Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fine Dining Review: Marque vs. Est (Sydney, Australia)

Marque vs. Est.

Marque and Est. are two of Sydney's premier fine dining establishments who have been bestowed the highest possible rating of "3 hats" by SMH good food guide 2011. I had a memorable meal at Est. few years ago and I've been wanting to go back since I moved back to Sydney. Marque, on the other hand, has been on a meteoric rise in the Sydney food scene and is  currently Sydney's "Restaurant of the Year". Marque's reputation has also grown globally with its recognition in the San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurant List and also being awarded the "Break Through Award".

I had the privilege to dine in these two top-notched restaurant with one month apart & I thought why not review the two heavy weights together in one post! :)

It was unfortunate that my camera was not able to capture shots under low lighting so I only have a couple of grainy shots to share in this post. (time for a new camera!)

Marque *

The degustation menu was our unanimous choice to experience what Marque's has to offer. The amuse bouche of Alain Passard's tribute of the chaud-froid egg was stunning visually. A hot-cold experience in the form of a runny egg with delicate flavours of (presumably) sherry vinegar, cream and spices was indeed interesting and has become chef Mark Best's signature dish. Grissini to enhance textural play enhanced the overall experience. Despite the amazing techniques applied, I thought this was slightly underwhelming. 


The entire degustation course was a showpiece of Mark Best's high level of technical abilities and creativity. Nonetheless and surprisingly, we did not find any memorable and off the charts dishes. Each dish was cooked to near perfection technically but individual elements in  most dishes did not marry perfectly. There were no memorable highlights to mention except the wonderful oyster topped with truffles on a thick slice of gently cooked bacon. The matching wines by the glass, instead, was the highlight of the night. The deco and atmosphere was generic, and the service was good without being exceptional. The servers should take their time introducing and explaining each dish clearly....why bother if not doing it properly and professionally?

For those unfamiliar with molecular gastronomy and the heights that have already been achieved elsewhere, Marque is a real treat - breathtaking execution of modern cooking techniques. However, it lacked the wow factor in the domain that mattered most - taste.

Of note, Marque's Friday Prix Fix Lunch menu is a steal at $45 per person. I would definitely head there if I have extended lunch hours.

Some shots taken in Marque:

Oyster on bacon, topped with black truffles

Dessert is served.....

Fine Dining Rating (Marque): 15/20

Est.***

We have fond memories of Est. having had a great meal 4 years ago.....before our global gastronomic adventure. The restaurant is impressive: expansive, high ceilings and luxury columns.

Again, we opted for the degustation menu and matching wines. We were not disappointed. Seafood proteins were particularly handled with finesse - the Moreton bay bug, scampi, steamed murray cod were precisely cooked to absolute perfection. The only times we had such perfectly executed seafood were at Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee (Paris, France) and Colborne Lane (Toronto, Canada). The pan-roasted lamb rib eye was the minor disappointment - tender but the cut was lack in depth of flavour (a compromise, perhaps). Deserts were on the mark - perfectly risen cherry souflle with thoughtfully matched pinor noir rose sorbet.

Roasted boned squab pigeon, grilled fig, almond cream, hazelnut picada and some pan juices - brilliant!

Cherry souffle with pinot noir sorbet

The wine list was comprehensive and the matching wines very good. The highly choreographed service was truly world-class and very closely matched, in my opinion, the perfect service we received at Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee Paris and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. The celebrity viewing was complementary (The Edge from U2 was dining only 2 tables away). 

Fine Dining Rating (Est.): 18/20

By Gastronomic G.

Rating explained:

Scores 18 to 20 = *** (3 stars) = World class and close to perfection
Scores 16 to <18 = ** (2 stars) = An exceptional and special dining experience
Scores 15 to <16 = * (1 star) = Very good to great dining experience
Scores 13 to <15 = Good but not memorable
Scores 10 to <13 = Acceptable
Scores <10 = Are you sure you want to eat here?

8 comments:

  1. Definitely Est.(eventhough we enjoyed our experience at Marque). Had the pleasure of dining there again today, and it was simply magnificent! Better than our recent experience at a supposedly 2 hatted steak restaurant in the city.

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  2. Just went there last nite, the food was amazing !

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  3. Atmosphere over there was amazing ! I had a great time last time when I went there.

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