“I think you will like this place because they apparently have some good steaks on the menu” Mysaucepan tells me in earnest.
“Even though I love my steaks, we don’t really have to go to a steakhouse you know. I’m happy to go wherever you want as long as I’m having dinner with you” I tell her.
“Ohhhh, you’re so sweet, dear” she replies.
“I know” I reply without hesitation.
“Actually I think you want to go there because it’s a French restaurant and I know just how much you love French food.” I add with a grin on my face.
“Damn, you can read my mind” she says with resignation.
So there you have it, dear readers. Life can become a lot less complicated when you understand how a woman thinks.
Just twelve kilometres west of Sydney CBD, Concord has a vibrant eat strip along Majors Bay road although you need to seek out the good restaurants among so many there.
I like the idea that Antoine’s Grill is a steakhouse with the feel of a French bistro. So when Mysaucepan suggested this place yet again (she suggested going here many times before), I am finally visualizing French butter, oven-fresh breads, rich béarnaise and pomme frites.
A little bit of research and I discover that owner Antoine Moscovitz‘s French heritage has seen him work with legendary French chef Alain Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris.
Closer to home, he has also worked at Salt Restaurant with Luke Mangan and at Bather’s Pavilion on Balmoral beach with Serge Dansereau. After traveling the world as a high-profile private chef in the USA, he decided to return with his Australian family to Sydney, settling in Concord where partner Sam grew up.
The dining room of Antoine’s Grill consists of two shop lots split by a common corridor.
The maitre d’ asks which side we prefer to be seated and being a busy Friday night, we choose the larger area which is buzzing with the vibe of an exciting Parisian café.
“Settled in 1842, Langmeil was the name given to one of the earliest German villages in The Barossa Valley. This name translates to the ‘Long Mile’ which signifies the distance from the historic winery site to the Langmeil village church and aptly describes what it means to commit yourself to a life of wine.”
“The Lindner family of Langmeil Winery has been immersed in the Barossa’s culture of farming, food, wine and community for six generations. Our commitment to quality in all aspects is unwavering and any wine that bears the Langmeil name represents our family’s pursuit of excellence in wine and community.”
The 2012 Langmeil Shiraz is dark with crimson hues. On the nose, there is berries, ripe plums and peppery hints. Tannins are soft on the palate with a good lingering finish.
Dear readers, have you ever been to a restaurant for the first time and after a read of the menu, you have a strong sense the food is going to be really good?
After a cursory glance, Antoine’s menu strikes me as one of those.
Well thought-out, the menu has fresh oysters and even oysters in Champagne mornay style. I truly have a soft spot for oysters mornay of yesteryears but many French bistro in Sydney don’t even do this style of oysters anymore.
Steak tartare is handcut to order and there is a charcuterie platter with cure ham, pork rillettes, terrine and cornichons. True to its French traditions, there is spanner crab souffle and game birds such as quail and duck.
Mysaucepan orders a petite snail casserole Bourguignon that comes with warm slices of baguette.
Though I love escargot with a garlic and herb butter sauce, this Bourguignon style with its red wine, butter and herbs flavour is equally enticing. You know the bread is fresh when crumbs are left all over the table.
Mysaucepan seeing bouillabaisse on a menu is like seagulls spotting a piece of stray seafood. There is no restraint, it’s all systems go and I can read her mind even before she utters a single word.
‘Riviera’ Bouillabaisse comes with Petuna salmon, green prawn, barramundi, langoustine and mussels. A rich and aromatic seafood stock is poured at the table.
“In France, they simmer the stock for hours with all kinds of seafood and whole fish” she says enthusiastically.
“Then, the stock is pureed and passed through a fine sieve to make sure all the bone fragments are removed” she adds.
Though I am not a big fan of bouillabaisse, this version tastes particularly rich with the wonderful aromas of the sea.
A rouille sauce and prawn emulsion for the toasted baguette and this dish gets the thumbs up from Mysaucepan who has tasted so many before.
My 200-day grain fed rib eye from Darling Downs in Queensland arrives exactly the way I like my steaks – nothing else but just a piece of meat on a cast iron plate to keep it warm.
Beautiful sear marks on the outside, the beefy aromas from this piece of meat is mouth-watering.
I opt for a side of steakhouse chips and these are truly one of the best I have tasted. Lightly salted, each soft and creamy piece of chip seems to be wearing an extremely crisp and crunchy coat on the outside.
Mysaucepan reckons these chips are double-cooked – deep fried and then baked in the oven for that extra crunchiness.
Good as it may be, I seldom order a fillet because I love my steak with some fat on it.
So here’s the moment of truth I have been waiting for.
I carve into this medium rare piece of rib eye and it has it all – tender, juicy and flavoursome with a good amount of fat. I resist the urge for my usual dollop of French Dijon on the side as I wanted to savour the beefy flavours on its own.
The menu offers the classic selection of either béarnaise, house-made red wine jus, green peppercorn or house-made BBQ sauce with the steaks.
I give full marks for thr red wine jus in a porcelain ramekin that fits nicely into the cast iron plate to keep it warm.
The steak menu also includes a signature wagyu 350gm Rib eye and a 300gm New York sirloin from Oakleigh ranch in central Queensland for $56 and $52 respectively. These are 500 day grain-fed steaks with a marble score of 7+.
I believe these prices are great value for its quality judging from my rib eye tonight.
I love cooking my own steaks at home because I can control the way I love my meat to a tee. After having chose yet another grain-fed steak over a grass-fed one, I am convinced that I prefer grain-fed for mid-price steaks as the meat is more tender and flavoursome.
But discovering a good suburban steakhouse without an expensive price tag is a revelation. There are no tablecloths or pretentiousness here. The menu has a good variety of classic French fare and service is friendly and efficient.
Whether you want to call it a steakhouse or a French bistro, Antoine’s Grill has both sides adequately covered. To me, that a bloody awesome combination.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite French bistro or steakhouse and what is your favourite French dish?
Tel: +61 2 9743 3354
Opening hours: Dinner Tuesdays – Sundays from 5.30pm and lunch Friday from 12pm.
BYO wine only, corkage is $5 per person – Tuesdays to Thursdays