As Brisbane’s fine-dining scene expands and evolves just like the rings of a pebble dropped right into a nonetheless pool, the ripples of Essa’s give attention to flavour, senses and elegance are making waves within the metropolis’s gastronomic circles.
Simply off the busy thoroughfare of well-liked James Avenue within the high-end facet of the Valley, Essa hides behind its discreet doorway able to tantalise, excite and fulfill.
As soon as inside, you’re greeted to a heat sanctum, heady with the aromas of beautiful dishes and the sounds of diners revelling in them.
White brick partitions lead you down the considerably slender seating space, which will get narrower as you come to the strong but elegant wealthy inexperienced marble bar. Beneath most circumstances, you’d anticipate the fingers of claustrophobia to start to grope for you, however not right here.
Intelligent lighting, the darkish raftered ceiling and the overall atmosphere creates an intimacy, a cosiness that many Brisbane venues miss out on for all their different attributes.
And as slender Essa is, it goes again and again till it finishes at just a little indoor backyard on the far wall.
We’re seated in our favorite of all spots: up on the bar.
Having the ability to watch the artistic cogs of a kitchen whirl and synchronise is fascinating.
It reminds us of our first go to to the vaunted Rockpool in Sydney, and to some extent the Ternary, the place we had been in a position to see the cooks in motion.
At first, we’re seated dealing with the grill cooks and their blazing charcoal fires. It’s very dramatic, but in addition very heat. So despite the literal conflagration lighting our place setting, we’re relieved to maneuver down in entrance of the uncooked meals station.
The road chef right here, Lettie, is straight away pleasant, and we chat when she’s not too busy and watch on in awe when she is.
She’s joyful to reply our random questions in regards to the meals because it comes out, a few of which she’s ready and plated herself proper in entrance of us. It’s like having a non-public chef!
What to eat at Essa
The menus at Essa are all the time altering relying on what’s in season and availability, however two issues stay the identical.
Firstly, the standard. Because of glorious native produce, the outstanding ability of the cooks and the mind of proprietor and head chef Phil Marchant, the meals right here is phenomenal.
Secondly, there’s all the time the ‘Depart it to us’ possibility if you happen to can’t make up your thoughts.
$94pp will spare up house in your mind that selections all the time gobble and the kitchen will put collectively all the pieces that’s good that evening so that you can get pleasure from.
We, after all, select this selection, and sit again and calm down.
Full disclosure, we’re mugs for an up-sell and we are able to’t resist the supply of half a dozen appellation oysters.
Lettie, our proficient new buddy on the uncooked meals station—and due to this fact in command of oysters—explains there are two kinds of Sydney rock oyster right here: Merimbula (creamy and wealthy) and Quandamooka (strong and savoury).
She guarantees to provide us a few of each, which she shucks in entrance of us. Conveniently, I favor the Merimbula oysters and Christina leans in the direction of the Quandamooka.
Depart it to us – what we ate at Essa
The ‘Depart it to us’ degustation menu features a whole seven dishes.
First up is sourdough and ‘nduja. That is additionally in Lettie’s remit. In truth it’s the one factor she has to truly prepare dinner and has a vat of the wealthy spiced oily combination effervescent away subsequent to her.
From Calabria in southern Italy, ‘nduja is a sort of cured sausage meat that you could unfold onto bread or crackers and is usually present in little blobs on pizza. However right here at Essa, they serve it like a burger patty or beef tartare—an enormous disc of scrumptious.
That is an unbelievable dish—an ‘umami bomb’ as Lettie describes it.
Chewy, crunchy black-charred sourdough from the charcoal station with the spicy unctuous wealthy ‘nduja unfold thick on prime, then a intelligent counterbalance of candy honey drizzled on prime of that. That is heaven.
Our subsequent dish is marked merely as “fried chickpea beignets, caramelised scallop cream”, however this hardly does this dish justice. The beignets have a delightfully crisp outer coating that collapses underneath the slightest contact. Inside is a delicate gooey centre that’s nonetheless tender and lightweight.
I don’t know how they stopped the chickpea combination from being dense and cloying, which is will be, or how there’s a lot flavour right here. This dish actually is spectacular.
Subsequent is a form of deconstructed bruschetta, thick slices of juicy tomato topped with basil and geranium leaves, topped with a ‘charcuterie XO’, which is a dressing made with crisp saucisson and balsamic.
That is carefully adopted by monumental banana prawns which have been chargrilled of their shells then pealed so the meat is smoky and just a little charred too.
The prawns served on a ‘fish-onnaise’ made with a swordfish bisque that’s been diminished down and emulsified in oil to a form of mayonnaise. However that is means richer and creamier than any mayo.
We discover ourselves consuming virtually all of our prawns, head and all. As a result of the shell was charred, a lot of the head is blackened as properly. You’re left with a crunchy smoky umami that you simply begin nibbling on. Earlier than it, there’s not a lot left in your plate!
The final of the savoury dishes is the roasted duck leg on a mattress of beluga lentils and a wealthy jus, served with a salad of uncooked witlof dressed with hazelnuts and an orange French dressing.
Surprisingly, that is the least spectacular dish of the lot. There’s loads of flavour, however not the umami tsunami of the others. Or maybe we’re simply actually full now!
Lastly, the dessert—roasted plum with coconut and almond sorbet, and dressed with crystallised sesame and burnt lemon myrtle ash.
The final two components add a crunchy texture and an attractive savoury notice a well-balanced satisfying dessert. And being a sorbet, it cleanses the palate and doesn’t depart you feeling stodgy and over-full.
A notice on the identify
It’s unclear why this restaurant is named Essa. However a fast search reveals a startling variety of attainable translations—a few of that are apropos. Others… not a lot.
In French and German, essa interprets as ‘attempt’ and ‘eat’ respectively. For the Balkans, the restaurant can be known as This, whereas a spread of nations, together with Portugal, Spain, Rwanda and Uyghur audio system, it will be That.
In Italian, Essa would have the uninspiring title of merely It, whereas these talking Tamil would know the restaurant as Music.
Turks and Ukrainians would learn a extra motivating identify: Primarily and Sure respectively, whereas Bangladeshi people would see the enthusiastic crucial Come On above the restaurant’s door.
Sadly, essa in Gujarati appears to be ‘ass’.
However no matter—or maybe whoever—Essa takes its title from (I hope these translations haven’t brought about offence!), this namesake pays tribute with its very good fare, beneficiant service and chic but cosy environment.