Life has been a hectic string of activities for FoodMeUpScotty, Feed Me Now Brisbane and myself. We had been trying to organise a get-together for much of the year, but something always got in the way. When we caught up again at Eat Drink Blog, we promised we’d have dinner and as luck would have it, we were able to lock something in to sample Brisbane’s two hatted restaurant, Urbane.
Seeing as the restaurant came with many positive reviews (many from FoodMeUpScotty) and it has already been awarded two hats by the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide, we arrived buzzing with anticipation at having an amazing night. Urbane offers a 5 or 8 course degustation menu, with an omnivore or vegan option – an rarity I was both delighted and intrigued to learn as Chef Alejandro Cancino is apparently a vegan. We opted to splurge on the 8 course omnivore degustation, giving us the opportunity to savour the same menu and simply concentrate on the conversation.
If we had any doubts the night was going to be amazing, Chef Alejandro Cancino and the Urbane team made sure to dispel them and they definitely did not disappoint. We did have to wait a couple of minutes to be seated, but everything from the attentive service to the intricate plating was stunning, making it one of the best nights out.
The first item off the rank was the kombucha, a fermented tea. This one was made of pineapple and chai, and made for a far more pleasant sweet beverage than previous kombuchas I’ve sampled. The tiny glass glasses were accompanied by fluffy white hand towels infused with lemon myrtle, which were so inviting, Feed Me Now Brisbane and I desperately wanted to smoother our faces into them.
The degustation menu really doesn’t lend itself to much in the description department – these paper thin strips were simply listed as ‘Potato’. What they failed to convey was that these sesame seed potato crisps were possibly the best version of potato chips I have ever had. These were incredibly moreish to nibble on without being so salty you’re gasping for water.
The black quinoa crisp was not much bigger than a stick of Wiggley’s chewing gum, and served as the platter for tiny fresh pale green cubes of avocado and dots of red chilli capsicum. An interesting little number, though the capsicum flavour was strong and lingered awhile.
Tomato, Green Strawberry
We couldn’t help but be intrigued by this tarty refreshing number as our waiter described the techniques involved in bringing this one together. The tomato was skinned and dehydrated under heat lamp, so although it lacked a ‘skin’, the dehydration process created a skin-like texture to encase the juicy insides. Its companions were pickled radish that seemed quite traditionally Japanese and green strawberry in tomato water.
The smoked corn could’ve almost been labelled a dessert. What looked like a soil texture was really super cold smoked corn ‘soil’ granules. The play on texture and temperature made it a delightfully childlike experience and I wouldn’t mind having a large tub of it sitting in my freezer.
While the tofu in kombu sauce looked the least imaginative of all the courses – it resembled many a Japanese chilled tofu dish, I still enjoyed it. The kombu sauce was thick with umami flavour and the tofu was silky.
Not pictured was the macadamia bread with smoked sea salt butter. Presented in a warmed stone bowl and cupped in the folds of a crisply starched white napkin, the quartered bread was fresh and lacked the yeastiness many breads tend to contribute to a bloaty tummy. Feed Me Now Brisbane and I each had 1.5 slices of the bread, slathered in copious lashings of the smoked sea salt butter – this was the way bread should always be made.
FoodMeUpScotty was particularly excited about the Carrot dish, as he had had it before and quite enjoyed this little number. This dish incorporated a carrot foam and a thick creamy (though I doubt there was any actual cream in it) soup beneath a delicately balanced covering of finely sliced carrot discs. This was not my favourite dish, but the technique needed to bring this one together is to be admired.
Watercress, Sugarsnap, Smoked Tapioca
The water cress purée with white asparagus, tapioca cream and onion petals was one of the highlight dishes for me. How on earth did they turn water cress into such a thick savoury purée that had all three of us licking our plates clean (note: if you ever wish to invite any of us to dinner, be prepared for plate licking. It’s a compliment.)
Quinoa, Cucumber, Apple
The quinoa delicately cupped by a cucumber stack didn’t really hold up on its own – the salty toasted buckwheat with cubed sweet apple brought everything together, while the bottom swirled the citrus milk.
Octopus, Jerusalem Artichoke, Finger Lime
I love all my seafood, but octopus can be a tough one to get right. Often in unskilled hands, octopus flesh transforms into rubber bands and is chewier than old boots. Thankfully Urbane have this down pat. Unlike the octopus I love Gerard’s Bistro, their octopus has a crunchy exterior that encases the plump octopus flesh within and the textural difference continues in the Jerusalem artichoke preparation and the squid ink with finger lime that burst like fairy bubbles in your mouth.
Sweetbread, Charred Leek, Onion
Feed Me Now Brisbane had some hesitation with this dish, after her first encounter with sweetbreads at Café Arlette. Texture was her issue, but one she needn’t have had. Duck tongue combined with charred baby leeks and onion turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable dish, which none of the dreaded squishiness.
Wagyu, Oyster, Tendon
Quite honestly, my well-done wagyu cap steak really should’ve been classed as a medium well-done. Now I am thrilled they left a little pink in the centre, but I know had the SO been looking over my shoulder, he would’ve arched an eyebrow and subtly hinted I should consider sending it back. None the less, this was the most stunningly satisfying dish that had me licking the plate to savour every last drop of the thick oyster sauce. Sure, it might have looked the most ordinary on the plate, but trust me when I say it capped off the mains quite beautifully and left me aching to start the dessert courses.
Local Pink Lady Apple
The Local Pink Lady Apple was a pre-dessert course. Now I have never heard of a pre-dessert course, but I totally love the idea. Pink lady apples were done in several ways, including a subtle sorbet and dehydrated skin. The apple was complimented with a lemongrass and ginger reduction
Mandarin, Honeycomb, Basil
This Mandarin grapefruit parfait with honeycomb was my favourite dessert course of the evening. Served with bush basil for a twist on the sweet citrus flavour, the parfait included honeycomb was made with honey from Urbane’s rooftop hive.
Chocolate, Lemon Myrtle, Hazelnut
For some reason, I mentally compared this dessert to the chocolate one we had at the Foraging Quail, but they were nothing alike… besides the fact they had a chocolate soil element. Urbane’s chocolate course had very subtle flavours, just the hint of lemon myrtle and hazelnuts to balance everything and avoid a sugar overload. In fact, I was quite surprised by the little burst of saltiness in my last spoonful.
Native Fruit Infusion, Mint Chocolate
The native fruit infusion was a Davidson plum tea. The last time I had tasted anything with Davidson plum was Kelly Kwong’s pork buns with Davidson plum sauce and I didn’t enjoy the strong incredibly sour flavour (the chilli version on the other hand was far more palatable).
I’m afraid Urbane have not been able to change my mind about this ingredient. The potent sour tea knocked my tastebuds around and I was unfortunately declared the loser after several attempts to sip it. Much of it was left in the cup and I had to soothe my bruised foodie ego with the handmade chocolate mint, served on a plump pillow of green which we were allowed to pinch for a surprising minty flavour boost.