Re­view

tem­ple, An­thony Huck­step is hooked by a so­phis­ti­cated ex­pe­ri­ence.

delicious - - CONTENTS -

An­thony Huck­step’s ver­dict on a Mel­bourne seafood tem­ple.

I DON’T TRUST ANY­ONE

who doesn’t like a prawn cock­tail. For one, we have ar­guably the best prawns on the planet. Sec­ond, ice­berg is the king of let­tuces. And the tomato, Worces­ter­shire, may­on­naise twang of Marie Rose sauce cre­ates a holy trin­ity of joy. So when I ea­gerly pull on the bib at Shan­non Ben­nett’s sus­tain­ably fo­cused fish restau­rant, Iki Jime, the prawn cock­tail reels me in. Five Maloolabah king prawns poached in court bouil­lon hang their tails off the edge of a dark-grey plate. They’re sprin­kled in crum­bled cured duck-egg yolk, kombu, wasabi and fin­ger lime. It’s fin­ger food and rightly comes with a hot towel to wipe your dig­its. They’re fan­tas­tic, but about as far from a prawn cock­tail as ABBA is from AC/DC.

Iki Jime (named for the Ja­pa­nese hu­mane fish-killing method) is a slick, dark den in the hull of Shan­non Ben­nett’s for­mer Bistro Vue. With a so­phis­ti­cated bar, open kitchen and chef’s ta­ble, it’s got a spe­cial night out writ­ten all over it.

Where Syd­ney’s Saint Peter brings a fins-to-scale ap­proach to un­der-used species, Iki Jime is more fo­cused on the catch of the day and ad­min­is­ter­ing culi­nary smoke and mir­rors to not only high­light the beauty of the in­gre­di­ent, but pro­vide a bit of magic for the diner, too. I’m not con­vinced we need the show, but it’s won­der­ful to see this re­newed fo­cus on our world-class seafood at the pointier end of din­ing.

Head chef Sam Ho­man and his bri­gade are age­ing fish, mak­ing tongue-in-cheek snacks and let­ting guests de­cide whether they’d like the catch of the day – think ha­puka, flathead, King Ge­orge whit­ing, bar­ra­mundi and red em­peror – steamed or wood-grilled, and what they’d like it served with – potato dashi, brown but­ter vi­nai­grette, or clam and lemon myr­tle.

Robbins Is­land blue mack­erel ben­e­fits from a few days hang­ing in the cool­room to help firm the flesh and draw out some mois­ture. The skin is seared, the flesh raw, and it’s served with a dol­lop of bonito cream, cubes of dashi jelly, and a paste of white soy, fer­mented mush­room and Padrón pep­pers, which all com­ple­ment the rich, meaty and oily fish. Then, to keep it Aus­tralian, a fish snag sanga. Blue-eye trevalla is minced and en­cased in a skin, then housed in a small sweet roll. It’s a two-mouth­ful morsel, and should be sell­ing by the boat­load in the bar.

Ber­magui blue-eye trevalla, aged for three days, is steamed and served with potato dashi with a greater depth than the fish plumbs it­self. Though the com­bi­na­tion is nice, the flesh of the fish is a bit too tight. Nev­er­the­less, Iki Jime shines a new light on seafood din­ing, snub­bing its nose at the seafood bas­ket men­tal­ity of old, and cel­e­brat­ing our ocean bounty with a con­vinc­ing con­tem­po­rary con­fi­dence.

FROM LEFT: king­fish with sweet­corn and smoked scal­lops; the chef’s ta­ble; prawn cock­tail.

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