At $16 a pop, this little lobster roll is the price of
a hearty bowl of ramen on a wintry Melbourne day.
But if there is one reason to revisit, this is it.
His experience as an international chef in London, Shanghai and Hong Kong has influenced his restaurant endeavours back home in Australia.
Previous gigs include Dining Room 211, Three One Two and Mrs Jones. More recently, Cumulus Inc. has garnered chef hat awards three years in succession while Cutler & Co. won the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year in 2011. Golden Fields opened to wide acclaim and immediately won The Age Good Food Guide Best New Restaurant in 2012. There is even debate as to exactly how many restaurants he owns and manages in Melbourne.
Andrew McConnell‘s influence in Melbourne’s food movement over the last twenty years is undeniable. Having twice been recognised and honoured as Chef of the Year by The Age, Supernormal is now his latest restaurant venture in the heart of Melbourne CBD.
The dining room of this 130-seat restaurant consists of bar dining where one can graze on freshly shucked oysters, regular seating in the centre of the room and also casual areas for coffee.
The area downstairs also has rooms dedicated for karaoke.
I am nibbling on complimentary roasted pumpkin seeds with my friends Molly and KC as we contemplate McConnell’s modern Asian menu with exciting flavours from Japan, Korea and China. These seeds are toasty, crunchy and give me the feeling I am indulging in a totally healthy snack before tastier albeit more evil and sinister treats.
Pickles, sesame cucumber and kimchi are snacks while the raw bar tempts us with fresh oysters, sushi, ebi prawns and smoked beef.
David Blackmore’s beef brisket are thinly sliced and soft.
The numbing and spicy hit from Szechwan pepper and chilli oil is appetizing though I’d prefer these cold meat slices on a warm summer day.
Szechwan pepper and chilli oil are again partners in crime in a spicy braised eggplant garnished with shallots and coriander.
Slightly chilled, housemade tofu is thankfully bland and bordering on creamy to ease spicy and numbing flavours of pepper and chilli oil. I would love this eggplant dish in summer but on a winter day in Melbourne, it’s making me crave my warm and hearty bowl of homemade mapo tofu instead.
Hollow chunks of rice cake are sticky sweet and spicy with sesame seeds.
During this midweek lunch, dining space at the bar is popular and the restaurant is almost at full capacity with an army of busy chefs scurrying about in its open style kitchen.
Cold pork belly slices with its alternating and sinful layers of fat and lean meat are holding cabbage, carrot, radish kimchi with a drizzle of Yuxiang sauce, coriander leaves and diced shallots garnish.
Literally ‘fish fragrance’ in Chinese, Yuxiang sauce contain no seafood though it has fragrant aromas from oil being sauteed with garlic, ginger and shallots with fermented soybean paste adding salt complexity.
And in salt complexity it needs because this uncured slice of cold pork belly is bland and boring on its own. It is a latent piece of meat that comes alive only when fired up. Vietnamese rice paper would have been equally good in wrapping up this white kimchi without sacrificing taste, let alone being more healthy. To me, these cold pork belly slices do more marketing hype than taste and flavour.
For pork belly lovers, I believe the excitement is validated by smoky aromas such as bacon on the grill, pork crackling and mouth-watering juices from a Sunday roast or the melting tenderness of a slow braise where flavours have been infused.
So when I sink my teeth into pork belly that comes with all the calories, I am looking for taste mileage. I want justification for how pork belly tastes on its own, not when it is enhanced by Yuxiang sauce the majority of whom know nothing about.
Throughout our lunch, chefs are constantly assembling what appears to be one of Supernormal’s most popular items.
New England lobster rolls (cover image above) were a big hit at Golden Fields (now Luxembourg Bar & Bistro) and is replicated here at Supernomal.
An impossibly soft brioche bun is gently toasted on the inside, slathered with Kewpie and holds generous chunks of chilled lobster and crisp watercress. These four simple ingredients combine to give every mouthful its eye-closing worthiness.
At $16 a pop, this little lobster roll is the price of a hearty bowl of ramen on a wintry Melbourne day. But if there is one reason to revisit, this is it.
I would recommend bar dining at Supernormal if you are dining solo or in small numbers.
Theatrics from the kitchen add to the occasion and the man behind the food, chef McConnell, can be seen in the thick of the action.
Grilled octopus, fried egg mayo, kimchi apple and cucumber on the same plate is like trying to hold a baby shower, a teenage birthday party and a sit down dinner for the adults, all at the same time and in the same house.
Presumably ‘fried egg mayo’ on the menu means ‘fried-egg mayo’ and not ‘fried egg-mayo’ because I detect what appears to be soft little chunks of egg white. But how does mayo combine with crunchy squares of kimchi apple for flavour? Not very well in the opinion of my tastebuds.
Slices of grilled octopus are succulent. But I prefer to savour the subtle taste of these charred morsels on their own rather than having its smokiness being lost in a slather of chilled creamy mayo. On top of that, you have thick cucumber slices which are definitely uninvited guests to this overcrowded house party.
Piping hot custard is encased in golden brown chunks of fried custard drizzled with sweet ginger syrup and bits of ginger candy.
They are good but to avoid burning your tongue, I suggest forking each ginger-laden piece and gingerly, no pun intended, nibble your way in.
It may have been sheer coincidence with the items we choose from the menu. Beef brisket, eggplant and tofu that is slightly chilled, cold rolled pork belly with white kimchi, grilled octopus with kimchi apple and fried egg mayo all sound like a roll call from a summer menu. Except Melbourne is currently in the thick of winter.
Szechwan pepper, kimchi and chilli oil seem to be the recurring flavours in our dishes.
I wonder if grilled octopus paired with kimchi apple, cucumber and fried egg mayo should be a salad, a seafood number or both. Perhaps I should not wonder at all. Steamed white and Japanese brown rice are on the menu and apart from the spicy eggplant with tofu, it would be a misfit for our other dishes.
However, I do know one thing you need not wonder about. And that’s checking out those lobster rolls.
So dear readers, are you keen to check out and taste Supernormal’s lobster roll?
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel: +61 3 9650 8688
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 11am to 11pm, Friday & Saturday 11am to midnight. Bookings for lunch accepted and dinner for groups of six or more.