Newtown might be known for the endless rows of cheap and cheerful Thai restaurants hawking their $7 lunch deals, but just off King Street is well established Inner West fine dining gem Oscillate Wildly. With an irresistible name, I had long been looking for a reason to make a reservation: the coincidence of my birthday and a family visit triggered the call. And then I managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat: an ill husband gave me an excuse for not one but two visits – now that’s the kind of caring I signed up for in my wedding vows.
The understated decor is reflected in the minimal descriptions on the degustation only menu. Foie gras, scallop and hazelnut appears as a crunchy scallop cracker topped with sweet foie gras, foie gras sponge and hazelnuts, packing the flavour into a range of textures. The blending of textures is a theme throughout the meal: puffed wild rice adding the crunch to a scampi sashimi, and grains play the same role with duck and black garlic.
Comparing Oscillate Wildly to its former chefs’ critically acclaimed new venture just down the road is inevitable. Beetroot, Cepe and Horseradish emphasised the differences. Eschewing the Noma-esque simple treatment and presentation, this dish is encased in a nitrogen-frozen horseradish cream dome, with roasted beetroot and cepes: the oft maligned techniques of molecular gastronomy used for good, not unnecessary complication.
Cheese on toast: a parmesan ice cream on sweet brown bread crumbs added an element of fun to the evening, delivering texture as well as the salty, sweet flavour that I think all cheese courses should, and priming the palate for dessert. Grapefruit, celery and tamarillo came with freeze dried mandarin. On my second visit, I was persuaded to swap this dish for an equally good rhubarb and strawberry with truffle ice cream, which proved that the coexistence of good strawberries and rhubarb is a strong benefit of this side of the world. Pandan, Rye and Milk Jam finishes the menu, and comes with popcorn, beer foam and milk skin to give some hoppy, bitter notes.
Coupled with a thoughtful wine pairing and exceptional service, it’s no surprise that this small restaurant was packed out even on a Tuesday evening. Budget permitting, I won’t be waiting for a special occasion next time.
Degustation only menu at $100, Cheese on Toast an additional $10, matching wines $60. Two truffle courses in place of standard menu for $30.
275 Australia Street, Newtown 2042
Tuesday to Saturday from 6:30pm