As summer draws to a close and weather temperatures begin to drop, we know that September is upon us, and school is back in session. Food is one of those magical things that allows us to tap into memories covered by the in’s and out’s of the daily grind, and can transport us back to happier days from our youth.
SAAM Food & Drinks had a bit of a rough start finding its identity when it launched, but now has turned its focus to offering prix fixe and specially curated seasonal tasting menus. Inspired by his childhood in Australia, Chef Patrick Dang has created a September tasting menu that offers us a blast to our pasts, with some very interesting twists on childhood favourites.
For this “Back to School” themed menu, we chose the 7-course option ($788) with the wine pairing (add $348), but for those of you who are lighter eaters, there is also a 5-course option ($638) with optional wine pairing (add $248) as well.
The meal is constructed to represent how a child progresses through the meals of their day, and where else to begin with breakfast but with “Nutella and Toast”? As this dish was served, we started to realise that this would be no ordinary meal, and we were presented with a scallop crudo with hazelnuts and topped with a tarragon foam, accompanied by a small cracker sandwich with a truffle “Nutella” panna cotta.
One of our favourite courses of the evening was the “Cereal & Yoghurt” second course, which offered a foie gras parfait topped with a layer of savoury nut granola, and was garnished with dabs of almond yoghurt and peppered pineapple. Seasoned with black pepper, this dish offered a great balance of flavour and texture and paired well with the dry 2013 Trenz Steinhaus riesling.
Finishing out the breakfast section of the meal was the delectable “Sausage & Egg”, which featured a lobster sausage paired with an “egg” represented by a white butternut squash puree touched with lemongrass and coconut, and a yellow madras curry in the center, representing the yellow gooey center of a sunny-side-up egg. When we put all the components together in our mouth, it evoked the feeling of enjoying a creamy lobster curry dish.
A deconstructed “Fish & Chip” was the next course in the meal, and while this was not our favourite course, many of the Brits at the table really enjoyed the poached turbot, potato crisp, fried tartar sauce ball, and mushy peas touched with mint.
What better way to continue the day’s eating then by combining Chinese and Western flavours in a “Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup”? With noodles constructed from poached chicken breasts, the chicken / abalone broth was well-seasoned and presented beautifully. The chicken noodle soup was topped with sauteed shitaake mushrooms and a pan-seared chicken oyster (perhaps the best part of the chicken). We very much enjoyed the offsetting flavour offered by the yellow chive garnish, which gave the broth a bright, earthy tone.
Rounding into the final savoury course, we thoroughly enjoyed Chef Patrick's interpretation of a “School Roast Dinner”, which offered a seared Wagyu short rib, one-potato fry, and a porcini mushroom umami brown gravy.
As this was a meal with a child’s heart in mind, we were not disappointed with the playful dessert course, which took a spin on the timeless "Peanut Butter & Jelly”. It's a banana-pudding-molded Lego piece along with a peanut butter parfait and concord grape sorbet. This was a huge hit across the table.
We know that SAAM may have had some issues finding its footing through its first year, but as they have spent time reworking their concept, and focusing on seasonal, themed menus we believe they’re worth another look. Although it’s not everyday that we can splurge on a 7-course meal, look to SAAM as a great choice for a special occasion with your sweetheart, or that date you’ve been looking to impress.
This special September tasting menu is only available until October 31.