Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Bistro Ortolan, Leichhardt

Bistro Ortolan

This French bistro in the Italian dominated suburb Leichhardt has been on my list of places to try for quite some time.
I've heard so much good things on their degustation dinner so it was an easy pick when I had to choose :)

Candles ; The SMH Good Food Guide 2011 - 2 Hats ;
Candle Holder ; Red Cupboads

It was a pretty small restaurant, on a rough estimate, probably fits 20 - 25 diners max ? 
The set up somehow reminds me of Assiette, you get a view of the open kitchen from the dining room and you have to walk pass the kitchen to get to the restrooms :)

Degustation Menu & Cutleries

The table was soon filled with cutleries for the 10 course feasts :)

Iced Tomato Essence w/ Baby Herbs & Merimbula Rock Oyster

We started off with a plate of refreshing starters and a piping hot sourdough roll with cold butter.

Wholemeal Sourdough  ;  Merimbula Rock Oyster w/ Cucumber Granita

The juicy and briney Merimbula rock oyster was topped with cucumber granita that was icy with tiny cubes of diced cucumber. 

Iced Tomato Essence 

The chilled clear tomato consommé was poured on the table into the shot glass already filled with tomato ice. 
There were slices of crisp tomato cheeks from tomatoes of 3 different colours and a sprig of micro purple basil. I love this very much, the tomato flavour really shines through, clean and refreshing. 
Served with a crisp toast with olive and anchovy.

Ceviche of Ocean Trout w/ Fennel & Pernod Mousse 

Ocean Trout Ceviche ; Seaweed Brioche Toast

The next course of fresh ocean trout ceviche arrived on a round glass plate and served with seaweed brioche toast.
We were instructed to mix the gold leaf topped Pernod (a French aniseed liquor, like Greek's ouzo) mousse together with the ceviche, then spread it on top the toast. 

It was so so delicious ! I love fennel so I just love the flavours in this dish, the refreshing ceviche, the creamy mousse and how was the seaweed toast ? Well, it's brioche so it's sinfully buttery, soft and pillowy and the slightly salty seaweed added a lovely flavour contrast on the sweet brioche.  

Dining Tables ; A huge wine bottle chiller by the entrance door

Tortellini of Queensland Mudcrab w/ Apple & Mudcrab Salad, Silken Tofu & Roasted  Crab Consommé

The roasted crab consommé was poured on the table, the wafting aroma of the crab was so heavenly.
The plump tortellini is packed with the sweet and flavourful Queensland mudcrab meat, topped with creamy mudcrab and crisp apple salad. Served with silken tofu, diced tomato, chestnut mushroom and a single mâche rosette topping the tortellini :)
The consommé was amazing, the flavours were rich but yet delicate, wish there was more....

Crisp-skinned Fillet of Cone Bay Saltwater Barramundi w/ Squid & Corn 'Risotto'

This dish was just full of surprises for me :) 
The barramundi was cooked to perfection, the skin was crisp and nicely salted whilst the meat remains velvety soft and sweet. I was a little bit skeptic on the sweet corn puree it was served with, but surprisingly it worked really well with the other salty components, it just balances out the flavour. 
The risotto "rice" were actually uniformly diced squid !! Shaped almost like rice, so uniform and so glistening - amazing. 
The sweet corn and squid risotto was the highlight of the dish for me - loved it to the last "grain" of squid. The squid was so tender and sweet...yummm....

Rare, Spice-roasted Sirloin of Cervena Venison w/ a Fricassé of Glazed Vegetables, Foie Gras & Game Pie

We were a bit puzzled when the venison course came next, it should have been a rabbit course after the fish.
The waitress quickly took the plates back and checked with the kitchen. She returns within seconds and was very apologetic - slight confusion in the kitchen ehehehehe :P
We didn't mind the slight change of order, so let's get back to the venison, shall we ?

It's a hit and miss with venison for me, sometimes they are okay, at times the gamey flavour was just too overpowering. 
The venison was very tender, juicy and had very clean flavour - for the glazed vegetables we had baby leek, baby parsnip and baby asparagus, nicely caramelized. 
There were 4 different sauces on the plate, seems a lot but the flavours managed to not clash with each other - creamy and tart bearnaise, sweet and rich bourdelaise sauce, creamy and earthy mushroom puree and the sweet and creamy cauliflower puree.  

Foie Gras & Game Pie ; Side of Mixed Leaves

The foie gras and game pie was equally delicious, the pastry flaky and buttery, the filling had really nice and rich flavour.
A bowl of lightly dressed mixed leaves was very much needed to balance out the rich dish of game - well thought of I think :)

Roast Macleay Valley Rabbit w/ Parsley Butter & Baby Summer Vegetables

It has to be the prettiest plate I've seen - art on a plate !! The bright colours, the way things are scattered in the right position and location - perfection.

This rabbit dish is a medley of rabbit - the rack, loin, fillet, liver and.....EAR ! Bunny's ear !!!
I wasn't sure I heard it correctly - no pun intended - so I had to ask the waiter again LOL
My friend just couldn't bear the thought of eating bunny ears, so they were passed on to me who gladly accept ^_^
The crumbed ear was surprisingly gelatinous and just simply melts, a surprising contrast of texture to the crispy crumbed exterior. First time having rabbit ear and I must say I don't mind it actually.
The loin was very lean and lacking in flavour, while the fillet had more flavour and was very tender.

Parsley Butter Croquette ; Crumbed Rabbit Ear

Excuse the messy plate - that would be what's oozing out of the ball of croquette filled with parsley butter - we were told to poke it ever so lightly as brute force would burst the fragile ball and that would mean big mess!
The parsley butter was rich and slightly lemony, went really well with the leaner meat such as the loin and helps to cover up the irony taste of the liver. 

Like the previous courses during the night, the rabbit was accompanied with a selection of baby vegetables - baby radish, baby carrot, baby leek, baby peas and shiitake mushroom.

Compared to other restaurants offering degustation, I must say that the portion here at Bistro Ortolan was quite generous - there was more on the plate than what you'd except.
It was no surprise that after a progression of dishes with rich flavours, we were just so looking forward to something sweet.

Imagine the look on our face when the waiter brought over plates that were definitely NOT dessert no matter how you see it :

Twice-cooked Tenderloin of Wildes Meadow Bio-Dynamic,  Milk Fed Veal with Soubise Purée,  Veal Sweetbread & Bone Marrow Dauphinoise

Because of the mix up earlier, the chef sent out a complimentary course - totally unexpected and very much appreciated ^_^
Loosen the belt a notch and we soldier on....

This turns out to be one of the tastiest dishes we had tonight - my friend declared it as his favourite of the night !

The biodynamic 30 days milk fed veal was cooked slowly for hour - the loin was very tender and soft, don't need much force to cut it - it simply melts...really did....
The tender veal was served on a bed of soubise purée - a béchamel type sauce mixed with sweet caramelized onion puree. 
Served with the creamy veal sweetbread and a tower of potato dauphinoise layered with foie gras and  topped with the equally rich bone marrow. 

We were told that this is a special dish to Bistro Ortolan and we can see why - love every bits on this veal dish - a very satisfying surprise from the kitchen , thank you ^_^

Brebirousse d'Argental w/ Fresh Date and Walnut Toast

When we expressed our concern on the cheese course earlier on ( we both can't stomach strong cheeses, and knowing the French - chances are it will be something like that) , we were assured that although its a double cream sheep's milk cheese, the flavour would be very mild.
We just ate the toast - LOL !!
The so called very mild cheese had really strong sheep's milk flavour and we both don't like dates.

When the waiter came to clear the full (minus the toast) plate, I resisted the urge to say, "We've told you so...".

Stone Fruit Salad w/ Plum & Lemon Balm Sorbet

The palate cleanser was just what we needed to wash off the sheep taste :{
Plum sorbet had really nice fresh juicy plum flavour, the lemon balm was a tad too sweet but sour at the same time. The lemon pate de fruit was definitely sour - eye squinting sour moment >__<
The fresh stone fruits were crisp and sweet - perfect to reset our taste buds ! 

Date & Armagnac Crème Brûleé w/ Caramelized Brioche French Toast & Fennel Ice Cream

The most theatrical crème brûleé I've ever encountered !!

Flaming Brûleé !!!

Fennel Ice Cream & Brioche French Toast

After the flame has died off (it went burning for a while actually) - it's time to dig in !
Though we said we don't like dates, we didn't mind it in the brûleè form - the date flavour was quite light with a nice armagnac flavour, the custard was set perfectly.

The fennel ice cream and the brioche french toast was a match made in heaven - I just want more of them.....
The fennel flavour really stands out in the ice cream and the buttery caramelized brioche was just a perfect accompaniment. 

Petit Four

We were offered tea or coffee to finish off the night but we had to decline for several reasons :
  1. If we had the coffee or tea, we may need a couple of stretchers to carry us out - we were on the brink of bursting from too much food.
  2. It was already 11.30pm - weeknights - we can barely keep our eyes open -__-
The petit four was still served though - white chocolate truffle and passionfruit jelly. 
The white chocolate truffle was delicious, a creamy milky white chocolate centre encased in a crisp dark chocolate coating with a fine dusting of cocoa powder. 
The passionfruit jelly's tartness should wake us up but it had no effect on us this late in the night.

Deserted @ 11.30 pm

The degustation here is another one of great value, just $120 per person for 10 generously portioned courses.
I don't think I've ever been this full after a degustation - it was really hard to sleep when I got home LOL
The foods were beautifully presented and supported by the wonderful flavours of the dishes. The service was hit and miss, the waiter / waitresses were knowledgeable of their foods although little things that made a difference such as topping up our water glasses was missing.
Do allow 4 hours if you are having the degustation, we arrived at 7.00pm and didn't leave the restaurant 4.5hours later - the foods did take a while to come out, so that might be one of the reason too.

All on all, I would definitely recommend degustation at Bistro Ortolan, it has made it to the top of my favourite restaurant in Sydney :)

Bistro Ortolan on Urbanspoon


  1. Great photos. The ear sounds a lot like pig's ear, though I could never bring myself to gnaw on Fluffy's ear...
    Gorgeous plating at Bistro Ortolan, as ever

  2. hi Tina : the thought of OMG, I'm about to eat Thumper's ear did cross my mind - for a micro second LOL T

  3. I've been wanting to come here, but keep getting sidetracked.

    The flame on the creme brulee makes it look so pretty and the brioche sounds so good.

  4. Flaming brulee! What a tautology

    I would've eaten the cheese...although it does look less spectacular than everything else plating-wise. Such a beautiful and rustic place...

  5. dumpling girl : should get back on track and get to bistro ortolan ;)

    ninja : you should've been there so we can pass our cheese plates to you lol

  6. Yummo! Not only does it all look amazing but the foie gras & game pie stopped me in my tracks!