Atlas Dining head chef Charlie Carrington’s passport is filling up. Three times a year the chef travels abroad to research a different cuisine and then brings back his findings and reinterprets them as a multi-course tasting menu at his South Yarra restaurant. Past menus have focussed on food from Thailand, Brazil, France and China, among others. Now Carrington is embracing the smoke- and flame-powered cooking of the US’s southern states.
America’s Deep South has many different culinary styles, and Carrington experienced a lot of them on a 10-day road trip he did there in July. But in Nashville Carrington also found influence outside of the kitchen.
“The one thing I picked up there that was even better than learning about food was the country music experience,” says Carrington. “That’s something we’re going to be really big on this time, playing a lot of music and creating a really fun, rocking vibe.”
In Texas, Carrington explored the state’s barbeque culture, particularly its famed beef brisket seasoned with a generous but simple salt and pepper rub. At Atlas Dining he’ll re-create it with the help of Burn City Smokers, which has lent him an offset smoker for making pork ribs, brisket, sausage and turkey.
“It’s not hard food to get right, but it’s also very hard to get right in a way,” says Carrington of Texas barbeque. “The smoker will cook our brisket for nine hours, but that means someone needs to focus for nine hours too.”
He then stopped off in New Orleans to sample dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya, which incorporate African American, Latin American and French influences.
“What makes the food of New Orleans special is what makes America special. It’s how diverse it is and how many cultures are there,” says Carrington. “When you go there and taste it, it’s a lot different to what you expected but still comforting.”
The menu at Atlas dining will have starters including pickled green tomatoes, house-cured guanciale, fried chicken and gumbo. Carrington has also imported specially ground corn meal to make grits – a type of corn-meal porridge – that will be served with a whole grilled prawn, coriander and chilli.
The main course will feature whatever slow- and low-cooked meats come off the smoker that day, as well as a choice of three sides that may include mac’n’cheese, or green beans cooked with burnt ends (the crispy tips of smoked brisket). To finish guests will get to choose from a selection of pies such as sweet potato or key lime.
Atlas Dining’s new menu is available from September 15. The opening service will support the Robert Conner Dawes Foundation’s work to battle paediatric brain cancer. And on November 28 there will be a special Thanksgiving dinner. Book here.