First and foremost, how are we all?
I’ve almost forgotten how exhilarate it can be to spend more time outdoors and get active again. This is the first time I turned on my computer after being absence for over two months. I seriously thought I won’t survived without the internet for more than a week, but who’d have thought my internet-deprivation is actually not as bad and I actually love staying away from computer as much as I could and do other things that are actually more hands on than just clickety-typety-taps.
Having said that, A Table For Two, the food blog is here to stay. My only pride and joy. Despite the lack of posts off late, my forever growling stomach is always on the hunt and fulfilled with delicious food whenever, wherever possible, like our recent dinner at Rick Stein at Bannisters, for instance.
The name of celebrity seafood chef, Rick Stein, may have been the draw card alluring us for a weekend getaway to Mollymook, a seaside town on NSW South Coast that I never heard of, until he has his signature engraved on the glass door at the Bannister’s restaurant since 2009.
What are the chances of meeting the seafood man Rick Stein himself while we dine there? The odds are slim, as he probably won’t be in Australia till end of the month for this upcoming Food Odyssey tour. I can only envy Spicy Onion and her encounter with Rick while she was there.
The restaurant is hidden behind the luscious green foliage right next to the Bannisters lodge. We push through the door into a cosy lounge area, a homely space decorated with old books, artifacts, memorabilia, but I get excited seeing an oil painting of Rick’s beloved four-legged friend on the shelves, Chalky the Jack Russell.
We are here at Bannisters on a Sunday night, despite the $10 surcharge (Sunday and Public Holiday), the restaurant is surprisingly packed to the rafter. We are seated in the middle of the restaurant, most of the window seats with promising seaview is actually more just a glimpse of the water through the gap between the trees. We don’t miss much.
The hospitality of a small town are genuine and unbeatable, the wait staffs are professional and friendly, we soon find ourselves settling in comfortably over a glass of Tower Estate ‘Rick Stein’ Semillon Sauvignon Blanc with some mixed olives and fresh bread. The fruity white wine will go down well with our seafood menu this evening.
Nothing beat freshly shucked oysters on ice. The moonlight oysters are local produce from the Batemans Bay, a rounder shell housed the yellow pale flesh, light refreshing sweetness in comparison to the Pipe Clay Oysters from Tasmania, intense saltiness of the sea brine, gutsy on the palate with a smooth creaminess finale.
The entree menu excites me, but only a few too many we can order and share between the two of us. The crisp smoked trout green mango salad is a summery happiness on a plate, crunchy battered flakes of trout are smokey and soft, tossed in a mound of Thai fusion salad of shredded green mango that is a little yellow, ripened and sweet.
I look forward to this dish the most. Abalone, not something I will be in a hurry to buy and cook it myself. They are notorious for being excruciatingly tough if overcooked, but I have faith that I’ll be loving this dish tonight and I sure do! The abalone slices needless to say, are tender with a bite, which almost has a similar texture to the shiitake mushroom, served with rice vermicelli noodle then steamed in an aromatic Asian dressing of ginger and soy, spring onions and coriander.
These farmed abalones are harvested at young age, it is smaller and also means lot tender than wild abalones. Farmed abalones have green shells, something I learned recently. Random, I know.
The sauce. The buttery, garlicky, black beans and spring onions sauce elevates the dish beyond the mundane. The juicy petite stir-friend mussels are soaking up the beautiful liquid gold which I’m happily slurping it all up by the shellful.
Another random fact, do you know the difference between male and female mussels? Male has red meat, female has white meat. Just so you know.
Rick Stein’s Flowers of the Sea was made famous on Masterchef Season 2 last year, it is a seabed of fresh seafood consists of clams, mussels, prawns, oysters, crab and of course the gorgeous flaming red lobster perks up like a rock star. As much as we’d have loved to fork out the $152.00 and sing “under the sea” with our seafood friends, but I am more interested in other dishes that really show what this restaurant has to offer.
A classic dish originally from Rick’s The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, normally done with sea bass but snapper is lot more popular here in Australia. We instantly detect an intoxicating scent of butter as soon as the dish arrives at our table, the fillet of snapper is grilled to perfection, served with a very simple chopped tomatoes and vanilla butter vinaigrette. French cooking at its finest, the delicate white meat is silky soft, casually glazed in vanilla butter, so rich, so glossy, so sexy.
Sorrel and salmon, another classic combination that goes hand in hand. Don’t let the simple outlook fools you, the escalopes of Tasmanian Salmon are thinly sliced and cooked effortlessly, it is still moist, rare and pink on the inside, a muddle of sorrel, cream and Noilly Prat sauce is just so slightly lemony that perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the fish.
The waitress comes back with two bowls of complimentary side dish of steamed vegetables and potato gems that really speaks louder than words, perfectly cooked snap peas and ridiculously sweet carrot that I’ve ever tasted, not to mention the golden crunchy potato gems that The Pom finds it funny to see them being served in a fine dining restaurant. Obviously Rick Stein can get away with it.
The simple, classic concept carries onto the dessert menu which includes brulee, fondant, mousse cake, gelato & sorbets and also apple tart tatin that requires 20mins waiting time. Why choose when we can have the lot (except the tart tatin). The desserts are good but not overly exciting, gooey chocolate fondant; creamy Ameretto creme brulee; silky smooth raspberry, vanilla and coffee sorbets; fudgey chocolate and hazelnut mousse cake; we ate them all.
We thoroughly enjoyed the meal at Bannisters, this is what good food is all about, perfectly cooked seafood with a perfectly balanced sauce. Less is more I say.
Rick Stein at Bannisters 191 Mitchell Parade, Mollymook NSW 2539 Phone: + 61 2 4455 3044 Opening Hours: Dinner: daily from 6pm Lunch: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 12.30pm Breakfast: served daily from 7.30am