Le Salle by Bar Chaplin

Jackie McMillan
2nd Jan 2023

After spending time cooking in Taiwan, chef Patrick Dang has popped up on a back street in Surry Hills. Le Salle by Bar Chaplin is a darkly sophisticated small space for serious diners. It’s neither well signposted nor designed to accept walk-ins: you just have to know. It’s also light on the dish announcements as Dang prefers, in the style of Chaplin, to be mute and let his food do the talking. Wine ain’t cheap, but it’s well-handled in Reidel stemware. With my first selection from the short list being unavailable, the more pricey 2021 Place of Changing Winds Harcourt Marsanne ($154) was thankfully an excellent drink.

In line with Sydney’s current menu fad, the ‘menu du jour’ is a four course affair ($88/head) designed to lure diners in, supplemented by optional add-ons. To my palate, the supplemental dishes - like a plump St Helens oyster with Osetra caviar, a ‘pearl’ of horseradish cream, apple fennel broth and wasabi (+$18/person) - were where the excitement lies. This means, realistically, you’re paying the same $130 you would for a 6–7 course menu elsewhere. Doing things this way can interfere with the flow of the meal, with the oyster eclipsing a beautiful but more muted john dory crudo rose with elderflower and ice plant. It’s also fraught in terms of pre-planning, meaning two of our table’s oysters had to have their pre-made ‘pearl’ replaced with uni.

Veal tartare (+$25/person) with charcoal oil, cultured kohlrabi, parsley, tarragon, pumpkin seed emulsion and a fully set truffled egg yolk, was great smeared on as much house-made lavosh as you needed. I wasn’t a huge fan of the basil pesto-dominated blue eye cod with eggplant and piquillo peppers. The lamb which followed it was a fighting dish with rehydrated morel mushrooms and grain mustard. It came with an individual crown-like brioche that might have gentled it, but was sadly too dry to enjoy. While you can dabble from the cheese trolley for an extra fee (+$12), the included Michel Cluizel single origin chocolate mousse square cut by passionfruit, salted caramel and coconut proved a good way to finish.