Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ester, Chippendale - 29 August 2014


Despite being open for less than 12 months, Ester has quickly become one of the hottest and coolest restaurants in Sydney. It's the place to be in 2014 and everyone is coming for the same reason: the food that comes out of the large, domed woodfire oven, where all the magic happens. The menu comprises a selection of snacks, small plates and larger items from the wood fired oven, all of which are designed to be shared.


Ester is part of the Vini stable of restaurants/ wine bars that includes 121 BC and Berta. The head chef and the brains behind the woodifre oven based cuisine at Ester is Mat Lindsay (ex-Billy Kwong, Rockpool and 121 BC). 

The restaurant is housed in a converted warehouse / garage space, with a semi-open kitchen at the rear and an understated dining room with dangling lights and dome-shaped archways. The bare room was buzzing on the night and my wife and I were lucky to secure a seating in the bar area during the 6pm session on a Friday night just a few days earlier.


Ester already has made a big splash in this year's restaurant awards season, including winning both Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year in Timeout Sydney Food Awards. I am expecting Ester to be awarded at least 1 chef hat and possibly New Restaurant of the Year in SMH Good Food Guide when the winners are announced Monday night (although Ester is up against probably the deepest pool ever this year with the likes of Cafe Paci, Moon Park, Cho Cho San and Nomad vying for new restaurant glory).

As I am dining with my wife, a vegetarian, this will probably be most vegetable-filled post ever on Ester. So be warned, you won't find any bone marrow here :P   

Chickpeas
While we perused the menu and sipped on wine and sake, we were treated to complimentary crunchy spiced chickpeas with sprigs of fried rosemary. These were addictive and I would be happy to have these as a bar snack anywhere / anytime.

House baked bread ($3)
The house baked bread is fantastic and has a wonderful crust thanks to the woodfire oven. This is a must order as you will need some bread to mop up your plates later.

Roasted oysters ($4 each)
Rock oysters were roasted in the wood fire oven long enough so the shells pop open, so no shucking is required. I usually prefer my oysters natural, but if cooked oysters were this good all the time, I might reconsider. The oysters were slightly warm and still had a texture similar to raw oysters; so you still get that wonderful slippery mouth feel and the briny juices. The oysters were finished with a nice and delicate horseradish mignonette that went well with the oysters.

Lobster sausage sanga ($9)
The blood sausage sanga was one of the most popular items at Ester, but it has been replaced with a fancier lobster sausage sanga. Wow, what a bloody amazing bar snack this is! The lobster sausage was smooth and had a delicate sweetness from the lobster meat. The sausage is served on a square of fluffy steamed white bread with aioli sauce and caramelised onions. Best sausage sizzle ever! But one is not enough; I wanted to order more but I had to show restraint as we had barely started! 

Beef tartare, oyster, mustard ($19)
Ester's beef tartare is another dish that knocks it out of the ball park. I ate this in silence, savouring every bite. Chunky beef was mixed with chopped oysters (yes oysters!), capers, mustard leaves, grated horseradish and served with a creamy fried egg sauce. Even the house-made potato chips it came with to scoop up the beef tartare were fantastic (I had to bat my wife's hand away so she wouldn't eat them all!)As I was having this on my own, it was quite filling. But boy, did this beef tartare make me happy! 

Carrot, comte, sesame ($12)
The roasted carrots were really delicious. They were tender, sweet and coated with sticky honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The carrots came with a rich, creamy comte cheese dipping sauce. This was my wife's favourite dish of the night.

Brussel sprout salad, slow cooked egg ($17)
Next vegetarian dish was a brussel sprout salad, which contained 3 different preparations of brussels: shaved, roasted and boiled. Hiding underneath the sprouts is a slow cooked egg, which predictably had a gorgeous, flowing egg yolk. The salad was also sprinkled with grated parmesan and we were instructed to break the egg and mix it all together. 

This was delicious with the bitterness of the brussel sprouts going well with the acidity of the vinaigrette and the richness of the egg yolk. There were great textures too in this dish with crunchy roasted leaves and crispy fresh shaved sprouts. But this would turn out to be the least memorable of all the dishes through no fault of it own. It just wasn't as amazing as everything else.

Roasted cabbage, nori, clams ($19)
Roasted cabbage with smoky, charred edges was tossed in a buttery nori sauce with big, juicy storm clams from  New Zealand. This dish could have easily been called "taste of the sea", because that's what it tasted like. The nori sauce was full of umami (great for mopping up with bread) and the clams had a nice sweetness. Amazing stuff really and one of my favourite dishes of the night!

Cauliflower, almond, mint ($16)
Cauliflower comes as a massive half-head with charred bits from the firey breath of the woodfire oven. The cauliflower was smokey, tender, sweet and served with a creamy almond emulsion, chopped toasted almonds and a scattering of mint leaves (a brilliant pairing). There was enough acidity from lemon and vinegar to make this a well balanced dish. This was another highlight of the evening and probably the best cauliflower you will find anywhere.

Three milks ($11)
Three milks may be inspired by the Latin American tres leches milk cake but it's nothing like it. There's a smooth, creamy cow's milk ricotta pannacotta, a rich, sweet goat's milk dulce de leche and a light-as-air sheep's milk yoghurt foam. Each component is nice on their own, but when eaten together, the dessert is just stunning, with each milk playing off each other beautifully. There's also some olive oil biscuit crumbs on the plate for texture and a few sprigs of rosemary. And at $11, three milks is a steal!

Salted caramel semi-freddo ($4)
And lastly, we ordered a scoop of salted caramel semi-freddo. The semi- freddo had that delightful combination of sweet and salty that we all love in salted caramel. And the sprinkling of black sesame added a smoky note to the dessert. Yum!

Now I can see why Grant Achatz of 3-Michelin starred Alinea in Chicago almost ordered the whole menu at Ester when he was in Sydney last year. The food is just awesome and is not one to be missed. We were both full to the brim by the end of the evening  and at less than $60 per person for food, Ester is rather good value. Based on this meal, Ester is one of my firm favourites in Sydney.

Verdict
Highlight: Pretty much everything that's coming out of the wood fire oven. Seriously it's all delicious!
Lowlight: It's busy so it's difficult to get a table.
Overall: Ester is a very welcome addition to the Sydney dining scene. The wood-fire centric menu is amazing and the possibilities are endless, so I will be revisiting again soon. It's not fine dining, but who cares? The food is here is just as exciting as most fine dining places out there at the moment. 8/10 (Excellent)

Ester Restaurant & Bar
Address: 46-52 Meagher St, Chippendale NSW 2008
Contact no: (02) 8068 8279
Website: http://ester-restaurant.com.au/

Ester on Urbanspoon

22 comments:

  1. Even though it sounded simple, the carrots with Comte cheese are calling to me too. I love roasted carrots especially with Comte, one of my favourite cheeses! :D

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    1. Hi Lorraine, actually a lot of the dishes at Ester are really quite simple. Thats's what I like about it, no fuss just damn tasty food! Both my wife and I loved the roasted carrots :)

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  2. really love the food at ester when i went there the first time. got a few vegetarian friends so it's good to see they have lots of veggie options on the menu

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    1. Hi Annie, Ester is brilliant, isn't it? Most people come here for the meats and the bone marrow, but there is certainly more than enough on the menu to satisfy vegetarians. The vegetables at Ester should not be overlooked by meat eaters too :D

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  3. Partial to the food here. We dig ester. Had dinner, lunch and dinner again here. Almost everything we loved

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    1. Hi Bob, I think I'm going to be making Ester a regular for me too. Can't believe I didn't try it earlier.

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  4. Pleasantly surprised by how simple yet tasty the food was. The casual atmosphere made the dining experience enjoyable. Plus I got the whole restaurant to myself (albeit for 5 to 10 minutes) hahaha...

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    1. I love everything about Ester. The service staff are friendly and efficient. The atmosphere is unpretentious and relaxed. And the food is so tasty. Let's go back again soon :)

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  5. Better figure out how to get to Chippendale then

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    1. Hi napolirestaurantalert, Chippendale might turn into a foodie town with LP's Quality Meats being just round the corner from Ester hehe

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  6. Ok I've done my research for my visit by reading your post - I must order the cauliflower and roasted cabbage and probably avoid the brussel sprouts. ohh and must try the three milks!!

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    1. Hello C, the brussel sprouts wasn't bad (that's not the impression I wanted to give lolol). They were pretty nice actually. Those other dishes are highly recommended. As is the lobster sausage sanga and beef tartare. Actually I'm not sure how much my post has contributed to your research because you will probably want to order the whole menu lol

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  7. Mmm I like the sound of tartare with potato chips :p Getting a table in Ester will now be even harder after winning an award in Good Food Guide!

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    1. Hi Felicia, I loved the beef tartare, you should try it! Yes, Ester is going to become even more popular now and it was already hard to get a booking!

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  8. Oh my!! I love Beef Tartare!!! But mixing it with oysters?? That's unexpected! Would be curious to know how this tastes :)

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    1. Hi Olivia, I know eh? I've never seen oysters in a beef tartare, but it works quite well :)

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  9. Love the food at Ester! Will have to return soon for the lobster sanga!

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    1. Hi Helen, I think you will like the lobster sanga. I never got to try the blood sausage but it sounded really good in your blog :)

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  10. now theyve won an award, its gonna be so hard to book!

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    1. Hi Amy, Friday and Saturday will be crazy for sure. Mid week bookings are still quite attainable for the moment.

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  11. That lobster sausage sanga sounds like a real treat for my belly :D

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    1. Hi nessyeater, the lobster sausage sanga is indeed a treat! It is so good that I want to eat a whole plate of them :9

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