It's food Jim, but not as we know it. The Star Sydney is bringing high-concept cuisine to town, courtesy of some of the city's most innovative chefs. ELE by Federico and Karl is conceptualised and led by head chefs Federico Zanellato (LuMi) and Karl Firia (Oscillate Wildly, Est, Marque), who have taken over the coveted former-Momofuku Seiobo space.
It promised to be a dining experience quite unlike any other in the city when whispers began bag in March, and now we can say that the mark has well and truly been hit. While a "progressive dining experience" might at first glance induce shoulders to earlobes in the world's biggest cringe, ELE, thankfully, delivers in spades and while there are a few confusing, er, elements, the overall event leaves us breathing a big sigh of relief.
Inspired by the elements — earth, fire, air and water — ELE aims to reimagine dining as an entirely immersive experience that engages each of the senses. From their arrival in the ELE bar, guests start their culinary journey with counter snacks of wagyu beef tartare with confit egg yolk; and smoked Murray cod pressed into a potato mille feuille. Teamed with a Brix white rum, Champagne and bergamot sorbet, it's a very refreshing start.
After the nibbles, we are transported to the second of three distinct drinking and dining spaces. The bar, the dining room and the chef's table each offer a unique environmental experience carefully choreographed by chefs Zanellato and Firia to create an atmosphere that feels akin to the season outside, reflected on the staunchly seasonal menu with signature cocktails.
Offering a moving feast, guests are taken on a culinary and sensory journey as the meal progresses, with a mix of curtains, projections and art installations separating each space, which seats only 20 diners in total. This is haute cuisine of the most experimental kind that is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the stomach. It's hard not to compare ELE with the former tenant, Momofuku Seiobo, but by cleverly carving up the footprint of the dining room into multiple spaces, this feels like an entirely new delivery.
The second station for dinner has a stand out of butter-poached marron tail which is frankly, delicious as it is. Things are certainly kicked up a notch though with a puddle of "mustard" sauce made from the crustacean's head combined with a spike of Grand Marnier, which gives the zesty relief that the sweet shellfish and French toast crouton on which it rests demand. While we're not sure that dinner for two should necessarily require a soliloquy from every waiter delivering a plate, it is unique to find that every member of staff is dressed in the same standard-issue, science fiction style uniform so you're never quite sure if this is the head chef or the host presenting your course.
An astonishingly delicious corn souffle is up next, with a molten centre of vacherin fribourgeois cheese, aged for 24 months. The complex, salty-sweet of the cheese and the corn custard is moreish and intense, but for a space and a dish so beautiful, the oddly 80s tea cup it comes in wouldn't be amiss at an AA meeting next to the stale doughnuts.
The final course before dessert is a very full-on cube of wagyu, grilled on a hibachi, with a Marsala and beetroot sauce. It is thankfully no bigger than a business card and the quality of the beef combined with the incredibly marbled flesh nearly drifts into the 'too much' category before the earthy beets bring it back from the precipice.
Dessert is a particularly avant-garde dish of "Chardonnay from fresh to frozen." This is where the art-meets-food element is in full swing, with grape granita, grape jelly, pressed grapes and glassy shards of fresh grape shards of toffee. It's crunchy, zesty and incredibly fresh. We'd take two.
The degustation experience is certainly on the expensive side, at $230 per diner, which in adjunct with the $190 per person wine pairing can mean for a pretty dear night out. But when the quality of the food and the ambition of the concept comes from such rich pedigree as Oscillate Wildly and LuMi, it's pretty easy to justify splashing out for an experience you're certainly not going to find anywhere else in town.