Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Universal, Darlinghurst

Settle down, the world isn’t coming to an end from the sun engulfing the Earth. It’s just the orange glow that radiates from the feature wall at Universal Restaurant. In Darlinghurst, there are no views but it takes full advantage of the quiet courtyard, creating a casual inside outside vibe. Perhaps it’s preparing diners for the bombardment of flavours from the spice queen Christine Mansfield.

Fitness freaks will be happy with the Asian influenced menu that’s a DIY degustation of sorts, moving from light to heavy dishes, ensuring you get your protein and mineral requirements. While the descriptions are straightforward, the dishes are extremely complex. There were so many different flavours in each, beautifully constructed, but I felt it was almost to the point of convolution, a mish mash that didn’t agree in my mouth. Take the kingfish ceviche, the pairing of the roasted and skinned heirloom tomato’s tartness and bitterness and heat from green chilli salsa left the sea flesh behind. Same issue with the wagyu beef shin braised with a heavy green chilli and galangal mix, the garnishing prawn floss, green peppercorns and mint add to the dominating flavours.

Of course there is clarity in others, such as the seared scallops with the never fail truffle foie gras and the delicate jasmine tea smoked duck that retains a subtle, gamey flavour. Desserts have a bit of humour with names like “Bite Me” and the cheap teen booze “Passion Pop”. A more sensible “Raspberry Ripple” is a candied shell tower of vanilla yoghurt cream, raspberries and meringue that’s excellent. You will go “Totally Nuts” indulging in a decadent block of caramel parfait, on top thin dark and milk chocolate sheets sandwich hazelnut chocolate mousse and salted chopped hazelnut caramels.

Perhaps the assault on my senses was too much for me on that night. Admittedly I do prefer simpler flavours, but I can’t say Universal is on my list for a return before the world does end.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? Republic 2 Courtyard, Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, NSW
What? Mains $27, Desserts $18

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