Wednesday, 13 October 2010

SIFF 2010 Hats Off Dinner - Bilson's Restaurant, Sydney

I finally managed to drag a friend to come along with me to a Hats Off Dinner this year ! \ ^o^/

The sound of Nouvelle Cuisine caught my attention when I was looking at the list of restaurants doing the Hats Off Dinner this year. 
What is Nouvelle Cuisine, how is it differ from classical French methods of cooking ?
Where classical French cooking has a more rich and deep flavours, nouvelle cuisine is the opposite. The dishes are lighter and has more delicate flavours, emphasising more on the presentation of the dish.

In their Hats Off Dinner, Bilson's will recreate 6 nouvelle cuisine dishes inspired by iconic French chefs, some of which are responsible for introducing this new way of cooking to the world.

Sparkling Water ; Parmesan Tuille ?

Once we were settled on our seat and a waiter took our water order , another waiter approaches and were about to pour Moet & Chandon champagne into our glasses.
Naturally we stopped him because we didn't request for it. Perhaps he has come to the wrong table, we thought.
It was then explained that the champagne is complimentary of the house, a welcome drink :)
Sadly we have to decline the nice offer because believe it or not, my friend is allergic to alcohol too !
So no picture of the champagne :(

We were then served the amuse-bouche which the waiter described as parmesan tuille.
I might be wrong, but they sure don't look like a tuille to me :P They were just parmesan puff pastry sticks, sadly it doesn't tickle our taste buds as an amuse-bouche is meant to do.

Michel Guérard
Egg & Caviar

First up is a dish inspired by Michel Guérard, one of the founders of Nouvelle cuisine. His restaurant, Les Prés d'Eugénie in the South-Western France region of Eugénie-les-Bains has retain it's 3 Michelin Stars rating since 1977, wow....

There is more than egg & caviar in this dish. Inside the egg shell were layers of wonderful flavours and textures.
At the base there was a layer of smoked eel mousse, fluffy creamy scrambled egg that has been mixed with créme fraiche, asparagus foam then topped with an asparagus tip, caviar and chives, served with a soldier of toasted brioche.
With so much rich ingredients you would expect the dish to be quite heavy, but it was quite light and refreshing ! Now our taste buds are awaken !

Roger Vérge
Mussels in Saffron Sauce

Roger Vérge is also one of the founding fathers of nouvelle cuisine, prior to his retirement he was running his restaurant, Moulin de Mougins located in the French Riviera village of Mougins, Cannes.

Hidden beneath the foam were some finely julienned carrot and leek cooked until soft but still retain their natural sweetness. The mussels were juicy and the sauce were bright yellow distinct of saffron.
It's like seafood paella without the rice :)

Jean et Pierre Troisgros
Saumon a l'Oiselle

Jean and Pierre Troisgros, The Troisgros Brothers, came from a family of French restaurateurs.
They do have a long history in the French culinary world, click here if you are interested to learn more about them.

Salmon a l'Oiselle, has very interesting flavours. While the salmon was pan fried to perfection, still slightly pink in the centre, the sauce was very sour! Definitely not expecting it to be such by looking at it's creamy appearance.
The sauce is made of sorrel (spinach dock), créme fraiche and lemon. I've never had sorrel before, and upon researching on the net, I learned that sorrel has a sharp taste similar to kiwi fruit which is attributed to the presence of oxalic acid in the plant.
Oxalic acid is a poison (EEK!!) , but is safe to ingest in small dosages, so don't go grabbing a bunch of sorrel and stuffing them down your throat please....

The salmon was topped with micro sorrel and served with a side of lemony green beans.
I liked this dish, despite it's odd combination of flavours :) When eaten together with the fatty salmon it did lighten up the otherwise heavy dish.

Paul Bocuse
Partridge en Salmis, Petit Pois Française

Another one of the founding fathers, Paul Bocuse, who has a 3 Michel Stars restaurant in Lyon, l'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, which is his main restaurant. Beside that, he also runs a chain of brasseries in Lyon, each specializing in different aspects of French cuisine.
His son, Jérôme Bocuse, manages Chefs de France restaurant inside Epcot World which is obviously in DISNEYLAND !! Cooking for Mickey Mouse....*jealous*

The roasted game bird was served with peas, pancetta, lettuce braised in partridge jus. The meat was very tender and deep in flavour. I love the vegetables that goes with it :)

Mint ?
Along with our partridge, these white tablets were placed on the table with a jug of hot water.
"Please do not eat them, I'll be back a bit later", said the waiter.
Looked familiar ? I've seen this in some Korean eateries, towel tablets that is to be rehydrated prior to use :)
Wouldn't expect to see this in a fine dining restaurant isn't it ? It was because half of the partridge still have bone attached to it, so it is best to use fingers to consume it. Which really was not necessary because the meat just falls off the bone so easily.

But, of course we won't say no to some entertainment :)
As soon as we set the bone down on the plate, the waiter appear out of nowhere and prepare our hot towel for us.


Et Voila ! 

Hot towel is ready to wipe our hands clean, ready for the next course.

Michel Roux
Petit Fromage Affiné

A French born chef who made his career in London (and lived in London till 2008 when he moved to Switzerland) along side his older brother when they open Le Gavroche in 1967. It was the first ever British restaurant to gain 1, 2 and then later 3 Michelin Stars. 
Michel Roux started his career at a very tender age of just 14 as a pastry chef !

The baked cheese souffle is made of Gruyere cheese served with apple sauce, balsamic reduction and lightly dressed lettuce leaves.
The souffle was amazing, it was fluffy with a bit of crunch from the bits of cheese. It was kind of odd eating it with lettuce though lol

Gaston Lenotrê
Mille-feuille  with Red Fruits

The next chef need no further introduction, everyone would have heard or visited Lenotrê patisseries, which can be found in Europe, Middle East and several Asian countries. 
Not to mention the many recipe books that he has written and since been translated into different languages.
Of course, a dish inspired by Gaston Lenotrê would have to be a dessert :)

The crispy and caramelised puff pastry layers were sandwiched with vanilla créme pâtissiére and fresh strawberries. It was then served with a striking red raspberry coulis and a quenelle of vanilla créme chantilly, not too sweet nor too sour, there was just a right balance of everything.
A perfect end to the progression of dishes inspired by prominent chefs in the French culinary world.

Tea & Coffee & Petit Fours

To end the dinner, we were served strawberry friands and a dual toned petit macarons : lemon & cherry flavoured. 
The friands were buttery and chewy, as it should be, and the macarons had really nice flavours as well.

Bilson's has done a wonderful job on showcasing the French nouvelle cuisine, the flavours were light and clean, while we did leave feeling full, it was a nice full feeling, not the "oh my god, I've over eat and I'm feeling sick" kind of feeling :)

We were served by two different waiters throughout the dinner, while both were friendly and courteous, one was better in describing the dish we were about to taste. Other than that, the service was perfect.

Front & Back 

This rotating piece of artwork caught our eyes, it kept doing a full rotation and you can see the front and back of the art piece.
We queried our waiter and he explained that the artwork is depicting the front and back of the house. 
The front of the house is represented by the artistic looking plate along with a knife, fork and spoon - nicely presented and clean.
As the piece is rotating, you get to see the mechanism behind it - the nuts and bolts so to speak - representing all the work that is going on in the back of the house, the kitchen.
A very cool piece of art indeed.

Hats Off Dinner at Bilson's Restaurant - Nouvelle Cuisine is held every Tuesday in October as part of the Sydney International Food Festival.

Bilson's on Urbanspoon


  1. oh my god!! u really forked out alot of money this month!! the food looks soooo delicious and the egg and caviar looks really cute and interesting.

    allergic to alcohol? gosh! tell me next time and ill drink ur share :(

  2. betty : >__< don't remind me about my wallet lol It's all in the name of research ahahahha.
    Next time if I go out with you and they give free alcohol, you can have mine ahahah