels were nicely burnt and integrated into a corn crema. An XO sauce made without the traditional funky, umami-packed ingredients of dried scallops, dried prawns and parma ham, somehow tasted like a darn good XO – and one for the vegetarians.
A pasta dish – chitarra with walnut, broad bean and pecorino – was another umami carpet-bombing of one’s taste receptors. Even the house-made pasta pays homage to flavour and texture at all costs, made with good Italian flour, duck-egg yolk, milk, olive oil and parmesan. A “pesto” sauce was made with dehydrated tomatoes, garlic, pecorino and roasted walnuts and topped with a gremolata of sorts made with dried parsley, lemon zest, house-dried fresh chilli and dehydrated pecorino.
Getting the picture?
Vasse Felix is another noticeable improver in 2018 and one of the great restaurant destinations in a region full of them. And finally… if you are offered the kitchen’s house-made cabernet caramels as a sweet with coffee, just say yes! Superb.