The dream culinary paring of Martin Benn and Daniel Puskas, who last worked together at Tetsuya’s, offers Sydney dining a new point of difference to salivate over. The pedigree and technical precision of Benn is perfectly complimented by the precociously inspired fusion of Puskas. With business partner George Costi providing unfetted access to an enviable array of outrageously fresh seafood, the pure alchemy of subtle flavours on the plate delivers in kind. The floor run personably by Vicki Wild is ably supported by sommelier Rodney Settler with a large, diverse and well priced wine list ensuring all the key remaining boxes are ticked.
Tonight our preliminary drink is enhanced by two complimentary rounds of oysters that set just the right tone of goodwill on our first visit. The bar, in eye catching New York Art Deco style, is the centrepiece of a dining room which sits equally adjacent to it on either side. However, on a busy night or hectic lunch service, buffering the noise may prove problematical with that layout. The ambient balance of stylish to formal is about right, but the absence of tablecloths is a major compromise at this level. However, with so much other fundamental detail covered well, it is perhaps a subjective point.
We choose A La Carte over a nicely balanced degustation menu on paper. Unfortunately the entrée of bbq Silver Lake eel is a touch overdone, but texturally the sushi rice, confit of leek and licorice powder redeem the dish. The confit of octopus in contrast is cooked exquisitely with the mustard shortbread shiro miso and cutting acidity of the green apple salad offering the perfect harmony.
The generous main portion of roasted fillet of John Dory garnished with an olive oil emulsion is divine with the salad of poached vongole and soy beans the perfect accompaniment to this visually stunning dish. However, the lightly grilled wagyu sirloin with roasted onion butter, baby carrots and confit of shallot suffers perhaps a little harshly in comparison, but seafood of this quality will always make such savoury observations difficult. More transparent, was that the seasoning tonight was slightly under the mark, and whilst undoubtedly a stylistic decision, in my opinion it does require a tweak.
Desserts are particularly well conceived, and the olive sponge with decadent white bean ice cream and raspberry foams is stunningly cohesive whilst the more conservative white chocolate parfait with poached strawberries equally delivers. Sepia, much anticipated, is very impressive despite a few minor hitches on debut. With the natural refinements that I would expect from Martin Benn, this innovative re-interpretation of fine dining will provide Sydney with a far more accessible and sustainable entry point.
201 Sussex St, Sydney
Monday to Friday 12pm to 2pm and 6pm to 10pm, Saturday Evening Tasting Menu
(02) 9283 1990