Category Archives: Becasse

Edible Inspiration – Justin North

                                              (Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph)

I have many food heroes. Most I admire from a distance but some I am lucky to see in action at close range.
Justin North of Becasse fame was banging on about ‘local’ well before it became hip. He is a magnificent champion of fresh, seasonal and locavore eating. Combine that with his exceptional technical skills and it’s no wonder Becasse is always a special dining experience.
Every few months Justin hosts a lunch featuring local producers from around New South Wales.
This week it was the the wonderful free-range pork from Melanda Park on the Hawkesbury River, Bilpin Apple cider and the incredible Maya Sunny Honey from Mudgee.

Alto marinated Volos olives
Warm salad of autumn vegetable slow cooked in olive oil with marinated confit blue eye
Mosaic of Pork shoulder, neck, smoked hock and pickled tongue
Pork loin and belly, Jerusalem artichoke, pear, celeriac, and licorice

the crackling was like wafers of porky caramel
Ironbark honey cream and mousseline with compressed melon and melon sorbet
the textures were ethereal
And some of the little critters who helped make the honey were on display at the restaurant

There were about 20,000 bees in this glass urn.
Third generation Bee-keeper Andrew Wyszynski, using a secret techique he has developed, is able to entice the bees into individual jars where they make natural honeycomb and honey. 

After a good bank of honey has built up, he coaxes them out again leaving the honeycomb and raw natural honey in the jar which just needs to have a lid screwed on.

It doesn’t come more natural than that!

Quarter Twenty One – A Mid-Autumn Night’s Dream

The move by Sydney’s two-hatted Becasse restaurant to the the Westfield Shopping Centre in Pitt St has set tongues-a-wagging.
Becasse’s new digs on Level 5 are part of  a new eatery foodhall complex created by chef/owners Justin and Georgia North.
The Norths and their architects have gone to a lot of trouble to camouflage the fact that you’re in the middle of a large shopping centre.
The entrance to the new Becasse takes some of its cues from a theatrical production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Vines dotted with fairy lights twist over the walls and ceiling of the long entrance hall turning from shades of green to red representing the changing seasons. I can almost imagine Puck scampering along here.
and at the end of the hall a dramatic forest
The new dining space is small and initimate compared to Becasse’s old Clarence Street location. Just 24 seats.
It’s warm, romantic and very feminine
Justin is very proud of this ‘tastebud’ art piece…
…which has little peep windows into the kitchen.
As well as being stocked with the latest gadgetry the kitchen is a work of art in itself.
and it can all be enjoyed at the 8-seater chef’s table
As part of the North’s food precinct, there’s a commercial bakery, a full-time butcher..
… a providore and a cooking school.
and another restaurant Quarter Twenty One….
..which will seat 70 and serve modern European fare.
Last night at the official opening we got to sample a few of the menu delights. Fried prawns…
marinated yellow-fin tuna
and bite-sized duck pies
Justin and Georgia have taken a 4 million dollar gamble that just may pay off.
This is the classiest shopping centre foodhall I’ve ever seen.

Sydney – Vin de Champagne Awards

Every two years one of the most highly anticipated invites arrives the old-fashioned way – in my snail mail mail-box. 
The Vin de Champagne Awards celebrate the best champagne palates in the country in the student, amateur and professional categories.
This year’s event was held at Alliance Francaise on Clarence St for canapes.. and then across the road at Becasse Restaurant.
 And of course champagne flowed throughout the night… matched to a six course meal designed by chef Justin North
Justin’s creations are more like works of art. Marinated blue fin tuna with a salad of octupus, abalone and scallop with a mandarin and soy emulsion looked painted on the plate
 It was matched with a Charles Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2000 and a Henriot Brut Millesime 1998
 Next was caramelised pork belly, confit prawn, cauliflower puree and aged pork jowl (gotta love a bit of jowl!)
 … all washed down with a Veuve Cliquot Vintage 2002, Pol Roger Brut Vintage 1999 and a Lanson Gold Label Vintage Brut 1998.
Our tasting notes would have made Shakespeare blush.
For the Veuve  ”the nose is very open, pure and complex.Aerating the wine reveals hints of yellow-fleshed fruit and pastries (brioche, marzipan). These give way to delicately spicy aromas, followed by elegant notes of liquorice and high-bred teas.”  No Liptons here!
The awards have been running for 30 years and attract entrants keen to experience the prize of a trip to Champagne in France. Participants are tested on their theoretical and practical tasting skills.
This year’s student winner was 23 year old Yuri Burns (above) from WA, Prof Tim Sullivan also from WA took out the amateur section and Tetsuya’s sommelier Glen Plowes won the professional category. 
 These were my favourite of the 16 wines we sampled – a Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2002, a Bollinger La Grande Annee 2000 and a very unusual G.H Mumm Cuvee R Lalou 1998.
and matched to the dish that excited my palate silken Glenloth chicken, slow-cooked lobster with chicken and crab jus.
a genius combination with the heady jus lifting all the elements to a magical level
 Dessert was artistically arranged on the plate as though all the ingredients had slide to one side.(or maybe they just had?)
 Lemon balm and vanilla nougat parfait with berry sorbet, champagne jellies and confit lemon

Becasse – Farm Producers Lunch

When the invitation goes out to a Becasse Producer’s Lunch Forum you don’t say no.
Even the canapes of smoked trout, cucumber and saffron creme and aromatic octupus ball had the girls on our table oohing..
The Producers Forums are the brainchild of Becasse owner/chef Justin North. It’s a chance for his diners to meet the extraordinary farmers and growers who supply his restaurant with its organic and sustainable produce.

Today Justin wanted to showcase Cootamundra Kid Goat, Freemantle Octupus ‘Hands’ and Victorian Ash-Elle Park Saffron.
Becasse artisan bread – Saffron, spice and rind brioche.
These rolls displayed wonderful restraint with a subtle use of saffron and tangy pieces of lemon rind.

For many of the food media journalists and wine merchants at our table the lunch also marked a wine first…

.. the first time most of us had tried wine from a tetrapak! (well at least not since the 70’s)
The wine was a 2009 Planet Wine, Sarah Fletcher, Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills.
Hard to measure what impact the packaging had on the wine nose and flavour since there wasn’t, say, a bottled version to compare it to. But it was an enjoyably complex Sav B compared to the NZ Marlborough variety. The packaging could do with a little bit more design I thought. One of our fellow diners feared her kids would confuse it with the orange juice carton in the fridge!

For entree: slow-braised octopus, dashi jelly, Japanese red beans, ponzu pickled white radish, shiso and coriander
This dish was an impressionsist painting of tastes and textures. This octopus dish needs to become a menu regular. Unless you’ve been to Santorini you have never tasted octupus this good.

Crisp and clean like a Japanese rockpool
To accompany our mains another tetrapak wine .. this time a 2008 One Planet Wine, Tim Burvill Shiraz, McLaren Vale
Not quite the visual elegance or pouring weight of a wine bottle but easy to throw into an esky and most importantly environmentally friendly packaging. 
Its not often you find goat on a fine-dining menu. But Justin is trying to change that. For mains his kitchen prepared aromatic pot-roast goat with …
‘en papillote’ yams

and confit goat and kale salad
I’m already a goat meat convert but it was interesting to see the number of people on our table who were won over by this unfairly maligned meat.
Dessert is one of Becasse’s trademarks. Saffron rarely gets used in anything other then rice dishes. So we were interested to see how it could be adapted to sweet treats.
Out came an orange and saffron cake with quince and cardamom caramel, quince paste, almond and toffee florentine and vanilla honey ice-cream.
It tasted even more glorious than it sounded – if that is possible. The cake had a crunchy toffee bottom crust with a barely-there hint of saffron. Moreish.

How lucky we are to have such extrordinarily dedicated producers prepared to go the extra mile to give us such food pleasure.
The seasonal Producers Lunch is available every day at Becasse for $35 including a glass of wine.
Go on… you know you want to…..