Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tyler's Pantry, Mogo - 11 April 2014

I was looking for a dinner venue near Batemans Bay on the first night of my wife's birthday getaway. As Batemans Bay is not widely known for food, I wasn't even sure if could find something nice to celebrate the occasion. So the SMH Good food Guide was consulted and a quick flick through pointed me to a restaurant called Tyler's Pantry in the little town of Mogo, 10 kilometres south of Batemans Bay and 4 hours south of Sydney. The Good Food Guide awarded this place a chef hat, that's good enough for me!

The chef and owner of Tyler's Pantry is Josh Tyler, a local South Coast product. It's surprising that more hasn't been written about Josh Tyler and his restaurant, because this man has some serious skills in the kitchen, as I was about to find out. His resume includes stints at Celsius in Sydney working for Peter Doyle, at various kitchens overseas, and 2 years as the head chef at the Benchmark in Canberra before moving back home to the South Coast to open Tyler's Kitchen in Malua Bay (now closed) and Tyler's Pantry.

Once you get a chance to speak with Josh you will quickly realise he is passionate about this region. The produce that he uses in the restaurant is sourced almost exclusively from the South Coast. In addition to the flowers, herbs and vegetables that he grows in his garden, seafood is from local fishermen, and meat and vegetables are from local farms and suppliers. Tyler also forages the coastline for native plants such as samphire, beach spinach, salt bush and pig face.

Tyler's Pantry is open for breakfast and lunch every day except Monday and Tuesday offering cafe style options. But it is dinner where the kitchen flexes their muscles and shows their real talent. On Friday and Saturday nights (bookings essential), Tyler turns his Pantry into a fine dining establishment offering more technical and innovative dishes.

The dinner menu is a concise offering of 5 savoury courses, 2 sides and 3 desserts. The menu changes weekly depending on what produce is available. You can choose between three courses ($50), four course ($65) or 5 courses ($78). And the sides are $9 each. We opted for 4 courses (3 savoury courses and 1 dessert). There was only one vegetarian option listed on the menu, and as we had informed the restaurant beforehand of my wife's vegetarian diet, the restaurant was able to create 2 other savoury courses for my wife.

The service at Tyler's were friendly and attentive, but the dining experience was made even more special and personalized as Josh brought out most of our courses and gave a highly detailed explanation of each dish along with the techniques used. These explanations made me appreciate even more the effort and the skill required to put up each plate of food.

Bread, butter, sea salt
To start the meal, we were served sourdough bread, butter and sea salt. The sourdough bread was baked in-house and the butter was also churned in-house using local milk. The bread was crusty and had a nice, robust flavour. The butter was great too: creamy with a little sourness. But what intrigued me the most was that the salt. Tyler explained to us that he collects drums of sea water and evaporates the water down til it turns into salt crystals, a process that takes about a week to complete. This was described as a bit of a novelty, but I applaud the innovation as I have yet to see a restaurant do this.

First course
Kingfish, cucumber, sea succulents
The kingfish was my first course. This was quite simply, a spectacular dish. Not only was it light and fresh, it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into selecting the different components in this dish. The kingfish was served raw and was super fresh as the kingfish was brought in by Ulladulla fisherman that afternoon. The kingfish was served with a variety of fresh and pickled sea succulents and cucumber with squid ink mixed through it. I loved the addition of squid ink for that extra bit of saltiness to the and flavour of the sea sans the fishiness. And interestingly, the dish was given a nice kick of spice from dried chilli powder, which I thought gave the dish a bit of character and subtle enough to work well with the fresh elements.

Ashed potato, egg yolk, soured milk
This was my wife's first course. The combination of potato, egg and cream is always a winner and this was no exception. The flavour combinations were interesting too. The potato was covered in ash, giving it a slight smoky flavour. There was also onion cooked in whey, which were beautifully sautéed down. The egg yolk was lightly cured and was wonderfully gooey. The soured milk was created from the by-product of the house churned butter. This was a surprisingly light, yet satisfying course with the flavours from each component being well balanced. We thought this was an excellent introduction to the meal.

Second course
Pork, eggplant, salted toffee, garlic milk
My second course was the pork belly. The pork belly was slowly cooked for 48 hours and was the most tender, melt in your mouth piece of meat that I have eaten in a while. Beautifully rich and so amazing! The pork belly was glazed with salted toffee, which provided a delightful mix of sweet and savoury that really complemented the richness of the pork belly. To the side of the pork belly was a purée of eggplant and miso. I go nuts for nasu dengaku, so I was happy to see it here, in purée form.

Blanketing the pork belly was a thin sheet of garlic milk. It was the garlic milk, listed quite simply in the menu that piqued my interest initially. The garlic milk was made by cooking milk with garlic and lifting off the film off the top of milk as it boils. It is much like yuba in Japanese cooking and adds an interesting texture and flavour to the dish, not too dissimilar to that of a delicate tofu skin.

Beetroot, radish, lime
My wife's second course was a salad of beetroot, radish and lime. She enjoyed this course, a lot! This dish could have easily been swapped with the first vegetarian course given it was that light and refreshing. All the components in this dish were grown in Tyler's garden. There were ruby, golden and Chioggia beetroots in this dish, done in 3 different ways: pickled, roasted and puréed. French breakfast radishes were served pickled or fresh as thin slices. And little pearls of finger lime rounded out the dish, providing juicy bursts of citrus and acidity.

Third course
Beef and yeast, cabbage, walnut, zucchini
The beef was my last savoury course. Poached fillets of beef were flavoursome, cooked beautifully rare and melted in the mouth. Yeast extract, veal stock and a 'truck load' of butter were used to create a rich, delicious and concentrated sauce to glaze the beef. The beef fillets were served on crisp leaf of cabbage, a wonderful walnut cream and strips of zucchini.

Mushroom, corn, onion, zucchini
The last savoury course for my wife was mushrooms cooked in onion broth, served with grilled corn, zucchini, amaranth and corn custard. This dish had an enjoyable combination of flavours from the clean onion broth, the sweetness of the corn, the nuttiness of the amaranth and the smooth, velvety corn custard.

Paris mash ($9)
My wife loves potato and insisted on ordering the Paris mash as a side. The mash was incredibly smooth, buttery, rich and satisfying. What I liked was that there wasn't a huge slick of oil floating at the top, so I didn't feel as guilty eating this. And this was a generous portion and because my wife doesn't like to waste food (so Asian!), we somehow managed to devour the entire bowl, which left the both of us in a food coma.

Complimentary dessert
Pumpkin, fennel, milk, honey
We each received a complimentary dessert, which I thought was very nice of the restaurant to do for us. This was the dessert item on the menu that we didn't order. This turned out to be the dessert of the night, so I was glad that I didn't miss out on trying it. A brilliant honey ice cream was covered with fennel seeds, pumpkin crisps and thin shards of dehydrated milk. The pumpkin crisps were a joy to eat even if they reminded me of cornflakes and made me think I was having “Breakfast at Tyler's”. A viscous syrup was also poured over the dessert, but we were made to guess what the ingredients in the syrup were. This was a guessing game that my wife ended up winning as she correctly guessed that it was pumpkin. The pumpkin syrup had a distinct savoury flavour that went well with the sweeter elements of the dish.

Fourth course
Eucalyptus, fig, meringue
The eucalyptus granita was pleasantly refreshing and tasted distinctly eucalyptus yet not overpowering. The fig ice cream was the highlight of this dessert. It was smooth, creamy and had that delicious flavour of fig that I have come to love. There were also some slightly chewy pieces of meringue scattered over the top.

Raspberry, white chocolate and shiso
This dessert was a simpler offering of raspberry sorbet and white chocolate ice cream. The raspberry sorbet was my favourite of the two and had a nice amount of tartness. The sorbet and ice cream was served over a white chocolate powder, with some minty shiso leaves and a slick of licorice sauce.

Posing for a pic with chef/owner, Josh Tyler
After our meal, we had a chance to speak further with Josh Tyler and thanked him for a fantastic meal to kick off my wife's birthday celebrations. I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable this meal turned out to be. Who would have thought little Mogo would have a restaurant that stacks up pretty well to places in Sydney. Tyler's Pantry may well have put Eurobodalla dining on the map, so if you happen to be in Mogo, I suggest you go!

Highlight: The melt in the mouth pork belly with delicious sweet and salty toffee glaze and garlic milk skin.
Lowlight: A restaurant with food this good deserves to be much busier than it is outside holiday periods.
Overall: Tyler's Pantry is a true local gem and a fantastic restaurant that uses regional produce to create exciting, innovative plates of food. The chef hat is thoroughly deserved; I highly recommend the dinner menu to anyone looking for a nice meal and night out in the South Coast. 8/10 (Excellent)

Tyler's Pantry
Address: 34-36 Sydney St (Princes Highway), Mogo NSW 2536
Contact no: (02) 4474 5572

Tyler's Pantry on Urbanspoon

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