It never fails to astound me just how good life is living on the lower North Shore. I can walk to Balmoral Beach in forty minutes or drive it in ten minutes. If I’m not in the mood for waves, I can walk down to an ocean pool in fifteen minutes, and at the same time indulge in a harbourside walk skirting around the edge of Cremorne Point and admire the glorious view, or catch the ferry across the water and get to the city in ten minutes.
Shopping? I have two Woolworths supermarkets ten minutes walk away, a Harris Farm grocer and an Aldi supermarket five minute drive away. I have a cinema a ten minute walk away, and a selection of coffee shops around the corner a one minute walk from my front door.
It really is one of the best places to live, and I was thrilled to hear about a new restaurant that only opened up in the last couple of months up the hill on Military Road. Funnily enough, it was a colleague of Night Owl’s who lives in Pyrmont that suggested it to us; can you believe we live a ten minute walk away from it and had no idea about it?
Restaurant Plage is on a slightly quieter stretch away from the main foot traffic around the Neutral Bay and Cremorne divide – between the 2nds World and the Hayden Orpheum. They get packed out on Friday and Saturday evenings, but otherwise on a weekday it’s very quiet – as it was when we turned up for our Monday night booking.
As it’s still not been too long since they opened, they were offering a special: $60 for their five course-tasting menu which we were keen to try. The owner and chef of Restaraunt Plage is Tomoyuki Usui, who began his training in Yokohama, Japan for ten years and worked in several French restaurants in Japan before pursuing his culinary career in Sydney: Pello Restaurant in Darlinghurst that was awarded two hats in 2006, Paddington’s Grand National that was awarded one hat in 2006, Koi in Woolwich, the old Waqu Restaurant and S’age Bistro in Crows Nest. Not to mention a stint at the three Michelin star L’Astrance in Paris, France.
“Plage” translates to “beach” in French. Usui has integrated his love of the outdoors and surfing into the restaurant decor, keeping it as a casual setting with loose, white curtains, the blue-framed exterior and simple furniture. It’s a refreshingly laid-back environment in which to enjoy fine bistro-style food. The combination of Japanese and French cuisines is a good one for a reason – tried and tested, it works amazingly well with the utilisation of fine French cooking techniques combined with the Japanese love of fresh food and umami-packed ingredients.
BYO is $8 per person, and we had brought along a bottle of Usher Tinkler we purchased from our Hunter Valley trip earlier this year. We sit back and enjoy our first sips with a warm round of buttery bread and house-made butter.
At this time, we receive two small appetizers to open up our palates for the evening ahead. Our first course is Smoked Cod Cream with Squid Ink Wafer, followed by Crispy Brussel Sprout with Truffle and Vinegar Powder, Crispy Quinoa. The brussel sprout has been both fried and roasted, making it extra-crispy. I loved how it arrived presented on a stone slab, looking like an oyster. I also loved the artistry of the squid ink wafers and cod cream.
Our first course arrived, and I’m afraid that I forgot the technical description of the dish! From taste and memory I’m hazarding that this was a Fromage Panna Cotta, Tempura Cauliflower, Asparagus Sauce. Each element has been carefully thought out – the contrast of texture between the silky smooth panna cotta and crisp of the tempura with the light dusting of powder over the plate.
We move onto our second entree, Aburi Salmon with Saikyo Miso, Cucumber and Homemade Black Garlic Oil. Saikyo miso is a sweeter and paler style of miso originating from Kyoto, and complements fresh seafood so very well. As for the black garlic oil – well, you all know how much I LOVE black garlic oil with my ramen! I mopped up every bit of that oil off my plate with each piece of perfectly torched salmon.
Our third and last entree is a Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with Dashi Broth, Cured Egg Yolk. The luxurious texture of the delicious fatty beef carpaccio is only emphasised with the glorious ooziness of the yolk. The salt level in the dish is perfectly balanced, and the both of us tilt our shallow bowls to spoon up every bit of that dashi broth.
We move onto our mains, and I’m delighted when it’s revealed that we will be enjoying roast duck breast. For this, we are recommended to have a glass of red from the house menu, and we go with the Peninsula Panorama 2016 Pinot Noir, a beautifully light and floral red.
It’s a perfect complement to the elegant dish. My eyes rolled back in my head with my first bite of duck – rendered so that there was that perfect amount of crisp skin giving way to melt-in-the-mouth fat and succulent, intensely flavoursome pink meat. I dare say that it was better cooked than most of the duck dishes I’ve had in fine dining restaurants, and Night Owl even thinks that it was better than the duck dish we had at Sepia – high praise indeed.
We are getting comfortably full at this stage – a five course tasting menu is really the perfect size and best way to sample a variety of flavours without filling up on too much of the same thing.
Dessert is an adorable tart each: a Mandarin and Salted Maple Ice Cream Tart, topped with crunchy meringue and edible flower petals. The mandarin segments taste lightly salted, like the ice cream, and provides a good balance against the sweetness of the piped meringues. It’s a lovely dessert to conclude a wonderful maiden meal at Restaurant Plage, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. I’m already planning on going by later this month with family!
8/255 Military Road
Cremorne NSW 2090
02 8384 9043