Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Governor's Table, Sydney

On my recent trip to Sydney, I ate a lot of Thai and Vietnamese food, because, well, they just do it so much better than in San Francisco.  But after a week or so of solely dining on asian cuisine, we finally decided to take a break and selected something different: The Governor's Table.

The Governor's Table serves "modern Australian" cuisine, and is located inside the Museum of Sydney.  I didn't read about the full history, but apparently, there is historical context for the building (I'm assuming some sort of tie-in with a Governor?) and the materials used in the decor are all native "Australiana", highlighting the local resources.  They incorporate Australian ingredients throughout the menu as well, although I was disappointed to see that they didn't serve kangaroo.  We'd have to go elsewhere for that (stay tuned!)

The Governor's Table is a strange mix of formal, casual, and rustic.  For example, many aspects of fine dining are included: our table was brushed off between each course, my napkin was refolded when I got up to use the bathroom, and our bottle of sparkling water was kept hidden away, our glasses only to be refilled by the staff.  At the same time, the service really faltered.  It took a long time for our order to be originally taken, and the lags increased as our meal continued.  The pauses between our courses grew so long, that I'm quite certain we had finished our main dishes, literally had not a single bite remaining on our plates for at least 30 minutes before I finally flagged someone down to ask about ordering dessert.  Part of the problem may have been that our waiter disappeared halfway through, and we never saw him again.  The staff were all dressed in formal uniforms, yet many diners were in t-shirts, again creating a strange casual/formal disconnect.

The food was well plated, and the menu was unique.  Dishes were expertly spiced and well executed, and I can't find a specific fault with anything we ordered, yet I didn't love it.  I can't quite pinpoint why.  The price also did just seem a bit high for pretty much everything, given that it wasn't actually high end dining.

Governor's Table serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, as well as all day brunch on the weekends.  I hoped to make it back to try their brunch sometime, since , like Bill's, they also serve ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter, and I was curious to see another version of honeycomb butter, but alas, we ran out of time.  They also serve a $49/pp high tea, that you must book in advance.

I'd return for dinner if someone wanted to, as there were a number of other dishes I was interested in, but I wouldn't go rushing back.
Main Dining Room.
The theme of the space is wood and stone, and it is bright and open.  It is a huge restaurant, with several different seating sections.
Background: Bar Area.
There is a small bar in the middle of the room, with a few counter seats.  Other seating options included a private room and outdoor space, but it was raining, so we were inside.

In the foreground, you can also see the lovely "flower" on our table.  We all thought it was funny that a rather unattractive plant was chosen, but I'm told that all of the plants in the restaurant are native plants, again, highlighting the Australiana theme.
Pepper Mill, Sea Salt, Candle.
Once we ordered, a pepper mill and small bowl of large crystal sea salt were brought to the table, along with silverware for serving our shared dishes, and share plates.  I appreciated the thought behind providing sharing serving silverware, as many places neglect this.

Other decor on the table was a small candle.

The menu is broken up into several sections, starting with "Nibbles & Bits", followed by "Plates", followed by "Large Plates" and "Sides, and finally "Desserts".  Everything is designed to be shared, which explains perhaps why they thought of things like bringing sharing silverware.
Mocktail.
Ojan ordered a mocktail.  I didn't catch the description, but it was a sight to behold, one of the most impressive mocktails we have seen.  Frothy, garnished with a leaf of some sort, and a fresh sprig of mint.

Since the bar also makes fresh juices, and they juice watermelon, I wasn't able to try a sip, but he, and our dining companion, both loved it.  They said it was like "a fancy creamsicle", or "a pine-lime splice, but a cocktail", like "drinking melted ice cream".  I really don't know what was in it besides lime and cream, but whatever it was, they enjoyed it.
Seared Yellowfin Tuna, Grilled  Sweet Corn, Avocado, Prawn Oil. $24.
We skipped the "Nibbles & Bits" section, and moved right on to a "Plate": seared tuna.
The presentation was lovely, in particular, I loved the micro greens for garnish.  They were incredibly fresh and crisp too, not just for looks.

The portion of tuna was only 4 small slices, which was suitable for a smaller size appetizer-style dish.  The tuna had a very hard sear on the edge, yet was nicely rare in the center.  The corn was slightly charred, well spiced, and tasted fresh enough, presented as slices, with the kernels still held together by a bit of cob. A unique way to serve corn, for sure.

The avocado was also uniquely served, a mousse. I'm allergic to avocado so I didn't try that component, but the other two diners liked it, and said it was creamy and very mousse-like.

I'm not sure where the "prawn oil" was.

Overall, everything in this dish was fine, but nothing really popped for me.  The portion size was reasonable for an appetizer, but a bit small for the $24 price.
Wood Grilled Asparagus, Burrata, Hazelnut, Dukkha. $24.
We also selected the burrata small plate, because, well, burrata!

The burrata portion was generous, a sizable bulb.  It was certainly too much for one person to consume alone, so I was glad we were sharing it, even though I love burrata.  In this case though, I didn't love the burrata.  It was smooth and creamy, but ... too creamy, if that makes any sense.  It seemed to have more cream than usual perhaps, pushing the mouthfeel towards just spoonfuls of firm cream rather than cheese.  I can't quite explain it, but I didn't care for it.  The dukkha and hazelnut crumb on top however was really flavorful, and I liked the crunch it added.

The asparagus was nicely grilled, with visible grill marks, and a smoky flavor imparted by the wood grill.  There were also slices of radish for garnish on top, which also added a pop of color.

So again, nothing was wrong with the dish, and it was well prepared, but I didn't love it.  Maybe Australian burrata is just different from what I'm used to.  That is the case with yogurt and milk, yet I do love the yogurt and milk in Australia more, due to their higher fat content than in the US.  The price was again just a bit high.
Grilled King Prawns, Mojo Verde, Black Garlic Aioli. $26.
Next, we moved on to another small plate, this time, a warm selection of grilled prawns.

We all exclaimed audibly when the dish was placed in front of us.  Six huge prawns, sliced open and grilled, served whole, with eyes and legs still in tact.  Just like the asparagus, they had visible grill marks and a pleasant smoky flavor.  They were also just really nicely grilled, tender, not rubbery, and well seasoned.  Their grill master really does have some skills.

The prawns were a pain to eat though.  The shells were thin and broke apart as you tried to extract the flesh.  We all complained about how much work they were to eat, and moved on to other dishes.  When we returned to it later, it had cooled, and it actually seemed easier to extract the prawn at that point.  So, protip, eat this last?

The prawns were drizzled with the mojo verde, which I didn't really taste.  I wished they had provided some on the side as well.  On the side was a lemon to squeeze over the prawns for additional acid, plus a pool of black garlic aioli.  The aioli had a really strange taste to it; it wasn't bad, but it was strong and quite different.

So yes, another dish where the execution was fine, but I somehow didn't love it.
Large Plate: Linguine, Calamari, Longaniza, Coriander, Chilli Crumb. $29.
I wanted to try more small plates, like the chicken liver parfait with peach butter and cherries, and the salmon gravlox that I read many rave reviews of, but alas, we moved on to a large plate next instead.

The linguine was just standard linguine, not fresh pasta, but decently cooked, not too mushy, not clumped together.

The calamari was the star, an assortment of different size and shaped pieces, that also seemed to have been grilled.  They were tender and not remotely rubbery or fishy.  If you've been following along with my Sydney adventures, you know we ate a lot of calamari/squid/etc on this trip, and I'm particularly a fan of the grilled version (although the fried calamari in the Qantas First Class lounge is pretty epic).

The longaniza was a delight, basically slices of fancy, flavorful pepperoni.

This dish was a bit spicy from the chilli crumb, which I appreciated, but the sauce of just oil was fairly boring to me.  I'm more of a sauce girl.  Everything was well seasoned though.

I didn't love this dish either, but I can't fault anything about it in particular.
Tippity Tea, Rooibos.  $4.
To go with dessert, Ojan also ordered a rooibos tea.  He was served a full teapot of loose leaf tea, along with little jugs of milk and sugar.  Cute.
Lemon Myrtle Burnt Custard, Fresh Berries, Granita. $15.
Finally, moving on to my passion: dessert!  And in particular, a category of dessert that always appeals to me, pudding!

I expected the "burnt custard" to be like a cream brûlée, but it was much runnier.  I wish I took a photo once we broke in.  It was far looser than a cream brûlée, or even a basic pudding.  The flavor was nice though, which I guess was the lemon myrtle, another Australian ingredient.  The top also had a good crisp layer, and it was clearly freshly brûléed to order, as it was still hot.  The slightly burnt, caramelized, flavor was nice.

It was topped with a berry flavored granita, which I found a bit strange, as I don't think I've ever had an icy component with custard before, and it was a bit odd to have a cold melting item alongside a hot topped custard.  There were also fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), all of which were fresh and quite flavorful.

I really liked the flavors in this, and enjoyed it, but did wish the custard was a bit more set.  $15 was a bit high for a dessert.
White Chocolate Cream, Puffed Black Rice, Mango, Lime Sorbet. $15.
We also selected a more adventurous sounding dessert.

On the left was a scoop of lime sorbet, perched atop a crumbly butter cookie.  It was quite tangy, and probably refreshing if you like this sort of thing.  The cookie was hard to cut into with a spoon though, and I'm not sure how you were supposed to eat this effectively.

On the right was a scoop of white chocolate cream, very thick, with a somewhat odd mouthfeel.  I didn't really taste white chocolate.  It was perched atop crispy black rice, which added a nice crunch and texture, but was a bit odd.

In the center were two very small slices of fresh, ripe mango.

This was not a cohesive dessert.  I'm not sure how the pieces were supposed to come together.  I'm usually all about finding a magic "perfect bite", but it wasn't possible with this.  And again, the price was a bit high.
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