Degustation dining requires a lot of commitment. On the part of the diner, it's often the cost associated with the time required to fully appreciate the flavours on offer, and the money to fully surrender to a service where you aren't exactly sure what's going to end up on your plate. For the chef, it's an act of painstaking development and concentration in the kitchen to present an effortless array of thoughtful work that is hopefully well received.
Amaru is the latest project from chef Clinton McIver, and is an exercise in beautiful restraint. Located on a sleepy section of High Street, Armadale, it's the kind of place you wouldn't know about unless you were a local; such is its intimate and unassuming manner. With a minimal fit-out that features rendered cement walls, dark timber detailing and Ross Didier custom tables, a hint of neon on the ceiling incites a spark in the eyes of those privy to McIver's exclusive 34 seats.
Amaru is a degustation-only restaurant. Their 'sensory' menu ($120) is a progression of anywhere form nine to 14 small dishes reflective of contemporary Australian cuisine. In preferring to not subscribe to any particular trends, diners' imaginations are evoked by careful technique (a nod to McIver's days at Vue de Monde) and attention to flavour and texture. The resultant dishes are challenging yet poised, created with sensitivity, and intelligently matched with each other.
Standouts include delicate hen egg, salt baked celeriac, sea butter and mussel dish, and kingfish set alongside roasted wallaby tail and puffed pigs ears. Above all, the dessert end of the degustation features an impressive sheeps' milk yogurt, mandarin, honeycomb and sorrel combination that is at once cleansing and delicious. Adding to the experience are specially designed serving plates from North Carlton Ceramics, which are pieces of art in themselves.
In a space that is designed to feel like a living room, Amaru's bar and kitchen are on full display – but even with this, service remains tight, composed and attentive. Amaru is the sum of its parts, but ultimately, its warmth will be left lingering with you long after the experience ends.