Australian super chef serves up modern Australian cuisine at Freebird
At night there’s not much on quiet Sukhumvit Soi 47 to indicate life at the tail end of this underlit street. That is, until you find yourself standing in front of Freebird. Even before you’ve fully taken in your surroundings—the herb garden, the open kitchen, and adjacent coffee shop—your senses are immediately stimulated. Inside, the two-storied restored Thai home is a nice combination of old-world charm and modern abstract touches. Upon arrival, Marcus Boyle, the general manager and sommelier, gives us a quick tour of the upstairs, which includes a private dining room and a wine room stocked impressively with well-curated selections of vintage and new-wave brands.
On the main floor there are plenty of nooks to bury yourself into (indoors and out), but we seat ourselves at the long wooden communal dining table, which in turn gives us great views of the kitchen and Chef Dallas Cuddy in action. The forty-something chef arrived in Bangkok late last year and brought with him a wealth of experiences from his culinary jaunts across the world—from his hometown in Melbourne, to London and then Singapore. The basics of Dallas’ cuisine are of course Australian, but he combines a lot of Japanese influence, owing to his time in the Michelin Star Nobu in London.
This is visible when he brings out one of Freebird’s signature dishes; flaxseed crackers, layered with parmesan custard, organic sea urchin, and sea grapes. “This dish encompasses a lot of characters from my style of cooking. It’s simple, yet big on flavour,” he tells us. “I play on three different things; taste, texture, and temperature.” We find similar umami characteristics in the truffle paste and seaweed butter, which we enjoy with homemade bread. “Japanese flavours add a boost to the food without making it rich and heavy,” Dallas adds.
Freebird is gaining recognition for its modern Australian cuisine, a genre of food that hasn’t found its way in Bangkok, until now. But in order to really understand it, one has to know the country’s culinary history. “Melbourne is a very multi-cultural city and a melting pot of demographics,” explains the amiable chef. “The cuisine is founded in European technique, but it has embraced all the cultures. And due to our proximity to Asia, we have Asian influence. It’s contemporary, but still approachable.”
We then try freshly shucked Irish oysters with apple-cider vinegar infused with seaweed, and topped with fresh apple and extra virgin olive oil. For this dish, Marcus recommends a Beaujolais Blanc, made from the Chardonnay grape variety. At this point we’ve given into the Sommakase menu (much like the Omakase Japanese menu) which essentially means “I’ll leave it up to you”.
Up next are delicious French-inspired duck liver parfait profiteroles, stuffed with truffle honey jelly and macadamia. Based on looks, I had this confused for a dessert. By now it’s apparent that we have stepped beyond Australian cuisine, but this cuisine, as I am told, has no boundaries. “We don’t have a food culture or identity, and that gives us liberty to borrow from many other nationalities,” admits Dallas. “All these great chefs who came to Australia 20-30 years ago laid the foundations. Combine that with our ethnic diversity, and that is what Australian food is all about.”
The next offering is another example of Dallas’ distinctive style—shaved squid with oyster cream, cucumber, and seaweed butter, dressed with Yuzukoshō, a Japanese citrus and chilli paste. The cold pasta dish has a bit of kick to it, but is still really light and fresh. Marcus pairs it with sake from the Gifu prefecture. Its floral characteristics compliment the umami essence of the dish.
Our final main is a truly intriguing combination—Tasmanian lamb shoulder, slow roasted with white anchovies and rosemary. The salty fish subtly intensifies the flavours of the lamb, making it mouthwateringly good. This dish is served with an heirloom tomato salad comprised of basil, sesame seeds, onion, tomato gazpacho, vinaigrette, and whipped fresh curd. It goes without saying that each of this chef’s creations has a personality of its own, and he’s not afraid to push boundaries and our palates to experience new textures and taste.
“At the end of the day the flavour profiles aren’t really that challenging, but they are different,” he says. “For me, it is in the execution, the technique, and the delivery. After working in Japanese restaurants, I tend to follow the “eat with your eyes first” philosophy. My cuisine is modern and contemporary in cooking techniques, but the technique never overshadows the ingredients, it just enhances what we do.”