Monday, March 14, 2011

The Point - Old School vs New School

Albert Park Lake Aquatic Dr
Albert Park, 3206

Ladies & Gentlemen, at a capacity "The Point Restaurant" we are seated to witness the culinary battle of "Old School vs New School". A 4 round exhibition battle pitting old world cooking techniques vs the new world of gastronomy in what should be an exciting battle.

Tale of the tape

L: Old School- Scott Pickett
R: New School - Ryan Flaherty

In the old school corner, we have Scott Pickett. A veteran chef who has steered the kitchen of The Point for the past 4 years and guided it to 2 hat greatness. Schooled by Philippe Mouchel of Langtons/The Brasserie fame and Philip Howard of 2 michelin starred The Square he brings centuries of technique to this battle.

The new school corner is represented by Ryan Flaherty, he is a dark horse in this battle but having worked at new school gastro temples El Bulli & The Fat Duck, he has 21st century tools & techniques to bring to this battle. Ryan thumbs his nose at the traditional oven in favour of the vacuum sealer and sous vide bath.

Who will take it? Who's cuisine will reign supreme?

Warm up round

Suckling pig croustade, white onion gel

An opening teaser is presented to the dining crowd, juicy suckling pig wrapped in a paper thin pastry atop a white onion gel. The big flavour of the pig was unable to silence the presence of a tasty white onion gel that brought all the good elements of an onion without the overpowering acridity. A fantastic opener, the dining crowd looks forward to opening round.

Round 1 - Egg

L: Old World - Poached egg, white polenta & black truffle
R: New World - 63c egg, blackened corn & jamon

The first round opens with old school serving first and on first sight draws a lot of gasps with it's opening round boldness. Poached egg covered with a generous sprinkle of black truffle perched over creamy, luscious, white polenta. This is what old world is all about, perfect flavour matches, perfect execution.

The new world plate comes out and a 63c egg with corn and jamon is presented. Different textures, a nice custardy sous vide egg, but in this case it is no match.

Old World - 10
New World - 7

With such an emphatic win in round 1 to the old school, how will new school come back? Not knocked out, but new school has certainly been hit with some devastating blows.

Round 2 - Whiting

L: Old World - Grilled Whiting, golden raisins, pinenuts and beurre noissette
R: New World - Smoked whiting, fennel and bacon

Round 2 commences and old school comes out and is swinging with a lot of confidence from round 1, in fact too much confidence and falters a bit on this one. The dish had fish on it, however, the emanating aroma of raisins and butter made me think of sticky date pudding, not whiting. As much as I tried to figure out how it works, the sweetness was too great.

New school comes to the table bringing with it the poster boy technique of new school - foam. The smoked whiting is smothered with a light fennel foam garnished with bacon and it is making a statement that new school won't be beaten lightly. The foam brings together the elements by bringing lightness to what would otherwise be a one dimensional dish.

Scorecard - Round 2
Old World - 8
New World - 10

At the end of the second round, new school has come back in to the battle, but can it overcome the round 1 drubbing?

Round 3 - Beef

L: New World - 39 degree beef over 4 hours
R: Old World - Roasted beef

With such a close battle, this time the two titans come out on the same plate side by side to fight for the diners attention. Separated by a thin line of mushroom sauce it is old school roasting vs new school sous vide both trying to make a statement as to which technique rules.

The old school beef is cooked perfectly with nice flavour courtesy of the roasting. The new world beef does not have the same roasted flavours, but it is a much more tender piece of meat. Cooked perfectly pink edge to edge with some very slight finishing on the outside it shows that a sous vide bath is not a piece of lab equipment, but a cooks utensil to bring out the most of the right meats.

Scorecard - Round 3
Old World - 9
New World - 10

This round was a good old fashioned slug fest, going backwards and forwards, both schools fought valiantly, but the round goes to new school. Scores are tied going in to the final round, what an exciting battle!

Round 4 - Apple

L: Old World - Apple tart and hokey pokey ice cream
R: New World - Apple, cinnamon, yoghurt and honeycomb

After 3 exhausting rounds the fighters are tired and the diners are full as the battle heads in to the final round.

With such a strong round 1, old school faltered badly in round 2 and lost a close round 3. Old school needs a strong final round to bring it home. The old school plate makes a big statement that it is not out of it. A deliciously thin slice of apple tart with hokey pokey ice cream highlights what old school is all about like round 1. The slice of apple tart is near perfect - light pastry, perfect caramelised apple with the hokey pokey ice cream and a nice sweet sauce bringing it all together.

New school comes out on weary legs with a different take on apple. Apple slices infused with apple juice served with yoghurt and honeycomb. It is a nice refreshing dessert, all the elements work well, the apple was softened and seemed denser with the juice and the creamy acidity of the yoghurt balanced well with the sweetness of the honeycomb.

Two strong dishes and a great final round, but on a "What would I order again if I had the choice?" basis to decide the final round, it goes to Old School.

Scorecard - Round 4
Old World - 10
New World - 9

The Verdict
The judges verdict is in and it is a 37-36 win to old school. This was not a one sided battle, new school fought bravely and we are sure that if a future rematch were to take place the score could easily swing the other way.

We only hope that The Point organises a rematch in the future. This battle was organised as part of The Melbourne Food & Wine festival and was a truly excellent event. It also showcased why The Point is an excellent restaurant and amongst the very top in Melbourne.

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