“Orange and black are remarkable colour combinations on a modern art palette.
At LuMi, orange, sea urchin, golden shavings of bottarga and squid ink chitarra
combine for a remarkable sensation on your palate.”
Sydney fine dining restaurants ought to take careful cognizance.
The shake-up that rendered a deluge of fine dining fat around Sydney has spawned a new phenomenon.
Weeded out are fine diners with huge overheads and equally huge prices to intimidate. The in-game is lean and mean operators offering more than just an imaginative flavour. Prices are equally lean and wallet-friendly.
But something has to give in a high-end business equation stripped of its hefty price tag. High overheads that bring luxurious dining spaces are replaced by truly imaginative flavours that tantalize the palate.
LuMi is Sydney’s latest gastronomic creation by its executive chef Frederico Zanellato.
LuMi Bar & Dining, Pyrmont
Some say Sydney is an expensive city to live. To me, “expensive” is relative because our city’s natural seascapes offer hundreds of inlets, coves and bays where expensive real estate with water views are predicated upon.
A creative entrepreneur sees value rather than cost and restaurateur Bill Drakopoulos has cleverly reinvented a tired breakfast venue in Ripples. He has joined forces with an imaginative mind in Zanellato to create a higher-value space for nouveau Italian with a point of difference ~ affordable fine-dining with water views.
On a sunny day, the sliding doors of LuMi swing open 180 degrees to offer diners with a piece of Sydney harbour.
Succulents on each Arne Jacobsen-inspired table bring a bit of nature into the restaurant. This could be Zanellato’s Danish inspiration following a stint with Copenhagen’s Noma, named best restaurant in the world three years running from 2010.
Drama Queen‘s suggestion of a birthday dinner for Theolonius at Sydney’s Pei Modern was countered by his preferred choice for LuMi instead. Together with Miss Slow Eat and Mysaucepan, we have scored a beautiful table for five in the middle of a restaurant lit by tens of overhanging bubble bulbs.
And with the arrival of our canapes, I have a good feeling Theo has made the better choice.
Drama Queen‘s lactose intolerance means dairy is totally excluded from her meal this evening.
At $95 per person for an 8-course degustation, I rub my belly to give thanks to my dairy-loving digestive system. Cheese tartlets, Italian chawanmushi infused with parmesan, burnt butter and milk ice-cream on the menu sound absolutely too enticing to sacrifice on this surprisingly cool summer evening.
Potato & rosemary focaccia, cheese tartlets, rice chips with salt and vinegar
“In what order do we eat these canapes?” I ask our waiter.
“You eata focaccia firsta, then da formaggio tartelate and then da rice-sa chips” he replies in his bold and sexy Italian accent.
The focaccia is fluffy with crispy bits of potato and fragrant rosemary while cheese tartlet is a cheesy mouthful of creamed cheddar and parmesan on crisp shortbread.
Zanellato’s time as head chef at Ormeggio at The Spit might have influenced the wafer-thin rice chips which bear salty resemblance to his absolutely addictive tapioca crisps with parmesan mousse and tomato powder.
Italian chawanmushi or Japanese egg custard is given a savoury edge of parmesan.
Bathed with tomato water and tiny shreds of fragrant basil, this delicate custard walks an appetizing tightrope of tangy and savoury balance, delightfully easing us into our 8-course degustation.
The restaurant is in full swing by 8.30pm.
Lively Saturday evening diners play audience to an open-concept kitchen showcasing the theatrics of Zanellato and his team of young chefs.
Three slices of marinated kingfish are swimming in a pool of apple and celery juice.
Call it an appetizer if you will because little stubs of crunchy pickled cucumber add a tangy edge.
Just like the artistry of a musician whose senses are heightened by beautiful sounds, I love watching the creativity of chefs who expertly transform the aromas and flavours of fresh ingredients onto a plate.
Veal tartare, tarragon emulsion, roasted capsicum
Finely diced veal tartare is mixed with roasted capsicum on a pool of tarragon emulsion.
Roasted buckwheat adds texture and while it reminds me of Zanellato’s wallaby battuta with watermelon rind, amaranth & chorizo powder at Ormeggio, I might have found my favourite dish of the evening thus far.
Each forkful is a flavour bomb, combining the rawness of veal with smoky aromas of roasted capsicum, aniseedy flavour of tarragon and the crunch of toasted buckwheat.
Theolonius‘ choice of a 2012 Dolcetto Di Diano D’Alba is initially spicy with subtle red fruit.
After about an hour, it opens up into smooth and velvety wine versatile with red meat and pasta.
Spelt pumpkin ravioli
We are told by our waiter to not cut the spelt pumpkin ravioli.
“Here, open your mouth” Mysaucepan says as she spoons a ravioli with pumpkin seeds and avruga caviar in front of my face.
One gentle bite and a stream of savoury burnt butter is released against creamy pumpkin puree while salty avruga is popping with toasty pumpkin seeds.
There is technique in the delicate spelt skin, flavour in the burnt butter, texture in the roasted pumpkin seeds and elegance in its entirety.
“No wonder Terry Durack gave this place a 16” Theolonius ceremoniously declares.
“His standards are a little snobbish” I say. “It’s a 16.5 from me so far.”
“Beer for the birthday boy?” I ask Theolonius.
“Yeah, why not..” he laments. “I had Indonesian nazi goreng with two huge sunny side up eggs just this arvo … tasted so good, I licked the plate clean” he adds.
“Oh well, whatever gets you off and there’s no Hitler in a good nasi goreng so say it properly” I say.
As we tuck into our pumpkin ravioli, chef Zanellato, sous chef Hiroshi and pasta chef Andrea are in full view as they plate up our next course of squid ink chitarra.
Squid ink chitarra
Squid ink chitarra at LuMi is a modern interpretation of the Abruzzo tradition made famous by pressing pasta through a guitar-like chitarra instrument to make long, thin noodles similar to spaghetti.
Orange and black are remarkable colour combinations on a modern art palette.
At LuMi, orange, sea urchin, golden shavings of bottarga and squid ink chitarra
combine for a remarkable sensation on your palate.
The golden bottarga dust is pungent and flavoursome against a rich butter sauce with hints of orange zest.
Paired with boldly al dente chitarra and salty sea urchin, this is a beautiful interpretation of flavours from the sea.
“There is a secret under the vegetable” our waiter declares as she presents the pork jowl.
Unveiling the spinach leaves, we find a cured slice of pear and a slab of slow-roasted pork jowl sprinkled with crispy buckwheat on a bed of celeriac puree.
The pork is succulent with a fatty mouth-feel. Creamy celeriac puree and sweet pear are delightful accomplices to an unctuous dish.
Another revelation hits our table with an evergreen of sorrel sorbet on a carpet of green shiso jelly, huddled by lemon basil granita, pearls of mint meringue and baby parsley leaves. Ferran Adria’s white bits of fizzy pops made of citric acid are added for a disco sensation on the palate.
It is difficult to decide if this dish is a prelude to dessert or a palate cleanser for the decadent pork jowl. There is texture, flavour and temperature contrast, let alone a functional penultimate to one of the most creative degustation menus below $100.
Milk ice-cream is light with a creamy side-kick of citrus sabayon and malty milk crumble. Sour cherry in sweet syrup caps off an innovative dessert not overly rich.
Service this evening is co-ordinated and seamless. Food is inventive with nuances of deft technique that tantalize without being overly rich.
The only richness is the talent of Zanellato.
So dear readers, do you believe $95 is reasonable for a 8-course degustation like this one at LuMi?
LuMi Bar & Dining
56 Pirrama road
Pyrmont, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9571 1999
Opening hours: Dinner Wednesday – Sunday 6pm – 10pm, Lunch Thursday – Sunday 12pm – 2.30pm. Monday – Tuesdays closed.