It’s not everyday you’re treated to house-made brioche served in UASHMAMA washable paper bags, a slab of 24-hour sous vide smoked Wagyu and sweet beetroot marshmallow served alongside freshly churned ricotta ice cream. And that’s not even the half of it.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to savour the flavours of autumn (in the form of a 7-course Tasting Menu with matched wine), alongside fellow Brisbane foodies, bloggers and ‘grammers at ARIA Brisbane. Having never been to ARIA before I was aware it was revered as one of Eagle Street Pier’s finest restaurants…so I knew the food had to be good. I just had no idea how good.
Chef Ben Russell heads up the kitchen at ARIA Brisbane and designs, plans and constructs all the menus before launching to the public (they take around 3 months to perfect). Having worked for Matt Moran for over 10 years, Russell is clearly a master of his art – starting as a pastry chef and then making the move into the kitchen. Using fresh, in-season and local produce of the highest quality, Ben and his team have created a menu that genuinely surprises, delights and excites. It’s a complete a sensory journey – one that you need to reserve your seat for. Stat.
Starting with French champagne, our table was privileged enough to have each course expertly matched with the perfect wine. When you enjoy the odd tipple and have the likes of head Sommelier Ian Trinkle looking after you, it’s something I would highly recommend. Each glass was a perfect accompaniment to the food in front of us and elevated the flavour just that little bit more. From bubbles to Sémillon to Riesling and Shiraz the origins were as varied as Australia to the US. With Ian it’s just as much about education as it is the dining experience.
One of my favourite parts of dining out has to be the bread. I don’t eat bread regularly, so it’s usually only when dining somewhere “nice” that I’ll lash out, meaning I savour it just that little bit more. At ARIA choose from the house-made sourdough or the house-made onion rye serves with intensely creamy house-made butter. Tip: ask for a second dish of butter.
The amuse bouche will undoubtedly vary but to give you an idea, the Chickpea puree & squid ink cracker was a “cracker”, balancing the delicate crispness of the cracker with creamy hommus.
One of the entrees on the new menu (and the first actual dish on our Tasting Menu) is the KINGFISH – cured and scorched kingfish with miso, cucumber and radish. Gently seared, it tasted like the most incredible sashimi – fresh and just perfectly gelatinous – alongside creamy miso and raw radish slices for zing.
Next on the menu (and also another of the entrees) was the PARFAIT – duck liver and foie gras parfait with maple and apple. A complete sucker for foie gras (my favourite food consumed throughout Paris) I was champing at the bit to try this dish. When it arrived, there were several “ooh” and “ah” murmurings – taking in the perfect quenelle of parfait that was so light and fluffy it looked like whipped cream, along with the shortbread-like crumb, maple sauce and a cone of thinly sliced Granny Smith apple it was art on a plate. Smeared on the house-made brioche that was so delicate it was like eating a cloud of bread (sweet, pillowy and dissolve-on-the-tongue-material). The last touch – dried grapes – were so sweet and just moist enough to resemble medjool dates. An incredible dish that combines sweet, salty and citrus (the bite from the apple was superb) in one.
Our first main for the evening came in the form of a perfectly plump fillet of SNAPPER – steamed fillet with fennel, mustard and red onion. The most incredible ingredient on the plate (aside from the snapper itself) was the seemingly crystalised leaf of an ice plant. Clean and crisp in flavour and texture, it was a succulent surprise on a plate full of melt-in-your-mouth ingredients. The snapper fell away at the touch of the fork and melted in the mouth. The most incredible mustard accompanied – light but dangerously more-ish – everyone at the table agreed it was the best mustard they’d ever tasted, emphasising the sweet, juiciness of the fish.
To round out the mains, and what was deemed to be the winning dish for the evening, was the BEEF – smoked Wagyu short rib with daikon, spinach and paprika. It tasted like a quintessential European winter. The smokey aroma wafted from the plates as soon as the dishes arrived in front of us. The Wagyu itself was an off-cut that was then sous-vide for 24 hours and then smoked and warmed through. Served with fried back-strap fat and an intensely rich jus, the beef was hearty and decadent in flavour but oh-so delicate in texture – everyone’s eyes rolled into the backs of their heads – we were all in agreement. It was a hard “battle of the dishes” considering everything was mind-glowingly outstanding but the Wagyu stood out as a star.
Our last dish for the evening was, as Head Chef Ben Russell described it, “a simple little dish” (at which I very inelegantly snorted/laughed…there is nothing simple about this dessert). When it arrived the RHUBARB – poached rhubarb with ricotta ice cream and beetroot marshmallow looked like a fairy garden. Not too sweet and the perfect combination of flavours to end on it was raw rhubarb slices sandwiched between crispy mille feuille pastry and served with beautifully creamy ricotta ice cream, a tangy freeze-dried beetroot and raspberry crumble and fluffy beetroot marshmallows on top. Taking a small portion of each element in the mouth and savouring them together was heavenly.
If all that isn’t enough to get you on the phone making a reservation I don’t know what will. 11/10 ARIA!
Disclaimer: Thank you to ARIA Brisbane for inviting me as a guest to the blogger dinner to try the new autumn Tasting Menu. All thoughts and food commentary is very much my own and I would struggle to suggest anywhere better in Brisbane for a serious food experience or special occasion!