This year, my dear Dad and I decided we were going to work our way through the alphabet of restaurant names. After throwing around a few suggestions, (there is a remarkable number of restaurants that start with the letter A) it made sense to start the new year fresh, inventive, somewhere with a spark.
Automata ticked all the boxes.
Spanning over two levels, Automata makes the most of its original floor to ceiling windows that once housed the administration office for Carlton United Breweries. As the name suggests, there is a mechanical, industrial vibe, all the components to create a well-oiled culinary machine.
An ebb and flow of calm radiates from the kitchen, its open space allowing diners a view into the preparation and deliberation that goes into each dish. The young-faced crew are focused in an almost zen-like state. There’s no shouting, no ringing of bells, just a gentle clap of the hands to alert the waitstaff.
It’s a combination of attention to detail, understanding Japanese flavours and fusing seasonal Australian produce that has got head chef Clayton Wells to his well-respected role in the cut-throat restaurant industry.
A young-gun himself, Wells, has the creative insight and courage to push traditional boundaries in a unique, left-of-centre fashion that brings innovation and damn good dishes to Sydney's dining table.
There are two menus available, the 5 course and 7 course, each with a drinks pairing option. On this occasion we went with the 5-course selection, starting with canapés of a crispy seaweed cracker topped with a creamy combo cream, followed by a scallop served with XO chilli and on a gamtae (seaweed wrapper).
As Nirvana plays over the speakers, and more chairs are filled with eager diners, the pink snapper tartare dish is presented to the table. Elegant lines of green asparagus, drape over the fish that is infused with preserved lemon and caper in a creamy sauce that ropes you in from the first bite.
In my books, there is always a place for cheese on the menu, and the stracciatella is a welcome contrast to the dominantly seafood menu. Paired with anchovies, dried tomatoes and a healthy dousing of olive oil, there is more of a trip to Florence than to Fukuoka.
The first of the two mains continue to reference Italian influences, bringing together spanner crab, house-made fermented chilli pasta, black lime and topped with dried marigolds. Pretty to look at and even better to taste.
Sliced black Angus hanger served on a jalapeño emulsion with a side of grilled cucumber and shallot completes the second main dish. Its earthiness is given a kick of heat from the jalapeño, complementing the juiciness of the steak.
Dessert is a frozen yoghurt dessert of yuzu and grape served on top of a burnt meringue with a dusting of lemon myrtle. A talented mix of citrus and herby flavours, the use of yoghurt gives it the right amount of tart and just the right amount of caramel sweetness from the meringue.
Just when you think you've read the menu and grasp an idea of what might be served, be prepared for an element of surprise. A few words describing single ingredients leaves room for the imagination, a case of less is more, leaving the ingredients and flavours speak for themselves.
5 KENSINGTON ST, CHIPPENDALE
+61 2 8277 8555