In our hearts we all dream of adventures. Sometimes these adventures are sparked by the deep-rooted globetrotting urges within us. In the rare occasion, adventure comes home, knocks on the door, and offers excitement in a silver platter, literally. All one needs to do is to trust the gut instinct and fearlessly indulge. It was such a gastronomical adventure the partakers stumbled upon at the Exclusive curated Australian Dinner whipped up by Chef Adam Gaunt-Evans for the Colombo Gourmet Week that concluded recently at the Galle Face Hotel.

According to Chef Adam, Australian cuisine is very diverse with a lot of different dishes from different cultures. There are typical British food such as pies but due to influence from different cultures Australians are more open-minded about food. Therefore, a general fine dining restaurant would have a mix of different cuisines, with access to many different flavours. He also mentioned that a lot of ingredients were introduced to Australia. Before the European settlers, the aborigines were a hunter, forager community.

Talking about the Sri Lankan cuisine Chef Adam said that he loves eating rice and curry with his hands. “I spent my whole childhood being told not to eat with my hands. It took me time to master the technique of eating with hands,” he confided.

The first glimpse of the dishes to follow was offered with Amuse-bouche, literally translated to ‘mouth amuser’. True to its name, with its vivid colouring and arrangement, it was much more than food. It was a work of art. Creamy green avocado and transparent, light brown bubbles of pickled ginger caviar sat in the middle of a round red watermelon platform, referred to as Watermelon Carpaccio, bordered with
Balmain Bug.

Balmain bug is a type of lobster popular among Australians. In the mouth, the watermelon was crunchily sweet and avocado was creamy sour with a tinge of lemon. Ginger caviar exploded in the mouth, to produce lightly sweet lipid ginger fireworks. It was a refreshingly sweet modern Australian dish.

Entrée was less decorative and more adventurous. A piece of fish swimming in a pool of thick creamy looking yellowish substance, chef Adam termed Escabache. It was served with garlic crostini, croutons of thinly sliced bread, rubbed with olive oil. Garlic crostini was deliciously crispy and oily. It gives out a buttery flavour that surrenders to stronger garlic in the mouth.

Escabache was made of Round Island Barramundi, the most popular Australian fish. The Barramundi used for the dish was farmed in Trincomalee. Escabache is a marinade of Spanish origin made with olive oil, vinegar and white wine. It is then flavoured with saffron and orange.

The fish, lightly undercooked and marinated, was slightly raw. It tasted like a softer version of chicken, rather than fish. Combined with the subtle sour flavour of the acidic juice, it leaves a pleasant citrus taste alongside the meaty flavour of fish. The yellow juice was a cocktail of flavours. It was bitter and sour and olive oil textured. Garlic crostini aptly complimented the oily sour flavour of the juice from escabache. It was a display of Mediterranean influence in Australian dishes.

The main course was Chicken & Jumbo Prawn Barbie grilled and arranged alongside confit tomato and sautéed spinach. Chef Adam, generously changed the set menu of beef and substituted with chicken when he heard that we do not partake beef. A fine example of excellent service combined with thoughtfulness on his side.

Jumbo Prawn Barbie tasted similar to boiled prawns, combined with spinach and olive oil. The pumpkin mash, which resembled a round coconut rotti, was slightly grilled. It was soft, slightly granular and spiced with a touch of pepper and an umami like flavour that surfaced from time to time. The hard chicken, paired with pumpkin mash and tomato, tasted both sweet and sour. When prawn and spinach was added to this combination, the different flavours surfaced at different times but the leafy flavour of spinach dominated over the rest. Chef Adam’s pumpkin mash is one of my all time favourites and I would have been content even if it was the only thing that was on my plate. It was a unique pumpkin experience. The main course was themed to demonstrate Australians love for barbecue.

But the dessert was the climax of the dinner. Chef Adam produced it with the air of a magician performing his best trick. It was a fine combination of dark chocolate textures, rhubarb confit and bitter chocolate sauce. The round chocolaty structure was mounted on a very thin sponge layer.

Chef Adam ceremoniously poured hot chocolate sauce on to the round piece of hard chocolate on top of the softer milky texture. It sunk through the texture to create a brimming dark chocolate well in the middle. It created a mini chocolate river in the mouth, with light and dark chocolate flavours. There was a layer of desiccated coconut and peanuts in the soft layer which resembled a somewhat harder version of chocolate mousse. The rhubarb confit added a delightful sour, fruity flavour to the chocolate.
The fruit platter made of diced apples, guava, starfruit, pineapple, dragonfruit, papaya, melon and grapes came complete with chilli, sugar and lemon sorbet, a creamy scoop of lemon flavoured snow.
(Pics by Musthaq Thasleem)