For young gun chef Thomas Lim, the task of describing the style of food at Duke Bistro doesn't involve genre or national dish. “That’s always a question I stumble on,” he says. “We try to make it interesting and accessible to all walks of life. We like it to be different, tasty, inventive and creative, without too many bells and whistles.” It’s certainly a quality that has kept diners raving about Lim’s dishes at Duke.
Originally from Western Australia, Lim was in his uncle’s seafood restaurant before moving to the kitchen. “From there I just fell into cooking,” he says. But it was a decision to move east and study at the Intercontinental that got things moving, resulting in an apprenticeship at Tetsuya's, which instilled a respect for all the different aspects of hospitality.
“Fine dining is so different to restaurants that are more casual,” he muses. “You learn excellent discipline, respect for produce, knife skills, how to clean. You learn respect for your appearance and for customers and once you have that training, you carry it with you.”
Lim credits his success at Duke to the joy of having creative control over the menu “that’s a rare thing these days.” and as a result he is able to draw from a variety of inspirations for his dishes.
“I’m an avid cook book collector, I read food blogs and follow what’s going on overseas. I love Parisian wine bars. But inspiration can also come from a supplier with an interesting product, or exposure to a certain cuisine. Or there might be a technique you liked while you are eating out. It’s an evolution of an idea.”
But he’s quick to point out that the final idea must be his own.
“It can’t be food plagiarism, so we check with each other in the kitchen. It’s important to know what’s going on around you, because if everyone is the same, then it’s just no good.”
And with that in mind, here’s Lim’s recipe for roast carrot with smoked yoghurt and pistachio.
Roast Carrot, Smoke Yoghurt, Pistachio
50ml Grape seed oil
50g Long grain rice
50g Brown sugar
30g Oolong tea leaves
15g Orange Pekoe tea leaves
50ml Sugar syrup
10g Ground caraway
10g Ground cardamom
10g Sea salt
For the roast carrot: Wash and dry the carrots. Line a roasting tray with baking paper and coat the carrot in oil, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Place in oven at 160 degrees CelsiusC for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
For the smoked yogurt: Place the yogurt in a small shallow tray. Combine all other ingredients and place in a small alfoil tray. Place alfoil tray inside a deep pot and move the pot onto the stove on high heat. Find yourself a steamer basket or colander and place the yogurt inside, then cover the steamer basket in cling film three times. Once the pot begins to produce a consistent smoke you can place the steamer basket on top and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, then stir yogurt and reserve to one side.
For the pistachio:
Coat the nuts in the sugar syrup, salt and ground caraway and cardamom. Line a flat tray with baking paper and place in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Once the nuts have cooled, blitz in a blender till coarse.
Spoon a few tablespoons of the yogurt onto a plate, slice carrots and place on top. Finish the dish with the crushed pistachios.