Is there a steakhouse in your neighbourhood where you can choose your own steak knife?
Mysaucepan loves French cuisine while I am a fan of a good steak. So discovering a French bistro which is also a steakhouse might just settle things between us when arguing about where to eat.
And when we told our friends about Antoine’s Grill, it was unanimously decided we would celebrate Thelonious’ birthday at this restaurant since the old fella loves diving into a good piece of meat himself.
The dining room is divided by an alleyway into two sections. The main dining room is a cosy space with subtle lighting, timber floorboards and the kitchen at one end.
Central Otago in New Zealand produces some of the best ‘new world’ pinot noirs from hundreds of vineyards lying in cool climate conditions.
The luscious and plummy notes that immediately come to mind include Felton Road, Mount Difficulty, Peregrine and Villa Maria among so many others.
A 2011 Two Paddocks ‘Picnic’ Pinot Noir may not be in the same league as the stalwarts from this region.
There are cherry notes on the nose with fine tannins but this wine is rather short and abrupt on the finish.
Since this is our second visit, we order some of the same dishes that impressed and hope for consistency.
A petite snail casserole Bourguignon has smaller amounts of chopped continental parsley than our previous order but the aromas of butter and red wine are unmistakable. Dipping warm baguette into the rich dark sauce is like dipping your toes into a hot jacuzzi. It is enticing but heaven once you’re in. Best of all, you haven’t even tasted the snails.
In winter, this dish alone is enough to entice me back.
The champagne in these oysters mornay is subtle and I would happily forsake it for more cheese.
I am a big fan of oysters mornay and personally, I like my home version with a 70:30 combination of melted cheddar in a butter cream sauce and grated parmesan just before the oysters go under the grill for a crisp and golden brown top.
The scallops are beautifully seared and caramelized and comes with a king prawn, green papaya, pickled asparagus, beetroot, sweet leek and preserved Calypso mangoes.
Though I did not taste this dish, I wonder if the combination of pickled and preserved green and fruit, beetroot puree would overwhelm the subtlety of fresh scallops.
The second dining room is also a long and narrow space, a little smaller than the main room though no less cosy.
Wine service by our French waitress is warm and friendly.
She tells me she is relatively new to Sydney but is already enjoying the laidback and cosmopolitan lifestyle of this beautiful city.
It is rather gracious that a restaurant decanters a red wine that you order from their wine list. However, whether it’s white or red, wine is served in a relatively small glass designed more for riesling and white wines.
Antoine, if you have come this far, my suggestion is to perhaps consider offering better glasses for red wines, especially so when your restaurant is also a steakhouse and BYO wine is allowed on Tuesdays to Thursdays. I believe meat and wine lovers would be more enticed to bring their prized bottles when glassware commensurate accordingly.
The birthday boy orders a 400gm eye fillet from Darling Downs in New South Wales.
“I prefer my steaks grass-fed” Thelonious declares.
“Oh boy, here we go again, the freaking debate about grass versus grain” I sigh.
“Also I prefer fillet coz it’s so tender” he adds.
“But isn’t it boring eating a piece of meat without any trace of fat?” I reply. “Don’t you like a bit of chubs in your women too?” I tease.
“One man’s meat is another man’s poison” he retorts.
I notice our steaks tonight are all served on wooden boards as opposed to cast iron plates during our first visit. Cast iron plates might keep your steak warm for a little longer but after ten minutes, I think it makes little difference.
Vincenzo orders a 350gm Wagyu rib eye with a marble score of 7+ and noted as a ‘Signature Wagyu steak’ on the menu.
Sprinkle a few salt flakes on top of this steak and it is truly one of the best pieces of meat in town. The red wine jus in a small ramekin is the hallmark of a good steakhouse – separate sauce from meat and let your diners decide how much sauce they need.
Grain-fed for 500 days, this steak is tender, beefy, buttery and with the right amount of charred flavours on the fat – it is like a beautiful woman with the personality and attitude to go with her good looks.
A thick cut of beef fillet is no doubt elegant but without fat, it lacks flavour.
Compared to the Wagyu rib eye, this is a beautiful girl who is more subdued and demure.
The knob of yellowy fat in the middle my 350gm grain-fed Scotch fillet is screaming beefy flavours.
I am no steak connoisseur but carving out that piece of fat along its natural contour is easy and fun. Thereafter, each piece of lean meat can be complemented with a tasty and decadent morsel of beef fat.
Medium rare as I always like it, this Scotch fillet is tender and juicy with all its beefy goodness.
This cannot be too different from savouring a piece of world class char siew because caramelized fat is where flavour comes from and makes all the difference to a piece of lean meat.
It might be rather ridiculous to not order a truffled mashed potato on the menu of a French bistro.
It comes with a dollop of black truffle puree and sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Hardly your thick and heavy number, this mashed potato is oozy like cream with specks of black truffle.
Spare the arteries just this once. I try not to think about the amount of butter and full cream milk in this dollop of ecstasy because it is in spoon-licking territory.
The ever hospitable Thomas at front-of-house offers us a couple of dessert platters ~ creme brulee, chocolate fondant, lemon meringue and crumbly honeycomb. And who are we to refuse?
The food at Antoine’s Grill is reminiscent of what French bistro style should be. It is a cosy restaurant I am happy to waltz in and dine on my own. Prices are honest and what sets it apart is the effort in offering a twist to keep things relevant and away from ‘old world French’. At $48, the rib eye from Darling Downs in my previous blog post is essentially the same steak here at Antoine’s for $32.
With similar quality and service, I know where I’ll be heading for my next rib eye fix, let alone awesome truffled mashed potato and snails casserole Bourguignon.
So steak lovers, do you have a preference for cast iron, wooden platter or a plain old plate for your steak?
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