Continuing with our tradition of celebrating important occasions with food rather than presents, The Boy and I dined at modern French restaurant, Petite Mort. Here Chef Todd Stuart serves up degustation style servings, larger than an entrée but smaller than a main, allowing room to taste a variety of dishes. With a venue so perfect for degustations, of course we had to go for the full 8 course degustation. As usual with this sort of place there was a lot of ‘mood lighting’, so unfortunately my photos are not brilliant, but hopefully you get the general idea!
The restaurant was fairly quiet on the Wednesday night, so we chose a table by the feature exposed brick wall. The interiors feel very modern with muted colours, microsuede dining chairs and big, bold artwork. A table near us had a large group, and we jealously watched as the dishes were brought over to them before we started our meal.
The meal began with an adorable brioche and a little herby bread roll, served with a pat of butter. A smaller serving of bread than I’ve had in other degustations, but considering how much food there was to come it was probably a good thing! The brioche was soft, fluffy and butter, and the roll packed with flavour.
For the amuse bouche, we were served a crumbed lamb on an aubergine purée. The lamb was quite salty but balanced out by the smokey eggplant, and the crumbed shell nice and crisp. A promising start!
The first course was Potato Veloute, Smoked Fish, Clams, Mussels, Lemon, Roe – all of the latter ingredients were brought to us beautifully presented on the plate. After explaining the various ingredients to us, the waiter then poured the veloute over the top, completing the dish (before I could take a photo!). I am not a fan of seafood and did not expect to enjoy this dish, but each element tasted fresh and perfectly cooked rather than the unpleasant fishy taste I usually associate with seafood. The veloute was smooth and creamy with an intense flavour.
We had ordered wine not long after sitting down, but two courses in it still hadn’t arrived! After flagging down a waiter we were sorted out fairly quickly, with bottle of Laforêt Bourgogne Pinot Noir. It’s a pity they don’t seem to offer a matched wines option with the degustation, but as one of us has to drive perhaps it worked out for the best.
The next dish was my favourite of the evening – Cured Trevally, Wasabi Sorbet, Soy, Cashew. Again I was cautious about the seafood, but once again I shouldn’t have worried – the dish as a whole reminded me of Japanese style sashimi, with some very modern twists. The wasabi sorbet begins sweet and ends with a surprising heat, and the soy was somehow served as a fluffy mousse. The overall effect was familiar but disarming at the same time; playful without being too contrived.
The next course was Scallop, Pork Belly, Pig Head, Peach. Pork belly seems to be on the menu everywhere we go, and it’s difficult to make it stand out – the crackling was crisp and the meat tender, but it wasn’t the most memorable part of the dish. The pig head was served as a little roulade topped with the scallop – these were my favourite component, with the two meats complementing each other well, and contrasted with the tartness of the peach. The one part I was disappointed with was the pork skin(?) which looked like it should have been crunchy but was actually very tough and impossible to get a knife through – I eventually gave up and handed it over to The Boy.
Next up was Confit Duck Thigh, Chanterelle & Cepe Mushroom, which was served with a little mushroom spring roll and porcini foam on top. I’m not the biggest fan of foams and other molecular gastronomy ideas which seem to make food into not-food, but it acted almost as a mushroomy sauce which I suppose isn’t so bad. I was disappointed that the spring roll was not crisp as a good spring roll should be; maybe the foam made it a bit soggy. The duck on the other hand seemed a bit on the dry side to me, but the chanterelle mushrooms (delivered from France) were the star with their intense earthy flavour.
Before our ‘mains’, we were given a gin and tonic palate cleanser, consisting of a gin syrup topped with tonic foam and served with a straw to drink it all in one go. We are both fans of the good old G&T, so found this very enjoyable – with the sweetness of the syrup and the bitterness of the tonic, it tasted a bit like a grownup sherbet.
We had a choice of two dishes for the ‘main’, and being used to the food blogging thing The Boy and I of course chose different ones.
He chose the Poached Salmon, Oxtail & Cauliflower, and said that whilst the salmon was nice and all, it’s difficult to make a fish dish stand out. I tried a bit of the oxtail which was rich and full of flavour, and the vegetables piled on top looked like they were turned and placed with such care and attention to detail. I do think that salmon and oxtail is a strange combination though, and I’m not sure they really complemented each other well.
I chose the Steak, Egg & Chips, which sounds simple and boring but actually turned out pretty special. The skirt steak was cooked rare and juicy, as I like it, and topped with a little quail egg. Around the sides was an arrangement of triple fried chips injected with tomato sauce, caramelised onion and béarnaise sauce. The presentation and the quality and care of each component is what lifts it above a boring steak and chips, and the variety of elements made it fun to taste individually and in different combinations. It might look like a small serving, but after all the previous courses I was getting pretty full – and there was still the dessert courses to come!
Onto desserts! The pre-dessert was a shot-sized portion of Nutella sorbet with a milk foam, topped with something which I can’t remember (I want to say hazelnuts maybe?). Short, sweet and very difficult to take a decent photo of!
You can’t really go past a dessert called Death By Chocolate, and this one really lived up to its name. Working from left to right: the chocolate macaron had a beautifully crisp shell with a rich chocolate ganache in the center. The cocoa dusted chocolate truffle had the bitterness of the dark chocolate, which I really love, and melted in the mouth. The chocolate madeline was a light, fluffy break compared to the rich flavours around it. Finally the two different styles of chocolate mousse were the most intense of the lot, the kind of richness that makes you glad there are only small portions, amazing as it may be! This was all served on top of a salted caramel sauce sprinkled with dark chocolate and roasted white chocolate crumbs.
The final surprise dish came with our coffee – another chocolate truffle, a passionfruit macaron, and an apple and rum jelly, served again with that amazing roasted white chocolate. A lovely end to a lovely meal!
All up – Petit Mort is quite the classy joint, perfect for celebrating special occasions. Aside from forgetting our wine order the staff were friendly and explained each of the many elements of every dish brought out to us. The degustation ($105) was amazing, but the 3 course meal ($59) seems quite good value as well, considering you do also seem to get the palate cleanser and extra petite fours with coffee. The modern interpretations of French classics, as well as inspiration drawn from other cuisines, is exactly what I hope for in a degustation – something interesting, challenging and inspiring.