Level 1 at Electra House is the reboot of their initial restaurant, the award winning Olea. This has been the case for about a year now, however it has gone through a futher refinement of the concept. With a new chef on board, Jamie Kang, there has been a marked shift in the current menu from the Greek inspired Olea. ‘Asian fusion’ is the order of the day now, with Jamie bringing many years of experience in Modern Australian, Italian and Japanese cuisine, paired with flavours from his Korean heritage, and forming the basis for their contemporary menu.
I was invited along to attend the menu launch, and as such lucky enough to have the entire evening catered free of charge. As always though, this doesn’t influence my opinion in any way.
We were fortunate enough to be treated to a good number of the dishes off the menu. Showcasing the breadth and depth of the various influences through the menu, Level One provided a culinary delight with many highlights.
I won’t go through every dish, because that will be tedious in the extreme, but special mention has to go to a few. So….deep breath….lets first look at some of the seafood.
The yellow fin tuna sashimi with avrugar (read caviar substitute), shallot and yuzu soy served in a gold rimmed cocktail glass (with a dusting of gold for good measure) looked sensational, and was truly divine. Possibly my dish of the night, straight up. Kingfish tatake with asparagus and grapefruit was fresh and zesty, but also beautifully seasoned with a pastrami rub. The salmon aburi on the crispy rice was a combination of textures and flavours that were bang on, leaving you wanting more after each bite. Fried octopus with gochujang aioli, fennel, and yellow beetroot was tender and balanced, fantastic to look at and just extremely more-ish.
Shifting the focus onto land, another absolute highlight was the wagyu rump. Yeah, big deal I hear you thinking. However served perfectly medium rare, beautifully seasoned and seared, along with black garlic paste, Asian chimichurri, and caramelised onion, this was something to get very excited about. This was no ordinary slices of beef.
Snowed corn. Oh my. What a beautiful thing this was! Small bundles of sweet corn kernels with teriyaki mayo, salted ricotta and togarashi, this was a near religious experience. Unsophisticated, perhaps. Undeniably delicious? Absolutely. #snowedcornislife.
And so at this point I haven’t even a) touched on nearly every savoury dish we had the pleasure of sampling, or b) desserts. I am mindful of not dragging this on for too long, but I shouldn’t overlook the sweeter part of the evening.
In brief, the desserts were very clever too, incorporating different textures and flavours with an Asian influence coming unmistakably through. Matcha chiffon, red bean parfait and black sesame sponge among the more unusual items nuzzling up lovingly to more ‘mainstream’ ingredients such as Italian meringue, blood orange sorbet, champagne granita. Check the menu for more details on these, but suffice to say they kept up the impeccable standards of the evening. It was also refreshing to find it wasn’t simply a case of just throwing lots of sugar on a plate and dishing it out – there were more savoury and cleansing elements to these desserts, keeping you interested and wanting more.
All the food we were presented was exquisite in its structure and execution, with fantastic attention to detail and creative touches adorning all dishes. To be completely honest, ingredients I had never heard of turned up on the plate, thanks to the chefs Korean heritage and Japanese cooking experience. However unlike some fusion restaurants, or those with menus written to seemingly scream complexity and modern sophistication at the expense of an edible product – this actually works. Really works.
However, despite all those words, none of this really matters. Ok sure, quality of food at a restaurant is important, but not always a deciding factor of success. What was unmistakable was there was a real generosity of spirit present, and this is the theme that carries through into all facets.
The team here, lead by general manager Chad Hanson fresh from his role as manager at Sean’s Kitchen (as well as prior ventures of Eden and Vodka Bar) and Kate Rowlands (restaurant manager) are passionate about what they are doing here. The idea is to create an inviting and enjoyable space, not to be stuffy or intimidting, nor too edgy or quirky. Generosity of time in service, a genuine interest in what the customer is after and attending to that, proper consideration to a menu that is both interesting and modern, but not so it is off putting. Rest assured, the water is far and away the most ostentatious thing here (you really have to read the bottle of Cape Grim. And try it – truly an amazing experience).
Make no mistake – I loved every minute of this. Proper service. You know, old fashioned, look you in the eye, listen properly, genuine smile and effort kind of service. That will win me over every time. The fact the food was of such an incredibly high standard is, in a way, just a bonus. These are people that haven’t lost sight of the fact that what people really want when they go out isn’t just to be fed, or to go and sit in the most convoluted/fancy/over-the-top location ever. They want an enjoyable experience. They want to have fun. They want to be made to feel welcome. Made to feel just a little bit special – “Please come in and let us take care of your evening for you”.
On their website, if I may be so plagaristic here, they put it in a much more succinct way than I have. “Our ethos is simple. SA proud. Fun. Innovating. Surprising. Animated. Theatrical. Informed yet informal.” If I had simply gone with this it would have made for a very short blog post, and also made up entirely of someone elses writing, which isn’t really the point. So lets end with something a bit different.
Level One. Come for the food. Stay for the hospitality. Maybe even the water.