Le Salle Dining by Bar Chaplin is a new restaurant serving Modern European food. This tiny, dark, seductive restaurant hidden away on Hutchison Street in Surry Hills boasts a unique proposition: one chef and one front of house person for the whole restaurant. The menu is a well priced 5 course menu for $88 a person with the option to add supplemental courses (and read on to find out how to nab a complimentary cheese course).
"We can do 10 people a night, 15 max," says Chef Patrick Dang. The reason for the small number and the idea behind Le Salle Dining by Bar Chaplin is that it will be Patrick and only Patrick cooking for guests every night. I first met Patrick 12 years ago when I did a story on Concrete Blonde, a restaurant that broke all records for cost and extravagance.
The reason for the extended name of "Le Salle Dining by Bar Chaplin" is two fold: Le Salle means "the room" in French. It's a room that Patrick designed himself and transformed from casual cafe Suzie Q to a dramatic, lush black walled and ceilinged room with plum velvet curtains. There are lots of details here that he is proud of from the rose gum wood tables, Bulgarian place mats, antique trolley and dining chairs from Poland and crockery made in Jindabyne. "It's an extension of my home dining room," Patrick explains.
The other part of the name referencing Charlie Chaplin is because his quote "Simplicity is not simple," resonates with Patrick. "Non verbal communication is kind of what we do, I’m trying to say something and communicate through food," he says.
After Concrete Blonde closed, Patrick worked consulting in Sydney, America, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Belgium and Taiwan. In 2019 he met his now partner Ederlyn Oloresisimo who runs the floor of Le Salle. She has worked at Vue de Monde, Cutler and Co and Cumuulus Inc in Melbourne. They wanted to open a solo business without any investors that would promise diners consistency. And while their opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday he is more than happy to open up on Mondays for a table for six. The 4 course menu for $88 has some supplemental options if you want to add onto your dining experience and if you're a local or mention that you read about Le Salle here you can get a complimentary cheese course. It's Saturday lunch when Valentina and I arrive. It's subtly signposted, the only giveaway when we see the Charlie Chaplin hat logo on the windows. We take a seat and Ederlyn brings us little stools for our bags.
The snacks come out first and the first one is a beauty with squiggles of chicken liver parfait with a raspberry beetroot gel on a paper thin crisp of chicken skin. The skin is so thin that it appears like a lacey cracker and it gives this a lovely crispness with the rich parfait and tangy dabs of sauce.
The second snack is not all as it seems. While it appears there are two cherry tomatoes, there is only cherry tomato - the other is actually a mozzarella ball dipped in concentrated tomato stock in a watermelon and mint broth with olive oil caviar. It's refreshing and sweet and perfect for a warm day like today. In fact most of today's menu is all about spring but it will also change day to day based on what Patrick wants to make.
The Oysters and Pearls course was made famous at The French Laundry but this supplemental course is their spin on it and has St Helen's oysters from Tasmania that he has cooked briefly to 48C/118.4F to what he describes as "take the slime away" and what remains is a remarkably clear tasting oyster with still much of the raw texture. It is served with sliced apple and a large lustrous horseradish pearl and one and a half grams of Ossetra caviar with fennel, apple broth with sea succulents and fennel pollen. It's surprisingly textural with the oyster and the cocoa butter encased pearl as the centre.
The next course is inspired by spring time flowers with John Dory cured with lemon zest, salt and sugar done one hour before service. The fish is paired with red wine vinegar, pickled daikon and cucumber with sea grapes, cucumber, elderflower and garnished with ice plant. This is all shaped into a perfect flower which has sweetness and crunch with a delicate flavour to it.
The veal tartare course is another supplement course. It has the basis of a classic tartare with cornichons, capers, shallots and herbs with with the addition of charcoal infused oil with an egg yolk infused with truffle oil as well as seaweed, puntarella (Italian kohlrabi ) emulsion, pumpkin seed oil and house made lavosh. The charcoal oil gives it a lovely aroma to it that is different from other tartares.
Next we are seguing into the hotter courses and we start with a vegetable one. While it is cooking it smells very rich and meaty. This has Jerusalem artichoke that is slow cooked, caramelised and pressed into a disc and shallow fried served with sautéed morels, a spear of asparagus and parmesan polenta foam.
We are getting to my favourite end of the menu. The alfonsino course is a supplementary course and features a slender seared fillet of alfonsino with slices of prawn sausage with white beans and carrot done several ways: confit carrot, carrot puree cooked in carrot juice, fermented carrots. It is finished off with a prawn head and fish bone sauce with parsley oil. The carrots give this dish sweetness and the prawn sausage is very tasty while the white beans really bring it all together
The next course is my favourite course and is a new course that Patrick as it doesn't appear on the menu. It's house made saffron cavatelli with a sauce made from the trimmings and tentacles of squid cooked like a Bolognese sauce. On top are tiny Hawkesbury baby squid. Holy heavens this is delicious from the luscious "meaty" Bolognese sauce to the strong saffron scented cavatelli that has more al dente bite than the butter soft squid.
The next course is another favourite with crispy skinned quail with a slice of grilled kabocha pumpkin with a mushroom duxelle, porcini juice and pureed pickled cherries with sprigs of yarrow that give the rich dish a menthol flavour. The quail is delectable and delicate and the mushrooms pair perfectly with it.
The final hot course is the lamb with a fillet of spring lamb loin on one side and on the other side is lamb shoulder that is braised and shredded and paired with sautéed vegetables and ras el hanout. The white dabs are whipped kefalograviera cheese. There's also sautéed baby zucchini, broad beans, lemon verbena, green parsley, capers and anchovy paste. The lamb loin is so tender and succulent with a layer of crisp skin and it is balanced with the intensely flavoured lamb shoulder accented with lemon verbena, Middle eastern spices and Greek cheese. Despite all of these many elements the lamb dish is a resounding favourite. If we had bread, we would have dragged it across the plate to collect all of the sauce.
The much loved Polish wooden cheese trolley has sat on my left for the whole meal and I am very excited for this course. Ederlyn removes the glass cloches with a flourish and slices a selection from the cheeses. The cheese selection changes regularly and today they are are mostly Bruny Island cheeses from Tasmania and they are selected for their flavour and their mildness. There's a St George Cheddar, a 1792 Washed Rind Cheese, a Milawa blue cheese and a Coolamom Blue. These are all paired with a tart grapefruit marmalade, quince paste, honeycomb and house made lavosh and flax seed crackers, wild figs, date and prune. The cheeses and the accompaniments are sublime and locals get a cheese course of two cheese per couple complimentary but if you mention that you found out about it here you can also get this complimentary cheese course!
Last is the dessert course made up of strawberry and rhubarb curd sorbet with macerated strawberries, vanilla yogurt parfait balls and a honeycomb tuile. It is a gorgeously light dessert to finish off a wonderful meal full of surprises.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like smaller intimate restaurants or do you tend to prefer larger ones with more people and staff?
NQN and Valentina were guests of Le Salle Dining By Bar Chaplin but all opinions remain her own.
Le Salle Dining by Bar Chaplin
1/18 Hutchinson St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: 0421 203 559
Wednesday to Friday 5–8 pm
Saturday & Sunday 12–8 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday