14 April - by Liz Hallam
Words by Liz Hallam
Opening night at Tasting Australia’s Glasshouse Kitchen took diners on a global spice trek, with fiery death sauce, cooking with charcoal and rose petals.
Housed in a pop-up site in Victoria Square (called Town Square for the duration of the festival) are six beautifully decorated double glasshouses, their décor establishing a convivial mood for guests.
The trek started in Italy with Matt Breen, champion of locavorism from the tiny Italian-inspired Templo restaurant in the back streets of Hobart.
His elegant dish of fire pit roasted leek from Ngeringa Farm in the Adelaide Hills had its ribbon leaves tied like a school girl’s ponytail over a crunchy, spicy mix of a hazelnut, wild fennel jam.
It was also fired with corno de toro chilli peppers and tempered with comforting buttermilk and burrata, fluorescent green herb oil, with perfect bursts of sweet relief from succulent currants.
Benjamin Cooper from Melbourne’s Chin Chin restaurant presented a feisty dish that was deservedly the most talked about dish on the night.
A strip of crunchy, crisp pig skin is served beside succulent spit roasted Berkshire pork belly, cooked perfectly to pull-apart texture.
This made it perfect for slathering with the deep green, sinister, somewhat addictive Thai scud chilli paste Cooper calls Death Sauce.
Its intensity was almost off the Scoville scale, but an accompanying bamboo basket of sweet/sour pickled plum and fennel provided necessary salvation.
What followed wasn’t a spicy Chilean dish – but instead Top 50 restaurant star Rodolfo Guzman, from Borago restaurant in Vitacura, Chile, provided light relief.
He spiced up diners with a textural and visual sensory experience.
His innovative take on cooking a dough-covered fish head in charcoal was served with a gigantic king oyster mushroom, gracefully lying on a plate painted with vibrant pink Chilean rose oil and scattered with grated rose petals.
Usually cooked as a whole fish in Chile, Guzman instead focused on the various textures of flesh from the fish head. The differences between the skin, juicy sweet flesh and gelatinous cartilage were challenging but compelling.
For the final course, Greggory Hill from Hispanic Mechanic in Adelaide presented a subtle, crunchy plantain basket biscuit, striped with chocolate and filled with Nashi pear and banana passion sorbet and mint leaves.
The accompanying hint of spice in chipotle plantain puree, scattered with pepita morita crumble, was a perfect end to an unforgettable spice journey. Hill even left us with a take home bottle of his Hispanic Hot Sauce.
Each course was cleverly paired with South Australian wines – a special salute going to the light bodied, flavoursome 2017 SC Pannell Basso Garnacha from McLaren Vale that stood proudly against the assault of Cooper’s Death Sauce.