Remember the days when peanut butter and chocolate was considered adventurous, and people who dipped chips in milkshakes were harshly judged? It feels like a long time ago.
Ever since Heston Blumenthal popularised the concept of flavour pairing – which is based on the principle that foods that share molecular food compounds taste good together because they are chemically aligned – seemingly weird food combinations have become extremely commonplace.
Pork liver and jasmine, chocolate and caviar, cottage cheese and potato chips… we’ve succumbed to the siren call of salted caramel, and don’t even bat an eyelid when we see bacon added to everything.
In tribute to the flavour pairing trend, here are some of our favourite weird combinations at Melbourne's best cafes and restaurants.
Ox tail and sarsaparilla dumplings at Susie Wong
Two wrongs make a right in the case of the ox tail and sarsaparilla dumplings at Susie Wong in Windsor. Or perhaps you’d prefer to go for the prawn, scallop and goji dumplings? There’s also a game-changing Durian Brûlée on the menu, and a satisfyingly sticky Crispy Pork Belly with Chilli Caramel, Apple and Radish. Dumplings, durian and chilli caramel? Sign us up!
Tomato and peanut butter toast at Barry’s
The menu at Barry’s bursts with good-for-you ingredients like chard, chia and cacao - so obviously the crunchy peanut butter that comes with halved heirloom tomatoes, salt and pepper, and sourdough is the natural stuff. It’s the only item on the menu with an editorial note beside it – ‘trust us’ – and it’s pretty tasty for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. You might also want to get stuck into a Bloody Mary with a side of jerky to complete the sweet-salty experience.
Caramelised pineapple with Szechuan pepper and burnt cream at Pei Modern
Pei Modern really takes the cake, so to speak, when it comes to weirding up desserts. This warm, golden masterpiece takes the place of their previous conversation-starter; a caramelised stuffed tomato served with satiny star anise ice cream. The same principles are at play here – the sweetness of the pineapple is counterbalanced by the spicy kick of the Szechuan pepper, and if you’re wondering what burnt cream is, it’s basically crème brûlée with a less romantic name.
Salted caramel ice cream churros taco, Acland St Cantina
Yes, you did just read the words ‘taco’ and ‘churros’ in the same sentence. Cinnamon-spiced churro dough is formed into a taco shape, lightly fried, and used as a flat base for two creamy scoops of salted caramel ice cream. It’s then piped with dulce de leche sauce and peppered with nuts. PS: Acland St Cantina’s grocery store sells dulce de leche cinnamon scrolls if you just can’t get enough of the caramel goodness.
Japanese popcorn at Transformer
Everyone has had bags of popcorn from the supermarket, but Transformer’s organic popcorn with Japanese-spiced sea salt and crushed nori is something special. Follow it up with a plate of ricotta and rye gnocchi accompanied by pumpkin mousse and blueberry compote, and wash it down with a Kimchi Bloody Mary with orange and tamari for good measure.
Image credit: Anita Wilhelm, at Pei Modern
Looking for other interesting foodie pairings? Check out Melbourne's Hottest New 'Fine Diving' Bars!