The Valentine’s Day theme is: Milestones
Zulu’s Valentine’s Day Degustation Menu for 2013 is about reflecting on those singular moments which define the progression of a relationship…gastronomically.
Chef Joel McCulla has taken a refreshing look at the stages of romance, and prepared a six course meal with matching wines to celebrate these joyful occasions.
If you are not a strong believer in Valentines’ Day just take a look at the various snippets from the double side, cartoon style menu. Joel has included thoughtful observations, cute cartoons and plenty of smooching pics to put guests in the mood for a romantic, if not mysterious evening.
It is a mysterious evening because our menu hints at what is in store without naming any dishes. Experience has shown me to expect the unexpected with this chameleon of cuisine. Joel adds his own quirky sense of fun to every dish.
Course 1 is introduced as follows:
Tender lamb was the hint here; we were served moist pulled lamb shaped into boxes to represent that courting stage where gifts of chocolate and flowers are given. The dish was served on a rectangular chocolate box shaped plate, and each tender lamb chocolate covered in the most delicious chocolate Jus.
In the centre of the plate was a lovely bunch of flowers and micro herbs served with a salsa verde. Green strips which I initially thought was capsicum I discovered were crisp fried cassava chips. It was the perfect edible bouquet! This dish was a visual and taste sensation, with the perfect balance of sweet and salty.
With the first course complete Mr GG and I are intrigued. Joel has reinvented Valentine ’s Day, and given it his own distinctive spin.
We look to the menu for some hints on the second course.
Before the dish reaches the table I know we are in for some Molecular Gastronomy. This is the stage in a relationship where the magic occurs.
The waiter assists in preparing our love potion and the chemistry is there for Mr GG and I to enjoy.
I sample the spring roll first to find that it is filled with an African Pork Muamba filling. The spices used in the spring rolls are richly aromatic and give it the most delicious unique flavour to this crispy treat. Next I tried the Prawn Parcels with the lemon foam which was by now oozing deliciously over the crispy fried goodness that was the second course. The parcels contained perfectly cooked sweet succulent prawns, absolute bliss for the mouth. Finally the Beef Messir dumplings were all that remained on the plate. I really enjoy the African menu at Zulu’s so I was pleased to find these dumplings borrow more from the African flavour profile I love.
It is time for course 3 and we are moving nicely down the romantic timeline.
A light salmon mousse is presented with a lime aoili key, perhaps the key to lives now being shared.
Also plated are rich golden pieces of crispy fried cornbread. These give the dish a homely, comfort food feeling. The cornbread is filled with chunks of sweet corn pieces and the bread works deliciously as a tool for mopping up the mousse. The olive tapenade and the tomato salsa both have a fresh zingy flavour, perhaps even benefiting from the inclusion of chopped parsley and lemon. This allows both sides to work perfectly with the other components of the dish.
It’s time for course 4 and a proposal. Naturally we are served a glass of Devils Corner Cuvee for the happy occasion. It is one of my favourite wines for the evening, soft bubbles, and a creamy silky mouth feel.
Dessert is described as a Raspberry Jam Lamington. The dish has all the components of this iconic cake but Joel has reinvented this Australian favourite to suit the evenings’ theme. The cubes are a light sweet sponge with romantic red layers of fruity raspberry jam representing the ring boxes we give as couples. A crisp thin chocolate bridge joins the two. The coconut butter cream replaced the coconut that I have never liked on a lamington with a lush, silky alternative. It is a far more glamorous dish than a true lamington, but one which is true to all the flavours in the original.
Course 5 is the marrying of two distinct desserts and flavours.
In this dish we are presented with a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, and a bride and groom perched on top. These are no ordinary bride and groom. They are the creamy sweet combination of delectable milk chocolate and crunchy salted peanut butter. Two distinct desserts brought together on one plate in the name of food love!
Mr GG and I were quick to devour the happy couple before we moved onto the rich lemon curd and buttery base of the lemon meringue pie.
Course 6 is our “happily ever after”, and because too many desserts are never quite enough on Valentine’s Day it really is a happy ending to the meal.
Here we are served hearts on a plate. The base of the heart is a delicious buttery biscuit layer, it is gluten free, and draws flavour and texture from the inclusion of poppy & sesame seeds. The top layer is a light, creamy coconut custard which has been flavoured with aromatic chai spices.
Also accompanying the hearts are some red and black, white chocolate buttons. I presume these are to help fix any problems along the way. Mr GG and I tousled for the mango sorbet which was so full of flavour I would have happily sat down to a bowl of this on its own.
So who is the chef? Joel McCulla; he is an innovative, talented chef with a quirky, refreshing personality, evil sense of humour and a flair for producing the most imaginative tasty food. A testament to the success of the evening was a full house of lovely, happy, smiling couples who were truly enjoying the magic and mystic that Joel and staff created in the name of this romantic day.
If you would like to read about my past experiences at the hands of this tantalising, if not slightly eccentric chef, check out the links below. I will warn you now, the mouse burger is not for the faint hearted.
27 Grafton St, Coffs Harbour
Ph: 02 6652 1588
Gourmet Getaways would like to thank Zulu’s and Joel McCulla for the invitation to dine as a guest. Please be assured that the opinions expressed in this story are the author honest thoughts on an amazing experience.