Bianca: Branching out from all things burgers, I’ve tried to make the concerted effort to eat things that generally aren’t a piece of minced beef, sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Or so I had thought…
‘Ester’ is one of those perennially busy Sydney restaurants and stepping in for a late Sunday lunch it’s easy to see why. With a wood-fired oven at the centre piece of the kitchen’s heart, you know the food is going to be somewhat stripped back, bringing things back to basics. Without that reliance on showy tricks and techniques, just good honest to goodness bold and strong flavours, letting the ingredients sometimes in their simplest form shine through.
Accompanying me on my expedition was my friend J and with an obsession with US basketball imma have to call him MJ –after Michael Jordan of course. Before I even set foot in the restaurant I received a text, along the lines of “They changed the menu…they have a cheeseburger”. Despite best intentions it was simply fate, a modern Australian restaurant churning out dishes such as ‘Blood Sausage sandwiches’ and ‘Beef tartare’ with a cheeseburger special? My lucky stars!!
Settling in to our late lunch and with some Notorious B.I.G providing the background menu perusal music we began our foray into the world of Ester. We started with the ‘Crispy Squid Dumplings’ $4 each. Quite a visually imposing and intimidating dish but that all vanishes once you take that first bite, the squid ink giving the dumpling skin that dark black hue. Encased within the dumpling was a mixture of pork and cuttlefish. We both agreed that the ratio of dumpling skin to filling was slightly off and we could taste more of a dominant pork flavour than cuttlefish.
I believe I’ve extolled my aversion to all things Offaly and bony and I was aware of a few items on the menu that I knew were going to challenge my precious little stomach. The first of which was the pate, MJ was particularly pleased when he found out it was a special that day. The ‘Chicken Liver Pate’ $17 whilst it wasn’t as ‘gamey’ as some pates can be, it wouldn’t be my first choice for any future visits. Served alongside a small bowl of crispy crackers the pate was smooth and flitted in between a mild muted gamey undertone to a punchy flavour profile that snuck up on you.
The ‘Bone Marrow’ w/chilli paste $17 was surprisingly my favourite dish of the day, it was my first time trying bone marrow, all I can say is that I think I’ve been missing out. Scooping out the marrow and smearing it on to the lightly buttered rye bread it was almost heavenly, the chilli paste really accented the fatty unctuous goop and worked well to balance the richness of the marrow. I pity anyone that had to witness me shovelling it into my mouth.
And here’s the fun bit, I walked into Ester thinking MJ was lying to me about the whole cheeseburger thing, he knows my obsession with all things burgers so I just thought he was taking a cheap shot. Alas, there it was ‘The Cheeseburger’ $15. A soft, steamed white bun, containing a juicy medium rare beef patty, vibrant American cheese, pickles and speck jam. This one had me terribly confused, each bite had me questioning what it was exactly, that I was tasting. Was there ever any doubt Ester would do a straight up cheeseburger? I don’t think so. The speck jam was plentiful but it was on the sweet side. I liked the fact that the lettuce was on the side of the plate WHERE IT BELONGS!! The thinly sliced potatoes, a play on the classic potato chip snack didn’t do much for me. I came across a few places in the US that served crisps alongside burgers and it became a bit of a nuisance, gimmie my damn fried chips! I can’t help but throw out a pickle score for my FB FBAS buddies, just for the hell of it – a 3.8/5 pickles.
And lastly – we ended with the ‘Beef Intercostals’ w/fermented rice and Anchovy butter $36. The intercostal can be found between the ribs of the hind quarter and fore quarter and can otherwise be known as ‘Rib Fingers’. Sounds tempting right? We had to google the cut as we’d both never heard of it before. The promising pink flesh looked enticingly juicy but it was rather tough and chewy, not to mention the overpowering tastes and smells of the anchovy butter…I HATE anchovies. I’m unsure how the fermented rice comes into play in this dish, as there were no visual signs of grains of rice, less they had broken down with the cooking process. None the less, not a dish that blew me away.
After a particularly heavy and rich lunch we were on the verge of purge and sadly skipped dessert. Staff were lovely and we had a knowledgeable young waitress guide us through the ordering process.
Despite a few hit and miss dishes, I’d happily make a return visit.