You know it's a good meal when you are still thinking about it weeks later, and that's the case with Cafe Paci. What started as a pop up has now been opened for two years, as Sydney has fallen in love with the creative dishes of Pasi Patanen. It was definitely one of the most inventive and creative meals I've ever had.
The meal started with a plate of snacks. The wafer thin oat crackers topped with oyster cream and black garlic were very tasty. The rye biscuit with lardo, kohl rabi and apple had a nice sweetness, topped with a sprinkling of bacon powder. But my favourite snack was the pastry tart with ocean trout fish floss and dill sour cream. The tart was the just the right amount of crumbliness and the fish floss really packed a punch of flavour.
Coming on a separate plate was the Rye Taco topped with rice pudding, egg butter and sour onions which was wonderfully buttery and creamy.
The bread then arrived and it was no ordinary bread - it was a Finnish Rye Bread made with Potato Flour and brushed with molasses, served with house churned butter. Served warm, it was quite dense and moist, and the molasses gives it a raisin-like sweetness. I knew I should have been saving stomach space for the rest of the courses, but I couldn't stop eating it.
The seasonal degustation menu details only a list of ingredients, leaving it to our imagination to figure out what we would be having. The Blue swimmer crab, pickled carrots with tarragon cream dish had just the right sweet and savory notes. The pickled ribbons of carrot were beautifully presented on the bed of crab meat and it must have taken incredible knife work to slice them so thinly. Meshed with the tarragon cream, it tasted like it came straight from the sea.
When the next dish hit the table, the collective reaction was "Wow". Combining some of my favourite foods on the world, the Duck, Hazelnut, Radicchio, Raspberry creation was visually stunning and definitely one of the highlights of the night. The Confit Duck, covered in Hazelnut Milk, Roasted Hazelnuts and Radicchio dusted with Freeze Dried Raspberry was a genius combination. The duck was juicy and tender, with the hazelnut adding both creaminess and crunch. The acidity in the raspberry and the slight bitterness of the radicchio really helped to cut through the richness and it was a real flavour explosion in the mouth. Interestingly, at times, it almost felt like I was eating a dessert!
The lofty standards were maintained with the next course: Cabbage, Mussel Butter, Bone Marrow and Pomelo. Cabbage can be pretty plain and boring, but when it is roasted in mussel butter, it is a whole different story. The cabbage was soft and tender, with a real sweetness. The mussels were incredibly plump and juicy, and mixed with the pomelo sauce, the bone marrow and the poached pork lardo was just so utterly delicious.
The menu said Photato. Was it a Pho with potatos? We were close...It was a modern take on the Vietnamese classic. There were the beautifully cooked slices of rare Wagyu beef, the chewy enoki mushrooms, garlic chips and of course, the super thin potato noodles which were served al dente. The broth was very flavoursome though I do think I prefer a traditional, hearty bowl of pho over this intepretation.
We took up the offer to share the optional cheese course between us, which involved Gorgonzola with prunes rolled in seasame seeds and crackers of dehydrated chocolate mousse. The dehydrated chocolate mousse was really light and airy, and paired perfectly with the gorgonzola which was really gooey and creamy.
And now we move onto dessert! The Carrot, Yoghurt, Liquorice combination was intriguing and not being a fan of liquorice, I was a little apprehensive about it. However, all my doubts were erased once I dug into the dish. The outer layer was a super light yoghurt foam, followed by a layer of carrot sorbet and finally, the liquorice cake as the base which had a mild aniseed flavour. It was a wonderfully balanced dish and really lit up our tastebuds, and we were craving for more.
The main dessert was Pear and Parsley with Poached Pear, Custard, Parsley Sorbet and Candied Parsley. I had never had parsley in a dessert before and the herbaceous tones really went well with the perfectly poached pear and custard. The quenelle of parsley sorbet was just ridiculously smooth.
The meal ended with the Petit Fours. The Pork and Fennel, being pork crackling coated in chocolate and fennel seeds was a daring combination. The pork crackling almost melts in the mouth and again had the sweet and savoury notes. The Corn and Butter was indeed fairy floss sprinkled with bits of pop corn. For me, it was a bit too much sugar and the only dish where we didn't wipe the plates clean.
All in all, it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Service was great from the moment we walked in the door. Whilst the palette of the restaurant is predominantly grey, it is definitely not how I would describe his food - which is filled with bold dashes of colour! The menu is original and inventive, and really opened up my mind to a lot of flavour combinations that I had not considered before. Hopefully, it stays open for a little while longer!
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