Saturday, April 23, 2011

Universal, Darlinghurst, NSW

When honeyhype came to visit me in Sydney, I made sure I took her to some of the better restaurants Sydney had so offer. We had already made a booking at Hurricanes at Darling Harbour for dinner, but last minute changes left us without a booking and it was my job to find a replacement. I searched on Urbanspoon and came across Universal, which seemed appealing as it had really high ratings, but I had my reservations as I have found that these ratings aren’t always accurate. After doing a bit of research on the restaurant, I found out it was in fact owned by Christine Manfield, who had appeared on Season 2 of Master Chef. I had found another Master Chef-made famous restaurant! Luckily it was a week day and they managed to squeeze us in, even with our last minute booking.    
The décor was minimalistic yet elegance. The lighting was dimmed throughout the restaurant, giving a really lovely ambience and a rather relaxing, yet classy feel.

As we took our seats the waiter ran us through the menu, and explained the concept behind Christine’s dishes. They portions are quite small and the purpose was so we could order a few dishes to share between the two of us. He suggested we order four dishes to share, but we only ordered three, just to make sure we had enough room for dessert. 

Seeing scallops one of my favourite foods, I couldn’t go past the seared scallops on the menu. The seared scallops were cooked just the way I liked my scallops – golden brown colour on the outside with a soft and melting texture on the inside. The scallops were sweet and extremely fresh. I also loved how there were so many textures in this dish- the crispiness of the roasted lotus root, crunch from the tempura, finished off with the samphire and wasabi avocado which gave the dish a distinctive taste.  This was such an enjoyable little dish!
Seared sea scallop, asparagus tempura, lotus root, samphire and wasabi avocado 

The scallops were quickly devoured and soon came our pork belly dish. I picked this dish as I was curious about how they would make consommé from kimchi! But it turned out to be a very wise choice as the consommé tasted so clean and crisp with a hit of spiciness. The pork belly was so tender too, which was great. The pork belly was only lightly marinated but the consommé made up the savouriness which made it just right. The two balls next to the pork were in fact oysters wrapped in wombok to look like two dumplings.  
Fragrant pork and kimchi consommé,  oyster and chive dumplings, soy braised pork belly 

My eyes lit up when I saw ‘truffle’ on the menu, as it’s also another ingredient which I really enjoy. The presentation was not as nice as the previous two dishes, but the taste was just as good. The fish was firm and fresh (without the fishy taste!).   
Coorong yellow eye, black truffle potato galette, caramelised foie gras and spinach  

Dessert time! There were 6 desserts to choose from and they all sounded so delicious, that we had difficulty deciding on just one! We narrowed it down to three desserts, but the waiter gave us a hand and suggested two of the more popular ones to us. My goodness were we blown away!

First up, madame pompadour, which contained white peach curd, peach and rosé jelly, peach macarons, fromage blanc sherbet, fairy floss. We couldn’t help but stare at the dish in awe for a few seconds before we excitedly dug into this. The flavours were absolutely amazing. Peaches, roses, tangy sherbet, light, fluffy fairy floss, not to mention tiny peach flavoured macarons! This was such a complicated dessert and it was executed so very well. What a mind blowing dessert to say the least.
Madame pompadour - white peach curd, peach and rosé jelly, peach macarons, fromage blanc sherbet, fairy floss

  I’m not usually a fan of heavy caramel desserts as they can sometimes get too rich which is off putting. This dessert has definitely changed my mind about caramel/honeycomb for good. I think this is Christine’s interpretation of the Golden Gaytime ice-cream and she has done a really good job at capturing all the flavours from the ice-block Aussies have grown up with. The honeycomb ice-cream was sweet but not sickly, and I also loved the caramel parfait which was surrounded by a crunchy salted hazelnut caramel cylindrical shell.
    Gaytime goes nuts  - honeycomb ice cream, caramel parfait, chocolate crunch, salted hazelnut caramel

Just to prove how good the desserts were, we managed to eat both desserts and liked the plates clean (figure of speech!). They were probably the most amazing desserts I have had (excluding Vue De Monde).

Universal turned out to be a wonderful dining experience for both honeyhype and I. I would definitely recommend Universal to my friends who are visiting Sydney, or even locals who haven’t had the chance to try it! I look forward to visiting Universal again to try out the rest of their menu, not to mention the desserts!

Universal on Urbanspoon

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