Bistro Guillaume's souffle is lighter than air
Due to the successes of tv shows such as Masterchef, Food Safari and the like, it is the age of the chef. Now it seems that your everyday Tom, Dick and Harry has heard of Heston's Fat Duck restaurant and of Peter Gilmore's snow egg dessert. It's an exciting time, one which has all us taking greater interest in the ingredients and cooking styles that our eateries use.
One place which has had a great amount of hype behind it since it opened last year is Bistro Guillaume at Burswood's Crown Casino. The product of French-born Sydney chef Guillaume Brahimi (yes that guy with the lovely accent on Masterchef) who owns Guillaume at Bennelong and also another Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne.
Jeremy and I decided since we haven't been out for a fancy date night since our holiday in Kuala Lumpur, we would book and have a nice evening out. Even though we live together, I was extremely surprised that when I came home from lunch and shopping with my best friend Carly, Jeremy was waiting for me with beautiful lilies. A wonderful start to our date!
Salt and butter
We arrive for an early booking of 6pm at Bistro Guillaume, with the other option having been around 8pm. When we walk inside (situated at the Crown where Allure used to be), I'm overwhelmed by the plethora of green, white and black that makes up the decor. It's gorgeous, bright and warm. We're seated by our waiter who has an adorably authentic French accent and is friendly and attentive.
He tells us the special soup of the day, before providing us with a wooden block of unsalted butter, salt and some freshly warmed baguette slices. Since I tend to deprive myself of bread during the week, it's a blissful occurrence when I get to chow down on it.
And this bread did not disappoint. Slightly warm, the outside is crunchy and the inside soft and doughy. The butter is rich and creamy; tasting perfect slathered atop of the bread with a sprinkling of the salt. It is the ideal way to start a meal off.
We start off the meal with a bottle of still San Vitoria water ($7) plus an alcoholic beverage each. Jeremy chooses a glass of the Little Creatures Pale Ale ($9) which is a local tap beer, while I opt for the French Desire Cocktail ($21). It's a twist on a french martini with flavours of pineapple, passionfruit and vanilla. It's delicious! A very well made cocktail that isn't overpowering or lacking in the alcohol department.
French desire cocktail
The entree section of the menu is vast and there are some amazing sounding dishes. I have to admit I am torn between so many of them that I am almost unable to decide! There's the whole marron with butter sauce, the chicken liver parfait and the steak tartare. But in the end I go down the traditional route of French fare, opting for the Escargot en Persillade ($25).
Escargot en persillade
It comes out in a plate that looks designed just specially to hold all twelve mouthfuls. If you're not accustomed to eating snails, this is a great place to introduce your palate. There's a big risk when cooking them that they can become rubbery or chewy, but these ones are tender and flavoursome.
Persillade is a French sauce of parsley with garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar. And with these snails, it is a marriage in heaven. The oil keeps the snails hot and moist; the garlic slightly crunchy from being placed under a grill. I love that it comes with a nice smokey charred piece of bread that is crunchy and works as the perfect vessel in soaking up those juices.
Escargot en persillade
For his entree, Jeremy immediately chooses a traditionally French dish too, Salad Niçoise ($30). This dish is made up of tomatoes, green beans, hard-boiled eggs and seared tuna. While the traditional version tends to have Niçoise olives and anchovies in the salad, this version had a sauce made up of them. It came accompanied by two lightly grilled slices of baguette.
What a stunning dish. It's all I can think when it comes out to the table as my eyes basically rape the seared tuna slices that top the mountain of food. For an entree, it is a big serving size! But Jeremy definitely isn't complaining as he dives in, declaring the green beans to be the best he's ever eaten.
I love how the hard boiled egg slices are slightly gooey still in the yolk; a vivid orange that is almost tantalising in it's glossy appearance. He offers me a bite and I can see why this was the dish of the night for his meal, it is just so well balanced with perfect seasoning and tuna that is the definition of tenderness. A definite winner!
Our plates are cleared within minutes of our entrees being completed; our waiter refilling our glasses and offering more drinks. We're happy in our little comfortable booth that faces the kitchen and we both watch with interest as dish after dish is pumped out. I'm spotting some really delicious looking items so I think I will have to come back! Yes, yes I will.
Not too much time later, our mains arrive and I almost feel like they need fanfare to preempt them. Jeremy's Leg of Duck Confit with Brussel Sprouts, Shallots and Speck ($38) is definitely the star of the show. It's a sexy, sexy dish. Yes that might sound strange to hear, but that is exactly what I am thinking as I stare at it.
Two goldenly crisp segments of confit duck sit atop a creamy sauce that looks to be flavoured with grain mustard. The brussel sprouts are cooked perfectly; soft but not falling apart, the speck salty and meaty. The duck itself is fatty but in that wonderful way duck should be. The skin is crunchy and seasoned to a tee. It tastes so, SO good. I highly recommend this dish to anyone who loves duck like we do.
My main, the Chargrilled Dhufish with Buerre Noisette, Capers and Lemon (market price = $52) is the priciest of the mains available if you don't take into account the meals for two. It's a simple dish but it packs a punch; a perfect fillet of freshly caught dhufish that has a nice caper coating on top offering a zingy flavour.
Beurre noisette is a brown butter sauce that uses unsalted butter melted down to produce a nice nutty flavour. When combined with the citrusy lemon, it elevates the natural flavour of the fish. I love how well cooked it is, with my fork penetrating the flesh and it flaking away so gently. It's firm but melt in your mouth.
Because I've heard so many rave reviews, I convince Jeremy to order a side of the Paris Mash ($9) for us to share between us. It comes out in it's own little pot and is the same colour as the butter we were presented with at the start of our meal.
My first taste of the mash and I can see just why it is the must try for this restaurant. Buttery, golden potato that is smooth and not even slightly grainy. It is rich, but it is extremely moorish. It is everything mash should be, and I am now pretty worried no other will match up!
It tastes particularly amazing as an accompaniment to my fish which I had been surprised didn't come with any sides given the pricetag. But yes, the mash was a perfect choice.
After our mains are cleared, I note the time and realise that we're nearly at the time we were meant to give up our table. But to the staff here's credit, they don't rush us and even let us order dessert. Hooray! Because dessert is where my heart often lies.
For my dessert choice, I'm once again torn between a couple choices. After some internal debating, I follow my gut instinct and choose the Chocolate Souffle with Cherry Ripple Ice-cream ($22). It comes out cooked in it's own copper pot and as our waitress puts it in front of me, she advises that the chef recommends it is placed in the centre to sink down. She then offers to do this for me, which I accept happily and snap away as she does so.
It looks absolutely amazing as the ice-cream slowly sinks to the bottom of the dish. So much so that I have no hesitation in diving in to try my first ever dessert souffle. Wow. Yes, wow! I can now see what the hype is all about (though Jeremy tells me he's never had a souffle this light before). It's lighter than air; chocolatey but not densely so. The texture is like a marshmallow almost, the ice-cream sweet and riddled with that promised cherry flavour.
For his dessert, Jeremy picks the Tarte du Jour ($20) which is Valrhona Chocolate and Salted Caramel with Vanilla Ice-Cream. It's a tart made up of three even layers in the most precise display of pastry making I have come across.
The base is crisp and buttery; the salted caramel just slightly bitter and the ideal balance of sweet and salty. The chocolate is dark and rich - just the way Jeremy likes it. When combined with the ice-cream that has actual flecks of vanilla bean throughout, it becomes the perfect mouthful.
A happy way to finish off an amazing meal for both of us!
Tarte du jour
For our final delight of the evening, we order our waiter's recommended dessert wine - Robert & Bernard Plageoles Mauzac Roux 2011 ($14). A beautiful French dessert wine that is "heavenly on the nose with quince, apricot and blossom aromas in particular. The palate, fuelled by grapefruit freshness, offers a beautiful balance of richness and cut, although it's still lovely and viscous with lingering flavours of golden apple and honey."
I'm not overly experienced with drinking dessert wines, but this one was really as delightful as our waiter described. It's ethereally light on the palate, sweet but not cloying. There's no tacky residual aftertaste, but rather just a nice fruity lingering. I have made a mental note to remember this one for the next time I see it on a menu.
Plageoles Mauzac Roux
At the end of our night out at Bistro Guillaume, Jeremy and I left feeling sated and pleased. It was plate after plate of delicious food, with great flavours and on par service. The prices are high, but going in acknowledging this I feel pleased for what we got in return. This is a place that should be tried by those looking for a special night out.
And though I don't usually post photos of myself on here, I couldn't resist this time. It was a wonderful night, and my lilies are blooming!