Sunday, July 17, 2011

Creatures of habit

I am very much a creature of habit. Most of the time, rather than try out new places and new dishes, I will stick to regularly frequented spots ordering more or less the same things. Waqu was one of those establishments which I watched open and prosper, always wanting to venture in but never doing so.

Until last night.

One of the worst things about living alone is the going out part. Especially for food. Asking for a table for one serves as a constant reminder of singlehood and loneliness. Having someone to share the experience with becomes much appreciated.

Winter menu

Waqu introduced their winter menu earlier this week. After a mostly positive degustation experience at Quarter Twenty-One (which I am yet to write about), degustation has become the new favourite food "treat". Having a job also helps pay for it.
course 1. amuse: hoji tea infused duck & pork terrine
eggplant puree, rhubarb compote, wine vinegared beetroot, green-pea puree with puff pastry
Infused lightly with the scent of Japanese hoji tea, the duck and pork terrine offered interesting textural contrast. Between the tenderness of the meat and the crunch of nutty crumble, the rhubarb and beetroot cleansed the palate with a note of sharp acidity. The puff was delicious with the green-pea puree, but offered little against the terrine.

course 2. soup: roasted kabocha pumpkin soup
black lentil, truffle oil powder, cheddar cheese mash potato, pumpkin sheet

Pumpkin soup is one of my own signature dishes, and not something I would order at a restaurant. The pumpkin base was sweet, but didn't taste very roasted. Against the yellow of the soup, the black lentils offered a little visual play: a savoury dish looking like, well, passionfruit pulp. The mash was pillowy and creamy, I would have been very happy with it as a side by itself. The truffle oil offered a scent of truffle and "luxury", although I must admit, like with foie gras, I don't see what the fuss is about.

course 3. sashimi: hiramasa king fish sashimi
with cuttlefish ceviche, strawberry coulis, daikon radish mandarin vinaigrette

After tuna, kingfish is my favourite sashimi fish. This was ultra fresh, slightly oily on the palate; with the sauces it was exceptional. The cuttlefish was crunchy and bouncy, marinated to perfection. The daikon salad was brought to new heights with the light citrusy vinaigrette and thin slivers of shiso leaves.

course 4: entree
pan fried scallop
brushed squid ink sauce, squid ink cube, braised renkon root, parsley foam

The scallop scabbed from my dinner companion was cooked perfectly: seared and caramelised on the outside to a golden brown, soft and medium rare inside with just a blush of peach. The squid ink was not as strong as I anticipated, with just a hint of saltiness to balance the dish.

poached+fried spatchcock
coconut miso sauce, red curry croquette, herb bouquet 
Juicy and soft, the poached spatchcock breast was well cooked and well presented. Against the crunch of fried panko, soft red curry innards and creamy coconut miso sauce, the textural and flavour interplay is why Japanses fusion remains my favourite kind of modern cuisine. Against the breast the fried spatchcock thigh was not as brilliant, but nonetheless still tasty and well executed.

course 5. main
ossobucco alla giapponese
savoy cabbage wrapped miso-braised veal shank, roasted portobello mushroom, baby carrot tempura

Visually stunning, the ossobucco didn't completely disappoint. The sides, though, were better than the protein itself, according to my dinner companion. Although the best part, she said, was certainly the marrow. Overall, the sides were delicious, but slightly underseasoned.

pan fried ocean trout
clam fennel sauce, tomato chutney, yuzu mousse, panko & garlic pate filo

Perfection. The fish tasted as lovely as the presentation. Crispy skin, slightly translucent and pink through the middle, it was balanced by the sweet and tangy sourness of the zucchini with tomato chutney and yuzu mousse. Against the clam and fennel sauce it felt a bit too heavy and salty. I was wishing for more mousse and more chutney until the very last bite.

course 6. dessert
gateau chocolat, semi-freddo, persimmon mousse, meringue sticks

I totally ate this in the wrong order. Delicious as all the elements were, going from chocolate cake to semifreddo to persimmon mousse was so not the way to go. Nonetheless, great execution, though the mousse was more icy than anticipated. The anglaise and citrus syrup provided a nice refreshment.

Service was largely attentive, but there will always be the one waitstaff who somehow gets onto nerves. Not only was the soup completely messy on the plate, it was slammed down onto the table. Rather than introducing the dish, she talked at us in this very antagonising way. Same happened with the sashimi dish - slammed down in front of me while I was trying to get my menu and camera out of the way (I now have a large greasy corner on my copy of the menu thanks to the "incredible" service). Fortunately the other waitstaff did make up for her mistakes; they were very attentive with water, and friendly explanations, without being too in-your-face.

Overall, it was certainly worth the $60 per person. I'm glad that I finally ventured into this restaurant I've always wanted to try. Will I venture alone, though? Probably not. This is definitely one to share with the special few only.

Waqu Modern Japanese dining
308 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest
Ph: (02) 9906 7736

1 comment:

  1. I'm comfortable eating by myself in certain situations, but I think for a special meal like this I'd definitely like to be able to share it with someone.