The new Bécasse is on level five of what may well be the most talked-about shopping mall this side of the Time Warner Center. And while you may spend a lot of your meal watching hotpants tense and strain at the Fitness First the next building over, count yourself lucky you’re nowhere near Westfield’s entry level on Pitt Street, where normally sane women are gauging each other’s eyes out for blazers and blouses. Horror has a face and its name is Zara.
Bécasse redux is a real step away from the old one on Clarence Street, leaving behind the elaborate and occasionally gut-busting French fare in favour of lightness and texture. The menu is broken up into three courses ($120), five courses ($150) and a whopping nine courses ($190). Take it a step further and book the 14-seat private dining room. Or go all out with the six-seat private chef’s table, right in the kitchen, where you can watch chefs Justin North and Monty Koludrovic work their magic. But before we get to the food, let’s talk service. Because it’s amazing. The Norths have always hired the best and they haven’t bucked the trend here, bringing along star sommelier and general manager David Jouy from Clarence Street and hiring Quay’s old floor manager, Wimmy Winkler. Jouy’s list, crammed with ciders and natural French drops, can also be purchased from the adjoining bottle-o. Win.
While you might be gawking at the intimate setting and the one-off Japanese ceramics, it’s the vegetable dishes that really kick the new Bécasse up a notch. The dish they’re calling a ‘bespoke vegetable garden’ is a bed of nut crumb, black olive powder and a puree of sweet pea. Different coloured and shaped heirloom carrots ‘sprout’ out of it, and it’s then sprinkled with a powdery, white dehydrated goat’s curd and tiny sprigs of lemon balm. It’s very pretty. And you might recognise the forgotten vegetables – one of the few dishes that made it over from Clarence Street. It’s a big, hot stone smouldering with cedar bits. On every rock there’s Hawaiian sweet potato, kohlrabi, celeriac, white turnip, swede and purple potatoes. They share joint custody with little pieces of salty, rich pork jowl and sweet yabby tail. Speaking of awesome fish, we’re loving the hunks of yellowfin tuna tossed in miso powder with a side of wakame and celeriac remoulade. On the same plate there’s abalone ham. As a fan of untraditional hams, we’re here to tell you this is more exciting than duck ham and tuna ham put together.
Joining this festival of tasty things are cylinders of Earl Grey jelly wrapped in ribbons of pickled cucumber and daikon. The jelly and tuna work better than you’d think. The hapuka is the only dish that doesn’t completely knock our socks off. The firm, whitefleshed fish is gently cooked in squid ink, then served on a bed of squid shavings and pipis with a puree of cauliflower. It’s a bit busy compared to say, the wagyu, which is simply seared and served. But then there’s an orb of chocolate filled with light chocolate mousse
and black cumin caramel. This architectural wonder sits on a crumble of honeycomb, chocolate and dried violets. North explains how it’s done but we promptly forget. And maybe it’s better that way – part of the fun of the dessert (and this excellent restaurant in general) is wondering how the hell the kitchen did it.