Molecular Mondays at The Aylesbury
The Aylesbury is currently doing something different on Monday nights. An eight course, light-hearted Molecular Gastronomy degustation by chef Daniel Dobra, nicely priced at $75. I like its name too… “Molecular Mondays” rolls out of my lips like a frolicksome horse.
I’ve wanted to visit The Aylesbury for quite awhile. The restaurant has an inviting feel from the outside and it’s opened by the Añada people, a Fitzroy tapas bar which I’d previously enjoyed. I was just as charmed walking in… the space has a warm, modern bistro vibe without the noise, probably because the rowdier crowds would’ve been diverted upstairs to the rooftop bar.
For this zany and scientific Molecular Food Flight, I’d decided to take Hiccup along. Hiccup is a bit of a nerd himself and would probably find this style of food interesting. As for myself, I’m not an avid subscriber of the “a potato is NOT a potato” concept. But for that evening, I was willing to withhold any judgements, and just have fun with the meal!
Carrots & Dirt
Once we got our drinks sorted, they started us off quickly. A waitress wearing a lab coat arrived with this dish, explaining how the ‘dirt’ was actually carbonated eggplant, diced carrot and daikon, with a sprinkle of herbs. On top, we got an encapsulated ‘yolk’ of carrot juice.
The oddest entrèe ever… Hiccup commented that the black soil did taste like dirt because of its gritty texture. But bursting the capsule of yolk in your mouth and then tasting carrot juice made our minds go “what the…??”.
Ham & Cheese Toastie
The next entrèe turned out to be a ham and cheese ‘croquette’ with pickled onion sauce. Alternatively, you could call them freakish ham and cheese flavoured fish fingers. Hiccup liked it, while I found the salt encrusting the outsides just too much, because ham and cheese as a combination is already salty on its own.
Potato Chips | Apple, Mint & Ginger Mocktail $8.50
The third course, salty potato chips, went well with our drinks. The waiter described how the chip-making process involved making a (truffle-infused) purée, rolling, baking, dehydrating and quick frying. So difficult!
As for the dips, we preferred the fluffy salt and vinegar mousse (foreground) over the chicken salt foam (background), which made the chips taste a lot like chicken-in-a-biskit.
Around this point in the meal, Hiccup picked out the sound of a drill coming from the kitchen. Ha ha… I guess that’s not a sound you’d normally hear in kitchens… what are they DOING in there??
I also noticed that the chef behind this is the same guy who’d worked at The Brix last year. I call him “Mr Tattoo” because of the myriad of tattoos on his person. I absolutely enjoyed my meal at The Brix, but the entire kitchen team at The Brix up qnd quit around Christmas last year, goodness knows what went on there. I then spotted Mr Tattoo cooking a storm at the pop-up restaurant Greenhouse By Joost one day in summer. And now he’s here!
Things got interesting with our first ‘main’ course, themed as a stranded leek that’s outside of its normal environment.
Hiccup and I found ourselves in a playground of flavours with this dish. The leek was slow-cooked and filled with a scallop mousse, which incidentally tasted like Chinese fish balls. It was topped with hazelnut foam.
The rest of the plate consisted of a gently sweet (and oniony) white truffle sand, flecks of Japanese seaweed, and the black stuff was bacon covered in squid ink. It was a really crazy mix of contrasting textures and flavours. I tried eating the root portion of the leek, which wasn’t a good idea, lol.
I should also mention there’s diamond clam, which tasted like a combination of bacon and shellfish to me. But Hiccup was stunned by the clam, saying it smelt or tasted like the scent of new fabric from a Spotlight store!
The next ‘main’ came as a whimsical take on the osso bucco theme. Instead of leg bone, we’re given cookie-cuttered rings of cooked radish, filled with veal and topped with bone marrow mousse.
I must say that eating radish and veal registered in my mind as a bit weird. My brain kept asking “Where’s the bone?? Nooo!!”. Hiccup then made me laugh when he nibbled and declared “at least the basil’s real!”. We liked the bone marrow mousse and the yummy, succulent veal meat, but thought the strong tasting tomato purée that it sat on wasn’t necessary.
Our plates were cleared and we were told that the next three courses will be dessert.
French Onion Le Snak
Our first ‘dessert’ was more a snacky, savoury dish than a dessert per se. House made cheddar cheese powder with a French onion foam.
Hiccup exclaimed that it tasted exactly like Uncle Toby’s “Le Snak” in French Onion flavour. Unfortunately, I have not eaten store bought Le Snak before, so it just tasted like pulverised cheezels with onion cream to me.
St Kilda Beach
Then things got more exciting again, with a molecular take on all the clichés surrounding St Kilda beach, turned into a deconstructed apple crumble.
There on our plate… a wasteland of broken glass (made from toffee), druggie syringes (filled with vanilla bean cream) and a condom (made with jelly and apple purée). The sand consisted of baked cinnamon crumble with clumps of apple cream and hidden pieces of roasted apple that were meant to be rocks.
This dish was so much fun, we ate and laughed a lot. And it actually tasted good! The toffee glass pieces were actually scary hard and sharp, crunching them made me think I’m eating glass. Midway through the dessert, this conversation happened:
“Have you had the condom?”
This was Hiccup’s favourite dish by far. For me, I liked the real pieces of roast apples in the sand, and I confess the condom tasted pretty damn good too…!
Broken Sacha Torte
Our final dessert was ‘cooked’ and served by Mr Tattoo himself right at our table. He came dressed in a lab coat, equipped with smoking bowls of liquid nitrogen, ladles and a pressure canister. He looked like a mad scientist about to set off an explosion.
A Sacha Torte is traditionally an orange and chocolate sponge cake from Vienna. But here, Mr Tattoo explained how he’d “forgot to bake it, accidentally froze it, then dropped it, and thought it looked and tasted better than the original”. He then ‘cooked’ pieces of chocolate meringue in front of us using liquid nitrogen, explaining how the liquid nitrogen’s extreme cold is another form of (negative) energy that can also ‘cook’ things.
The dish that materialised looked like a martian landscape. The five shells of reverse-cooked meringue tasted like frozen yet deliciously soft ganache. I winced at the presence of jaffa flavours in this dish, a pet peeve combination for me. But the dessert was otherwise quite amusing to eat again, with a great variety of different textures… hard bits of chocolate, still smoking pieces of meringue, melted areas, mushy bits, crispy pieces and chocolate sponge.
This certainly wasn’t your everyday type of meal here, but Hiccup and I enjoyed how all the dishes teased our minds with its wacky metaphors and whimsical twists.
As we chatted into the night, Hiccup mentioned how it’s like “I’ve eaten a lot of glass and sand and foam… I feel full but I feel like I haven’t had a meal”. He then lived up to his chosen nickname by giving one single loud **Hiccup**
But that’s the truth about Molecular Gastronomy. The food is cerebral and screwy… you become full but you’re also not satisfied in the conventional sense. Not that it’s a bad thing. I knew exactly what I was in for. And I’ll have to say that evening was a whole lot of fun for the both of us.
I’ll want to revisit The Aylesbury again, this time to experience their (non-molecular) menu on the other nights of the week.