Dan Arnold: a restaurant?

There are places that serve food, called restaurants, and then there are places like Restaurant Dan Arnold. In this kind of establishment, the dark arts have clearly been employed to coax flavours out of their tiny hiding places and force them to marry, at kitchen-blow-torch-point, sometimes unlikely companions. Such arranged marriages are only successful at the hands of a very skilled match-maker.

This is not a blog of restaurant reviews, but food is an intrinsic part of culture and the profile of any city, even Brisbane. After all, Paris would just be a big fashion show, and people making out on bridges, without its food. (I haven’t been there but I have watched Emily in Paris on Netflix so same same.)

With food establishments like Restaurant Dan Arnold, I believe the protocol for attendance should be re-written. First of all, a screening process should be implemented to make sure only those capable of appreciating what they are about to experience should take place; think the kind of exam that only Matt Preston would pass.

Next a strict dress-code: a long, black, shapeless garment with matching head-covering to prevent any distraction by clothing, hair, or accessories; change-rooms would be provided. Once patrons emerge into the dining-space, (or perhaps the “gustatory perception and experience studio” ) there must be absolute silence. No music, no conversation, no asking where the toilet is. Waitstaff would be trained to within an inch of their lives to anticipate every possible need. Any failures would be dealt with promptly (think Squid Game).

I believe this is the only way one can truly experience and appreciate the artistic prowess of the eponymous chef and his assistants.

I, and my husband of 30 years (yeah, the longer-for-murder joke) attended RDA on Saturday, April 2. The dinner was a gift from friends for our anniversary.

Before we began the five-course main event, six “amuse-bouche” were gifted to us on strange and unusual vessels. There was a chicken-liver parfait inside a tiny cup-shaped crust, perfect oblongs of salmon with dots of citrus gel, something served on a crust of delicately puffed rice, and a beetroot meringue (yes! beetroot). And it’s my inability to recall the minute details of these exquisite little morsels that brings me to my next idea.

After each dish, patrons must retire to individual cubicles and spend at least ten minutes meditating on what they have just experienced. The flavours in these dishes are so clear and yet complex that it is sacrilege to just swallow a mouthful of wine and move onto the next one. Your brain is still saying, “What was that?!” before it is forced on to the next thing. As for me, I couldn’t fully concentrate as I should have been, because I was checking out the clothing on the women at the next table, and wondering if that was Harry and Meghan sitting up at the bar. It’s like in church, when you’re supposed to be listening to the sermon, but instead you’re looking at the stained-glass windows and planning your next holiday. Nothing should be allowed to distract you from the task at hand.

After we had merged our bodies with the five “main” courses, the waitress rolled the Ikea Cheesen Platten cheese trolley over to us and removed the lid ready to explain the five hundred different cheeses. Alas, as much as I wanted to, there was no way I could have talked my stomach into it. She told us she would let us get away with it this time. I felt chastened and unworthy.

Instead, we were served a thimble of parsley granita and “at the bottom, you will find lemon curd,” she said, except with a French accent. This was the pre-dessert dessert. The menu stated the actual dessert was “Earl grey, chocolate, blackberry”. And so it was.

Petit fours ensued. The limitations of our crude language reduce me to describing them as a mandarin jelly and a carrot cake. There was a third one, but by then I had had three glasses of wine. I’m a cheap drunk.

After perfect coffee, it was time to deal with the vulgarity of “paying the bill”. Then we were thrust back into the night and returned home, where we lay down and stared at the ceiling, trying to make sense of what had just happened, with questions like, “But how did they make that potato thing?”

We’ll probably never know. Which is probably just as well.

And I don’t think it was Harry and Meghan.

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