Sunday, April 10, 2016

Grain Bar Cured and Caviar Pairing Experience

I am an amateur when it comes to spirits matching and the Cured and Caviar pairing menu at Grain Bar in the Four Seasons Sydney Hotel was as much an educational as it was a gastronomical experience for me. I met Grain Bar’s Bar Manager, Alexandra Dahlenburg and had a chat with her to learn more about their new Cured and Caviar pairing menu. The ‘sip and savour’ menu has been curated by Alexandra and the venue's Head Chef Jared Reeves. The idea behind the pairings is to showcase the work of master distillers and appreciate the time and passion that goes into producing premium spirits. All meats for the pairings are cured in-house. The pairing menu sparked my curiosity and being located in the heart of Sydney CBD, this is a great venue to hang out afterwork to try something that's not just your run of the mill 'Friday night drinks' at a pub.

First on the list is a reverence in Russian tradition and that’s the pairing of caviar and vodka. At Grain Bar they serve the Yasa “Elite” Caviar with Legend of Kremlin Vodka ($85). The caviar is a non-pasteurised Sturgeon caviar made by the world’s top caviar experts in the United Arab Emirates. A premium large egg pearl with a soft whipped butter texture that exudes long lasting creamy, green – walnut notes followed by a tight iodine zing. It is paired with the Russian vodka officially served in the Russian parliament in Kremlin. According to the Luxe Seafood’s website, the caviar comes from the roe of the Yasa Sturgeon which is sustainably harvested which results in no stress to the fish at any time. The roe is removed and under the artisan touch of the master Caviarer, the roe from each fish is individually hand processed and cured to produce the famous Yasa fresh caviar. The caviar is then graded, packed and air freighted, landing in Australia within 24 hours from the harvesting of the fish. An exquisite tasting experience where the caviar is served iced cold and the warm subtle flavour of the vodka allows the distinctive taste of the caviar to dominate. To taste, you are given the mother of pearl spoon instead of an ordinary silver spoon as the metallic taste of silver will affect the tasting notes of the caviar. You scoop the caviar onto the skin between your thumb and forefinger, wait until you can’t feel the caviar when it reaches your body temperature , lick it off your hand and take a shot of the Legend of the Kremlin vodka.

The second pairing I tried was the Salt & Lime Cured Kingfish with Herradura Ultra Anejo Tequila ($30). In this pairing, we have the Hiramasa Kingfish farmed in the eyre Peninsula, south Australia. Cured in salt, sugar and lime zest for 72 hours and then finely diced and marinated in lime juice and extra virgin olive oil. It's an excellent pairing with the Ultra Anejo Tequila, a unique blend of finest Anejo tequila, bourbon barrel aged with deceiving crystalline transparent looks with unusual depth of smooth flavours that goes extremely well with the zesty kingfish. I have a new found respect for tequila and banished any memories of shooting tequila as a rite of passage in my misspent youth.

The third pairing I tried from the Cured and Caviar menu at Grain Bar was the Kangaroo Jerky with I
ronbark Wattleseed Gin ($25). In this Australiana pairing, we have the Wild NSW Kangaroo loin marinated in native Australian spices and air dried for 12 hours. Ironbark distillery uses Australian native expression of flavours crafted into the unique twist in this Australian gin. The flavour of the kangaroo jerky is gamey and its texture chewy. It is paired with  Ironbark gin that is crystal clear in the bottle having tasting notes that is soft and creamy through to a lightly piney, junipery delivery with hints of white pepper, ending citrusy, refreshing and long.

The fourth pairing I tried is the Housemade Duck Proscuitto with Diplomatico Res. Exclusive Rum ($28). Here we have Thirlmere duck breast cured in a mixture of salt, sugar, star anise and citrus for 5 days. It's finished by charring the skin on a grill to provide slight smokey and charred flavours. The cured duck's flavour is enhanced by the secret 12 year old blend from master blender Tito Cordero offering unique flavours of this fine Venezuelan rum.

The last pairing I tried from the Cured and Caviar pairing menu is the Wagyu Carne Salada with Auchentoshan 3 Wood Whisky. This pairing comprises of wagyu rump cap cured in a traditional Italian cure of salt pepper, sugar, bay, carrots and garlic for 14 days. Charred on the grill to finish to provide subtle caramel notes. Auchentoshan is a unique lowland Scottish single malt whiskey in ex-bourbon, Olorosso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for rich and complex flavours like mocha and hazelnut. The whiskey stands up to but doesn't overpower the wagyu's light, buttery flavour and texture.

So there you have it, some of the finest premium spirits and cured meat pairings right in the heart of Sydney.

In addition, whether you are looking for a great place to have lunch with work colleagues or have just arrived to Sydney and looking for a quick bite to eat, Grain Bar's menu has an excellent artisan selection of mouth-watering plates packed full of Americana flavours. Here are a few dishes I tried for lunch.

On their All Day Menu, Grain Bar's plates are to share or have on your own, although once you try the Chicken and Maple Bacon Dumplings you will agree that it belongs in the “Not To Share” part of the menu. I can still taste the mouthwatering Americana flavours of chicken maple bacon wrapped in a slippery wonton like pastry that just glides into your mouth. The flavours work exceptionally well.

The BBQ Queensland Tiger Prawns shared plate is a deliciously fine, effortless dish to eat with its smoky flavour, cooled and garnished with cucumber lemongrass salsa.              


For something more substantial is the Wagyu Brisket Sandwich with cheddar, horseradish gravy. It's tender, soft and juicy. For the famished, the flavours in this sandwich is so delicious you'll wolf that down in seconds.

For those with a sweet tooth, there are only two desserts on the menu and they are sweet gems. The Mini Cronuts which you pop the whole thing in the mouth and wait for the explosion of Maple Bourbon Lemon Curd that oozes into your mouth.

Alternatively or in addition to for those Peanut Butter addicts, you can try the Espresso Ice Cream Sandwich with Salted Peanut Butter Cookie. The espresso ice cream is silky, creamy smooth and rich in flavour but not too sweet and it's a different take to the more common salted caramel and its wedged between a soft cookie crumble. A truly delightful, deeply cold and indulgent dessert.

Grain Bar is serious when they describe themselves as an "artisanal bar". Whether you are a city worker craving something different or a partner seeking to impress your date, Grain Bar truly offers a unique cured meats and premium spirits menu experience and their All Day Menu doesn't disappoint either.

I have a new favourite lunch venue and afterwork city bar to add to my list!

Grain Bar
199 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (61 2) 9250 3118
Open 7 days a week from 12pm til late.

Grain Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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