Newtown’s tiny, plain fine diner is still the canvas for a degustation that’s a journey in edible art
They’re committed to the big reveal at Oscillate Wildly. As each dish makes a perfect-ten, silent landing on the crisp, white tablecloth, you will only be furnished with the bare minimum of description of what’s in front of you. That’s the point. If they gave you Cliff’s Notes your expectations would already be formed and your palate prepared for what’s coming. At Newtown’s longstanding, 11-table fine diner, they don’t want to pad the process of discovery.
How you feel about this approach depends a lot on what kind of person you are. If you want to know exactly what’s going in your mouth you might find it frustrating, but then again you handed your credit card details over for an eight-course meal with no set menu, so whose fault is that really?
The restaurant could be described as a blank slate. With white walls, white linens, and not a single piece of art, it’s almost like a sensory deprivation experiment in the narrow dining room. There’s nothing to distract you and your focus on the food becomes laser-like, with only the gentle crooning of Frank Ocean, Gotye and a glory-days throwback to RJD2.
Karl Firla conducts your gastronomic journey with finesse, kicking things off by condensing the full flavour bomb of a Caesar salad into a single bit of cos heart, filled not with love for humanity but with a creamy sauce that carries the smoky essence of bacon and anchovies. Puffed pork skin sprinkled with beetroot and rosella powder is to your teeth what bubble wrap is to your fingers, while a slim girder of sugar cane macerated in gin and citrus is a chewable cocktail to cleanse the palate.
Things kick on from there with perfect spirals of Hass avocado in a kaleidoscopic citrus tango of yuzu and finger lime. A perfect spring garden tableau of tiny peas, leaves and apple pearls on a parmesan curd is a Manet picnic come to life when you add the 2015 Eric Bordelet pear cider, which smells like a sweet frangipani tart and has a dry, nectar finish. You’ll want to Google where to buy your own stash immediately.
So far things are light and easy. Enter the Scorpo ‘Bestia’ pinot grigio, made with carbonic maceration to get a deep rose colour without the associated tannins. On the nose it’s all mushrooms and earthy dried herbs but the farmhouse quality backs right off in the drinking leaving a dry twist on the finish. It’s hard not to smash this wine while waiting for the next course. Its pair is a pureed cauliflower with puffed buckwheat for crunch and a snowfall of duck foie gras shavings, still smoking from their liquid nitrogen treatment. The maple syrup hiding underneath sadly proves a flavour bully, overwhelming everything with an unchecked sweetness that the rich liver can’t quite match.
Everything is back on a much firmer footing when they pour a broth of pungent black garlic shiitake mushrooms over raw enoki and shiitake mushrooms, and cuttlefish, a slam dunk for powerful, earthy winter flavours. And we’re two thumbs up for the tender morsel of buttery turbot with lengths of ‘chips’ made by running a potato pasta through a pasta roller and roasting it in oil until it’s as golden as crackling, as thin as cellophane and fragile as glass.
Of course, the three dark pink slices of David Blackmore 9 score Wagyu is a showstopper with little slippery shallots, black vinegar sweetness and shredded enokis on top. As is the Mega crunch-tastic chestnut dessert with ice cream, shaved coconut and banana – it’s like a tiny deconstructed banana cream pie. Your second dessert looks like seaweed cradling a giant pearl, but is actually coconut gelato on a black sponge cake made with liquorice, Pernot, Chinotto and almond milk, which hides a malt curd core and the effect is rich, herbal and mysterious.
Dinner at Oscillate is no shorter than other Sydney degustations, but you leave feeling light, and the four hours you spend in that tiny dining room are easy and intimate – this has a lot to do with the snugness of the place, and even more to do with its familiar layout as tiny, terraced Inner West shop. It’s not exactly where you’d expect to go on an adventure in edible art, or maybe it’s exactly the place for it. We’re going with the latter.
|Venue name:||Oscillate Wildly|
275 Australia St
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat 6.30pm-late|