The Henry Austin has officially only been open for one day, but The Adelaidian has returned for its third (and possibly most important) visit; to eat as many little Yum Cha dishes as humanely possible. Each sitting will have slightly different dishes than the one before, ensuring every time you return there will be new dishes to try. One thing that will always remain consistent however is that the dishes will always encompass South Australian flavours and prioritise use of local produce.
The Henry Austin looks just as charming and classic during the day as it does in the evening, with rosy sunlight shining through the windows onto the warm timber and sparkling brass cutlery standing to attention to the right of every hand-made plate.
Friendly waiters, including owners Max Mason and Tess Footner, roamed around the tables carrying trays full of Modern Australian Yum Cha dishes allowing patrons to select a freshly-prepared plate from their eager arms. Orders and alterations to dishes can be made through them too, however The Henry Austin has no menu to read from, so you’ll have to trust your waiter’s knowledge and go by what you’ve seen roaming around the restaurant!
We started off with some cold dishes; tuna tartare, beef tartare and fresh oysters. The tuna tartare was a favourite of ours from the launch night, freshly diced and served with avocado cream and juicy, fresh riberries, as was the beef tartare that had a silky smooth texture contrasted by the crunchiness of the fried coastal salt bush and salty little pickle slices. The Smokey Bay oysters, though raw, were not chewy and the accompanying citrus jús the shells were filled with offset the saltiness of the oysters.
We’re suckers for raw fish, and as such are huge fans of the waiter who bestowed a kingfish sashimi dish upon us. The kingfish was extremely tender and sliced thin but long, and the red foo potatoes (another favourite ingredient of ours) were perfectly salted to match the fish.
Moving onto some hot dishes we started with the naked mushrooms dressed in raisin jús and raisin jam. There are two kinds of mushrooms in this dish; slippery jacks, which were small but rich in flavour, and pine mushrooms, which were bigger and meatier. The sticky, sweet raisin jús coated the bottom of the dish and enhanced the mushroom flavour, while the raisin jam was thick and sweet, perfect for scraping on top of each bite.
The beef brisket with pine mushrooms held enough on the plate for two to share in this rich, tender meat. Cooked for three days, it was crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and was simply pulled apart with a fork. Juice from the meat flooded the plate, making sure there wasn’t a dry bite in sight.
A dish we had never tried before was presented to us next, sous vide egg with grain salad. The egg was cut open atop a pile of soft grains, coating everything underneath it in runny yolk. Crunchy, salted kale chips garnished the dish, contrasting with the softness of every other element on the plate.
We finished up with another variation of oyster that was presented to us, this time cooked. The oysters had lost some of their saltiness through being cooked, however this was made up for with the rich, Riverland-grown yuzu sauce they were presented with.
Though we did not make it that far, dessert is also an option at The Henry Austin. That afternoon the chefs had created a parsnip ice-cream accompanied by an orange and pistachio cake with dehydrated chocolate.
Yum Cha is fabulous because it allows you to order lots of mini dishes, trying a whole bunch of different things, and you often end up rolling out of the restaurant after overestimating how many little dishes will make up one big dish. This was definitely the case as we left The Henry Austin, defeated by the extensive Modern Australian Yum Cha menu, but vowing to return to pick up where we left off.
[Note: as of July 2017, The Henry Austin will no longer be open for business]