More than a Trifle of Truffle at Artisan
by The Editor
Deep in to Canberra’s annual truffle season, it’s not all about digging around far-flung paddocks in the hope of retrieving a nugget of pungent deliciousness. Many of Canberra’s finer restaurants – including Sage, Italian and Sons and Grazing – are putting on a show of what the funky fungus can do for a dish.
In the spirit of adventure and service to our audience, we settled in at The Artisan for their 5-course Truffle Celebration with matching wines. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
For those familiar with The Artisan’s themed dinners, it’s a thick and fast delivery of flavours that, at the end of proceeding, leaves your head spinning in a manner not entirely due to the wine. As we settled in to our table on a cold and windy Saturday night – very much ready for the heavier flavours of the season – we were greeted by the wonderfully affable Sam McGeechan. As one of the most pleasant, charming and knowledgable servers in town, it was easy to get the feeling we were in for a comfortable ride.
In keeping with the celebration of the local truffle industry, Artisan matched all their dishes with Canberra regional wines.
After an excitable glass of Veuve Clicquot to further enhance our mood, it was time for the first of the dishes. In front of us now sat eggs with whipped truffle butter, soldiers & shaved truffles (2011 Collector Marsanne). It was a playful start to proceedings with an obvious breakfast feel. However, the flavour is very grown-up and savoury – with the delicious bread and butter soldiers helping mash up the egg and truffles in a perfectly visceral manner.
Next in line was The Artisan classic: mushroom with truffle, Stilton, shallots, chives on garlic bread (2011 Eden Rd Shiraz). This is a stalwart on The Artisan menu, despite every attempt by Sam and David Black to move it on to make room for something else. Usually served with a hint of truffle to allow the mushrooms to blossom, on this occasion a layer of shaved truffle almost buries the rest of the dish from view. The flavour is spot on, though. It’s a treat that will make it difficult to go back to the traditional version that shines on the menu for the other nine months of the year.
Duck breast now decorates a fresh plate dressed with celeriac, ceps, watercress, duck jus and…of course…truffle (2012 Ravensworth Sangiovese). The duck has a delicious smokiness about it that is certainly enhanced by the presence of black truffles, and the veggies provide the acid to cut through the richness of the duck. It feels like we are reaching a summit of flavour – wondering where we could possibly go (we’d ignored peeking at the menu to keep the dishes a surprise). We could happily drink a whole mug of the jus, but that would be over the top….wouldn’t it?
Perhaps we weren’t there yet. The final meat dish was black eye fillet beef fillet, potato soufflé, spinach, baby beetroot and truffles (2011 Nick O’Leary Shiraz). The succulent cut of beef is smaller than what the turn-and-burn protein addicts of ‘The Kingo’ might endorse, however every morsel brought a grin to our faces. The souffle was light and delicious, playing the perfect supporting part to the meat. The sweet beetroot adds balance.
Dessert time, and a sense of foreboding settled across the table given the richness of the previous four courses. Could we really do a dessert with more truffle? The sensible among us would say, “no” and that is exactly what The Artisan does. We switch completely to the light and playful elderflower panna cotta with honeycomb, yoghurt sorbet and popping candy (2010 Lark Hill ‘Auslese’ Riesling). The sensation on the palate is one of sweet relief, and the giggle-inducing fizz of the popping candy paints smiles all round. It’s a lovely way to complete the meal, with the Riesling (rather than a more dense dessert wine) adding the final flourishes. Delicious.
The Artisan is hosting their ‘Loves Truffles’ dinners (and Saturday lunches) throughout winter. You can book yourself in for a few hours of truffled delights via the contact details below.
The Artisan Loves Truffles
$130 for five courses with wine pairing
Tuesday – Saturday
12.00pm – 2.30pm
6.00pm – 10.00pm