Monday, 21 July 2014

Good Food Month - GOMA Harvest: Art, Film + Food

July just keeps getting better and better.  Good Food Month is a relatively new addition to the Brisbane calendar but it's already transformed the Brisbane foodie landscape.  Not only are there amazing festivals, such as the Teneriffe Festival (see post here), Regional Flavours and the Night Noodle Markets but a raft of top restaurants holding special Good Food Month events.  With so many amazing opportunities during the month, and no real way to get to them all, I've had to bee a little choosy about which ones to go to.

I started off the month heading to the Young Chef Dinner at E'cco (see post here), where some of the state's top young chef talent put on a show and demonstrated why Brisbane is fast becoming a recognised foodie destination.  One of the chefs doing-his-thing on the night was GOMA Restaurant's young gun Josue (Josh) Lopez, who has shot into the spotlight in the last few years with his creative take on native Australian food.  Winning a coveted Chefs Hat from the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide has only reinforced what an up and comer Josh is.

One of the highlights of Good Food Month was the alignment with the QAGOMA's Harvest: Art, Film + Food exhibition. Taking advantage of the food based exhibit, the restaurant, which is normally only open during daylight hours, has decided to open on Friday nights for the duration of Good Food Month.  Facebook buddy and aspiring Martha Stewart style domestic goddess and blogger, Digella arranged for a night at the museum (without Ben Stiller) for a group of Brisbane foodies and I was stoked to be part of the group.

I've only been aware that GOMA had an award winning restaurant since early this year, but once it came across my 'radar', I made like a 'laser-guided-missile' to get across and check it out (see post here).  It turned out to be one of the most surprising and delightful degustations I'd had in a long time, so I was eagerly anticipating the return visit to share the experience with Digella and a group of our foodie friends.  I was also looking forward to catching up with Josue again, who was not only a top chef but a good bloke. It would also be the first time I'd catch up face to face with another Facebook buddy who is a chef at GOMA as well (NC).

There was a group of ten of us lined up for a 6pm dinner but as is often the case with larger groups, we all arrived at different times spread out over about forty five minutes.  It was actually a great way to get to know new friends gradually as opposed to having a huge group at the same time.  Josue made his way out before we started to say hi and let us know we were in for a treat, as if we didn't know that already.  He also explained that his little kitchen was getting a work over due to a couple of other events occurring though the museum - only two 100 group bookings!! 

Once everyone was seated and introductions made, it was time to get the show on the road and before the first course of the degustation came out we received some warm brioche with soft, house churned butter that had a pinch of salt.  The thick cut brioche was lovely and the already soft butter just melted into the warm bread - yum.  The slight sweetness of the brioche along with the salty and melted butter was a wonderful treat and certainly got my engines running for the meal ahead.

Our degustation started with the wagyu bresaola with egg yolk pearls and mustard.  Bresaola is aged, salted and air dried beef, which is then sliced really thin and packs a huge meaty flavour.  I'd had this on my last visit to GOMA and to mix things up, it was presented in a more organic way and with  a slightly different composition of flavours.  I particularly loved the slight tang of the mustard, which is always a perfect match for a strong meat, and the slight sweetness that came from the egg yolk pearls.

I'd heard about the next dish from SC, who'd been to GOMA with work colleagues recently, but was not really prepared for the visual delight that was the living risotto of sprouted beans and legumes, broad bean, garden flowers and verjuce.  It was a study in creativity and genius colliding to provide something truly unique.  It took me a while to warm to the dish, and while everyone around the table was singing its praises with sounds of 'oooohh' and 'aaahhhh', I was wondering what the fuss was about.  It wasn't until about halfway though that the flavours started to come together for me and by the time I'd finished, finally understood the dish.  It was the textures and contrasting flavours that made the living risotto so amazing but you need to savour it to fully appreciate it. 

The last time I'd had the Moreton Bay bug poached in GOMA churned butter with a saffron broth, seaweed and broccolini, I'd compared it to a piece of art hanging on the walls of GOMA.  It had been a stunning masterpiece with subtle flavours and a visual appeal that you rarely come across.  The same dish on my latest visit did not have the same striking and stunning finish and looked a little more rushed in its composition.  Not that the visual appeal took away from the flavour, which if anything, was more pronounced that the last time I'd enjoyed the dish.  The poached bug was expertly cooked and sat wonderfully in the saffron broth, that was definitely more flavoursome than the first version of the dish.

I'd never had emu meat before and was intrigued to taste the next course of seared emu loin with native spiced black pudding, smoked potato and Illawara plum.  It turns out that emu is quite delicious, it's a bit stronger flavoured than beef.  It really is unusual that Australia is the only country (that I am aware of) that eats the animal on its Coat-of-Arms, the last time I visited GOMA it was wallaby served with this dish.  I loved the smokey and aerated potato, with the smokiness enhancing the flavour of the emu, which had a slight caramelisation to begin with.  Best of all was the native spiced black pudding, which had a 'gritty' texture but managed to bring all of the flavours on the plate together. Yum.

My favourite dish of the night was the Southern Downs wagyu beef with beef floss, crisps, celeriac and rhubarb for sweetness.  It was quite a large serve of meat for a degustation but what was on the plate was perfectly cooked with a rich, meaty flavour.  The beef floss was interesting and kind of spindly on the beef, but the texture it provided worked better than I would have thought.  There was a lovely sticky jus on the plate that helped with the flavour of the wagyu with the stewed rhubarb providing a contrasting shot of sweetness.

I'm generally not a fan of cheese courses for degustations and I think they are a feature of a bygone era (I know others won't agree) but for the second time in a row, Josue has confounded me with a delicious cheese course.  The Bangalo nashua with washed rind cheese, charcoal meringue and aerated quince was a unique and unbelievable dish.  I generally prefer my cheeses hard, but the nashua soft cheese, which had a slight brûlée and a strong flavour (again for me) but once you combined it with the charcoal meringue and quince, was simply wonderful.  It was the sweetness from the meringue that made it for me, levelling out the strength of the cheese and making it not only bearable but yummy. 

I knew what was coming for dessert, but still was completely amazed when the wattle custard with Daintree chocolate paint and Daintree vanilla curd was presented.  If anything, this time it was even more immaculately presented than the first, with the completely smooth plate looking empty, save a few dots of vanilla curd.  It's not until you crack through the spray painted chocolate that you reach the wattle custard and understand the genius of the dessert.  The wattle custard has a strong earthy flavour with a hint of of bitterness that's balanced by the vanilla and chocolate.  

We were practically to first people to arrive for the night's meal and by the time we started to wind up, the restaurant had cleared out and cleanup was happening all around us.  Once the meal had finished, Josue had come out for a well deserved rest and a chat.  Being a foodie, I love chatting to chefs about their food and backgrounds, it helps me get a feel for the passion that comes out on the plate.

I could see the gleam in Josue's eyes when he was talking about some of the plans for the GOMA restaurant, including using the space for weddings in the future (a must do if you're getting married) and some interesting changes to the décor and layout.  Joshe was incredibly proud to have won the Chefs Hat but I got the feeling that he'd be eying off a second hat in the near future, I wouldn't put it past him!

I'd had a wonderful night and had met some cool new people, which is always fun.  It was a refined dinner, with a lot of laughs in a very refined setting.  It was my second of many events for the Good Food Month and without doubt will stick in my memory as an absolute cracker.  I'm pretty sure, there are a few more good nights on the horizon.

Thanks for organising Digella :)

I'm not normally a fan of soft cheese but with burnt meringue, its tops
The first time I had the bug dish, it was a stunning piece of art!

GOMA Restaurant on UrbanspoonGOMA Restaurant


  1. That bug dish really is plated art...nice!

    1. It really was - so beautiful and yet tasty :)


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