I promised myself I wouldn't look. But restraint around food has never been my strength. You see, going to a restaurant with only one main course per night and a weekly changing menu poses a serious threat of FOMO. Thursday was the only night we could go and I wanted to be surprised, but I read the menu and suddenly wished we were going on Wednesday.
Thursday did look good — maple soy cured salmon with mushrooms, broad beans, peanuts and pickled eggplant with yuzu custard ($29) was on the menu. And it was. The fillet of salmon was sous vide, the skin removed and crisped. The garnish was a perfectly textural and acidic partner to the salmon's rich slipperiness, with a hint of miso in the pickling adding welcome saltiness. It's a good dish. If you like salmon. If you don't, you should've come on Wednesday, when the main course was gnudi pomodoro with pancetta salt and herb breadcrumbs ($24). Or Friday for short beef ribs with cauliflower chips, mushroom custard and hazelnut granola ($29).
There's something odd, but slightly exciting about having decision-making taken out of the process of eating in a restaurant. You can of course read the menu on a Sunday and decide which dish takes your fancy and book accordingly — or simply turn up, willing to be surprised. The good news is that Hoost's chef Samantha Pok can most certainly cook, so whatever is put in front of you, you'll probably like.
Start with some snacks, of which you get to choose, such as a tart of excellent shortcrust pastry encasing deep golden caramelised shallots, Roquefort and walnuts ($14). Or a delicate, and beautifully dressed, salad of thinly sliced zucchini flowers, fennel and pepitas with a horseradish dressing ($8). You can also finish with your choice of desserts, like a lovely strawberry jelly, strawberry salad, thyme and honey whipped custard ($18).
The experience of Hoost (which comes from høst, which is Danish for harvest) will be improved when they get their liquor licence. At the moment it's a bit of a shame to grab a bottle of wine at the last minute from The Cricketers Arms, which is known for many things, but not its wine selection. The décor too, could do more to match the standard of the food. The restaurant, opening directly onto the grungy end of Fitzroy Street, might consider dimming the lights slightly (or a lot), and having some good music going. It's tiny, only seating about 18 people with neutral grey and caramel wooden interiors.
Self-assurance in a chef is important, particularly with a restaurant like this, and Pok has it. "It's a huge challenge, but I like it," she says. "I have confidence in what I do." Whether or not the FOMO-inclined or indecisive among us will take to it remains to be seen.