If I have noticed anything special with Sydney’s food scene, it is that pop-ups and collaborations are a rising trend. Now, this is not just limited to the busy and ever changing scene of the city; the Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf on the NSW Central Coast could be a major player in bringing this trend forward. Celebrating its 40th year, the iconic venue that houses a seafood market, fish and chip stand and restaurant opened its doors to host the ‘Woy Woy Takeover’ – celebrating fresh local produce and seafood through the eyes of some of the best up and coming young hatted chefs from around NSW. These chefs all bring something unique to the table, showcasing their own repertoire and vision, transforming the wharf into their own restaurant for one weekend every month.
Last month was the perfect opportunity to go out on a road trip to the Central Coast to attend the monthly event. The actual drive may have not actually been ‘A Thousand Miles’ as Vanessa Carlton once said, but it sure did feel like it when coming from the Western suburbs of Sydney… just saying.
In November, it was Troy Rhoades-Brown of Muse in the Hunter Valley’s turn to ‘takeover’ the kitchen. When I recently visited the Hunter Valley, dining at Muse was the highlight of the trip hands down; so coming into this event, there was a high level of expectation and luckily enough it far exceeded them.
Ever since the opening of Muse Dining and Kitchen in 2009, Troy has stayed true to his philosophy of focusing on seasonal and regional food, and this event was no exception even showcasing some of his own produce in some of the dishes.
The night started off lightly with Petuna Ocean Trout rillettes, with organic wasabi and buttermilk chives on green tangerine rye sourdough. The trout rillettes had an incredibly smooth texture whilst still retaining the clean, light taste of the trout. There is a distinct sweetness when it comes to fresh caught trout, and this course highlighted that. With organic wasabi folded throughout, it added a layer of heat, which was contrasted by the citrus hit of the lime juice; livening up each bite. This dish was certainly a fresh start, painting a rather accurate picture of what was to come.
The next course showcased one of my personal favourite kinds of fish – Hiramasa Kingfish with avocado, choco shao king, wild rice and served on baby cos lettuce. Bringing the aroma of the sea to the table, this course played on textures with the fish’s firm bite, crunch from the wild rice, the smoothness of the whipped avocado and the crispness of the baby cos lettuce cup – it was one of the highlights from the night.
The next dish was also one to remember. Not only for its flavour but for the preparation involved. As Troy told us, the Hawkesbury Squid (which were locally caught the day before the dinner) and King Brown Mushrooms were frozen, thinly shaved then hand sliced to become the ‘noodles’, which was folded through a sake, miso and egg yolk custard and served with yuzu and ginger gels and a Sea Herb wafer. The Miso custard had the right balance between sourness and creaminess, which worked well in complementing the ‘noodles’ – creating harmony between the earthiness of the mushroom and the freshness of the squid. The sea herb wafer, which was made with squid ink and tapioca in particular added the crunch element the dish needed and was an interesting component that innovatively turned tapioca into a cracker; almost mimicking the look of seaweed.
The main course of the night showcased a Seaweed & Ginger crusted Ulladulla Yellow Fin Tuna, served with roasted tomatoes, braised & Wild Fennels and a Black Garlic Butter. The tuna was perfectly seared on the outside whilst still keeping its firm texture. The fennel had sour and tart notes which may have been from its blanching in verjuice, which worked well in livening up the charred taste of the seared tuna. The black garlic butter was the first thing you’re hit with; a distinct roasted garlic aroma. It also added richness and an intense flavour that acted as the sauce of the dish. A special mention should go to the truss tomato. I know it may look like any old normal roasted tomato but what you may not know is that this single element was roasted for 9 hours at 60 degrees. It was honestly amazing. I have never experienced an intense flavour from such a small component. This just shows the care and thought that head chef Troy puts into orchestrating a symphony of flavours, where each ingredients plays to the melody.
We ended the night with a dessert that I remember so fondly from my first visit to Muse; The Coconut Cloud. Staying in tune with Troy’s belief in using only top quality ingredients, he changes the other components of the dessert depending on whatever is in season. For this specific version, it was served with Troy’s own produce of handpicked Lovedale Mulberries, Crystallised Violet and Pandan Tapioca. Just like last time, this dessert literally had my “head in the clouds” (as Ariana Grande would say). There was coconut in different textures from the light, fluffy freshly whipped coconut cream to the coconut sugar that comes from coconut sap. The crystallised violets added pops of colour whilst the tapioca pearls gave off a bouquet of aromas with vanilla bean and Pandan notes. All these components worked together, creating a light yet refreshing way to end the dining experience.
Overall, Troy was able to create an orbit of flavours that circulated around highlighting the freshness of what Australian seafood has to offer. As the Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf is a family run establishment, this familial aspect was evident in the menu consisting of both shared and individual plates that encouraged family’s to enjoy the night together, which personally I think is the essence of what Food can bring.
Next up in January, it is Rhys Connell’s turn (of Sepia) where he will be taking over the kitchen on January 16th and 17th. That for sure sounds tempting! Round two maybe?
For more information on the Woy Woy Takeover line up, go to woywoyfishermenswharf.com.au/woy-woy-take-over
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf