Envy is one of the deadly sins. With my work colleagues eating at Supernormal on the Monday night after it opened, and me eating at the Oxford Hotel in Perth, I was embodying this deadly sin.
The week prior I had tried to ease my sorrow at being away during this upcoming auspicious occasion, only to find that Supernormal, despite having had the “opening event” was nevertheless not open. I told myself “I’ve had the lobster rolls at Golden Fields anyway” but my usual ability to justify was missing.
We were both a little bit under the weather, but Catherine and I ventured back to Flinders Lane two Saturday’s after the first attempt, to try and experience Andrew McConnell’s latest. This time it was open and the friendly maitre’d told us “there’s no need to rush” and we didn’t need to start eating at midday – “come back when you like, 30 minutes is fine”. A quick espresso at Sensory Lab (Bar Americano was unfortunately closed) and we were back and ready to dive in.
The menu is mainly dishes to share and feels like it caters to two people almost as well as a larger group. We couldn’t resist ordering the lobster rolls again, had been recommended dumplings by my work colleagues, wanted to try the duck bao, and wanted something to break it up so ordered some cucumber. The bbq pork had also been recommended but was $74 for a group, so next time! The wines by the glass are imaginative and we started with a very reasonable prosecco and finished on the (not so reasonable but very nice) German riesling.
The sesame cucumber wasn’t quite what I was expecting when it came out whole, but it was fun and fresh and still helped break some of the stronger flavours through the meal. The lobster roll was just as I remembered from Golden Fields. Incredible. The fluffy brioche bun, the generous serve of fresh, beautifully cooked lobster, and a delicious aioli tasting sauce. We reconsidered a couple of times whether having both dumplings and bao was a good idea.
The boiled prawn and pork dumplings can only be described as artisan. The wrapper is that perfect balance of glutinous and strong, and filled with impeccably treated ingredients, topped with a delicious vinegary and salty dressing that adds a little chilli punch. The duck bao ingredients come out separately to allow you to have some fun preparing each one. The twice cooked duck is leg meat still on the bone that easily tears away in chunks to place over cucumber in the bao, which themselves are like folded over pillows. You then slap over (lots of) plum sauce and dunk into the vinegar at your leisure. Interactive and delicious. Getting both dishes is far from a mistake!
Having enjoyed a terrific lunch, we had to see if dessert did the savoury dishes justice. We shared the almond cake with vanilla ice cream, mandarin (both fresh and dehydrated), and plum wine granita. It’s a type of slightly deconstructed dessert that we’re all getting used to (I forget the last time I had something actually constructed!). The flavour itself was excellent and it was interesting trying the elements separately and together both with and without the granita. The sponge was the right texture and sweetness and the granita elevated the dish to the level you would expect from an Andrew McConnell restaurant.
Throughout most of the experience service was very good, but it might take some time coordinating service on the bar and tables, especially at busy times. While there was a certain confident air in the staff, it shows itself in friendliness rather than arrogance. It was nice being greeted by the chef on the bar in front of us, as you are never sure whether to converse while they are busily working in front of you.
I believe Supernormal is elevating some typical Chinese/Asian dishes by using the best ingredients and a great deal of care in the kitchen. It is a formula that separates it, and a handful of others in the genre, from the pack of standard cheap and cheerful establishments. It feels like another step in the renaissance of modern Asian restaurants in Australia.