Whitebait & Kale
The uncomplicated, no-nonsense menu has undergone some fine tuning, emerging refreshed and well-stocked with many inviting items
By Geoffrey Eu, 14 November 2005
The Business Times
WHEN it arrived on the culinary scene in mid-2003 bristling with attitude and promise, Whitebait & Kale had quite a bit going for it: a hip name, a cheerful, attractive space in a designer building and a multi-concept theme that seemed destined for success. Two-and-a-half years on, the restaurant has settled in for the long haul, but still seems to be in search of that elusive X-factor. These days, it generates less buzz and is not an automatic choice of the see-and-be-seen-set. It also has to contend with new kids on the culinary block like Corduroy & Finch, which has been making waves with its own version of the 'cuisine-a-plex' concept and which seems to have stolen some of Whitebait & Kale's thunder and customers.
Pleasant diversion: Roasted pumpkin salad from Whitebait & Kale
Whitebait & Kale is not sitting still, however. Recently, it brought in a new chef, introduced a new menu and re-jigged its concept. The corner that was formerly a gourmet food section now holds a chef's table for more secluded group dining, and it also doubles as a bottle shop. The raw bar in a cozy niche just off the very pleasant al fresco area has been transformed into a cute, self-contained breakfast-cum-deli space.
While a few firm favourites remain - lobster bisque, fish & chips and baked snapper pie among them - the uncomplicated, no-nonsense menu has undergone some fine tuning, emerging refreshed and well-stocked with many inviting items. There is a separate menu for Sunday brunch. While prices have remained relatively affordable, (the three-course set lunch is now $28 instead of $25), many customers forego the menu altogether in favour of ordering items from a large blackboard running the length of a wall above a service counter.
At a tasting session last weekend, our meal comprised several pared-down selections from the menu while the chef's daily special was ordered from the board. A bowl of deep fried whitebait ($9) was an obvious choice to begin with (and slightly disappointing too, due to their being more chewy than crispy), followed by skewers of coconut crusted prawn ($10), which were fresh and crunchy.
The mushroom soup ($10) was light and flavourful and seems poised to become a popular dish while a salad of roasted pumpkin with endive, prunes and feta cheese ($14) and a bowl of Littleneck clams sauteed in a white wine and butter sauce were equally pleasant diversions - fresh, simple and well-prepared. The prawn and pumpkin risotto ($22) was tasty if unremarkable, while the chef's daily special - a steam-baked Golden Snapper with garlic and capsicum sauce served whole ($32) - had Asian undertones and was easily the most impressive dish we sampled, being exceedingly fresh, tender and perfectly cooked. Dessert arrived in the form of a slightly sweet pavlova with berries and passionfruit sorbet ($10) and slightly stodgy apricot-wolfberry pudding ($10).
Early on, Whitebait & Kale had plenty of style but not enough passion to go with it - it's easier to get by on charm and good looks alone when you first open but eventually, it's the quality of the cuisine and service that determines your place in the culinary pecking order.
Whitebait & Kale
One Orchard Boulevard, Camden Medical Centre #01-01.