My very good friend, Karina, shares the same birthday as me. For many years we have tried to always go out for dinner for a joint celebration. Her husband, Christian, is very good at organising a different venue each year; it’s always somewhat local, always moderately priced, always BYO and each year we usually try a different cuisine.
This year Christian suggested Paradox in Crows Nest. Paradox was established in 1992 and is in a little terrace house on a busy suburban street. We organised to meet at 7.30pm so it was pitch black making photography challenging and coupled with this it was raining cats and dogs.
We raced in through the doorway and dripped raindrops all through the little entrance and I looked around and was very surprised to see what a tiny restaurant this is. I imagine it seats only around 30. All tables were full (except the one reserved for us) which is always a very good sign.
I do have to say I thought the interior could definitely do with a sprucing-up as it looked very dated. We were seated along a wall of mirrors and while this may give the illusion of more space, I really would have preferred not to have seen myself from so many angles. The lighting was very bright so I asked the waitress if it could be turned down one or two notches and she happily dimmed the lighting which was appreciated. There were tablecloths on the tables but they weren’t white but more an antique/yellow in a checked pattern with burgundy napkins. I think I have previously shared my feelings of burgundy and to make things worse, Christian said the napkin was clashing with my pink shirt!
The menu was put in front of us and it was all printed out on one sheet – I do like a one-sheeted menu! The menu consists of a few choices for appetiser, entree, main course and dessert and it’s all for a set price of $53/person which I think is very good value. But before the food we ordered even appeared, a basket of complimentary garlic bread was brought to the table. It was the best garlic bread I’ve ever had but probably because it was laced with garlic and butter. I did like the way there were some chopped herbs scattered through it to give the bread some colour.
My first dish to arrive was the Country style liver pate with gherkins, baby capers and toasted bread. The pate was lovely and smooth and I always enjoy pate with cornichons however I wasn’t overwhelmed with the presentation of this dish.
Carl, Christian and Karina all had the green king prawns, cracked peppercorn, bisque and basil. They absolutely loved it and no one cared to think how much butter was in the dish.
The next dish to arrive was the steamed asparagus with hollandaise a l’orange. When I was ordering it I asked where they had sourced the asparagus because it’s absolutely not in season. The waiter replied, ‘Yes, it’s fresh’ so I didn’t actually get to the bottom of where it came from but I’m assuming it wasn’t local. When the dish arrived I did wonder where the asparagus was as I could see nothing but sauce. The spears were short and thin and slightly overcooked and smothered in sauce. While I do love hollandaise sauce, I would have preferred long, thick spears with a little less sauce so that the hero of the dish is the vegetable rather than the sauce.
Carl and Karina both had the Tasmanian scallops baked in their shells with a garlic chive sauce. Once again, there was a lot of sauce that I thought prevented the scallop from standing out as the main feature.
Christian had the escargots bourgogne au beurre maison Paradox and good luck to him because that’s the dish that least tempted me on the entire menu. I’m not one for snails! But Christian, who has eaten them in France many times said these had great texture without being chewy and were amongst the best escargots he’s ever experienced.
Between the entree and main, the waiter brought a complimentary palate cleansing sorbet. It’s been about three decades since I had a palate cleansing sorbet! This was made with a variety of fruits and was very refreshing.
For a main course, Christian and I both ordered the half duckling double baked with forest mushrooms in a port sauce. The sauce was silky, smooth and rich yet not overpowering but while the duck had beautiful flavour, it was a bit of a tug to release the meat from the bone.
Carl and Karina both had the barramundi fillet with a kaffir lime beurre blanc. They didn’t like this much at all and said the fish was bland and overcooked.
While not exactly needing anything more to eat, I found room for the creme brulee with cinnamon and cardamon with vanilla ice cream. It was a very generous serving of brulee and I wasn’t able to finish it. The brulee had a perfect toffee topping that cracked with the tap of the back of my spoon and the custard was mildly flavoured with the spices and very creamy and smooth.
Christian and Karina had the carmelised warm apple tart with caramel ice cream. No complaints! They said this was very much like an apple tart baked by a home cook in the countryside of France; comforting.
Carl had the pear and fig poached in red wine and black currant juice. He very much enjoyed this leaving nothing on his plate and said it went very well with the sauterne wine Christian had brought with him.
We had no room for tea or coffee. During the evening the service had been very attentive or perhaps a little too attentive as we had water glasses on our table but they were very small water glasses. We drained them quickly so the waiter always seemed to be leaning over or across the table refilling them. The meal wasn’t rushed with the courses being well spaced giving us lots of time to talk, reminisce about our 25 years of friendship, and mostly laugh.
Paradox serves traditional French cuisine from yesteryear. While the restaurant could do with refurbishing and while the burgundy napkins need to be binned, this is a restaurant offering very good value for money in a relaxed and informal setting. While some dishes were better than others, the homely atmosphere almost made this forgivable. For the set price of $53 we enjoyed a four course meal with complimentary garlic bread and sorbet and also, there’s no corkage fee. Verdict: French cuisine from yesteryear that’s exceptional in value.
Paradox: 98 Falcon Street (Cnr Sophia Street), Crows Nest, NSW 2067 Ph: (02) 9956 8898