You know how they say you should always say yes to an opportunity?
Well, on a smaller scale, you should also always say yes to “do you want to come to xx restaurant?” because even if you don’t know what on earth your friend is talking about, you’ll probably still have a good time.
Yes, that’s how we ended up at Amaru with Haz, Gaz and Thanh, several days after the restaurant opened. It took me a while after agreeing to lunch to join the dots – Amaru is the first restaurant of Clinton McIver, who had a stint serving degustations at the Clayton Bowls Club (and who also worked at Vue de Monde).
The tasting menu is $120 for a series of courses – when we went we received five snacks, four savoury courses, and three desserts. There is a cheaper option for lunch ($49) but we decided to go for the full experience.
With eight tables and 34 seats, it’s not a large restaurant. We sat at the front of the room, near the large windows, quite far from the other table in the room and it was very comfortable. We were able to talk to one another across our large table easily.
Please note that this was their very first week of opening, so we weren’t expecting everything to be completely polished.
The first snack set the tone of things to come. We were served toasted sunflower seeds and courgette, that had been cooked so it kind of resembled a risotto. It sounds weird and I must admit that I looked at it dubiously until I tasted it. It was very savoury with the seeds still distinctly sunflowerish and nutty – surprisingly very, very good.
Alastair declared it a “yum factor 8”. I don’t know how his scale worked but he said it like it was a huge compliment and I agreed. Yum factor 8.
The second snack was wallaby dumplings, which I must say wasn’t quite as successful.
The skin was ~okay~ but the filling was a let down – mostly just gamey and boring. It could’ve used sauce or something.
Fortunately, the next snack buoyed us back up again. This dish had summer cabbage, crispy potato skin, oyster, mudcrab and frozen macadamia milk. All different textures and temperatures and everyone loved the crispy potato skin.
The next snack was super pretty and also really good. This was a fresh ricotta milk skin, with salted peach and freshly grated wasabi. Amazing. The kick of wasabi at the end really emphasised the creaminess of the ricotta.
Broccolini cooked over a Hibachi grill, with shaved gruyere and dried egg yolk over the top, was one of those dishes that was (seemingly?) simple but executed very well. The vegetable still retained some crunch and picked up some nice smokiness from the grill. Rendered bone marrow gave some fattiness to the dish.
The hibachi grill (a traditional Japanese charcoal bbq) came into play in future dishes as well.
We had a palate cleanser before receiving more food. This was cold pressed fresh nectarine juice, with brown rice vinegar, and grapefruit bubbles.
After the palate cleanser, it was time for fish.
The fish – Trumpeter – had been charred over the Hibachi grill, and was served with Japanese red seaweed, sea grapes and tempura pigs ears. The sauce was made from roasted Wallaby bones.
Everyone’s favourite dish was this one: fresh heirloom tomatoes and muntries. Poured over the top was a rich sauce made with marron head. It ticked all the boxes: full of flavour, interesting, pretty to look at.
This dish was served with good quality spelt sourdough, to mop up all that delicious sauce.
Amaru’s take on a steak tartare was next: roughly chopped David Blackmore wagyu beef rump with a rocket emulsion, watercress and blood plum.
It was meaty and tangy with a touch of spiciness – pretty good.
I found the following beef dish – slow cooked intercoastal wagyu, with chive oil, salted potato puree, and blueberries – a touch too salty, and much preferred the previous one.
We then moved on to desserts, and the first dessert was amazing: Buffalo mozzarella ice cream with sun dried strawberries, and olive ‘soil’, finished with a drizzle of a fruity cold pressed olive oil. The strawberries were intensely flavoursome, and the fresh olive oil was a touch of genius – it really suited the other elements and worked really well.
Not so successful to me were the next two desserts. This was a white miso fudge, chocolate mousse, shaved fresh fennel with caramelised yuzu vinaigrette. This was quite a savoury dessert and didn’t quite work for me. It didn’t help that I don’t like fresh fennel that much and it felt like I was eating an odd salad.
I also wasn’t fond of the last dessert. The wrapper, made from sweet potato, was filled with a blood lime cheesecake and horseradish infused which chocolate. I didn’t like the way the different components worked together.
While it was a shame that I didn’t really like the last two desserts, overall our lunch was positive. Not everything may have been a winner, but there was still enough that was pretty damn good.
1121 High Street
Phone: (03) 9822 0144