Esquire @ Brisbane CBD

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I finally made it to Esquire. Sous Chef Shun is a long time regular of ours and when we walked in, we surprisingly found most of the faces including staff and customers to be familiar. I was busy knodding, shaking hands, etc. proud that I share a lot of common customers with the only 3 hat establishment in QLD.

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Dressed up appropriately and ready for my Esquire experience!

Honestly, my lunch experience at Esq, the casual side of the shop was good but not mind blowing and looking at the other folk’s reviews, I just saw too many repetitions of the word “dehydrated”. My image of Esquire was one of experimental and if gimmicks were the theme, wouldnt using the same one over and over lose the excitement? I couldn’t help but think.

However, never having visited any restaurants with such theme to expand the diner’s boundary of conception and perhaps imagination, I was keen to visit.

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The entrance.

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The Snack Starters.

Kimchi and Air Dried Beef. Both dehydrated techniques. The beef reconstituted in the mouth instantly and is in no way near a chewy jerky as one might link it with, as this one is melt in your mouth. Kimchi on the other hand crumbles and is a healthy appetite stimulator.

Kettle Chips also features a home made BBQ flavoring. Also dehydrating quality flavours, the expansion of flavours in the mouth is a different level to your normal chips.

Truffle and ichi bai.

Beef tendon and peanut. This one was amazing. Sweet and savory, with a hint of lime, just liked it so much!

The snacks were matched with a glass of Perrier joulet. Good mineral and zest, strong carbonation to sooth the stimulated taste buds.

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First course was the Blue Swimmer Crab with Macadamia Nuts. The sweet flesh steamed in the shells and then taken out. Matched with a coffee crumble on a pool of macadamia nut milk. Bittersweet coffee with delicate crab, blended together with nut milk. Just the combinations taken from way left and way right that just wouldn’t happen in my brain. And it works!

Matched with Laurenz V – Friendly Grüner Veltliner. Crab and coffee a big flavour dance happening so this super food friendly wine just creating a gentle harmony.

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Southern Squid Buttermilk and Peas
I think they said blanched in oil. Maybe grapeseed and at low temperature. i don’t remember any olive oil aroma, i think the intent to get the fishiness out and firmen the texture. not oily at all so perhaps blanched in water/oil mix? The baby herbs and peas providing good variety of texture.
Matched with a big Aussie Chardonnay. Curlewis Chardonnay 2011. And as opposed to the first crab dish, this is a classic seafood with cream flavour dish going nicely with a full bodied Chardonnay with a hint of oak.

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Murray Cod and Mustard Leaf. Shun brought this dish over and apologized that this might be too Japanese for a Japanese customer like us. Indeed the charred skin with a bit of salt is reminiscent of a saba shioyaki and the matching mustard leaves also a Japanese touch? However, this is not a combination that I have heard of before. The purée tasted a strong mustard flavour like mibuna. The charred stem however tastes much more mild. I wonder if it is the same vegetable as the purée.

The real fascinating thing was that the matching wine, a dry 2011 Provence rose tasted surprisingly like a dry sake. Of course shioyaki matches with sake!

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The very moreish sour dough with Esquire’s ingenious caramelized butter.

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Highly Marbled Beef – Parsley and Horseradish. A sirloin cut of a marbled wagyu. Thinly sliced and the potent accent I found to be the sweet style gherkins. The parsley tending to be on the sidelines, creating a reference point. The horseradish sauce was a very tangy one a bit like Japanese mayo. And I found to be a very very well composed dish. The wagyu was leaner than the title suggests and I think it was well matched with the rest of the dish. I imagine if they made the same dish out of a Japanese wagyu, it would be too much to have that rich mayo style sauce.

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The match was a Marananga Mataro from the Barossa. I think the 2010 vintage. It was a very full bodies wine with intense berry flavours that keep up with the wagyu yet has a surprisingly crisp finish not lingering or mouth coating making it a very food friendly option and a good match with relatively fattier meats like wagyu.

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Lamb Belly – Cavalo Nero and Eggplant
Cooked to melt in your mouth tenderness and re-caramelized on the outside rind. What a match with the black cabbage and eggplant. I always felt eggplant was such a good combo with oil and fatty meats but never imagined lamb belly. Well it was the first time for me to even acknowledge there was such cut of meat for that matter!

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This one excellently matched with a 2011 Rioja Temperanillo. The light mouth feel counter acts with the lamb fat inside your mouth and makes the mouth coating feeling a pleasant one.

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Popcorn. Wow! Apparently lots of science behind this signature dessert. What makes popcorn popcorn? The smell, the soft fluffy inutual bite and then the eventual gritty texture that remains. Rhey’ve done just that, by roasting some corn, blending it with some cream, plunking it in liquid nitrogen and mixing some grits in. It is one amazin tasting popcorn icecream! Decadent, yet light healthy feel yet exciting space food type fun!

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Chocolate – Berries and Hazelnut Coconut ad Cocoa Rocks. A rich 66% cocoa medium dark chocolate warm plate with dehydrated berries. The cocoa rock melted in the mouth. I wonder if this is also dehydrated technique.

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Matched with Dubonnet which is usually uses as an aperitif. But the bitter and smoky aromas went in sync with the bitter chocolate. But really came together when tasted together with the berries.

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The palate cleanser a pineapple fizz, straight out of a ISI whipper! Cool!

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Campari – Orange and Whey
Another signature ice cream dish. The orange an Campari have been dehydrated and the flavour obviously intensified but also the texture so awesome crunchy turning into mushy but flavour exhibiting mushy which is a wonderful sensation in the mouth.

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This one matched with a gentle Marenco Scrapona Muscato. Just the right sweetness and the floral notes complementing the simple mandarin flavours in the ice cream.

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We also finished with some coffee.

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And the Esquire house dark chocolate name card!

Dehydration. It’s not a gimmick. It’s essentially the same as our tonkotsu soup except done 2million times quicker and efficiently. It intensifies the texture without losing the fresh flavours and aromas of the initial ingredient. It is a very useful technique in fine cuisine.

Overall, extraordinary, eye opening inspirational, fun!!!! I haven’t gotten this excited in a restaurant for ages. My partner had to drag me away from the kitchen because I was bombarding Shun and Ben with questions, remarks, appreciation and awe.

It was such a stimulating experience. I hope to be back every occasion I can.

Thank you again, Ryan, Ben, Shun and the kitchen team, and thank you Cameron for having us. Cameron, Ryan, aside from the food which speaks for itself, the dishes used, the beautiful line in the curves of the sexy yet simple furniture, putting charcoal in tap water jugs to the soft paper and sublime smelling hand soap in the toilet, every single bit of detail impressed me! And last but not least thank you so much V for putting up with my over the top enthusiasm and explaining everything! Your articulate wine description hit the spot every time and your passionate and attentive service made our experience a truly special one!

Taro

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