“Sous vide for up to sixteen hours at seventy-five degrees Celsius,
this rib bone slides out of the meat like a hunting knife from its holster”
“Hey, Antoine just opened a new restaurant!” Mysaucepan declares excitedly.
“Yaay, another steakhouse!” I say as Antoine’s Wagyu rib eye comes to mind.
“It’s NOT a steakhouse, he’s already got one” she corrects me.
“What do you mean, wouldn’t it be Antoine’s Grill Mark 2?” I jest.
If you are not aware, Mysaucepan is a Francophile and a half. Having been to Paris many times and visited most of the Michelin star restaurants of legendary French masters, she just cannot get enough of French food.
“Sometimes, I think Antoine listens to me more than you do” she jokes. “He has opened a casual brasserie and the food inspiration is Southern France.”
Antoine Moscovitz (cover image above and ‘Antoine’ is pronounced ‘An-twoan’) is the owner and head chef of Antoine’s Grill, a French bistro in Concord who has now opened a new Provençal eatery in the same suburb.
P R O V E N C E by Antoine
It is only a month old.
But this new kid on a very lonely stretch away from the commercial hub of Concord is not very lonely at all. Even on this cold and drizzly Friday night, the restaurant is almost full.
The main dining room is stylish though not big inside since there are sizable al fresco areas.
To me, bar dining in a suburban restaurant is cool because this trend seems so hot in city restaurants at the moment.
Antoine’s wine list is predominantly French varietals from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Languedoc with sprinklings of Aussie.
Our 2012 Wirra Wirra ‘Original Blend’ Grenache Shiraz is earthy on the nose, medium-bodied with subtle notes of pepper and spice.
Slow braised suckling pig’s cheek
“What’s ‘forgotten vegetables’ on the menu?” I ask Mysaucepan.
“Veges that you forget to eat?” I add as we both start laughing.
“Probably those not often used because they are rustic-looking and not the prettiest” she offers.
Slow braised suckling pig’s cheek sounds too enticing to ignore on the menu. Tender morsels of meat have absorbed rich braising stock flavours and a pool of horseradish purée dressed with raw artichoke petals is beautifully creamy.
Le Cassoulet ~ a classic Provençal hotpot
One look at Mysaucepan‘s Le Cassoulet and I imagine French game hunters, rifle and pheasants draped over their shoulders coming home after a long day in the farm for a hearty meal.
True to traditions, this classic Provençal dish is served in an earthenware hotpot resting on a bed of hay for farmhouse effect. It is rustic and hearty with confit duck leg, twice-cocked pork belly and Toulouse sausages. A big pool of soft lingo beans is like a bear hug in cold winter weather.
Wood oven smoked & slow cooked prime beef short ribs
A big rustic slab of slow cooked prime beef short rib with celeraic purée and Provençal black beans arrives in a hot cast iron skillet pan.
“I really feel like being in a farmhouse in Provence now!” I tell Mysaucepan.
The French are deeply passionate about vacuum sealing food in plastic bags and slow-cooking it in warm water for hours. So, there is method to their madness after all.
Sous vide for up to sixteen hours at seventy-five degrees Celsius, this rib bone slides out of the meat like a hunting knife from its holster.
Strands of tender beef have retained flavours from the sous vide and is soaking up a rich, creamy celeriac purée. Provencal black beans provide the carbs for this meaty feast.
The dessert menu offers a few French favourites, a selection of cheeses and an expresso martini with a secret recipe.
Decor is cosy with a sense of humble elegance. A wooden lamp shade takes centre ceiling space in the main dining room.
Though lighting might be too subdued for pesky food photography during a meal, it is perfect for an intimate dinner for two. Hence I apologize in advance for these images that may do less justice to the food than how it actually tasted.
Café Gourmand is a “tour de france” of the country’s most famous desserts, offering a taste of four different sweet treats, along with a choice of coffee or tea.
Served on a wooden board, one would generally start with the a shot glass of light and creamy lavender infused pannacotta, progressing to cherry clarfoutis, a moist and nutty flan studded with cherries.
The caramelised tarte tartin is a sliver of still crisp yet tart version without the pastry but the piece de resistance is the chocolate mousse, which is teased into a tiny terracotta container, complete with cocoa soil and a sprig of lemon balm to resemble a little herb pot.
It is a good value dessert with a coffee thrown in.
As I write this blog post and review Antoine’s menu, I reminisce a meal that was hearty without the price tag of city restaurants.
My instincts suddenly tell me I should perhaps pop in and check out his breakfast or lunch on weekends. After all, the French are deeply passionate about their butter, cheese and breads.
And a week later, I’m back with the Monk for breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning.
Breakfast at PROVENCE By Antoine
A French brasserie is the promise of Croque Madame, freshly baked croissants, crisp French baguettes, crepes and a Le Provençal breakfast of crispy herbed tomato, poached eggs, pork & fennel sausage, streaky bacon, mushroom ragout and potato gratin.
Is that enough to entice you out of bed for a Sunday breakfast?
A flat white arrives in a green cup and blue saucer. The Monk likes and knows his coffee and though this one is good, he has his favourites.
Caramelized yoghurt with muesli and jam
There are so many cafes in Sydney but those that put in a little extra effort are the ones that have my vote.
Yoghurt is caramelized with a blow torch and comes with muesli and jam on a wooden platter.
Poached eggs, wood-fired bread, herb marinated goat cheese & rosemary oil
There are some fine details that elevate this dish of poached eggs on wood-fired bread, herb marinated goat cheese and rosemary oil above 98.3% of cafe dishes in Sydney.
Firstly, continental or flat-leaf parsley used by a majority of chefs as garnish is toned down and thoughtfully replaced with beautiful sprigs of purple radish shoots instead.
Flavours of micro herbs are subtle but visually, they bring elegance that makes a whole world of difference.
Secondly, poaching egg is a skill in itself but the fragrant scent of herbs and rosemary oil soaked up by the goat cheese is such an aromatic distraction from beautifully poached eggs.
Lastly, the smoky aromas and wonderfully crisp texture of thick wood-fired bread set this dish apart from so many Sydney cafes.
This is the first of my recommendations for must-have breakfast dishes.
Croque Madame ~ toasted bacon & cheese, fried egg & cheese bechamel
Melted cheese laced with strips of streaky bacon, bechamel and topped with a fried egg is PROVENCE’s version of the French classic Croque Madame.
Isn’t this what all great breakfasts are made of?
A gooey egg yolk, savoury melted cheese and streaky bacon are a hot and sexy ménage à trois on a sinful bed of smoky wood-fired bread.
This is the second of my recommendations for must-have breakfast dishes.
Roasted garlic & mixed herb baguette
Golden brown streaks on this roasted garlic and mixed herb baguette tell me it is crisp and fluffy.
It’s essentially garlic bread but Antoine’s style. I would love dipping this bread into French onion soup but on its own means I can savour beautiful garlic and rich herb butter even more.
Confit pork belly, apple & sweet onion puree, Granny Smith & celeriac remoulade
A slab of golden pork belly sits beside a pool of apple and sweet onion purée.
This is how the French cook pork belly as it resembles a brick of porky goodness.
The rind which has been flat-pressed and seared against a hot griddle looks and tastes like fresh sourdough crust except it is salty and crispy crackling at its best.
As I gently fork into the pork belly, lean strands of pork meat comes apart with a tasty layer of fat just beneath the crackling.
A huddle of Granny Smith and celeriac remoulade offers some textural bite with the tender meat.
So here’s the deal with this suburban restaurant – quality ingredients are being turned into regional French classics with care, precision and a touch of class.
Each element of food at this restaurant aims to be a standout on its own ~ a humble piece of sourdough that’s taken in smoky aromas of the woodfire oven, a purée that’s a little creamier, little brown sugar cubes in addition to mere white and thoughtful combination of fresh herbs against cheese. It all adds up to a sum of good, solid cooking.
Presentation of food in cast iron skillet pans and wooden boards is in spirit with old-world French yet practical and stylish in contemporary and nouveau Sydney.
Antoine’s presence is not just in the food, but in every aspect from menu design with Provençal-inspired favourites, friendly wait staff to an ambience that lifts the entire dining experience.
Yes Antoine, this restaurant is really BY YOU. Keep up the great work because we love it.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite local restaurant or do you prefer dining in city restaurants?
PROVENCE by Antoine
50 Mortlake street, Concord
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9743 6227
Opening hours: Dinner Tuesday – Saturday from 5.30pm, Breakfast Friday – Sunday from 7.30am Lunch Friday to Sunday from 12pm