I have to make a confession: I am not a big fan of sous vide cooking. I know all about its supposed benefits and I know some top-end chefs still use it but I'm still not a fan.
Yes, the meat is roseate and tender - always - but the juices never run. The texture and taste are to my mind almost generic: it's often difficult to tell venison from lamb from beef cheeks, and one chef's sous vide meat is identical to the next chef's. There are those who think it's a lazy way to cook, and it's considered passe in Sydney . . . and I mustn't let my prejudices spoil a good story.
Which brings me to 150 East.
In the Ascot Quays Apartment Hotel, the restaurant occupies an austere, yet comfortable, softly lit Vogue Living-style space done in shades of black. My dining companion, who doesn't get out much, started with the pumpkin gnocchi, rosemary foam and shaved Manjimup truffles ($16) which came with a neat pile of incandescent rosemary on the side.
She was a little miffed that she got only three gnocchi, though they were bigger than normal. They were also a bit too heavy on the rosemary and, in her view, the foam tasted . . . er . . . like foam. The whole shebang came in a preserving jar - a presentation method I haven't seen for more than two years.
My octopus tentacles ($20) had been triple blanched, which made them very tender but, apart from being a tad underdressed and, therefore, a little bland, the focus of the dish was lost among the accompaniments, one of which - a fabulous, real Spanish chorizo - stole the show.
Almost everything on the mains menu was sous vide, including the fish ($38), which, I must admit, was very good: mackerel bathed in a butter sauce, it was delectably rich and cooked au point. A brilliant side of mushrooms embellished the flavour, too, which was just as well since the natural essence of the fish would otherwise have been buried under a miscellany of unnecessary afterthoughts which crowded the plate.
Venison backstrap ($39) is the restaurant's signature dish - it's sous vide, it's tender, it's rosy in the middle. A sweet, crunchy, chunky white chocolate crumble gave the dish a real lift, and the whole sauteed baby onions were a nice touch. A bed of cabbage (the menu said Savoy, I thought maybe green) was a little too generous.
The desserts were splendid, most of which you can't sous vide! The semifreddo parfait ($16) with a macadamia praline had my dinner date groaning with pleasure; and the apple tarte tatin ($18) was clever in a culinary sense and visually appealing: half a baked (sous vide?) apple atop a deep-fried puff pastry base dripping caramel, pistachio puree and mascarpone ice-cream on the side.
The wine list was solid if not overly exciting. The reserve list was a tad pricey and I suspect owed something to Langton's Classification list and 23 wines by the glass on the standard wine list was nice to see. Service was attentive and pleasantly unobtrusive.
150 East Riverside Bar and Restaurant
Address 150 Great Eastern Highway, Ascot
Phone 9479 0099
Open Monday to Friday: 6.30am-late; Saturday to Sunday: 7.30am-late
The buzz If you like sous vide and a bit of foam, this is the place for you. Desserts are terrific, as is the service.13/20