Mode Kitchen is the newest restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney. Italian born chef Francesco Mannelli of Balla, Est. and Uccello creates dishes that he calls "True food" i.e. simple food showcasing a single star ingredient "somewhere between bistro and a restaurant". The space too has been transformed, literally lifted and shrouded in glass giving it a mysterious quality.
Perhaps it's meant to make it look like a secret-maybe it's supposed to make you want to peek around the right hand side and see what is behind the curved fluted glass to have a look at the 1920's inspired interior. Mode Kitchen sits on the Four Season lobby level and unlike its previous occupants "The Woods" and "Pei Modern", you can't really tell what's going on inside.
Service is very friendly and gregarious. Nothing is too much trouble and we see that there have been changes internally to the restaurant to give it less of a food court feel. It's still large and seats 200 across all areas (tasting table, Chef's Table and dining areas) and it is busy this Saturday night. And tonight's it's Mr NQN's birthday and we are dining with Louise and Viggo who is also celebrating his birthday.
We start with a round of the signature Mode G&Ts-after all it's a big birthday for Mr NQN and Viggo who are Scandi twins born one year and one day apart. The gin and tonics are made with dry gin from Archie Rose and tonic from StrangeLove. They're pretty damn good even for someone that doesn't really drink them. Pregnant Louise mourns not being able to drink her favourite tipple.
Now onto the food. First, there is sourdough bread offered, made by Pyrmont's Pioik bakery. The menu is broken up into sections like bites, starters, and then mains are divided into cooking method from Pans, Wood Fired Oven, Grill and Sides. And desserts are on the same page too (I like to see whether to reserve space by taking a look at desserts when I order mains). Prices aren't too bad considering that it's the Four Seasons and when I had a look at the menu online I thought that they might be higher as there were no prices listed.
We choose something from the bites section because we adore polenta chips. These do not disappoint-they're lovely and crispy edged on the outside and are served with a mild, creamy chilli mayonnaise.
Alongside these comes the starters. The fresh local burrata mesmerises us all as Louise cuts into it. It's served with hazelnuts and broccoli. It's a nice idea but this does need a bit of seasoning and there's no salt and pepper on the table.
My favourite entree is the sashimi although it doesn't really look like it does on the website. It's a kingfish sashimi with roasted macadamias and pink sweet and sour onions. It's such a luscious dish given piquancy from the onions and an addictive crunch from the darkly roasted macadamias.
We also like the daily special of tuna with caviar, dabs of lemon mascarpone and Italian Calvisius caviar. The fish is so fresh and the lemon mascarpone is such a clever idea- the only thing that it really needs is some seasoning.
We're all big fans of the grilled calamari dish with calamari, Brussels sprouts, lemon and chilli. The calamari is tender and the flavours are spot on.
The food comes out quite quickly here which is good for those who don't want a protracted dinner experience. This is a favourite main for Louise and I. It is simple but the star is these enormous king prawns split down the centre served with brown butter, succulents and winter leaves. It usually comes three to a serve but they put an extra prawn on the plate as there are four of us. The prawns are so meaty and the browned butter adds so much aroma and flavour.
"They're good with octopus here," says Viggo. And he's right, apart from being the prettiest dish it is one of the tastiest. It is two toothsome tentacles of Fremantle octopus with a potato and leek puree and radishes. The creamy puree really offsets the char grilled octopus perfectly.
Spatchcock here gets an Asian treatment with shiitake mushrooms and a spicy soy sauce. It is served in four pieces and bone in with celtuce and Asian greens. The spatchcock is succulent and juicy and there's a nice sweetness to the glaze too.
Viggo's heart is won with the slow cooked wagyu cheek, a gelatinous, soft piece of beef sitting in a bed of chestnuts and sauteed red cabbage and a sticky gorgeous demi glace style sauce.
This was a good complement to the richness of the wagyu, the sweet orange dressing and black olives giving the fennel a big flavour boost. I did find some of the fennel pieces a bit too chunky though.
The hand cut crispy rosemary potatoes aren't as crispy as the name suggests. They are more like little slightly spongy pieces of potato with a crisp outer.
We decide to try all of the desserts because the boys were ravenous (doing an escape room prior will rouse the appetite). The dark chocolate delice is intensely rich and dark and served with cubes of chocolate jelly and a lovely semisweet coconut sorbet.
The mille feuille on the menu has been replaced by an apple fine tart. While simple it is satisfying with a puff pastry base and thinly sliced apples while the ice cream is heady in vanilla perfume.
The carrot cake gets mixed reviews. Louise isn't a big fan as she finds them more like carrot cake muffins-certainly the shape suggests muffin. For me, it smells fabulous but there's just not enough frosting. Mr NQN loves this for the extra fruit layer but he's mad about fruit like that.
But our favourite dessert is the delightful simplicity of the lemon tart with a crumbly biscuit crust and the perfectly tart lemon centre. The strawberries on top are a pretty garnish layer.
And to finish, some light as air blood orange marshmallows and birthday well wishes!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you try and go somewhere special for your birthday or do you prefer to stay in? Do you like to see desserts on the menu when you look at mains? And do you assume prices are high if menus online don't list prices?
Ground Floor, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
199 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Open 7 days 12.00pm – 10.00pm
+61 2 9250 3160