Elizabeth Meryment presents her A to Z of hot culinary trends
ANGUS beef: Wagyu may still be the chefs’ meat of choice, but Angus, also known as Black Angus, is starting to eclipse it on quality menus. Known for its deep, smoky flavour, the meat is becoming a favourite at premium steak restaurants, with Brisbane’s Cha Cha Char even offering steaks from some intriguing Angus crossbreeds. Try an Angus-Santa Gertrudis T-bone for a top carnivorous experience.
Berowra Waters Inn, Sydney: The one-time redoubt of Gay Bilson is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance courtesy of chef Dietmar Sawyere’s decision to reopen the venue. Not only does the inn enjoy a divine location on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney but its culinary history is legendary. This is the national home of gastronomy, where in the 1970s Tony and Gay Bilson introduced Australians to the gourmet life. Crown Complex, Melbourne: The Victorian capital’s once-reviled casino precinct has emerged as the unlikely king of Australian cuisine, with many of the nation’s (and the world’s) biggest food names jostling for business here. Chefs include Guillaume Brahimi, Neil Perry and international superstar Nobu Matsuhisa, and it’s likely British firebrand Gordon Ramsay will be next.
Dry-aged meat: Increasingly prevalent in fashionable restaurants, meat that is dry-aged has been hung in a cool room for up to eight weeks to deepen the flavour and increase the tenderness. Try it at Sydney’s Mad Cow in the Ivy precinct, which has a 650g dry-aged T-bone for $59, or Melbourne’s Botanical, where a 450g dryaged T-bone costs $48.
Evangelical cookery: It was hard enough when Ramsay, in a bid to show viewers where food comes from, butchered his children’s turkeys on his television show TheFWord. But now Jamie Oliver has gone all preachy about food with his EattoSaveYourLife . Oliver’s Jamie’sFowlDinners , shown recently on Channel 10, has shocked viewers with graphic content about the food-production system. If such shows make viewers feel guilty, that is their aim. Expect more of the same.
Fairtrade: In this era of global consumerism, chefs are (or should be) painfully conscious of the provenance of their produce, with many insisting on the Fairtrade label. Even food giant McDonald’s is taking note, advertising its coffee is Rainforest Alliance certified, meaning it will buy beans only from sustainable farms with free and fair working conditions.
Gordon Ramsay: Long known to foodies for his world-beating restaurants and fiery temper, Ramsay has become hot property this year following the success of Ramsay’sKitchenNightmaresUSA, shown on the Nine Network. And his Australian fame is set to continue, due to his plans for restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.
Hiramasa kingfish: Farmed in South Australia’s Spencer Gulf and renowned for its clean white flesh, hiramasa kingfish is the sashimi seafood du jour. Try it at Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne on a sashimi platter also featuring ocean trout, yellow-fin tuna, horseradish and soy sauce.
(The) Ivy: The brainchild of hotelier Justin Hemmes, this Sydney hot spot is drawing crowds despite being a work in progress. A weird conglomeration of bars, restaurants and even (in the future) a party pool complete with cabanas, the Ivy is unlike anything in Australia. Its first three restaurants — Teppanyaki, Mad Cow and Sushi Choo— are thriving and another three are due to open.
Japaz: New North Sydney restaurant Japaz says everything about 2008 dining trends. Here is a partJapanese, part-Spanish restaurant run by chef Hiro, whose credentials were forged in the kitchen at Tetsuya’s, which specialises in Franco-Japanese cuisine. The world on a plate or sheer madness?
Kilometres to plate: Organics used to be the foodie buzz word until consumers became aware that many organic products required a lot of transportation, thus negating their environmental benefits. So food miles has become the new trend term, with some restaurants, such as Melbourne’s 100 Mile Cafe, listing how far key ingredients have travelled before arriving on the plate. The message? Buy local.
Luke Mangan: Following the success of his Glass Brasserie at the Hilton Sydney, quick-talking chef Luke Mangan seems to be taking over the world. Last year he launched Salt Tokyo, a luxe diner in the Japanese capital, followed by South Food and Wine Bar in San Francisco. Next stop? Singapore. Then Los Angeles. And then?
Manjimup truffles: Black truffles are a perennial favourite with gourmands, and as Europe’s supplies dwindle due to disease and global warming, Australian stocks are thriving. Western Australia’s Manjimup truffles are frequently declared the nation’s best and boast a pure, musty flavour. And with the Manjimup crop increasing yearly, they will soon be challenging the French.
No-bookings policy: The bane of diners who like to plan ahead, this irritating fad looks here to stay. The worst thing is that diners are forced to turn up at the nursery hour of 6pm rather than risk being put on a list that never seems to clear.
Offal: The innards of animals are prevalent on expensive menus, with cuts such as tripe, sweetbreads and brains popular with non-queasy diners. But things are really getting serious via the term snout-to-tail eating. Under this philosophy, every part of the animal is used, so it’s only a matter of time before we see eyeball stew or tail soup on our finest tables.
Parmesan air: Spanish chef Ferran Adria is the rock star of the culinary world due to his radical experimentation with food. The leading proponent of molecular gastronomy, in which opposing flavours such as bacon and ice-cream are forced together, Adria’s most famous creation is the much-ridiculed parmesan air. But don’t laugh; Adria — who’s due in Australia on a promotional tour in September — has a million imitators and his El Bulli restaurant outside Barcelona is consistently voted the world’s best.
Quail: They may be finicky and full of bones, but quail and other table birds including squab and pheasant are a must-have with chefs. Which is great if the birds have been deboned, as at Adelaide’s fashionable Mantra on King William, which offers a terrine of confit quail with red wine poached pears. Delicious.
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria: There’s growing awareness about regional food, particularly in Victoria, which is developing some strong culinary hot spots outside main towns. Dunkeld’s Royal Mail is one venue garnering local and national support. And why not, with young chef Dan Hunter’s entrancing modern menu featuring such treasures as yabbies (from a local dam) teamed with pig’s tails set in aspic.
San Daniele prosciutto: Jamon iberico may have been 2007’s fashionable cured meat, but this year’s is San Daniele prosciutto. While the jamon is Spanish, San Daniele is an Italian ham, known for its sweet, salty flavour and creamy texture. Try it at one of the nation’s better Italian restaurants (Sydney’s Lucio’s includes it on an antipasti plate) and savour the sensation.
Tapas: Small plates of food are so trendy that many wannabe restaurants are suddenly calling their entrees tapas plates, just to cash in on the phrase. Crazily, even sushi is being termed Japanese tapas. It’s all in a name.
Universal, Sydney: Christine Manfield’s restaurant return (after her East @ West foray in London) has been hailed an international triumph. In inner-east Darlinghurst, Universal was listed as one of the world’s 10 best new restaurants at US magazine Food&Wine s 2008 awards and specialises in cuisine Manfield calls food without boundaries, meaning it borrows from everything from Turkish to Thai. Very now.
Vegas: Extraordinarily, Las Vegas (simply Vegas to those in the flow), once home to the 99c buffet, has become one of the world’s hottest food destinations. Crammed with the restaurants of big-name chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon and Thomas Keller, it has all the fine dining one could ever need in a single location.
Wine bars: Melburnians may be familiar with chic laneway wine bars but the concept is fresh to Sydneysiders due to NSW’s antiquated liquor licensing laws. But the laws are changing and Sydney drinkers will soon be free to sip wine without ordering food. Already the changes are being felt, with a rash of hip wine bars, such as Surry Hills’s MilleVini, springing to life.
(E)xtra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil has been big for a long time, but Australian chefs are taking their obsession with it to another level. At Pendolino, in Sydney’s historic Strand Arcade, chef Nino Zoccali’s menu details the exact oil he uses in each dish. He’s even established an olioteca, or olive oil shop, beside the dining room.
Yamba prawns: As we head into the summer seafood season, expect to see specials featuring these crustaceans, so loved by Australian chefs. Caught in the clear waters of the Clarence River on the NSW north coast, Yamba prawns have a sweet, clean flavour ideal for fresh seafood salads.
Zucchini flowers: These delicate yellow blooms are rampant on bistro menus across the nation, and no wonder. Often stuffed with goat’s cheese or gorgonzola and fried in olive oil, they are enough to turn even the most committed meat-eater into a vegetarian.
International superstar: Nobu at Crown