I've been eager for Blackwattle to pass its first birthday, so I could try its contemporary Australian offerings. An affiliate of the vaunted Automata in Sydney, it's also under the stable of celebrated hotelier-cum-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng's Unlisted Collection. I've made no bones that I'm a big big fan of Unlisted Collection's ensemble of restaurants, and was hankering to see if it measured up to the hype of its Sydney mothership and the hype of rave opening reviews.
Walking in one late night for dinner (or supper depending on who you ask), I was immediately struck by the aesthetics of the swanky restaurant. Swathed in blacks and undulating shades of greys, the design was clean, sleek, and modern. Blackwattle just oozed pure luxury and class, all the while remaining understated.
And like its design, the food at Blackwattle was elegant and deft, drawing its influence from the Australian bush. However, it was missing that something-something, that little bit of magic that makes a meal mind-blowing, as opposed to just a competent one. We've eaten here twice, 2 weeks in a row, but our dinners just fell (a smidge) short of magnificent. And in a sea of amazing restaurants like Cheek by Jowl or Maggie Joan's, both of which are just down the road in the hip Amoy Street enclave, I just didn't think Blackwattle was competitive enough.
The Uni & Oscietra Caviar ($28) was balanced nicely on the peppery spice of ohba leaves, but I've had better uni (in many Japanese restaurants) and better caviar (at Dempsey Cookhouse).
The Pumpkin Seed Mousse & Oscietra Caviar ($30) laced with tua tua clams and finished with chrysanthemum petals was ingenuity befitting the sous chef of Automata. This was nuanced and refreshing, haute cuisine but also boasting comforting flavours.
The Miso-Glazed Tuna Cheek ($26) was, on its own, a smidge fishy, but the condiments of a braised black fungus, spring onion compote, and miso onion, with fresh lettuce, orba leaves and mint were cardinal in lending freshness. Good concept, let down by the less-than-great produce.
The Baby Gem Lettuce ($24), a dish that just premiered this week, was charred and set on a pool of green sauce comprising parsley and mint, seasoned with preserved lemon, and draped with a lardo blanket. So so good, this was simplicity at its most exquisite. The house-baked bread, still warm and soft from the oven, was paired with a most awesome XO-sauced butter. The Hubs was trying to stay off carbs but he picked at this so addictively, he'd ended up finishing most of it.
The highlight, was the Black Truffle Linguine ($36), which, despite its appearance as one hell of a hot mess, was glorious. Slicked with fermented mushroom butter and showered with a flurry of grated truffle, this was absolutely scrumptious. Absolutely a must-try.
The Steamed Butter Fish ($58) was complemented by a dried porcini-dusted langoustine butter cream and sided by charred flowering garlic chives. A lovely, if a tad forgettable, dish.
The A5 Kagoshima Wagyu Ribeye Roll ($250), sided with white kimchi, pickled jalapeno, green chilli sambal, white radish, and natural jus, was sumptuous. For the first 3 or 4 mouthfuls. And then it just got too rich too fast. The Hubs says "I like my meat to taste like meat", and I get it. There is a thing as too much fat on steak, and a large piece of red meat as this would really suffer from the law of diminishing returns. I think, this would be ok for 4 or more persons to share; to share between a couple such as us would quickly get cloying. Also, I felt its price point to be markedly exaggerated: at 250-buckaroos, it should have been, but wasn't, twice as satisfying as a prime ribeye at Cut or Ruth's Chris.
The Iberico Pork Rack ($52) flanked by a sticky-sweet red-wine bbq glaze, mild sansho peppers, and charred flowering garlic chives, was a much much better main dish. Excellent, actually. The pork was delicate, perfectly cooked to just-past pink, and luscious. We loved this. So much so we actually fought over the last bite (oh yes...we're at that age, and stage of married life, where no f*cks are given to fighting over good food).
97 Amoy Street
Tel: 6224 2232
Open weekdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Saturdays from 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays