Justin North, much like his cuisine, is handsome and addictive. Described in the official Taste of Sydney brochure as being modern Australian, the food is an interesting take on this Kiwi lad’s kitchen prowess.
Bridget Davis

25 Mar 2011 - 11:16 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

His 2011 presence at Taste of Sydney came by way of a three-menu offering, which could be upsized with crispy parmesan truffle chips. North had bundled two of his four Sydney eating establishments into one marquee, offering food from both Etch and the recently opened Charlie & Co..

Etch offered seared scallops with cauliflower bhaji and curry, and a caramel-date tart with earl grey syrup and vanilla Chantilly. Not being one to lean my head too far under the dessert trolley, I opted for the scallop style entrée, being somewhat intrigued by how the curry was going to be incorporated.

After shelling out 12 crowns (or $12), my scepticism of this dish began to grow. If I was sitting in a restaurant, I likely wouldn’t order this plate, as the wording didn’t appeal. But, standing in a field, under the cover of a large market umbrella as gentle rain was beginning to fall, I caved. The festival is called 'Taste" after all, and that was what I was there to do.

The small bread plate I was handed caught me by surprise. The dish looked elegant and well portioned, with a clever use of colour and textures. I instantly began to salivate at the thought of the two juicy scallops bracing the sides of the golden, crispy looking bhaji fritter. Sauces glistened and micro-greens floated amongst the picturesque dish; I even found myself hoping my 'Taste" partner hadn’t noticed just how splendid this dish actually looked.

One taste and I definitely did not want to share (my normally charitable nature suddenly turned Gollum-like). Despite the multifaceted flavours, North had created a symphony of balance. The scallops were moist and succulent, leaving the sweet taste of the sea in my mouth, and the cauliflower bhaji was crispy and well-designed to complement the fan-shelled mussel.

The choice of sauces that were expertly dribbled around the champions of the dish was curry-like in flavour, though not in appearance. Rather, it was more refined and subdued.  

This dish was bang on and far more exciting than the menu would have you believe. North and the team from Etch nailed it, and I was left amazed that such incredible food could be created in a paddock under a marquee.

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