Monday, January 5, 2015

Supernormal

There are places that open up in Melbourne you hear the buzz about even while overseas. Supernormal is one of the those places, popping up in newspapers, Broadsheet, blogs and a million-and-one Instagram posts.

When a friend suggested we catch up there for lunch, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and so quickly agreed. Even with a fairly pared down menu of Asian inspired foods which only bear some resemblance to the dishes that inspired them, and all with a fairly steep price-tag, it was difficult to decide what to order because everything sounded interesting and a ‘must-try’ once you got over the cost shock.

In the end, we decided to forgo the seafood-heavy raw bar section, and the meat and fish section and settled on a variety of dumplings, bao and plate/vegetable dishes.

The dumplings we ordered were, well, not my traditional idea of dumplings.

Prawn & chicken dumplings, chilli & vinegar sauce
But of course I’m just being pedantic, they’re wontons with their thin egg shells and the way they are wrapped, but ‘dumplings’ after all is a fairly generic term so I’ll let this one slide (mostly). The wrappers were delightfully thin, the meat was balanced and packed the little pockets well, and the chilli and vinegar sauce cut through the rich texture for a morish dish. Pity there were so few dumplings for quite a bit of cash, but there are times were you settle for quality over quantity.

The bao that we ordered were once again not my traditional definition of bao (where the meat is completely enclosed in a dough filling) but instead the Melbourne style of bao à la Wonderbao.

Pork bao, tamarind sauce
I was also surprised at the form the pork took – I was expecting a chunk of fairly unprocessed meat and was instead greeted by a heavily breaded and internally shredded meat cube. Strange, but delicious nevertheless. The dough was slightly sweet, and fairly light and springy and the tamarind added a distinctly Asian but definitely non-expected flair to the dish.

Whereas we unanimously decided that the dumplings and bao were tasty, the next dish divided our group. Some of us liked it, some of us were just plain confused by it.

White cut chicken, cold noodles, black sesame and cucumber
The chicken I get, the cold noodles I get, the cucumber I get (standard ingredients) but the black sesame sauce just threw me. Slightly floury, slightly tasteless, I just didn’t understand the appeal. Why couldn’t a simple broth do? But hey, that’s why I’m not a chef – I just don’t understand the art of experimentation like they do. This dish works for some, but definitely not for others. 

Thankfully the last two dishes were rich, delicious, and kept my tastebuds very happy.

Sauteed mushrooms, rice cake & sweet soy
We’ve once again got the Asian influences of rice and soy but this dish was purely just a wonderful highlight of mushrooms. Meaty mushrooms, with different varieties lending different flavours and textures, offset by the crunch of the rice cake. Probably my favourite dish of the meal.

Silken tofu, marinated eggplant & coriander
The silken tofu dish came a close second, but likely only because of my affection for eggplant. The eggplant was silky, as was the tofu (which you may have gotten from the name) and were good foils for each other in terms of heavy and light flavours being balanced with the coriander was adding a refreshing highlight.

The whole experience is enjoyable if you just go with the fact that the dishes are very different to typical Asian food. Having never been to another Andrew McConnell restaurant, I don’t know if this is just what his style is like. Trying something new is always fun and worth a shot. The price tag is something you’d better be prepared for because that certainly doesn’t resemble the price tags you may be accustomed to seeing in most Asian restaurants. 

Supernormal
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12am

Supernormal on Urbanspoon