Monday, August 8, 2011

Esquire @ Brisbane

Before the comment of "the new kid on the block" becomes invalid, I thought I introduce you to Esquire, instead of starting with a "After hearing about this restaurant for the umpteenth time, I finally found the time..".

Branded as the second restaurant in Brisbane to serve a degustation menu only, one can see that option in two ways. Cynically; limited wastage, cheapest produce of the day, no fuss in the kitchen and a big fat price tag. Alternatively, it exudes class, a cuisine experience and allow the diners to experience and be surprised with a flight of dishes. 

Located along Eagle Street, the restaurant entrance is discreet. A plain wooden door awaited us after being lead into the corridor from the small logo display, without any sign that you have entered the correct place. The worse thing that can happen is walking in, only to realise that you are at the wrong place.  

However once you are greeted and lead to your table, the excitement begins (well for me at least). After contemplating for months as to whether I should revert to my once upon a time lifestyle of eating good food outside, we decided that life is too short to keep eating food from Sunnybank. Without any prior booking though, I decided to try my luck with Esquire first and lo and behold a call 3 hours before dinner and we got ourselves a reservation.


With an open kitchen so near our table, I caught some of the calm cooking action and plating as well as a bit too much smell on the clothes for comfort. 


Despite a single page menu, a sweet snack of nuts flavoured with thyme is served to get you munching while deciding what to eat and drink. With a decent range of wines, you can also choose to be satisfied with the free quirky tap water that has a block of charcoal in the pitcher. 


I understand the menu changes daily, so don't be surprised if you don't see any of the dishes on the menu. Then again, I don't have the budget to verify that obviously. Do you? Another interesting thing is that the menu is bare basic, with a few key words to keep you guessing until you actually see the dish.


After the nuts, came the cracker. A squid ink cracker with small brown drops of jalapeno gel. Crunchy and slightly spicy from the jalapeno, we loved the small bites being presented even before the meal started.

It was here, that I realise some tables had a third snack before the meal, but I was well behaved and decided not to ask for some.


After looking into the menu again, I realised that this was not meant to be the first course of our 8 courses. Presumably complimentary since someone had set off the fire alarm and we were evacuated out of the restaurant for a good 10 minutes. I would have been slightly disappointed if I had to pay for this dish despite the pretty plating. A couple of kettle chips, squirts of slightly acidic avocado cream and a very mild bottargo sprinkle. Not what I envisioned.  


Thankfully things picked up from here. Although it looks simple, you can appreciate the effort put into making the cuttlefish noodles, the fresh split peas, the herbs and the sharp lemon tang that you should sparingly stretch through the noodles. 


Next was a rainbow trout that was cooked on top of charcoal that rendered it slightly smoky and was offset with some sweet elements in the form of walnuts and honey. The Wife found the honey was slightly too sweet for a savoury piece of fish.


We both loved the potato gnocchi, tender octopus and charred leeks. Tied together in a slightly citrus sauce which I can't put any more words to especially the only memory of the dish was going "ohh arrr yumm hummm" over the octopus. Looking at the menu obviously doesn't help and it isn't really my habit of taking a notebook to eat. 


When I saw the word Kobe on the menu and a price of 90 dollars, I thought I was going to reach heaven. However as the saying goes, good things come in small packages and the kobe was indeed "small", sliced thinly enough and sandwiched in a crispy jerky. Served in a paper envelope, I thought this was slightly playful and made the dining experience more relaxing instead of feeling all uptight. 


The palate cleanser was a plum and campari granita, sweet and sour. The white rectangle you see there was an edible wrapper of something fizzy. Put together it served its purpose of a palate cleanser without a touch or two of imagination.

With that, we were told that we will be served our last savoury course of the night before we proceeded to desserts. Part of me regretted not to have gone the full blown 12 course but looking back, the extra AUD40 for another two small entrees and another dessert could have been better well spent.


On the menu, it said Callote and truth to be told, I didn't have a clue what it was. Half expecting a flying creature from some nether region, we were served something very familiar, a cut of beef done medium rare. Nothing a Google can't do, this was apparently a cut of the bottom sirloin or also known as a tri-tip. Always a first for everything. Served with artichokes and the horseradish cream, there's no better way to ending a meal with a juicy steak (except that this was more of a slice). 


The first of the dessert course was a piece of abstract art. Despite the thick chocolate mousse looking like it slipped from the spoon, it allowed us to take a bite of it then dip it into the coconut ice-cream without the two combining into a mess. The orange dots were packed very acidic, so each spoonful we had were carefully rationed.


A good concept of ending a meal; strawberries, both fresh and dehydrated in form, strawberry syrup or juice and curd. Acting as a palate cleanser, it lives you leaving the restaurant, with a neutral palate. Although halfway into the dessert, the Wife found fennel seeds and stayed away from it like the plague. Back in Malaysia, these are the same seeds that you see sitting in a bowl at the cashier of your typical banana leaf meal. Sickly sweet and a spice that you either love or hate, the Wife clearly didn't like it. Where as I was more than happy to finish her portion.

Not to mention, when we paid the bill we were each given an envelope of chocolate with the logo, again a nice touch.

Overall, for AUD90, I must say it wasn't overly expensive, at an average of AUD10 per plate, you get quality food and plates of art. While servings can be slightly larger for some (i.e me), I guess you can always go to 12 courses to feel really satisfied. 

Loved the direction of the food and slightly casual setting, good service (except for the mishap of the fire alarm which couldn't be helped) and I like to see myself eating here again, when I next feel that life is too short.

Address and contact details:

Esquire on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. This direction of degustation is slightly different from what I am used to; substantial portions. However, if you are a dainty eater, this place is for you, as every dish was balanced in terms of texture and flavour. 


Baby Sumo said...

The gnocchi looks interesting... the squid looks like marshmallows :P

CUMI & CIKI said...

Wah, just a couple of kettle chips, squirts of avocado cream and some sprinkles for the Fire Drill! hahahaha :P that all?

The price is really affordable huh! Looked like some stellar inventive stuff going on.. I wish I could visit!!

Michelle Chin said...

The strawberry looks like leaves!

This looks so postmodernist!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

mchin: yeah their plating seems to take on the trend you seem to get on Masterchef, somewhat artsy fartsy.

c&c: yeah 90 bucks, dollar for dollar, i probably can only get half the dishes in msia haha.

babysumo: its octopus!! haha, yeah some pieces were cooked to marshmellow soft.

Sean said...

very artistic! i wonder, if the menu is changed daily, whether the dishes are ever repeated at any point. i.e. the rainbow trout might still appear on the menu at another time in the future :D

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

sean: if theres one person to dispel that myth, it would be you haha. im pretty sure you would go 2 days in a row just to check if the menu does rotate itself. i did see a review of a dinner a week after i ate, n it looks like there were a few repeats.

eatnownownow said...

What about the Buffalo Club? Have you been there before? :)

thule a.k.a leo said...

Esquire... hmmm, made me think of our very own Esquire Kitchen in Malaysia.. Chinese food and nothing to shout at all!
Anyway... see you in Malaysia soon

Brisbane Devoured said...

interesting.... i think i would need to pop into mcdonalds to have a feed before heading home though...were you still hungry at the end?

J2Kfm said...

Can you imagine if dollar for dollar, in KL RM90 nets you probably half a slab of good steak.

And none of the fancy presentation and thoughts that go into each course.

Though I like fennel seeds myself, and the recent discovery of how the seeds could perk up the taste of yong tau foo (yes, YTF) was a revelation on its own.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

j2kfm: hmm i heard of fennel seeds in sausages but in ytf? interesting thought. alternatively rm90 can almost get you a 3 course at sage which in terms of quantity is actually on par haha.

brisbanedevoured: as the courses were throughout 2+ hours, i actually felt ok eventhough it was very tempting to do a drivethru haha.

leo: well this my friend is no esquire kitchen haha.

eatnownow: yes i heard that was the first degustation only restaurant and nope, haven't been there yet!