In search of Australian cuisine

With seven chef hats between them and a penchant for food that pushes boundaries, Ben Shewry, Josue Lopez and James Viles are well qualified to lead the search for true Australian cuisine.

Ben Shewry of Melbourne’s three-hatted Attica, James Viles of the double-hatted Biota Dining in NSW and Josue Lopez of one hat GOMA Restaurant (The Gallery of Modern Art) chewed the fat for Good Food Month on the topic My Country, My Cuisine.

Forgetting meat pies, vegemite, lamingtons and pavlovas, what comes to your mind with the term Australian cuisine? Do you think of wallaby blood pancakes, kangaroo jerky or nasturtium juice?

The chefs were in agreement on the use of Australian native foods and spices,  flavours that are now being sourced by international chefs, as an important development in our national palate.

They also were buoyed by diners acceptance for the dish adventures in their restaurants and revelled in the freedom granted to Australian chefs to reinterpret traditional dishes without cultural limitations.

While wallaby blood pancakes weren't on the menu, James Viles and Josue Lopez combined to give diner at GOMA Restaurant after the talk to showcase their favourite examples of contemporary Australian cuisine for Good Food Month.

The evening started with James’ spiced kangaroo jerky served in a weathered log with a creamy dipping sauce.

Next were charcoal ‘biscuits’ topped with smokey dore roe and onion shells filled with macadamia.

Josue brought out some truffle filled globes topped with slices of truffle.

There were three types of cucumber surrounded by a refreshing nasturtium juice in James’ next dish. The juice was created from 400 leaves and topped with delicate white dianthus flowers.

Josue brought back one of his favourite dishes, Living Risotto, which he says it all about sustainability. The mock risotto is made from sprouted legumes from Beaudesert and macadamias from Tambourine Mountain. He uses legumes instead of rice as it is not sustainable.  He laughingly explained it should be called “Just Killed Legumes”.

Old leeks cooked in seaweed milk was a very mellow dish.  It was followed by what Josue described as a ‘rawn cocktail on a plate with yabbies from Aratula and Fassifern tomatoes.

James’ next dish was pretty as a picture with sunflower petals strewn over sunchokes (artichokes).  It was a real surprise and amongst my favourite dishes for the night for its flavour and appearance.

Described as ‘the duck pond – watercress, malt and pear’ the main dish for the evening was perfectly cooked slices of plump duck.

Two desserts finished the night. James’ Honey from biota’s bees came cold but steaming to the table and included bee pollen. Josue’s burnt wattle seed custard with Davidson plum was a reinterpretation of one of his most popular dishes.

Wines for the night came from Yalumba.

Disclaimer: Ed+bK was a guest of Good Food Month.