I am 30 minutes late for my shoot at the revered ‘Dinner by Heston’ restaurant in Melbourne. I curse myself for choosing to wear heels for a shoot! Running in a hurry, I almost hit my head into the closed door of the restaurant. Then I realise the restaurant has not opened yet! What a start to the day! I call Monica, from team Heston who was kind enough to meet me before restaurant opening hours, for the shoot. A minute later the door swings open and Monica greets me. “Hi there… like a Garlic!’. I was half dazed. I thought she called me a Garlic cause I was dressed in all creamy-white. While I walk in with her, she reiterates and this time and I hear clearly, “I would have hugged you but I smell like a Garlic”, said Monica. Hah! it wasn’t me, it was her.
As we strut through the narrow lobby into the Fine-dine heaven, I see a score of staff flipping their dusting cloths, settling the cutlery and waltzing around the wine bottles. The excitement seemed to be of a restaurant getting ready, as if it is day one.
In the kitchen, everything works like clockwork, the minute clock strikes service time. It’s like they have already practised for the finale about a dozen times, like a well coordinated Army march-past or a FIFA cup team preparation (the German team to be more precise)
Hunting for the best light, we sit near a half-done table to begin the shoot. “The Egg and the Mandarin please” I shout out with a smile. Odd as that might sound for a breakfast combo, for those who know of ‘Dinner by Heston’ will know that The Egg and The Mandarin are the heroes at DBH ….but not as breakfast!
Monica calls for Chef Evan, the head Chef for the day at Dinner by Heston, Melbourne. Chef Evan marches up to us in his crisp garlic-white uniform, presenting a neatly laid out Mandarin. The Mandarin fruit you see here, is not a Mandarin fruit. It is Chicken Liver. I reckon that in the creative gourmet world, it is a fad to camouflage but not necessarily camouflage and impress, together!
So how was the Meat-fruit? I found it to be very intelligently presented. The plating does not hype the expectations of what’s inside despite the overpowering Mandarin colour. The cold Chicken liver parfait or the Meat-fruit has just the right amount of Mandarin flutter on the palate. Somehow it successfully compliments the natural flavour of Chicken Liver!
This dish is quite popular at Dinner by Heston in Melbourne. Not just because of the drama it presents but because it truly is innovative and tastes good. Good enough to do justice to the apparent experiments that led to its heroic existence.
Then came in the popular Dessert ‘ Verjus in Egg’ to be photographed in all its glory. The glory it received after ousting one of the favourite contestants, Matt, in Masterchef Australia 2016 finale. This egg was the finale challenge designed by Heston Blumenthal and team.
I have savoured camouflaged creativity at many other restaurants. It is not easy to create a camouflaged dish. I feel that in a dish, the use of camouflage should mean something and not just be there to add drama. I liked how the Verjus in Egg is balanced in taste and texture. Every element plays a part in completing the dish. Remove one element and the dish will miss the mark of well-balanced experience of a wholesome dessert-party. The experience begins with a subtly sweet and refreshing flavour of the coconut panna cotta and ends with crystallised coffee. Feel free to not indulge in the white chocolate shell. The yolk made of Verjus is used in perfect quantity to add the contrast of sourness. Verjus’ role here matches the role of the yolk in a real egg ie. adding that strong flavour which gives an identity to the dish. Yes, the choice of Egg as a camouflage idea does the trick of a magicians egg here…