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Monday, December 19, 2011

Bites: Birthday Date @ Jacksons, Highgate.

On my birthday, the little darling brought me to Jacksons.  When we stepped in, we did not know what to expect from one of Australia’s finest establishments except a large price tag.   Seated at one of the more private corners, the restaurant looked rather classy but spared the clutter which was to me a good thing.  One disturbing thing though, was the silver bull head ornament that was glaring at us the whole night from the wall beside our table.  Scary! Enough said :)! Looking through the menu, Jacksons have an impressive list of culinary delights which had me drooling for a bit.  But deciding what to have was not easy so we decided to go for Jacksons degustation which spanned 7-course long.  See what we had below!


Complementary bread basket.


Consisting of house made bread rolls, lavosh & cheese sticks the ‘free things’ actually made us quite full even before we started.  I guess strict family upbringing didn’t quite allow me to waste food :P!  Moving on, one of the best things about the bread basket was the butter which accompanied the savoury pastries.  I cannot distinguish origins of a slab of butter but the lescure sea salted butter from France as mentioned on the menu website was absolutely yummy.  To a certain extent, it tasted slightly like cheese!  Bread rolls with some pink salt and butter was perfect chemistry.  Perhaps a slightly warmer bread roll would be welcomed!



Next was the complementary amuse bouche which was what I can say one of the best tasting starters of all time.  A crisp cone filled with some gazpacho sorbet, fetta mouse and did I hear asparagus foam too? To finish it was a small serve of red onions.  As advised by the waitress, I had it in one shot and wow! It was really good.  The taste was a mix of saltiness, and sweetness with that necessary addition of red onions finishing it off on a delightful note.



Next was the chilli squid, compressed watermelon, Thai salad and a small serve of peanut to add texture. Chilli squid was cooked to perfection without any hint of rubbery texture. The Thai salad on the other hand had all the necessary acidity which brought out the flavours of the squid with the peanuts providing a slight crunchiness which was already present in the fresh salad. To finish off, the sweet melon provided a soothing finish that kills of any spiciness that might be present. This was easily the best appetizer that night. As darling is partially allergic to seafood, the courteous crew at Jackson’s reinterpreted this dish using tofu to replace the squid and to darling’s delight, it was flawlessly recreated!


The next course was the  Cambinata yabbies, spring onion pancake & tomato.


For most parts of this dish, it was good.  But spectacular? Perhaps not quite so!  Yabbies were fresh, and the accompanying sauce was good.  Could not really tell what sauce was used but it spelt seafood.   Moving on,the truffled eggs did not quite have that truffle taste but it was every bit satisfying in terms of texture and taste.  But the name might be a little deceiving to some.  For me the downfall of this dish was the spring onion cake which tended to be annoyingly sticky on my tooth at all times.  It did not turn out to be as crunchy as I expected it to be.  Taste is not its strong point either.  But regardless of its flaw, I’d reckon that  this dish was still good. Perhaps a distinction?



Seeing the dish itself made me giggly, especially the part with the Chinese sausage.  For the little darling, yabbies were a big no-no! Instead she had a crispy skin pork belly with seared scallop and Chinese sausage.  In my honest opinion, the crackling was divine and darling did agree.  Chinese sausage was Chinese sausage. Asked about the scallops and darling says she forgot. I guess it was alright?  But unfortunately, the pork belly meat tended to have a little porky smell which was fine to me but not so much to her.


Next was a dish we were both fine with, the fish dish.


The fish of the day was the cod fillet encrusted with a shark bay crab crust served with nicoise salad.  I tell you OMG. I have been known to be particularly fussy about my fish.  While the fish here was really good, quail egg was yums,and  the sauce was no different either, the smell of the entire dish was horrible.  I had to put the anchovy aside.  The nicoise salad was not really my type of salad but I had it anyways.  This was definitely the lowest rated dish of the night.  I felt like the salad did not really complement the fish enough.  I am honestly not as expert and the chef at Jackson’s should know more but those are just my thoughts :)!


The second complementary dish was a beautiful lamb roast served with pickled radish and root vegetables on a carrot puree.


Is it just me or are the complementary courses really kick ass at Jackson’s?  Even darling who strays from lamb because of its gamey odour thought that it was really nice.  The attentive kitchen crew even carved out the vegetables to maintain its original shape! For me, tender lamb was all the rave but perfectly cooked vegetables definitely help this dish triumph over its former course of fish.


The last appetizer for the night was the hare & mushroom Empandilla, red wine & chocolate sauce with runner beans. 


The Malaysians have the curry puff, the Italians the Calzone, Indians the Samosa and the Spanish the Empanada.  Unfortunately, Jacksons reinterpretation of the little Empanada or Empanadilla did not quite satisfy us.  The mixture of hare and mushroom did not quite excite my senses as it felt rather blend.  Beans were just for show but sauce on the other hand rather special.  Also, I did like the crisp pastry coating the outside of the Empanadilla but as I started chewing through it, hmm was it undercooked?  Or perhaps it was intentional?  Overall this was OK but not mind blowing.


At this time I was already stuffed to the brim but our mains have yet to arrive. For me I had Jackson’s surf n turf.


Looking at Jackson’s plating and style of surf n turf definitely strikes you as something unlike conventional surf and turf which usually sports a large steak topped with creamy garlic prawns.  At Jackson’s its a travel through a cow.  Funny term. But you get a small piece of sirloin, a tongue steak and a beef cheek. As for the prawns, the chefs decided to ditch the garlic and was instead cooked with an orange infused cream sauce.  The crusted beef cheek was tender with a tasty marinade.  Somewhat reminds me of my date with the little darling at Nine Fine Food where the lamb and scallop served was flawless.  The tongue steak was equally satisfying.  Unlike Japanese restaurants that serve tongue steak slightly chewy, the tongue steak came with a melt-in-your-mouth feel giving it a creamy texture.  And the sirloin itself was cooked medium and fared well with it being tender in each bite.  Tiger prawns was ok but it was the sauce that tasted brilliant. Much kudos to that. 



The darling on the other hand had the pheasant stuffed with foie gras served with sauerkraut, ham hock, and carrots carrots.  The game bird was exceptionally tender and soft.  Makes me wonder how it was cooked.  Foie gras had minimal effect on taste but it added texture to the dish.  Sauerkraut was a lot nicer than conventional German ones which is a lot more sour.  I guess it is a good thing that it is less sour :D!  Overall, darling thought it was nice. 


After resting a bit, the wait staff brought out our next course, a savoury dessert.


Right of from their website, Boise la tradition with a black pepper & white balsamic vinegar strawberry salad and crumbs for texture.  Over all, darling and I felt that it was decent but tasted rather mature and we could not quite appreciate anything on that plate.  Darling herself is not quite a fan of pepper.  As for me I did like the cheese and strawberries but the pungent taste from the herbs and spices were quite unwelcoming.  But I believe though that it was actually good for other people and think that it is a question of personal preference.


Next was the third complementary dish, a dessert which consisted of biscuit bits and lemon curd topped with a rosemary meringue.


Seriously, this dish was another give me five or what?!  Darling thought that the meringue bit was a little too sweet but for me, the whole dessert was just spot on.  It really amazes me how the rosemary played an important role in toning down the sweetness making the dessert delicious.  The lemon curd itself was smooth throughout and everything really worked well together.  I liked this a lot!


As for the next dessert course, we had:


For dessert we had tea and coconut brulee with a violet macaron, lavender ice cream and honeycomb.  Darling says it was good but this differs significant from her preferred dessert which usually sits around a combination of berries, chocolates and ice cream rather than herbs. For me, I thought it was a little weird at first but after a few spoon too many, I got hooked and ended up really enjoying the dessert.  Brulee  was refreshing, ice cream felt light and texture wise, creamy in every spoon.  Very entertaining dessert.  I liked it :)!


After finishing the dessert, I thought we were finally done.  Jeans were already starting to feel tight and home was nearby.  Couldn’t wait to jump in and snooze of.. and just when you thought you were done, the waitress offered us drinks and brought us little things to accompany our hot drinks and to end our night.


Two truffles were the ‘things’ that night.  One was a white chocolate truffle with blood peach and raspberries while the other was a milk chocolate ganache.  Both were the direct opposite when it came to taste.  The white chocolate truffle felt refreshing with a hint of fruitiness from the fruits which were served in a jelly like form.  Very nicely done.  That was darling’s favourite that night.  The chocolate truffle on the other hand was served slightly melted so that once in your mouth, all you get is that delicious sensation of chocolate.  To me both was equally good but given the state we were in after so much food, I reckon the white truffle with blood peach and raspberries prevailed the better of the two.


By the end of the meal, I was definitely stuffed but at the same time was really happy.  1 year older but tonnes happier.  Good to have finally graduated as well.  It was all a very good feeling yet slightly mixed.  Jackson’s for one is definitely a memorable dining experience. Could make it a yearly occasion as I believe it is truly deserving.  Impeccable service paired with top notch food will satisfy even the fussiest eaters around.  There was little to fault with. If anything I had to complain about, it would probably be the garnishing which seems to be a little repetitive but acceptable anyways.  Other than that, perhaps the fish could do with a little more improvement? Before we leaving, the little darling and I gave the waiter a little tip believing that it was well earned.  She provided us with explanation for every food detail and where hygiene is concerned, all staff at Jacksons wear white gloves which gives it a classy look but at times can look slightly intimidating as the gloves look no different from the ones used in the medical field?



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