It’s that time of year again where you celebrate another year getting older and what better way to do so than to try out the latest concoctions at Koi Dessert Bar.
Situated along Kensington Street in Chippendale, Sydney, Koi Dessert Bar is the brainchild of Masterchef 2015 contestant, Reynold Poernomo. After creating exquisite desserts from day one on Masterchef, it was clear from the start that Reynold would certainly go on to do great things and own his very own dessert bar one day. However, a few months after his elimination from the show, Reynold was already partaking in pop-up stalls around the city and along Kensington Street and in January this year Koi Dessert Bar opened its doors for the first time!
After hearing about the opening, I knew that I had to try out Reynold’s delicious desserts for myself to see if they were as good as they looked on TV. Plus I’m a massive Masterchef and Reynold fan so I had to try this place out. I would not be disappointed!
My boyfriend was actually surprising me for my birthday so I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going, but I had an inkling we were going to Koi Dessert Bar – it turned out I was right!
Booked well in advance, we arrived outside Koi just before 6pm. However, they don’t let you in until dead on 6pm so we ended up walking around the block a few times to kill some time. By the time we returned a few more people had gathered, obviously having booked a table as well and waiting for the doors to open.
As we waited outside the restaurant, we were greeted to an array of desserts that were on display ready to be sold to the public. Koi Dessert Bar has a number of desserts that can be taken away to be eaten or you can perch on some seats on this ground level and eat it here. However we were waiting for the Six Course Dinner Menu and were shortly shown to our table upstairs.
Koi Dessert Bar is a modern restaurant with a fresh contemporary feel with flowers everywhere and plenty of natural light streaming through the large windows. Upstairs were comfy couches to sit at tables for dinner, whilst we had a table right by the window overlooking the Kensington Street Spice Alley with its hanging red lanterns catching my attention.
There are two set menus you can choose from here: the set dessert menu for $60 which can be shared with up to three people, a popular and affordable way to try out different desserts, or the set dinner menu for $77 per person which comprises three savoury dishes followed by three desserts.
We had booked for the set dinner menu which we thought was fairly reasonable in price, particularly as this restaurant was run by an ex-Masterchef contestant. However, Koi Dessert Bar had yet to have its liquor licence which meant it was unable to serve alcohol which was unfortunate as I was looking forward to a birthday drink with my meal and ended up making do with tap water and lemon, lime and bitters- not quite the birthday drink I had been looking forward to.
The set dinner menu was a strict menu with no choices; however they do ask if you have any dietary requirements before they serve you. Fortunately I am not fussy with food, but I would recommend looking at the menu beforehand to check that you can eat the food. They can adapt the menu for you, but it is best to let them know in advance.
We didn’t have to wait too long for our first course that came out which was a snack, compressed tomato with chilli relish, prawn crackers and micro herbs. This snack was served on one plate with the relish on a small dish and shared between the two of us.
The prawn crackers looked crunchy, but were actually wafer thin and could be peeled apart as if it was paper and could literally melt and sizzle on your tongue. Paired with the tomato and chilli relish, this went down a treat and had a good kick of chilli to it. So far so good.
Next up was the entrée, Steamed Barramundi in dashi broth, parsnip and quinoa porridge. This dish was quite small – a few mouthfuls at most, but it was full of flavours. The Barramundi was cooked to perfection and just melted in my mouth, whilst the dashi broth had a pleasant savoury taste to it and was well balanced with the parsnip and quinoa porridge. The radish on top provided a dimension of crunch alongside something which made me think of seaweed.
A short while after our entrée, our mains arrived at the table. These were a slightly larger portion which made me happy as the dishes so far had both been small and I was getting hungry. Our main course was slow poached chicken breast with brown rice, toasted grains and nuts on spiced coconut espuma. The first thing I noticed once the dish was presented in front of me was the smell of coconut which was wafting from the dish. Our waitress explained to us that the intended way to eat this dish is to shovel all the ingredients onto your spoon and try all the flavours together so this is exactly what we did.
The chicken breast was amazingly tender and the coconut espuma which is just a fancy word for foam tasted just like a green curry. Although it looked like a broth, the foam was ever so light; however I am not the biggest coconut fan, so by the end of this main I found it a bit too sickly for my liking. I would have loved to see some red chilli running through this dish to give it a bit of heat (massive chilli fan!). Underneath the broth was the brown rice and toasted grains which added a welcome crunchy dimension.
It was now time to move on to the desserts. Although Koi Dessert Bar is primarily focussed on creating eyecatching and delicious desserts I couldn’t help thinking that the savoury dishes showed a high level of skill with presentation at the forefront of the dishes which were all jam packed full of flavour.
The first of our desserts which arrived at the table was a cream cheese, burnt orange, honeycomb, dried mandarin, curd and brown butter crumb. A lot of different elements make up this dish and was a beautifully refreshing dish after our main course. The mandarin was fresh, whilst I couldn’t get enough of the honeycomb crunch. The cream cheese was light and not too heavy and this dessert quite simply worked. I could eat this over and over again.
Our second course soon made its way to our table with an added surprise. As it was my birthday, my dessert was served with a candle and the words Happy Birthday written in chocolate sauce on my plate! I was so distracted by the wonderful dessert and candle that I didn’t get a proper look at the man serving me – apparently, according to my boyfriend this was Reynold and I was completely oblivious to this! Another missed opportunity to meet the man himself, who is only 22 years old and already a dessert genius!
Never mind! I’m not the best person to recognise celebrity faces and I’m sure I’d die of shock if I ever met a celebrity chef like Heston, Gordon Ramsay or even the Masterchef judges (although I have met Gary at a Sydney event last year and all words failed me - gahhhh!).
So this dessert was a chocolate mousse, raspberry gel, consommé jelly, chocolate almond soil and chocolate ganache strawberry. Basically, this is a chocoholic’s version of heaven! I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, especially in Australia as I don’t find the chocolate here as good as back home in the UK or Europe, but I have to say that I too was in chocolate heaven. The chocolate sphere was the best chocolate I had tasted in a very long time and you could tell there was a lot of technique within this dish.
We actually got talking to one of Reynold’s brothers and was told how this dessert is put together. The raspberry gel inside the chocolate sphere was a highlight for me once you got your spoon and had a good go at cracking that shell open. It’s no wonder why many people order this dessert – it really is extraordinarily good and not too big to become sickly. Even if you are not a chocolate dessert lover, you should really give this dessert a go and the chocolate almond soil on the bottom completes this dessert. I have to say I haven’t eaten a dessert so slowly in my life, but this is one dessert you really should take your time over and really appreciate all the flavours and time put into this intricate dessert.
If all chocolate in Australia tasted as good as this I would be converted (although I’d probably be a kilo heavier!).
Finally, it was time for our last dessert and final course of the set dinner menu – poached peach, almond soil, rosemary cream, rose and thyme. The soil reminded me a bit like popcorn, but this dish was all about the use of liquid nitrogen making it a frozen dessert resembling snow (snowy popcorn maybe?!). The dish was already steaming as it arrived to the table. I loved the poached peach which added a fresh touch to the plate and the ‘snow’ was nice, but not the most flavoursome. There were hints of rose coming through and the ice cream on the plate combined well with all the ingredients. This was a clever dessert which was soon devoured, but was probably my least favourite dessert of them all.
Overall, this six course set dinner menu showcased a high level of technique, with excellent presentation and amazing flavours. Obviously the desserts were a highlight of the menu, but the three savoury dishes were surprisingly good. Teamed with his brothers Arnold and Ronald who run the savoury creation and operations respectively, it is evident that cooking runs through the blood of the Poernomo family.
The only thing I would say is that the dishes are quite small so if you are hungry and expecting a full dinner then you might be disappointed. The highlight of course is the desserts which are larger than the savoury dishes, but if it is an experience, top food (and desserts) you are after then Koi Dessert Bar will not disappoint. As you take the time to eat here and really appreciate and digest each course, you will soon find that you are full by the end of the meal, but not overly full. There is just the right amount of food here.
A great atmosphere with soft jazz playing in the background, Koi Dessert Bar will go up one notch as soon as it gets its liquor licence. They have plans to create some fabulous cocktails here and with the menu expected to change soon with the changing of the seasons, there will be even more reason to dine at Koi Dessert Bar!
However, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far for dinner, then make sure you try out one of their decadent desserts on display – I certainly will be back for dessert in the not so distant future! Thanks again for a memorable night and a birthday to remember.