Big props to Mister Toast for the invitation to dinner, I had a marvellous time at a not great point in my life so it was much appreciated.
The evening didn't start out as well as it otherwise could have, we started with excellent cocktails at the Marble Bar as we are known to do and were a little squiffy when we wandered to the Hilton ballroom which didn't help our cause when we discovered they had lost our order. Thankfully we had the confirmation email and credit card on us but the insistence was that we had not ordered. Seats were found, but only 2 for a party of 3 and if we wanted to all sit it would not be together. Mister Elbourne opted to leave Toast and I too it as Toast had organised the mission and I had not attended before and so it was that we were sat down... only to have the staff find our original order about 5 minutes later. With all this faffing about we missed the canapes and got seated twice.
Cue a very stompy Toast, Elbourne and myself having a glare at the waiters who responded by bringing continuous refills of wine far and above what was sensible. Still the rest of the night would proceed quite nicely apart from the point at which I cried at a former co-worker about the end of my relationship and the point at which Toast insisted that coffee was for suckers and what I really wanted was an espresso Martini leading to me shouting at the Marble Bar staff about my apparent need for Martini olives by the bucket. *cough* Drunk Amaya is not to be trusted.
Soon all is forgiven though, any meal that starts with this amount of tableware has got to be good.
Iron Chef Sakai
Chilled seafood on cauliflower mousse with mango dressing.
Matched with: 2009 Mt Difficulty Estate Pinot Gris
The cauliflower mousse in this dish actually put shame to the seafood, smooth soft and delicious it set off the cold seafood perfectly. The top of the dish is set with mango dressing nestling abalone, prawn and fresh vegetables.
Chef Okazaki (Rise)
Tuna tataki, asparagus and lemongrass tomato salsa
Tuna rice paper roll
Tuna tartare with spicy miso in wanton cup
Matched with: 2009 Knappstein 'Three' Gewurztraminer/Riesling/Pinot Gris
Tuna and particularly raw tuna is amongst my favourite foods in the world and so a trio of tuna morsels is definitely the way to win me over. The tataki is seared perfectly and served with Thai flavours, the tartare is served in a crisp wanton cup with miso that I'm surprised hasn't wilted before being served given the number of people in the room.
I actually feel as though the wine is a little sweet for the dish but then I've never been a great fan of either Riesling or Gewurtztraminer.
While we eat a number of showman like Iron Chef events go on including a wine tasting and plenty of 'in the kitchen' behind the scenes moments. I'm more about the cooking than the showmanship but I was very keen on the 'behind the curtain' footage.
Chef Haru (Blancharu)
Spatchcock en croute de sel a la Haru
Matched with: 2008 Stonier Estate Chardonnay
I rather like en croute dishes as a whole but I think attempting to do so for an entire ballroom full of diners was folly. My dish is rather dry and not particularly appealing.
Iron Chef Chen
Lobster with chili sauce Szechwan style
Matched with: 2006 Argyle 'Reserve' Pinot Noir
This dish makes the whole night worthwhile. First we watch Iron Chef Chen prepare it on the stage and then we see more backstage footage. By the time the meal comes out everyone is fighting to get at it and I have to be quick smart with my photo taking.
The dish is served with a Chinese mantou roll for mopping up the sauce - something I'm glad of as it's filled with fermented soy for that biting umami flavour; the balls of Lobster and the sweet fruit are just fantastic and served with a light Pinot that offsets the whole dish perfectly.
Afterwards Iron Chef Chen does a quick tour of the room and we are able to snap a picture. Toast who is like the world's biggest Iron Chef fan is beaming like an idiot the whole time.
Chef Gary (Hilton)
Braised Wagyu veal cheek on green pea and wasabi mash with cabernet jus
Matched with: 2008 Petaluma 'The Hundred Line' Cabernet Sauvignon
After a very Asian feel to the rest of the cooking this seems like an odd choice however it is amazingly prepared and so I am disinclined to complain too much. Veal cheek is cooked sous vide for several hours until it is falling apart soft, sweet and gelatinous. It is served on a bed of sweet green pea and wasabi mash that is just divine and finished with a jus that brings more moistness to an already luscious dish. The wine is also a good match and I am rather a fan of Petaluma so kudos to the chef.
Chef Saeko (Ten)
Smoked chocolate and 'Delamain X.O. Fale and Dry 25 year old' mousse, with agar agar of milk and chocolate anglaise sauce
Matched with: 2004 Knappstein Vintage Fortified Shiraz
Now I'm not a huge chocolate fan but this dish is an inspired masterpiece that has me rolling my eyes and thumping the table. A member of the table who does not like sweets hands his over seeing my reaction and I grab for it despite the simply ludicrous of dairy I will be consuming. This being said Toast is allergic to seafood so we'd both come armed with a plethora of tablets to ensure we could make it through the meal.
The entire dish is a range of varying chocolate flavours and textures; the darker dots are an amazing chocolate emulsion, a decorated white chocolate disk rings a soft smooth chocolate bombe topped with a dark smokey delicious crisp and whose shadow falls onto a smooth geleed agar agar milk chocolate ring. All set off with a dark delicious wine; a real thundering way to finish the meal.
So what did I walk away from the event with? It was fun, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun without other foodies so I recommend if you are going to pay that you take a crew with you. On the other hand at $350 for a 6 course meal it would want to have been sex on a stick and honestly some of the dishes fell down, particularly as the kitchen seemed unable to make really world class cuisine for that many people at once. I think if the same courses had been done for 30 the affair would have been different than it was at a seating of 300.
Topped off with the fiasco regarding our order and the rudeness we were treated with as if their mistake were our fault it left me with a sour taste in my mouth given the price. On the other hand it was good fun and some of the dishes were incredibly memorable, and after that much wine... most things seem like a good idea.