The Sublime

May 2008

Also this last month I ate at Marque (355 Crown Street Surry Hills 9332 2225) where, for a few dollars less than the price of a bottle of Penfolds 2005 RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz ($145 as opposed to $160 for the wine), you can sample an eight-course degustation of chef Mark Best’s innovative but still very edible food. Mark has fun with the food in the way of the modern chef — for example, the splendid risotto of calamari with Yamba prawns where the “risotto” is little cubes of calamari, but without losing sight of the flavour. That was the standout dish for me; that and the gorgeous sauternes custard with caramel. I’m a great fan of this chef who quietly goes about his business of cooking without taking part in the cult of personality which, to my mind, is a bit of a scourge in today’s restaurant scene. Not that it started yesterday.

Skipping the early bits, you could probably say it all started with nouvelle cuisine in the very early 1970s. This meant that instead of merely churning out classic dishes according to the book (Escoffier, Careme), chefs began to create their own dishes. Now they were more than technicians — they were artists. They were creating and plating the food according to their own whims and desires. And then along came the telly and the first chef to don a clean white coat and stand in front of the cameras was Paul Bocuse. Portly Paul was soon replaced by Muscly Marco Pierre White and now we’ve come full circle to ghastly Gordon Ramsay with a delightful detour along the way with the Two Fat Ladies.

But some chefs stick to the kitchen. Mr Best is one such. And I highly recommend his restaurant when you want to splash out for a Flash Eat. (It’s degustation only on Saturday night, but during the week entrees are $28, mains $48.)

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