Over-complexity is the blight affecting Sydney’s restaurant scene like a curse.
Too often chefs confuse an abundance of flavours, textures and ingredients with mastery, and many have a distinctly arrogant attitude towards both their dishes and the customers they are served to. They disturb and detract simply for the sake of disturbing and detracting, never once stopping to ask whether or not the extra steps they add to classic recipes actually enhance the final experience.
Clockwise from top left: Crispy skinned duck breast, confit kingfish with black lentils and beetroot salad with goat’s curd, smoked almonds and salted honeycomb
Consider Jersey Rd. Bistro the exception to that particular rule. Head chef Jason Dean understands better than most that a truly fulfilling dining experience is not achieved by vogueish, flashy gimmicks, but by a reliance on good quality ingredients combined in understated, satisfying ways.
He is also a profoundly textural chef. The tasting menu that the BRAG is served achieves brilliance by contrasting serves of delicious breads, crackers and fried potatoes with softer meats and garden vegetables. Most modern chefs pay little attention to how food actually feels in your mouth – what melts and what cracks, for example – but the kitchen staff at Jersey Road are evidently not like most, and they aim to provide a varied, deeply satisfying dining experience by masterfully mixing up textures.
Happily, the menu is defined by a range of delicious, rich surprises. Tart yet smooth parmesan custard served on red cabbage crackers is a unique flavour combination that works so much better than one would assume, fluctuating between Western styles and the Eastern notes provided by the crackers. And the soft, cheesy ravioli – introduced as Jersey Rd.’s most famous dish – matches extraordinarily well with the bowl of rich consommé it is served in, topped off by restaurant-grown peas.
Even the smaller sides are prepared and presented with all the attention usually afforded to a main, with the kipfler potatoes in particular impressing. It is a rare experience indeed to encounter a fried potato that doesn’t feel greasy or overloaded, and the accompanying sauces and pesto provide enough contrast to stop the dish from becoming a carby mess.
And again, most importantly, even the renegade, experimental items on the menu – a wagyu beef tartare for example, served cold and with thick sourdough – achieve greatness through their simplicity rather than anything more maximalist or complex. The tartare, slick and sauce-heavy as it is, doesn’t impress because it’s overwhelming or unreal, but rather because it is startlingly easy to disseminate and digest. Dean has faith in his ingredients; that much is obvious. It stands to reason. Perhaps anyone would if they had access to duck and beef of the quality that Jersey Rd. Bistro serves.
The wine list, carefully selected, is full of fruity Spanish reds and tart whites. Even those who know little about wines should quickly glean that Dean and his crew have paid as much attention to the pairing of alcohol and food as they have to their menu’s textural twists and turns, meaning Jersey Rd. Bistro is one of those few restaurants where you can fully hand yourself over to the skill of the staff, outsourcing the decision-making process with confidence.
And about them, actually: the staff. Attentive, informative and engaging to a tee, they are one of the most dedicated teams this critic has encountered in Sydney, eager to assist wherever possible without feeling like a distraction or an imposing force.
Add to that a comfortable, spacious dining area, good lighting, non-invasive musical choices, and a near-perfect dessert – an apple, kiwi and créme fraîche meringue mess – and Jersey Rd. Bistro is evidently one of Sydney’s most exciting new dining spots. Miss booking a table at your own peril.
Jersy Rd. Bistro upstairs dining
Chocolate, caramel, hazelnut and passionfruit dessert
Price per main:
Jersey St. Bistro is located at 3 Jersey Rd, Woollahra. Open Tue – Sat 5-midnight; Sun 10am-3pm. The bar is open bar 5pm-midnight, with a bar food menu available after 10pm.