Despite being open for less than 12 months, Ester has quickly become one of the hottest and coolest restaurants in Sydney. It's the place to be in 2014 and everyone is coming for the same reason: the food that comes out of the large, domed woodfire oven, where all the magic happens. The menu comprises a selection of snacks, small plates and larger items from the wood fired oven, all of which are designed to be shared.
Ester is part of the Vini stable of restaurants/ wine bars that includes 121 BC and Berta. The head chef and the brains behind the woodifre oven based cuisine at Ester is Mat Lindsay (ex-Billy Kwong, Rockpool and 121 BC).
The restaurant is housed in a converted warehouse / garage space, with a semi-open kitchen at the rear and an understated dining room with dangling lights and dome-shaped archways. The bare room was buzzing on the night and my wife and I were lucky to secure a seating in the bar area during the 6pm session on a Friday night just a few days earlier.
Ester already has made a big splash in this year's restaurant awards season, including winning both Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year in Timeout Sydney Food Awards. I am expecting Ester to be awarded at least 1 chef hat and possibly New Restaurant of the Year in SMH Good Food Guide when the winners are announced Monday night (although Ester is up against probably the deepest pool ever this year with the likes of Cafe Paci, Moon Park, Cho Cho San and Nomad vying for new restaurant glory).
As I am dining with my wife, a vegetarian, this will probably be most vegetable-filled post ever on Ester. So be warned, you won't find any bone marrow here :P
While we perused the menu and sipped on wine and sake, we were treated to complimentary crunchy spiced chickpeas with sprigs of fried rosemary. These were addictive and I would be happy to have these as a bar snack anywhere / anytime.
|House baked bread ($3)|
The house baked bread is fantastic and has a wonderful crust thanks to the woodfire oven. This is a must order as you will need some bread to mop up your plates later.
|Roasted oysters ($4 each)|
|Lobster sausage sanga ($9)|
|Beef tartare, oyster, mustard ($19)|
Ester's beef tartare is another dish that knocks it out of the ball park. I ate this in silence, savouring every bite. Chunky beef was mixed with chopped oysters (yes oysters!), capers, mustard leaves, grated horseradish and served with a creamy fried egg sauce. Even the house-made potato chips it came with to scoop up the beef tartare were fantastic (I had to bat my wife's hand away so she wouldn't eat them all!)As I was having this on my own, it was quite filling. But boy, did this beef tartare make me happy!
|Carrot, comte, sesame ($12)|
The roasted carrots were really delicious. They were tender, sweet and coated with sticky honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The carrots came with a rich, creamy comte cheese dipping sauce. This was my wife's favourite dish of the night.
|Brussel sprout salad, slow cooked egg ($17)|
This was delicious with the bitterness of the brussel sprouts going well with the acidity of the vinaigrette and the richness of the egg yolk. There were great textures too in this dish with crunchy roasted leaves and crispy fresh shaved sprouts. But this would turn out to be the least memorable of all the dishes through no fault of it own. It just wasn't as amazing as everything else.
|Roasted cabbage, nori, clams ($19)|
|Cauliflower, almond, mint ($16)|
|Three milks ($11)|
|Salted caramel semi-freddo ($4)|
Now I can see why Grant Achatz of 3-Michelin starred Alinea in Chicago almost ordered the whole menu at Ester when he was in Sydney last year. The food is just awesome and is not one to be missed. We were both full to the brim by the end of the evening and at less than $60 per person for food, Ester is rather good value. Based on this meal, Ester is one of my firm favourites in Sydney.
Highlight: Pretty much everything that's coming out of the wood fire oven. Seriously it's all delicious!
Lowlight: It's busy so it's difficult to get a table.
Overall: Ester is a very welcome addition to the Sydney dining scene. The wood-fire centric menu is amazing and the possibilities are endless, so I will be revisiting again soon. It's not fine dining, but who cares? The food is here is just as exciting as most fine dining places out there at the moment. 8/10 (Excellent)
Ester Restaurant & Bar
Address: 46-52 Meagher St, Chippendale NSW 2008Contact no: (02) 8068 8279