Thursday, December 30, 2010

Careful What You Ish For (Cafe Ish)...

Whether it's due to a characteristic new year's eve tendency towards reflection, Arab melodrama - or the fact that certain religious groups always predict the ending of life as we know it on nights such as these, I really felt the sudden and painful urge to end 2010 with a blog piece. Since I won't be going out for a Big One, ie. pashing 3 English backpackers, hugging strangers, telling a cop he's a top bloke and spewing my guts out over an Eastern suburbs pavement sometime around 2 am - I think I am entitled to a little figurative vomiting, don't you? I know I can get away with it, you guys are always there to hold my proverbial hair back. 

2010. In my immediate circle of friends there's been a break up, an engagement, some new love, some missed jobs, some death, some almost PhD finishing, some indigestion and bloating, some being lost, some being found, a grey hair or two, some despair, a bit more hope and whimsy, a car accident at a round about, a new pair of jeans, some birthdays with cake and a hell of a lot of fat chewing over some strong lattes. This is my theory: fuck it. Actually, Fuck It. Fuck summing it up. Fuck proving to yourself it was a productive year. Fuck trying to see what you've gained and how you're different or wiser or more solid in the head.

Something that's always struck me about the 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2... feeling of twisted, anxious LoveHeartSinkPunch we all feel at the crucial minute is that as time is very conspicuously slipping from this moment to the next, the past submerging itself into the future, the end sinking down, under for a second, and then rising back up as a beginning, is this: Us. We're there. Alive. Alive and Possibly kicking, or at the very least, kicking it and not the bucket. Still, and watching the clock, present - in transience - against the inexorable surge of time's cruel tide - and possibly stoned off our asses. There's something magical about it (NYE, not pot), something human, something tribal. Be in it, but also stand back a little and Watch it. Don't control it or name it or make it something it isn't. Just Let It Be.
Dear Lord. Let it Be. Hmm, it's not often an Aussie yobbo WunderChef can make art out of his ass, but there you have it, ladies + gents. Ass as Art. Dear Lord. In case you can't recognize them from this angle - those two fleshy blossoms of creamy-pale buttock belong to the recently engaged DevlishDuoOfDeadlyDigestion Josh + Ai of the (still going strong at a new location around the cornerish) legendary Sydney Breakfast-Brunch-Lunch-And-Now-Dinner Outfit: Cafe Ish. Ish is hallowed breakfast territory. If William the Conquerer were alive and living in Sydney, this is where he'd get his eggs. It's hearty and heart felt. Ish is where the hungry come to feast, where the brave come to do battle, and where the strong of stomach come to die of pleasure. Dashing Dean of the Golfers Elbow and Dainty Mith Jo of The Louboutins were hungry and wanted a good, end of year breakfast and cup of coffee. Deciding we could brave Josh's smart ass attitude and potty mouth, we wandered into Ish hoping for some slight gastronomic satisfaction. It's true what they say

careful what you ish for, kids...
Josh won't admit it, but he's happy to see me. And I am happy to see them both - it's been a while! With Ai already having fixed us perfectly pitched coffee (mine, the signature Wattleseed), we're sipping a bloody beautiful brew as we peruse the new menu. A delicious and quirky page tells a tale of Mushy Brioche, Congee, crab omelette, toast, eggs, sweet, saucy, spiced, peppered, ricotta'ed with berry, trifle, oiled in avocado. Mmm. I think I actually heard my Pancreas tell my Stomach Oh Fuck, if she takes us too far i'm outta here. 

Menus are like falling in love. A quick scan of a page registers the same impression as a quick scan of a glance or the subtler workings of mutually felt presence. One or two lines, what they've put in, what they've left out, you know you're on to a good thing or not before you even deign to order. Sure Sign of a great menu: two or three options I can't possibly decide between. But there it is, beneath the eggs and above the omelette: Porridge. Oh, Porridge. How i've missed you.
Porridge, it's like the Game Of Love: there are winners, and then there are losers. But so many more losers! Like all truly simple dishes, porridge is exceedingly tricky to do well. Creamy, oaten, warmly sighing in steamed spice, light and floating, thick and slow and languid and sure. Wonderfully Anglo. Olden. Beckoning and Reckoning. Quiet comfort under studded, heaving blobs of gently stewed, shimmering fruit in a hollow of perfect, enveloping ceramic. Swirl, and swoop with spoon. Around and around, slowly and edgelessly. Smooth and chewy. Frothy, angelic grain. Nothing says good morning like some porridge. 

But it usually is a case of That's not how you make porridge. 
Although an epic porridge gives the impression of a beautiful, ethereal milkiness, good porridge should be made with water and not milk. Cafes, which usually won't soak the grains or cook porridge as long as it should be cooked, only offer up a stodgy heavier version of the real thing if they boil the oats in milk. Porridge despite being warm and deep is very, very light food. Cooking it in water allows the heat to transfer more properly and lets the true taste of the oats come fully through, the creaminess is a natural product of properly cooked oats, it shouldn't be short cutted to. Ish's version is absolutely bang on. The base porridge is as it should be, very barely salted, a gorgeously bland canvas which is like Christian Bale on any good day: perfectly fine naked and probably better as is. But then you can toy with each bite and dress it up differently for simple and subtle variance of flavour, warmth and texture. Ish gives you a delectable and sensuous palate to play with: A sticky, treasure pot of honeyed-ochre hued stewed, syrupy fruit, a little serve of gorgeously dense and delicate brown sugar and a divine pot of some lusciously angelic yoghurt, rich and deep and sweet and true. Goad it from bland into to sweet, from smooth into voluptuously textured, from steaming hot into a yoghurt-subdued lazy luke-warmth. Dean and I were riding high the magical carpet of our collaborated sighs. Ten Out of Ten.
Full and happy, with smiling bellies, we were all set to get the cheque and call it a day. But Josh wasn't letting us off that lightly. That's the beautiful brioche, swathed in the richness of a generous buttering, iced and crowning a berried, passionfruited tangle in scarlet - with a dollop of trauma as ricotta. It was good. We were happy, but it's fate was wrecked by the fickle order of chance. What came next would ruin the memory of all that came before:
This is a benign looking chap Josh calls the Lemon Delicious. Believe me when I say it's an aptly named creation. This simple, humble looking shallow sphere of saccharine pleasure tastes a fuck load more unbelievable than it actually looks. It was startling. Like a cool breeze on a burnt back. Like a cop letting you off a speeding fine. This was love at first lick for what was to become the daze that settled upon our shaken tongues. Lemon-myrtled lyre bird of lusciously licked life. So smooth and agile and cutting, a swoop of sure sharp flavour, like a sudden flicker of lightning bolting through a strangely still sky. Lemon upon lemon. Within lemon. With a hint and a smack of Lemon. Lemon lying next to Lemon. Lemon as Love. A Citrus Song. Chiming in Lemon and rhyming in Lemon. Eyes agog. This is one of the most divine desserts I have had in a while. 
Whinging. People tell you not to. Don't listen to them. Whinge and the world shall be yours. Upon discovering that the set up of the new kitchen means that Ish no longer offers what were hands down the best pancakes you could get in Sydney, I whinged. In the space of ten minutes I complained several times. I tried every trick in the book. Guilt Trip. Pleading. Cajoling. Begging. Bribing. But it was whinging that did it. Josh came out of the kitchen, after our already staggering first rounds of porridge and brioche, bearing an improvised version of those lovely precious cakes of pan.
This tastes like the fall of Babylon along your tongue. Wicked and Perfect. Brilliantly buttered apples, rich and glistening and slippery with fullness, a pristine dollop of wattleseed ice cream, an oozey sticky, gently honeyed-candied haze and the most full and fluffy sumptuous pancakes beneath. Heaven is a place on earth. Sweet and Rich and Cold and Hot. Sticky and Smooth and Supple. Not quite dessert, but entirely breakfast. Creamy and Crisp and Tragic. My lips were juddering in agonied delight.
The new in house baked Ish bread comes and we are officially entering the domain of digestive dementia. Bloody Hell. Grief stricken. Josh and Ai, we love you - so much. I informed Josh that the food was so good that I still kept up an impressive gusto despite having to eat while facing an image of his artistically bared bottom. It was hard, but with focus, determination (and failing eyesight) you really can do anything.

Hooray for Ish! The promise to deliver impeccable breakfast with a twist is alive and well in Sydney today.
Ish now happens at 82 Campbell St Surry Hills, if you want good breakfast without the bullshit, skip the lines at Bills and head around the corner and down the road. Lunch and Dinner are happening here as well.

We staggered out after breakfast, grunting and making our way slowly and fatly along a city footpath, 3 foodie stooges - all a stupour. There was satisfaction, wonder, regret and rotundness. a mere few more hours this little aberration of moderation will have happened last year. Time's good like that. The breakfast pig out will have sunken to the murky dregs of all that was, with only the lasting memories of the taste, the joy, the wonderful company - and the knowledge of what Josh's ass looks like - naked, from the side and in black and white, forever.

Imagine there's no ass there, 
it's easy if you try. 
No ass below us, 
and where there's only Ai.
Imagine all the people, 
Living for Brulee
Imagine there's no bad cafes, 
it isnt too hard to do,
Nothing to whine or puke for
And no rip off, too
Imagine all the people,
Living life at Ish.
You may say that i'm a glutton,
But i'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us,
We usually meet at 1
Imagine everyone sharing
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
Or the use of several pans
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the cake...

Thanks to Dean and Jo, I love our triple dates. And to Ai and Josh: xxx.



Anonymous said...

After sorting through all the drivel (good to see that law degree paying off) i was able to read some stuff i understand.
It was very good too see you,again you and my fiancee should figure out what your mouths are used for..
love the song, post on twitter and i will retweet like crazy.
p.s i know u always wanted to see my ass, but now u seen mine...your turn!!!

Mark @ Cafe Campana said...

I think this is the first post I have seen about Cafe Ish without copious quantities of ribs. The food looks great and all the best in 2011.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

You write serious food porn. And I love it. lol. Happy New Year and yes that Lemon Delicious is teh awesome.