Address: Three Lamps Plaza, Ponsonby
Ph: (09) 360 2122
By my count there were more than 70 different ingredients in our meal for two at Sidart. I've probably missed some and the total does not include the three amuse bouches. Here's one course, and rest assured I won't be repeating this exercise through the menu: scallop carpaccio, almond puree, apple sorbet, buckwheat, gurnard, compressed apple, soy mirin reduction, sesame oil, wasabi caviar, herbs, flowers and fired almonds.
Simple cooking, it isn't. Yet the overall effect is not, as you might expect, an impression of elaboration beyond reason or a great clutter of taste and texture. Instead, you encounter serial moments of pleasure as the various elements arrive on the palate, complementing and contrasting the main ingredients.
It is a style of food that lends itself perfectly to the increasingly popular tasting menu approach and Sidart no longer offers a la carte dining. The business school gurus now tell us that consumers resent being offered too many choices and here the only choice is whether to have the five-course option at $95 or the 10-course at $140. If you want to avoid any further stress-laden decisions you can get a wine match too.
We didn't take the wine match but were assisted by some sound advice and tasting sips by the knowledgeable staff, representative of the smooth service that contributed to a totally relaxed evening. We were introduced to some wines new to us, which went perfectly with dishes that also contained tastes we had not previously encountered.
There's little point in describing our courses in detail, as they are unlikely to be those you may be offered - Sidart change eight courses every week. We took the five-course option but this allowed more than five sets of tastes because, again on the useful advice of the staff, for several courses we diverged on what we were offered, allowing the pleasure of swapping and thus sampling even more of the food.
The evening started with three delightful amuse bouches before we started the real business with a vegetarian course that almost made me think giving up meat might not be the worst thing that could happen. This was mainly shitake and oyster mushrooms, sauteed and resting on a bed of parsnip puree with artichoke icecream, truffle custard and Lord knows what besides. It set the tone for what was to follow, being visually stunning and a delightful parade of flavours.
Highlights included a novel smoked eel bavarois and duck leg with liquorice, resting on tiny pieces of chorizo.
The description "melts in the mouth" is overused but for our main course of venison with smoked speck, blackberries and other fruit elements it was merely an accurate description of the meat. My slight reservation about this dish was that it was a bit sweet and would have benefited from a sharp element.
I wasn't too sure, either, about the wasabi in the filling of the chocolate in one of the desserts. You could certainly taste it but I'm not sure it did much for the dish. The basil taste of the sorbet in the other dessert, however, was a winner.
In a menu of this complexity there are bound to be odd touches that don't appeal to all tastes but overall this was a meal to be remembered, from a restaurant that is relaxed and comfortable.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $274 for two five course tasting menus and six glasses of wine.
Wine list: A list that matches the ambition of the restaurant with good options by the glass. We particularly enjoyed a steely Archer McRae Martinborough riesling 2010 and a William Murdoch cabernet merlot malbec 09.
Verdict: As the venue's name implies, art food, beautifully served but in a relaxed atmosphere. A great venue for twosomes.