This piece of meat is good but at $138,
it epitomizes the economic concept of diminishing marginal returns.
There’s apple, cherry, pear, orange, olive and pecan on the menu though it’s not meant to be put into your mouth.
Instead, it’s chef Lennox Hastie‘s range of fire wood to impart chargrill flavours into meats and seafood. Honing his skills with head chef Victor Arguinzoniz at Etxebarri, this wood fire restaurant in the Basque region of Spain collected its first Michelin star and made the World’s Best 50 Restaurants during his tenure.
Hastie first joined ranks in 2011 with the Fink Group (owner of Quay, Otto Ristorante and The Bridge Room) as a consultant. After four years and a few false starts, the fire from Spain finally hits Surry Hills in Sydney.
Firedoor, Surry Hills
Being in trendy Surry Hills, bar dining by the open kitchen is an option if you’re going solo or on a mission to impress. There are regular tables as well as communal dining to cater for larger groups.
We are a group of seven tonight and score a table directly opposite the theatrics and aromatic fumes from the open kitchen grill.
A 2013 Algueira Mencia Joven shows ripened berries and spice on the nose. The palate is a little savoury with hints of coconut and a lingering finish.
With a bit of suntanning in the wood fired oven, the bread arrives crisp with a smoky crust.
I slather a generous, artery-choking chunk of butter onto this sourdough and it begins to melt slowly. So fresh, this bread makes the mouth-feel of my red wine even more luscious.
Asparagus, grilled mussel cream
Grilled mussel cream adds a seductive pungency and smokiness to eight asparagus spears.
There might be technique and complexity in the cream though asparagus boldly dry-grilled over a naked flame and then drizzled with EVOO works even better for me.
Squid, macadamia, celery, ink
Our first seafood number is grilled squid on a pool of macadamia and black ink.
Some of us find excitement in the nuttiness of macadamia against succulent slices of squid. Again, I prefer the simplicity of grilled seafood without too much complication.
Hastie is nowhere to be seen in the kitchen, a night off perhaps. Instead, we observe another chef flipping slabs of aged beef over the open flame.
The aromas billowing from the fire are heavenly and our carnivore instincts become more acute as we eye each piece of meat like hungry wolves.
Milk-fed lamp rump, eggplant, cavolo nero
Slices of milk-fed lamb rump are beautifully pink sitting on eggplant puree and cavolo nero leaves.
Gamey and succulent with a charred and caramelized ribbon of fat, who needs lamb ribs when rump tastes this good.
Blue eye, hispi cabbage, lemon confit
The smokiness from the grill is rather unmistakable in each dish. It’s a fire grill restaurant after all but perhaps my expectations of a churrasco style menu with an array of sauces on the side is a little misguided.
Call me old-fashioned but I prefer my grilled seafood and meats naked. So I find a blue eye generously dressed with lemon confit rather less sexy if you will. Tastewise, I also prefer the simplicity of fresh lemon juice over a rather tangy-sweet lemon confit.
Ranger’s valley black market sirloin
My wish is granted when a slab of Ranger’s valley black market sirloin arrives naked on our table.
Sliced into about fifteen pieces, it is boldly caramelized while still pink and succulent in the middle. The meat is flavoursome and beefy but at $80 and not even wagyu, it’s expensive and overrated compared to my favourite cuts in Sydney’s renown steakehouses.
Ranger’s valley 125+ day dry aged rib on the bone
I have read a few reviews the most expensive cut of beef is a “must order” at Firedoor. Many food pundits rave about this piece of meat as though it’s rare dragon meat never to be found anywhere else on earth.
So what’s the big deal apart from the wood that imparts flavours onto the meat? The dry aging process which renders moisture is obviously a key to intense flavour and tenderness. What else? Perhaps the so-called Heston Blumenthal way of searing beef steaks by continuously flipping the meat as I observe the chef. Personally, I believe in this technique too in sealing the meat compared to the “flip once only” method.
Flavours are beefy, each slice gloriously tender and succulent with a smoky char from the grill. It’s good but at $138, it epitomizes the economic concept of diminishing marginal returns.
Banana ice cream, smoked ganache, wildflower honeycomb
The girls are charged with ordering dessert while the boys mull over each chunk of smoky beef.
Though I don’t have a sweet tooth, I do love honeycomb on its own and this one did not disappoint – crumbly shards that melt into sticky sweetness. The banana ice-cream is rich and creamy though I find the smoked ganache rather powdery with a chalky mouth feel.
Smoked parsnip, apple, botrytis riesling
Heirloom carrots, mandarin mascarpone
I’m not sure about all the hype this restaurant has been generating since it first opened in April this year. Generally, the flavours disagree with my palate but that’s no fault of the restaurant.
What I find a little overbearing is the prices.
You may be in Surry Hills and as good as it may be, $8 for three pieces of wood fired bread is rather ridiculous let alone the meat prices which I assume most diners will order.
As for that $138 piece of rib eye, I have found new zeal to hit Victor Churchill (Firedoor‘s meat supplier), grab the most expensive cut of dry aged wagyu and fire up my barbie at home.
23 – 33 Mary street, Surry Hills
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 8204 0800
Opening hours: Lunch Thursday – Friday 12pm – 3pm, dinner Monday – Saturday 5.30pm – 10.30pm.