When it comes to pairing food and drink, wine is usually the first choice. In more recent years, Sydney has embraced the concept of pairing individual spirits with food, such as tequila and food pairing, whisky pairing dinners, and cocktail pairings with food. In what could arguably be the first in Sydney, Grain Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel has taken the concept further by pairing premium spirits – served neat – with house-cured meats and caviar.
Grain Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
Cured & Caviar at Grain Bar is the result of a collaboration between by Grain Bar manager Alexandra Dahlenburg and head chef Jared Reeves, a project born out of passion for the appreciation of quality spirits in their true form, the distillers and blenders who make them and the synergy between the kitchen and the bar, a trend were seeing of late in many restaurants and bars.
Five bespoke pairings, ranging from $25 to $85 come beautifully presented with their own tasting notes. Choosing is no easy feat, and the menu invites repeat visits.
Yasa “Elite” Caviar with Legend Of Kremlin Vodka
The most decadent pairing is that of Yasa “Elite” Caviar with Legend Of Kremlin Vodka ($85). Elegantly presented on a slate plate with the caviar on ice, you’re invited to place a small spoonful at the base of the thumb and forefinger until it reaches body temperature, then put it in your mouth, allowing your tongue to gently press the caviar onto the roof of the mouth.
Yasa Caviar, which we featured extensively on Gourmantic, is a sustainable caviar from Abu Dhabi delivered to Australia within 24 hours of harvesting. Premium large egg pearls have the texture of whipped butter, a delightful creaminess and nuttiness which is enhanced by the crisp Russian vodka.
Salt & Lime Cured Kingfish with Herrradura Ultra Anejo Tequila
The next pairing includes Hiramasa Kingfish cured in salt, sugar and lime zest for 72 hours, finely diced and marinated in lime juice. Tequila comes to mind as an ideal match yet Grain Bar has upped the ante by pairing the Salt & Lime Cured Kingfish with Herrradura Ultra Anejo Tequila ($30), a five year old tequila aged in bourbon barrels, stripped of its colour with agave nectar added. The tequila has a good balance of oak, agave and a little sweetness which balances the sour notes of the fish from the lime juice. Don’t shoot the tequila or try it with lime and salt, they are for presentation purposes. This is a fine agave spirit to be sipped and savoured.
Kangaroo Jerky with Ironbark Wattleseed Gin
The next pairing, Kangaroo Jerky with Ironbark Wattleseed Gin ($25) is set to become Grain Bar’s signature and one we hope to see transition to the regular menu. Wild NSW Kangaroo loin is marinated in native Australian spices (juniper, black pepper, wattleseed) then air dried for 12 hours. Wattleseed Gin from Ironbark Distillery is truly unique and one we featured in the Top 10 Australian Gin article. Chew a piece of the jerky and once the flavours develop, take a sip of the gin. Both the botanicals of the gin and the flavour of the jerky explode on the palate. The only problem with this pairing is that you may find yourself ordering an encore.
Housemade Duck “Prosciutto” with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum
For the next pairing, Housemade Duck “Prosciutto” with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum ($28), Thirlmere duck breast is cured for five days in a mixture of salt, sugar, star anise and grapefruit zest. The fat is then lightly charred on a grill which imparts subtle smoky flavours. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum is rich and sweet style of rum and the oiliness from the duck, along with the subtle spices cut through some of that sweetness.
Wagyu Carne Salada with Auchentoshan 3 Wood Whisky
The final cured is a Wagyu rump cap that has been cured in a traditional Italian cure of salt, sugar, shredded carrots, pepper and garlic for two weeks then rendered on the grill to provide subtle caramel notes. This pairing of Wagyu Carne Salada with Auchentoshan 3 Wood Whisky ($26) contrasts the saltiness of the Wagyu with the sweetness of this single malt whisky that has been aged in ex-bourbon, oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks that gives it its richness and complexity of flavours. While the usual method is to taste the food and then have sip of the whisky, try in this case to do it in reverse. Sip the whisky first then have a piece of Wagyu and enjoy as the flavours textures of both become enhanced on the palate.
The Cured & Caviar Menu at Grain Bar is not to be missed. Each component has been carefully selected so as to enhance, complement or contrast to provide a taste sensation. If you’re into appreciating spirits, be they neat or mixed, this is where you need to be.
Cured & Caviar is available at Grain Bar, Sunday through Thursday, 12:00noon until 9:00pm.
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
199 George Street, Sydney
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