The beauty of a degustation is in the surprise. Eating this way is a roller-coaster of emotion — the excitement of each dish arriving, and the sorrow as you polish it off. Thrills like these keep the foodies coming back for more. In Brisbane's two-hatted restaurant Urbane, the menu consists of just two options. Diners can choose between set menus of either five or eight courses, with the option of matched wines available. If you're looking to sample just one one or two dishes, you're out of luck. This place is degustation only, baby.
Everything about Urbane is very clean and minimalist — from the decor, to the menu — it all has a luxurious subtlety about it. But for somewhere with such a regimented menu it was a nice surprise to see a completely vegan menu on offer. The waitress even picked up on a throw-away comment I made about a food intolerance and made the effort to cater.
The menu read 'snacks' to start, and what proceeded was a micro degustation. If you're new to this kind of thing, the snack dishes will be hard to wrap your head around, but trust me, they're as delicious as they are slightly comical sounding. Before the five courses even start to come out we're presented with kombucha (a kind of fermented tea), wafer thin, long and skinny potato crisps coated in sesame seeds, avocado and capsicum on a quinoa cracker, what we can only describe as tomato water — surprisingly delicious and incredibly refreshing — a bowl of nicely balanced silken tofu, buckwheat mousse and parfait.
Then, finally, we're on to the first true dish — burnt quinoa stacked inside delicate cucumber bowls were a great mix of salty and refreshing — best mixed with the apple, buckwheat and micro herbs for maximum effect. On to the octopus with Jerusalem artichoke and finger lime. These unusual ingredients pull together for a stunning dish, with perfectly crisp and tender octopus. Third, the veal sweetbreads, completed by caramelised leek, onion and a smoked eel broth.
Somehow in my long love affair with both steak and oysters, I have never thought to combine the two. How I mourn those wasted years. Urbane's wagyu steak with an oyster, oyster emulsion, bone marrow and sorrel is simply a triumph. The steak was melt-in-your mouth perfect, and elevated first by the the thick sauce.
And last but not least was another delicious cold treat with a twist — a citrusy dessert of freeze-dried mandarin with honeycomb sourced from Urbane's rooftop hives, and fresh grapefruit at the bottom. Tiny leaves of bush basil scattered on top send the occasional blast of unique flavour through your mouth, both balancing out and awakening it further to the sweetness in the rest of the dish. A native fruit tea infusion and some surprisingly traditional but well-executed petit fours were the perfect finisher for a delicious experience.
Urbane uses seasonal produce with a constantly evolving menu. Executive chef Alejandro Cancino produces an every-changing degustation of east meets west eats that will delight and surprise, and we think the restaurant certainly deserves the accolades it has earnt.