In a non-descript carpark, in the middle of Point Cook, lies a pocket of random shop fronts. A standard issue medical centre, with an adjoining chemist. A run of the mill gym. Nestled in between – an unassuming little café doing big things.
Bean Smuggler, is the brain child of 2018 Chef of the Year, Jack Lee. Opening in July, Jack’s mission was clear – to bring the best café possible to the Point cook area.
Brunch culture is at its peak – riding high on the Instagram-driven obsession, of giving visual props to impressive looking fare. The brunches coming out of the Bean Smuggler kitchen, are completely Insta-worthy!
Jack Lee’s meteoric rise through the culinary world, has seen him working alongside two hatted Chef, Lachlan Colwill at Hentley Farm in the Barossa Valley. As well as beating out 180 other competitors in the 2018 Foodservice Australia Chef of the Year competition, he also took out the prestigious La Chaine des Rotisseurs Chef Competition in 2009.
With so much gained experience, Lee was ready to take on his own venture, bringing his big ideas home. Thankfully for us, Lee’s home is here in the west.
It’s early days, but Bean Smuggler has already gained an impressive following, with plenty of regulars helping to spread the word. They come for the food, the coffee and for the welcome they receive from Jack’s front of house manager, Will Krutop. On board from the start, Will understood Jack’s vision right away and together, they are reinventing the wheel. Ideas fly thick and fast, as Bean Smuggler evolves.
One such evolution, was the introduction of Bind Palate – the after dark project, allowing Jack to really let loose in the kitchen. Concept dinner events, inviting diners to move beyond brunch.
The first Bind Palate event took place on March 16, as the sun was setting on a particularly busy Saturday. The kitchen – reminiscent of a walk-in robe, in terms of size – pushed out 110 covers in café mode. As day turned into night, the kitchen switched into restaurant mode, and 16 diners – myself included – were treated to a 5-course extravaganza.
The lighting was low, the anticipation was high, as a specially printed menu promised curious combinations and tempting treats. Let the tasting begin….
Let me be honest. Despite my love of food, there are things I tend to avoid on a menu. I’ve convinced myself that blue cheese is not for me. I don’t do raw fish, and I am fairly nonplussed when it comes to kangaroo meat and radicchio.
When you sit down to a meal that someone else has cooked, it’s about trust. I trust Jack Lee.
The first plates arrived. House made potato crisps with wagyu pastrami and herbed mayo. Asparagus with a miso, honey and blue cheese sauce. Deceptively simple in their presentation, but complex flavours had me considering if plate-licking was acceptable. My fear of blue cheese, melted away.
The second course arrived – a Kingfish sashimi, with heirloom tomatoes and a dill sponge. Attention to detail stands out. When Kingfish has been so expertly prepared, it begs to be enjoyed. The bed of tomatoes hidden beneath – equal parts sweet and tart. The balance of flavours, topped off with herbaceous lightness in the sponge – practically evaporating in the mouth. Paired perfectly with a Clare Valley Pinot Gris – it was clear that we were in for a good night.
Have you ever had lettuce that smelled like fried rice? I have.
When the third course hit the table, my mouth was watering from the aroma. Lettuce done right – crisp, yet tender. Cured egg, shaved over the entire dish – a mustard seed buttermilk sauce that seemed in desperate need of a good slurping.
The service throughout the evening was equal to the food being presented. Will and Michael catered to our every need, whilst continually ensuring we were watered and wined. Jack and his sous chef, Jimmy were making miracles happen in their ‘shoe box’ kitchen.
I am late to Brussel sprouts. Forced to eat soggy, pale sprouts as a child, I’ve avoided them for most of my adult existence…. until the fourth course. It turns out, they need not be cooked at all! A perfectly delightful garnish, to fennel spiced Paroo kangaroo, served on a bed of tender smoked beetroot. A rich and tasty dish. The flavours slowly building, as any good degustation should.
Now let’s talk about the main, because I get the sense that this dish speaks entirely to what Bind Palate is really about. Murray Valley pork – well-seasoned – tender – delicious. Radicchio – bitter and roasty. Kimchi – a nod to Jack’s Korean heritage – bringing heat to the dish in the afterglow. And then there was parsnip – parsnip puree.
I didn’t know I could yearn for parsnip. It never struck me as a lust-worthy vegetable, yet there I was, dragging my finger through the silky parsnip-y goodness – unapologetically.
The reason this meal is the embodiment of the Bind Palate philosophy, is because on paper, these four elements do not belong together. It’s French technique, meets Asian boldness of flavour, with a nod to the modern Australian disregard for convention. It’s not fusion – it’s the binding of elements – it’s culinary symbiosis.
Dessert is always the pièce de résistance – the show stopper – the grand finale.
Cream-less chocolate mousse. Fennel meringue shards. Burnt apple puree. Almond crumble. A smooth, yet textural experience. No need for excessive sugar here – Jack let the flavours sing through.
With wines ranging from France, through to the Hentley Farm Shiraz – a nod to days gone by – the Bind Palate team know their stuff. My position near the entry way, meant a front row seat to the other diners, as their evening came to an end. Empty plates, satisfied faces and an outpouring of appreciation for the Chef and his small team.
It will only be a matter of time before word gets out about these concept dinners. There are several more scheduled in the months ahead, and they will sell out quickly. Jack Lee has big plans and rightly so – he is taking our taste buds on an unexpected journey, and our palate is richer for the experience.
For information on Bind Palate’s upcoming concept dinner events, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info, or check out their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/bindpalate/