Sunday, 23 November 2014

Prive249 - The chef and the challenge


That’s what I’m chasing and I think it’s what you’re chasing too…

There are a lot of great restaurants around our fair city of Brisbane but as great as our restaurants are, there are very few unique dining experiences or UDX.  As much as it pains me to admit, there can sometimes be a little bit of sameness in our restaurants, especially when you eat out a lot.  Every now and then, something comes along to excite and tantalise the tastebuds, but after a while, even the exciting becomes the norm.

Whether it’s catering to a mass market or just not feeling inspired to try something new, I think our chefs have the inspirational spark to do the amazing, if only they are given the chance.

At least one chef in Brisbane is looking to shake off the shackles and try something new.  Prive249 is one of Brisbane’s few Hatted Restaurants and it’s an incredible white linen and silver service fine diner.  Chef de Cuisine and culinary wiz Josh Okorn is responsible for producing beautiful and award winning food that was good enough for European dignitaries during the recent G20.  He’s also a man in chains, just waiting to break out!

On my most recent visit to Prive249 for my little brother's birthday dinner, Josh made an interesting proposition… Give him some ingredients and he’d create a special menu for the evening.  It was an offer too good to refuse and challenge I was willing to share in.  The ingredients?

Chicken, Camel, Pigeon, Venison, Duck, Raspberry and Kiwi Fruit…

The meal that flowed was nothing short of genius!  Luckily, Josh was on had for each course to explain his creations.

Teasing us with simple flavours, Josh kicked off the five course degustation with an amuse bouche of chestnut and mushroom duck rillets with pine nuts and a red wine reduction.  A small dish packed with sweet gamey duck flavour, the rillets were sensational, tiny explosions of taste in the mouth.  Beautiful? Yes, but the gold leaf pine nuts had us ‘pining’ for more (bad pun).  My Bro, who hasn't been out for a nice meal in some time, was simply blown away by the flavours of our starter.

Our degustation was themed and the first course was called “Which came first?” We were unprepared for the quirky looking plate that consisted of an Asian style chicken broth, poured around a sous vide chicken and leek, topped with a gold leaf covered egg yolk and sprinkled with roast chicken and rosemary powder.  The powerful broth tasted of home cooked roast chicken and only enhanced the flavour of the sous vide chicken.  The gold leaf covered egg yolk was creamy and indulgent.  We knew that the dish was our chicken course but we wondered if the presentation style as also an ode to a rooster (or cock).  It was actually an accident or a twist of fate but we had a good laugh with Josh about it throughout the night.

“Don’t Shoot the Messenger” could only have been about the pigeon, a fact confirmed when the sous vide pigeon breast was presented alongside a confit pigeon leg.  Tastes and textures of pea set the tone for the dish, which also contained the raspberry element of the challenge.  The expertly cooked pigeon played the role of ‘Jeckle and Hyde’ with the breast being soft and subtle and the confit leg powerfully flavoured.  The combination of pea, raspberry and pigeon was superb, with the sweetness and slightly tart flavour of the raspberry thyme jus.  This was perhaps SC's favourite dish of the night, but it was a winner all round.

Our duck was easy to identify with the name “Smokin Quack” but how it would be presented was a mystery…  We didn’t imagine a smoked corn risotto with a beautifully rendered duck breast working with a vanilla apple puree and vanilla oil.  The smoky risotto provided just the right match with the sweet duck and its perfectly rendered fatty skin.  With just a touch of sweetness from the vanilla and apple puree, the balance of the dish was spot on, if not a little challenging for the palate!

I’d thought the biggest challenge to our meal would have been the camel and I was right!  Josh just couldn’t get the quality of camel that would satisfy his exacting requirements….. But he did find Alpaca – which is part of the camel family, so I gave that round to Josh for creativity.  The “Alpac’n Heat” was a lightly cooked strip-loin with fennel puree, sous vide fennel, pistachio mandarin puree, a rhubarb marmalade and finally a piment d’espellette.  It was a busy plate of food with strong flavours with an Indian edge.  The strong flavours were necessary to work with the Alpaca, which as it turns out is a very mild meat, almost like lamb but without the sweetness.  I’m sure the camel (which I’ve had) would have been a better protein, but you have to work with what you have!

It was time for a pause and the palate cleanser of  thyme and apple granita with  freeze dried yuzu crisp was just the ticket.  Simple and beautifully presented on a spoon, the palate cleanser was gone in a flash.

The simply titled “Rudolf” could only have been about the venison and my favourite dish of the night.  The slow cooked venison came with valrhona manjari chocolate jus, creamy butter mash and mushrooms with cherry tomato.  Exquisite!  The venison was incredibly tender and full flavoured and the pairing with chocolate again proved that it’s a match made in heaven.  The butter mash was good beyond words but the surprising flavours were the mushrooms, which just popped.  By the time the venison was presented, both SC and my Bro were at their limits but lucky for them, I had room and polished off large parts of their venison.

So far, Josh had hit all of the ingredients but I’d not seen Kiwi Fruit and didn’t see how it would work in a dish called “Jack and the Bean”.  What was presented was awe inspiring in its complexity.  A tonka bean chiboust was presented with blackberry honey, Jack Daniels gel and textures of kiwi fruit.  I’d never had a chiboust before, but the crème patisserie of Italian meringue and gelatine was incredible.  The tart kiwi leather, kiwi sugar and fresh kiwi fruit pieces married wonderfully sweet and creamy chiboust.  The most amazing thing was that I've always hated tonka beans, the strong flavour has never sat well with me, but the way Josh prepared them, you'd never have known that they normally suck!

We finished off with a pretty special treat for my Brother, a dish of petit fours wishing him a happy birthday.  Such a nice touch that moved my Bro...

Meal over and too stuffed to move, Josh came out to came out for a chat and debrief.  Looking proud as we discussed his creations, I paid Josh the ultimate compliment.  He had just provided a rare and much appreciated UDX.

For your own Unique Dining eXperience, why not give Prive249 a call, I know Josh would love to repeat the challenge.

We had a special menu created for a Unique Dining eXperience

It was an unusually busy night at Prive249 - Josh put himself under quite a bit of pressure
The cheese platter - very European
Prive249 is posh - it's even got its own decanter table

Privé249 on UrbanspoonPrive 249


  1. What an exciting night and a perfect way to celebrate your brother's birthday. Josh really outdid all expectations.

    1. It was a great idea from Josh, Maureen. I really tried to throw some curve balls, but he stood up really well - especially since it was a full house and he did a completely different menu for us!!


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