Italian with a Japanese twist? Welcome to LuMi Dining. Head Chef Federico Zanellato first opened LuMi in late 2014, marrying Italian cuisine with influences from Japanese ingredients and technique. In September this year he took home the award for 2017 Good Food Guide Chef of the Year.
Dining room with open view of the water
LuMi had been on my to-eat list for some time now. I bumped it to the top to celebrate my birthday last week with some of my nearest and dearest. We arrive at the wharf for lunch on a 30C scorcher of a day. The shutter doors have been opened up for an uninterrupted view of the water but it does mean no air-conditioning. We rectify that with a bottle of sparkling NV Rustico prosecco ($70).
Shiitake mushroom tartlets
At lunchtime you can skip the standard 8-course degustation for a swifter 5-course version. We stick with the 8-course version (because we can) and then face a series of decisions about our meal. Drinks? Oysters by the half-dozen? Optional caviar with your snapper? Additional mackerel course? So. Many. Decisions.
Once the food gets underway though, it's smooth sailing. We're surprised with three different snacks to start. The shiitake mushroom tartlets are a lesson in umami and crunch, crisp shells of fragile pastry loaded up with mushroom cream, tiny slices of shiitake mushroom and a cloud of finely shaved parmesan cheese.
Smoked ocean trout mousse in brik pastry with pickled radish and bush tomato powder
Long and elegant shards of brik pastry are used to sandwich a salty tang of smoked ocean trout mousse with slices of pickled radish. Sprinkled across the top of these delicate wafers is a dusting of zingy bush tomato powder.
Buckwheat chips with salt and white vinegar
We also snack on buckwheat chips, as thin as a sheet of paper but as puffy in texture as a prawn cracker. These are super fragile, anointed with a smattering of salt and just enough white vinegar to ignite our appetites.
Jelly made from snapper bones on housemade creme fraiche with lime and horseradish
We also receive an amuse bouche of snapper bone jelly - a cool and gelatinous wobble made by boiling snapper bones - piled on top of a splodge of housemade creme fraiche. There are segments of radish for crunch, tiny curls of lime zest and a whisper of horseradish too.
Housemade rye and spelt sourdough brioche with burnt butter mascarpone
Next up is the housemade rye and spelt sourdough brioche, puffed up triumphantly like a royal crown. The brioche is buttery, soft and still warm from the oven. We slather it generously with a burnt butter mascarpone that is revelatory.
Snapper with roe emulsion and fermented cucumber
with Calvius oscietra caviar $10 supplement
Our first course - yes, only now - is the snapper, firm and fresh slices lightly cured and draped around a pretty-as-a-picture plate of roe emulsion and fermented cucumber juice. The flavours are bright and simple, topped off with the decadence of Calvius oscietra caviar that melts in the mouth like pearls of briny butter.
Sand crab with koji zabaione, green apple and fennel pollen
A hillock of handpicked sand crab peeks out from an eiderdown of koji zabaione, the traditional Italian egg yolk and sugar dessert inoculated with koji, a fungus normally used to make sake, mirin and soy sauce. Its mild creaminess is an ideal match for the sweet crab morsels, contrasted with the tartness of green apple mini melon balls and green apple matchsticks.
Mushroom agnolotti with rye dashi
The four parcels of mushroom agnolotti give little away but one bite of these, and our mouths are flooded with an intense rush of porcini mushroom. It's a mushroom hit you can't help repeating until your plate is empty. The pasta sheets themselves are thin and silky, and there's an addictive quality to the puddle of rye dashi at the bottom, punctuated with manchego and a splash of truffle oil.
Making the mushroom agnolotti
Later in the afternoon, we watch the chefs make the mushroom agnolotti in the kitchen, piping the porcini mushroom onto fresh pasta sheets before placing another sheet on top and cutting the shapes to size.
Head chef Federico Zanellato plating the scialatielli
There's also a great deal of precision in our next dish, the scialetielli. Head chef Federico Zanellato is almost always involved in the plating of this dish, using long tweezers to shape the pasta into a lofty bundle.
Scialatelli with eel, bottarga and orange
Scialatelli is an eggless fettuccine, a relative recent pasta shape that was first made in the 1960s in Amalfi. Our tightly assembled mountain of pasta is bound with a rich sauce made with smoked eel, orange zest, shaved bottarga and a touch of mouth-numbing sansho pepper. It's a salty carb hit in the best way possible.
Spanish mackerel with umeboshi butter and broad beans $17
We opt for the supplementary course, a slice of Spanish mackerel cooked gently so it's just off raw in the middle. The fish has none of the oily aftertaste you'd often associate with mackerel, served on a yellow half-moon of umeboshi butter alongside broad beans and deep fried parsley leaves.
Wagyu with eggplant and mustard
Our final savoury is wagyu beef short rib slow cooked at 68C. Short rib is already a meltingly fatty cut in the right hands, but wagyu beef short rib is another level of lusciousness. The beef is so tender you could slice it with a spoon. I take it in turns to dip the beef into the pearl eggplant puree - highly smoky but smooth - and the aerated mustard. The tiny green buds on top of the beef are angelica seeds.
Pre-dessert is the sorrel parfait, a bewildering slab of green that looks more like a kitchen sponge. Its brittle construction dissolves quickly in the mouth, a palate-cleansing combination of licorice powder, sorrel and lime puree topped off with crumbled up smithereens of Fishermans Friend. Who has a sore throat now? Not us.
Liquid nitrogen in the kitchen
Douglas Fir with rhubarb, raspberry and olive oil
Our first dessert is the Douglas Fir. Mine came topped with a birthday candle! Described by our waiter as "like eating a Christmas tree", the Douglas Fir ice cream is indented for a pool of extra virgin olive oil. The dessert veers between the tartness of rhubarb and raspberry, the lemony creaminess of the Douglas Fir ice cream and the grassy notes of olive oil.
We finish with a thin slice of yuzu tart, a tangy wobble of aromatic citrus set on a semolina base. A fine layer of yukari - purple shiso powder mixed with salt - adds to the tang. Its sugar-crusted bruleed surface provides a touch of bitterness, plus the crunch of toffee.
Lunch ends up taking us about 3.5 hours to get through, but its a worthwhile journey. The food is inventive without feeling overly fussy, and there's a mature restraint that underpins each dish. Would I go again? Definitely.
56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9571 1999
Lunch Friday to Sunday 12pm-4pm
Dinner Wednesday to Sunday 6.30pm-10.30pm
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11/20/2016 12:59:00 am