Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Cafe Paci, Darlinghurst

It seems like the long degustation only concept is slowly dying but here comes Cafe Paci from the ashes of Cafe Pacifico bravely with a degustation only concept. It's convenient that the former tenants of Cafe Pacifico fit nicely with head chef Pasi Petanen's name, so much so that they used the former's sign and simply dimmed the 'fico' part. Pasi Petanen's got credential's to boot, being an ex-chef of three torque Marque with the owner Mark Best being quoted to say he's "the best thing to come out of Finland since Nokia rubber boots". High credentials indeed.

Nothing's quite what you'd expect here. For one, it's all grey. They've got one shade going on and that's pretty much it for the decor. Another is the menu, which reads like a simple ingredients list and nothing else is revealed including preparation method. You won't hear 'pan roasted' and 'in it's own juices'. It says it's a 5 courser but there's all these tiddly bits in between so that it eventually starts to become substantial enough to go to 9 and at 85pp it's an absolute steal.

rye taco
It pays homage to the Cafe Pacifico tequila bar before it with its rye taco, filled with gorgeous sour cream, sticky rice and sweet onion combination topped with an egg butter. It's an incredibly indulgent start with its risky fat on fat pairing and probably made me gain 4 kilos in that one bite but it's oh-so-worth-it.

Next part of the snacks goes a carrot stick, leaves and all, dressed simply with pork floss and a crispy chicken skin tartlet and potato to boot.

molasses bread and butter
You'll want a second loaf of their 'winter' bread (which they're all very happy to oblige) if you've got a second stomach. The butter is nothing special so as to not detract from the bread, with its savoury-honey sweet sticky crust made from a molasses syrup and smattering of fennel seeds.

white salad, juniper
It's an all white only party with their fish salad; with curls of raw cod, ribbons of turnip and apple with a scattering of juniper and dressing of buttermilk. It's super clean and fresh and just incredibly beautiful.

lamb leg tartare, smoked capsicum, togarashi
Well done steak purists have a lot to worry about in the next dish with a blushingly raw lamb leg tartare. Fear not because it's super tender with contrasts of crunchy crisps of dried smokey red capsicum and sesame seeds to complete the dish.

cabbage, mussel butter, marrow, pomelo
My favourite course comes in the form of a salad, and a very unhealthy one at it. The slab of cabbage is cooked down so it's wonderfully soft and used as a vehicle for the other flavours; sprinkled with cavolo nero dust, dressed in a gush of delicious mussel butter and some extra bone marrow for good measure. It's an almost overkill of calories save for the squigget of pomelo puree and drops which loosens the pallet with its contrasting bitter-sour over tones.

Eclectic ideas come left, right and centre and I'm still wondering what Finnish food is by the end of the meal. Take their photato for example, which isn't exactly what you'd guess. I harbored an out-of-the-blue silly guess that it was a cross between 'pho' (the Vietnamese beef noodle soup) and potato but never did I imagine I was right. It's folds of fatty David Blackmore wagyu that hide their house made potato noodles, drenched in a really concentrated broth that's balanced well with the textural neutrality of enoki mushrooms. We're advised to try it before dressing it with the grilled lemon which ups the intensity of it.

carrot, yoghurt, liquorice
Dessert reads like a savoury course more than anything else with carrot and yoghurt but it's sweet enough, with its liquorice sponge and icy carrot sorbet hidden inside the hill of refreshingly tart yoghurt foam, to remind you that you're on dessert. Haters of the aniseedy licorice, fear not. It's almost a background note here, lifting and not overpowering. One of the nicest sweets I've had in a long long time.

malt, banana, parsley
Weird gets even weirder with their piquant lucid green parsley sorbet. I think they were going for a chocolate-mint sort of effect but it doesn't quite do it for me. It's a quite overpowering and it appears the banana puree underneath has almost disappeared off the radar. Paired with the contrasting wickedly dark sticky chocolate mousse, however, with its toffee like malt crust and the risk has almost paid off but not quite and could definitely do with some tweaking.

pork and fennel
In keeping with the theme of the unexpected, Cafe Paci's pulled a Momofuku of sorts with the savourish petit fours. I say savourish because they play around with it nicely so that it's a whimsical sweet and savoury juxtaposition. For one they've used dark chocolate on a pork crackle to act as a biscuit of sorts, complete with fennel seeds and salt.

corn and butter
We simultaneously giggle over their 'corn and butter' to which we had no idea what it was from the title. Turns out it was a popcorn inspired fairy floss. What... two cinema treats in one? Win.

Many have predicted the inevitable end of the haute cuisine degustation and that shortened casual dining's in. So very in. So I thought. I wouldn't say Cafe Paci has gone the entire casual route per say, more like a Marque but with its pants down. Music going international, not a table cloth in sight, relaxed service and a whimsical take on fancy pants food, this is the real deal, full of clever clever ideas, brimming with technique and a lot of fun. 

With food like this, it's hard not to envisage the restaurant developing a legion of loyal followers but the irony exists that it won't last long enough to cater to them. In fact, the restaurant is only open for a year. In the end, you're left wondering what you've just gone through, but you'd definitely go through it all again. And again. And again. But remember, it's only around for a year. Step inside the red doors, enigmatic wonder awaits.

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OMG, the guy in the 2nd photo has such bad posture.

That bread sounds heavenly! All the courses look so well thought out as well. But you wouldn't expect anything less form an ex-Marque chef!

Wow so many intriguing dishes! I really want to try the chocolate pork crackling!

I'm definitely wondering more about this restaurant. Only a year? I guess we all better get in on it before it is no more.

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No, we aren't the most amazing gastronomes or chefs. Heck, half our team doesn't even know how to cook... well. However, what we really love is eating. And lots of it. We enjoy that occasional freebie, filling up that craving for a midnight snack and finding a 20 in our pockets that we thought we never had, and using that as an excuse to go out eating. As we battle the ongoing war on uni student poverty, we'll bring you the most swoon worthy recounts of our latest foodie adventures.

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