For its Forty Days of Flavour from 22 March until 30 April 2021, The Star has chosen to shine a spotlight on food offerings at The Star Gold Coast and The Star Treasury Brisbane.
Offering great food, drink and entertainment to celebrate autumn, dining experiences range from value offers in the Food Quarter to The Star Grazing Tour, a four-course progressive degustation around The Star.
For us, it’s a great opportunity to interact with Nineteen at the Star’s Executive Chef Uday Huja and to experience his lunch menu, the dishes explained by the chef himself.
It’s a well-known adage that we all carry our journey with us, and for Uday Huja this saying is certainly true. The child of Northern Indian Sikh parents, Uday grew up in the quaint small town of Charlottesville, Virginia, his father the town planner and later the mayor.
“Inside my house was Indian and outside was the Southern state of Virginia,” Huja tells me, describing the two diverse worlds that made up his existence. “We were the only Indian family in town. Inside we ate tandoori chicken. Outside I ate fried chicken and cornbread with my friends.”
It’s this diversity of experience plus his persistence through racism and bigotry to not only survive but thrive that have made him the person that he is today, an internationally renowned chef who has catered for presidents and princes, identities and film stars, his pinnacle experience as a first generation American being one of the team of chefs who cooked for the first White House State Dinner for newly elected President Barack Obama.
Uday’s culinary philosophy is: ‘Great ingredients simply prepared with finesse’. To him, the best produce is the driver. And he especially loves great Australian produce.
“Each dish has one main voice, that is the natural attributes of the main ingredient. All the other ingredients are supporting players,” he says.
So it is with the signature oysters and ‘snacks’, the first course of four served with Dominique Portet Brut Rosé from the Yarra Valley. Oysters, explains Uday, carry their terroir, just as wine does, in their characteristics. Minerally and briny from an ocean estuary at Merimbula or sweet and creamy from the river in Shoalhaven, the pair of hand-picked ‘Appellation Oysters’ served for lunch are a great introduction to the ‘Oyster Journey’ on offer at Nineteen at The Star.
The duo of oysters are presented on a bed of river stones, a small piece of potato pavé topped with prawn remoulade alongside. One oyster is dressed with a vinaigrette made on Ruinart champagne, (not a specific ingredient that would have immediately come to mind. Eating it? There’s no problem at all!) The other, subtly sweet and smoky, emerges from an applewood-fired oven dressed with homemade bacon, garlic butter and barbecue sauce. Delicious!
The wood-roasted oyster is the first time Virginia has entered the menu, Uday embracing his heritage to create his own unique culinary voice.
In the entrée (a choice of four dishes), we travel a little further up the coast of the US for an accompaniment to the delicious beef tartare with yolk sauce, the potato crisps seasoned with Old Bay spices, reported to be a blend of eighteen different herbs and spices including celery salt, smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and ginger, amongst others.
Main (again a choice of four) is ocean trout roasted on a red cedar plank, the cedar burned first to release essential oils, giving the trout a subtle smokiness. It’s a cooking method used by native American peoples in the north-western states of the US, such as Washington, Uday tells me. Served with two side dishes, a bowl of charred Brussel sprouts dressed with vinaigrette and fontina and a crisp mixed leaf salad, the trout is perfection. The Brussel sprouts are simply addictive (who would have thought?), the salad a refreshing palate cleanser for the other richer dishes.
We finish with a slice of Chocolate meringue pie. Not too sweet, the slightly bitter chocolate is balanced by a scoop of Pedro Ximenez sherry ice cream, a pinch of salt in the pie crumb adding a pique of interest.
Just as Nineteen at the Star’s décor takes its inspiration from the surrounding landscape, its hues of powder green from the forest, the teal blue ocean and gold glimmers of sun skimming over the water to cream sandy shores, so the menu of our lunch reflects the journey and background of Executive Chef Uday Huja.
As he visits each table during service, Uday reminds me, “Dining shouldn’t be transactional. A great restaurant is about a complete dining experience, above and beyond just the food. It has to be an experience, a relationship with the guest, a personalized touch.”
Our lunch at Nineteen at The Star takes us on a journey. Lives meet at the shared table where we are asked to be open to difference, to accept other cultures and to relish the moment. The dining table is the open door.
NOTE: Lunch at Nineteen at the Star is available on Friday and Saturday at $96 for four courses. Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of The Star Gold Coast.
The Star Gold Coast, Casino Drive, Broadbeach Ph: 07 5592 8719
Restaurant: Open for breakfast daily, Lunch Friday & Saturday, Dinner Wednesday to Sunday, Sunday brunch.