72 hours after visiting Ante, a slick and polished sake bar-meets-music room on Newtown's King Street, three dishes are still dancing through my mind, calling me back for more. As someone who struggles to recall where I was yesterday, let alone what I ate, this is rare – and testament to the skill and intrigue of chef Jemma Whiteman's cooking.
The first is school prawns, lightly dusted in chickpea flour and fried until crisp, peppered with an aromatic mix of diced clementine and whole curry leaves. You smell the dish coming before it arrives at your table, priming your tastebuds for that unique bite of curry leaf.
The second is the unassuming sounding crispy rice with red pepper butter; a description that belies the bright, bold and textural flavour bomb that arrives, topped with dancing flakes of katsuobushi and a shower of black sesame. A perfect square, the crisp golden edges give way to a soft chewy centre bathed in a rich, umami-packed sauce.
Finally, and most unexpectedly, is dessert. Specifically, a black sugar custard with aged mirin. Anyone who grew up drinking the sweet, malt comfort of Horlicks as a child will find instant joy as they spoon this mousse-like custard into their mouth. It looks like a crème caramel but is somehow both lighter and more complex.
Whiteman's ability to build and layer flavours comes as no surprise given her impressive CV, including time at Billy Kwong and Lankan Filling Station. Combine it with the knowledge and passion of Black Market Sake's Matt Young, who will pour custom flights of sake based on your personal preference – not to mention his vinyl collection of more than 2500 records – and you have an opening to get seriously jazzed about.