He’s the renowned chef de cuisine at Black Bar & Grill in Sydney’s The Star, but to get a hit of Dany Karam’s flair, you need no longer leave the Illawarra.
Dany is the main man behind the new menu at Novotel’s Palisade Kitchen & Bar.
Though billed as “Mediterranean-inspired” a closer look reveals a world tour of inspiration, with plenty of evidence of its other collaborators.
This includes Palisade head chef Robert (Robby) Blackburn, whose cheffing pedigree includes Cirrus Dining in Sydney’s Barangaroo and restaurant manager Ben Pupo, a self-confessed hospitality “lifer” whose passion lies with beverages.
The luxurious menu arranges locally sourced, seasonal produce into dishes designed to “transport diners to the shores of Croatia or Greece” without leaving the iconic Wollongong venue.
Choosing a favourite is mission impossible, according to Ben.
“I would just end up rattling off the entire menu,” he laughs. “But I’ll start with the Hiramasa Kingfish. It’s served with persimmon, mandarin, ponzu, sesame and saltbush. It’s so fresh tasting.”
Like many of the starters, it’s a dish perfect for sharing.
The culinary shake-up follows renovations undertaken throughout the hotel, which has long been one of Wollongong’s most iconic dining and holiday destinations.
“Novotel is one of Wollongong’s leading hospitality venues, for both visitors and the Illawarra community. We hope the new menu reflects that,” he says.
“We have a very multicultural team at the Novotel and the menu draws on these diverse backgrounds.”
The Mount Cook Alpine salmon, for example, served with a miso crumb, puffed wild rice, baby cucumber and buttermilk yuzu kosho drew from collaboration with sous chef Takahiro.
It joins the Fremantle Octopus served with Kurobata chorizo, saffron potato, gremolata and garlic aioli in what Ben calls a “triumph”.
“It’s a warm dish but has fresh, bright flavours,” he says.
“Cooked perfectly, as it is by our chefs, it will be nice and soft and melt in your mouth.”
Ben also pulls out the Berkshire pork cutlet served with five-spiced crumbed, celeriac remoulade and mustard dressing as a “fan favourite” and the spiced lamb shoulder with charred pumpkin purée, rainbow chard, macadamia and mint jus.
“Some of the dishes are warming for winter, the idea being that as the seasons change, so will they,” he says.
Featuring conspicuously within the restaurant is a large, dry-aged beef cabinet.
“It houses some beautiful cuts of meat and man, they are something else,” Ben says.
“They spend 30 or 40 odd days dry aging, so the steaks are incredible.”
The menu is topped off with a tantalising range of sides including grilled corn on the cob with cilantro, lime, Persian fetta and crème fraiche, as well as a cheese selection and desserts like banana tart and coconut sago.
But as tempting as the food sounds Ben, who has competed in world-class cocktails competitions and curated wine lists for elite restaurants, is most excited about the beverage list launching at the end of next month.
“There will be beautiful wines that pair really well with all these phenomenal dishes,” he says.
“Generally speaking the majority will be Australian wine with a curated selection from the rest of the world. One of my favourite producers is De Beaurepaire in NSW and more locally, we’ll have wine from Cupitt’s Estate in Ulladulla,” he says.
“We’re also busy designing cocktails. I won’t give it all away but one of my favourites mixes a beautiful yuzu gin from Four Pillars distillery with Aperol, fresh yuzu, Chambord and a hint of honey.
“We’re calling it Horizons. We thought that fitting, given the views our diners look out over as they sip.”
Palisade Kitchen & Bar is located at the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach, 2/14 Cliff Rd, North Wollongong, and is open seven days from 6:30 am to 10:30 am for breakfast, 12 pm to 2:30 pm for lunch and 6 pm to 9 pm for dinner.