Tuesday 15 May 2012

I heart Sidart's Tuesday Test Kitchen

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our *two* weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our *weaponry*...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again. 
[The Inquisition exits]
 ~ Monty Python

I got the biggest surprise this week.  No, nothing at all like the Spanish Inquisition, in fact, the opposite.  A good surprise, nay, a GREAT one.

I was having a sleep in after a bit of a late one the night before when a knock on the door wakes me up and who should show up on my door step but...my husband!!!   He had purposely not told me he was coming down and got me totally by surprise!

Best. Surprise. Ever.

{beautiful auckland from our table with a view}

The element of surprise is also a big part of the Tuesday Test Kitchen degustation menu at Sidart Restaurant in Ponsonby, Auckland.

As a wedding present from our wonderful friend Emma, we got a restaurant voucher for a meal at the funky innovative Sidart run by Chef Sid Sahrawat.  Chef Sahrawat used to be the head chef at The Grove and is well known for his inventive mixes of flavours and textures.

Every Tuesday, Sidart runs the Tuesday Test Kitchen in which they serve just one 8 course tasting menu all night and is a chance for the chefs to experiment with new concept dishes that have not made it on the menu yet so you have no idea what you're gonna get.

In fact you can even opt out of looking at the menu on the night so that each dish will be a mystery.  

Now, I'm usually terrible with surprises (I confess to flicking to and reading the ends of books) so it was no surprise that I just couldn't keep my grubby little mitts off that menu in the mysterious black envelope.  

Only to find that the menu didn't give much away either!  Doh!  

The starter was a mini loaf of bread with whipped butter.  That kumara shaped bread roll was thermonuclear so had literally just come out of the oven but the star of the show was that heavenly, creamy, airy whipped butter sprinkled with smokey sea salt.  I lathered it on the roll and could have easily eaten it with the spoon.

The first course was the "Seafood Flavours".  A beautifully presented dish of seared scallops with tuna sashimi, lemon creme fraiche, lemon powder, cucumber sorbet, radish, baby turnip and cucumber ribbons.  It looked like art on a plate.

I loved it.  I thought the sweet tangy lemon creme fraiche and cool cucumber sorbet went wonderfully with the sweet scallops and that soy marinade on the tuna was incredible.  C was not so enthusiastic, the sorbet being just a bit too out there for him.  But there's no accounting for taste...

The next course was C and my favorite dish of the night, simply named: "Mushrooms".   Consisting of a small but powerfully flavoured and artfully decorated pile of sautéed enoki, shitake, and oyster mushrooms, with puffed sago, truffle foam and mushroom and peanut puree.   

It was one of those dishes where I did rue the tasting size portions as I could've easily eaten a whole bowl worth!!

We pondered over the possible meaning of the next dish: "Potatoes inspired by Ben Sherwyn".   The waiter explained that it wasn't the clothing label, Ben Sherman as I was imagining but rather this dish was an homage to Ben Sherwyn, a NZ chef with a restaurant in Melbourne who pioneered this test kitchen idea.

The fluffy balls of agria potatoes with Parma ham, oh so creamy goats cheese puree were served tangy Boquerones (Spanish white anchovies), fried sage and coffee oil.  So many flavours but it all worked so well together, the goats cheese mellow and creamy and those tasty little anchovy fillets were a surprise hit of salty tanginess without being fishy at all.  Didn't really taste the coffee oil but I guess it added to the over all flavours of the dish.

Next were the meat courses.

Milk Fed Veal: strip of veal rump, hazelnut custard, fresh figs, pretty beetroot, beet root puree, licorice ink, black cabbage chip, and coconut ash.  Tender succulent veal, a tiny bit chewy with sweet figs and an amazing hazelnut custard that is really hard to describe but had some incredible umami flavour that made me want to eat more and more.

Duck:  duck with chorizo cubes, cauliflower puree, pickled cauliflower, raddichio leaves, puffed rice.  The duck was my 2nd fav of the night, cooked to pinky perfection served with an incredibly creamy cauliflower puree.  I'm a sucker for duck.

Hawkes Bay Lamb: lamb loin, pea puree, freeze dried peas, celeriac cubes, polenta.  This was C's second favourite for the night.  The lamb was gorgeous and pink with a delicious spice rub (think I could taste cumin?).  The celeriac, polenta, sweet pea puree with wasabi peas like freeze dried peas was a fun take on the traditional meat and three veg.

And then came the desserts.  The "Miso with Roquefort and Pears" dish incorporated Roquefort cheese, red wine poached pears, miso ice cream, compressed nashi, maple meringue, and pine nut praline.  Now I love blue cheese as much as the next girl and I do love the salty sweet combo but when combined with that super salty miso ice cream the whole dish was just too far on the salty side and not quite sweet enough to balance it out.  I did love the little nashi cubes, meringue praline and poached pears but sorry to say the overpowering miso ice cream marred the dish a tad. 

The second dessert was heaps better.  Although looking like a bit like just a pile of crumbs, these were very tasty crumbs of deconstructed walnut sponge, aloe vera foam, black currant sorbet, date puree, and chocolate dipped in liquid nitrogen.  It was earthy and the caramelly dates was lovely with the cool black currant sorbet.  Though I did really like this second dessert, can't say I loved it.

Have to say though that was me with my restaurant review hat on and since the dishes change every week those exact dishes might never grace the menu of Sidart again - which in itself is such a cool concept!  

All in all we had an amazing evening - a gorgeous meal, at a lovely restaurant, getting to taste things that both challenged and delighted us.  It was a whole evening worth of entertainment too...the degustation menu takes at least 2 hours to complete so make sure you make an evening of it!

Thanks soooo much Emma for the incredibly thoughtful and generous gift!  We don't get the chance to go to restaurants as nice as Sidart very often so thank you so so much for giving us an amazing date night out xox

Rating: 4/5

At a glance

Three Lamps Plaza
283 Ponsonby Road

Opening hours: 

Tuesday - Sunday from 6pm  Friday lunch from 12pm

Service:  Super attentive, really friendly.  Took their time to explain each dish to us and patiently answered our pesky questions.  Our water was kept topped up and we never felt rushed.

Setting: Can't beat it.  I mean, did you see that view?  The restaurant itself is cozy without feeling crowded with modern decor.  There was plenty of parking on Margaret Street round the corner.  

Food:  The mains were incredible.  I loved every single one.  The desserts didn't blow me away though and some of those flavour combos were not my fav.

Price:  The Tuesday Test Kitchen is at the very reasonable price of $80 per person.  You can choose to do the menu with wines for an additional $65 per head.  NB: From 19 July 2012 the Tuesday Test Kitchen will be $95 a head so get in there quick!

Overall: The Tuesday Test Kitchen is exceptional value for a degustation menu.  The dishes are innovative and change every week so while there are definite big wow's there is also the possibility of a miss or two.  Booking is absolutely essential and they do keep checking in on you!


  1. That sounds so fun, what a great way to spend an evening.

  2. Man, what a treat. Degustation is so freaking awesome huh. I can spend hours analyzing every tiny aspect, flavor and decoration. Those chefs know what they're doing.

  3. Sounds like a really interesting evening.

    The restaurant chairs look tolerable.

    Don't you get grumpy when restaurants that expect you to sit there for hours while they fanny about being artistic (or just incompetent) only provide mean little chairs, or hard ones or precarious ultra-modern efforts, or, worst of all, those ones with the designer legs that stick up on the two front corners.

    I wish all restaurant reviewers would review the furniture experience, as you are paying plenty for that as well!

  4. Great blog! Experienced the test kitchen last Tuesday, what a great experience!
    Dale...pull your head in...review the seats..please!



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