13 Duxton Hill: BEST EVER Birthday meal by a long shot

One of the 9 or so courses (non-inclusive of the escapades on the drinks frontier) served to me the first time I ate at the new 13 Duxton Hill was a cathedral rock formation cluster of daikon rolled shavings and cured apple with a raw sunchoke creme filling ($10).. It looked pretty and almost pagan at the same time, I could have sworn it was sorcery when the first mouthful touched my lips and the vinegar lit a steady burn on my ulcered lips.

This plate was more than just a pretty picture. Wrapped inside its towering lengths was an earthly whirl of goodness, pulverised till it no longer resembled its usual crunchy state. In the following dish, there was baby corn, salted prawn head butter and dusted with meanders of burnt cocoa powder ($16) for that slight astringency amidst lashings of lavishness. The combination of prawn head butter and toasted croissant was a complete surprise, extraordinary in ways I'd never imagined before.

Such is a meal at 13 Duxton Hill. It has more interesting cooking than you might expect from a restaurant that sides a dim lit make-shift wine storage (which the down-to-earth crew built from bottom up) and a bathroom that urges its users to meet perilous ends outback or suffer a cruel death of slipping on soap suds in the kitchen. Like the rogue space with an ode to the misunderstood number thirteen, the chefs, John-Paul Fiechtner and Roland defies all odds with hardly a visible flame insight (I would know, cause I planted myself right in front of the kitchen), instead paying attention to the flavor combination possibilities with dabbles in Asian influence, mostly manifesting in the form of spices such as Coriander and fennel for now. I struggled with the words to convey my extraordinary birthday experience, but here goes nothing.

Service takes off without a hitch, and one will feel right at home under the extreme care and liquid confidence boosting by Sally Humble who kindly refused to let me drink my Brundlmayer Riesling ($18) on my own.

The meal kicks off into high gear with the Grouper ceviche ($22)  - perfumed with coriander seed oil with the resilient tug of bone vinegar made painstakingly from roasting bones for odds on ends and deglazed with vinegar only to repeat the process twice for a concentrate. 
L: Artichoke, Raw Peanut ; R: Baby Corn, Prawn head butter, Burnt Cocoa
Grouper Ceviche, Coriander Seeed Oil, Bone Vinegar
Heirloom tomatoes ($20) were given a new lease on life here. Homemade curds and whey tempers the sweetness and the fennel seed salt run through the slowly spreading pool of tomato juices at the bottom of the plate.

In the next dish of Squid ($24), no one flavor takes precedence, not sweet, sour, brine or tang. Not even vegetal notes dominate: the raw broccoli florets tossed judiciously in lemon and spices joining forces with the expertly cooked squid.. Its an unlikely combination that mainly wins favour across the table for the tangy greens.

Dishes here are kept in tidy portions, especially if you're approaching the chef's menu ($66 /pax), so fret not about your appetite approaching quiet annihilation cause it most certainly won't. Especially when dealt a couple of wild cards as you'll happily experience under Chef JP's almost matronly care.

L: Tomatoes, Fresh Curds and Whey, Fennel Seed; R: Squid, Broccoli, Chestnut Milk

In fact 5 dishes in our stomachs have never felt lonelier. Hence the succession of 2 more savouries before the onslaught of dessert. If one must wax lyrical about one dish tonight, let it be the Chicken Liver with Koji Peach ($22), the koji peach infiltrated by sugar is almost riveting when savoured with the fatty liver parfait licked with salt.

For the last dish, there is Spaghetti Squash ($18), trifled with by lardaceous beef fats and then lent acidity in the form of potato vinegar. I must say that I've had high expectations for the dish, but the flavors were too subdued. I may still have bits of croissant sponged with prawn head stuck between my teeth and I contemplated not brushing them for the night.

The pleasures, were numerous and original enough to persuade me that 13 Duxton Hill may just be the best restaurant I've been waiting a whole year to endeavor in, And that fact was reaffirmed when we scored dessert.

L: Chicken Liver, Koji Peach; R: Spaghetti Squash, Beef Fat, Potato Vinegar

And mind you, there was visage of baby angels playing their mini harps and serenading sweet tunes as we tucked into dessert. Almost too eagerly after watching the chef unceremoniously crack open the dome of Bergamot and white chocolate custard ($16) propped beside torched meringue and ladled with burnt butter pumpkin oil. The aromatics alone was enough for me to cast several lascivious gazes at the subject. I slurped it up and knew instantly that this was a dessert made for chefs by a chef.

The comforts of 13 Duxton Hill are definitely not ephemeral. The all-day dining concept without a single day's break in sight definitely brings to mind the cosy joints you find back in Sydney. Let's get this clear, if you're friends of more voguish homes, the appeal evaporates. However, 13 Duxton Hill feeds the illusion, no, the possibility that perhaps contentment and resignation can occur outside of sky-high bills. If all you're striving for is a delicious, memorable night that takes you to places you've not been before. 13 Duxton Hill does all that, and throws in a little mirth and poetry.

Bergamot, White Chocolate, Soft Meringue, Pumpkin Oil

13 Duxton Hill
13 Duxton Hill
t: 9054 1435

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