The mind’s creation and utilisation of labels and categories is rather interesting in an unfortunate kind of way. With its endless arsenal of labels and categories, the mind attempts to create a reference point with which to relate when recalling experiences of the past and connecting them to anticipated experiences of the future. Of course, the element absent within this intellectual process is the now, the space in which life is actually unfolding. In other words, if not regarded as changeable and dynamic, labels and categories can often strip experience of its creative quality, its spontaneous quality, its genuine living quality. Take, for example, the description “modern Australian cuisine”. OK, on the one hand, it relays a certain amount of information. On the other hand, however, this information is rather vague, restrictive and lacking precision. So, how does one overcome any type of restriction that impedes the appreciation of the bigger picture, so to speak? You move beyond it, or simply ignore it. Welcome to Amaru.
Amaru sits quietly and unassumingly in Shop 5/1121 High Street, Armadale. An amalgamation of words, Amaru can loosely be translated as “a beautiful place” and a beautiful place, it most certainly is. The first solo venture of Executive Chef and Owner Clinton McIver, Amaru is a tastefully designed, warm, intimate and sophisticated space. It may also be described as a breath of fresh air within the local high-end dining scene, meaning it is both unpretentious and understated. McIver is an essential part of the new generation of ultra-talented chefs who was brave enough and courageous enough to take the leap from his four years as senior sous chef at Vue De Monde, to go it alone. His focus is precise – simple hospitality. As such, the physical environment is well considered, minimalist even, and is a perfect example of form following function. With subtly textured rendered walls, polished concrete floors, custom-designed Ross Didier tables and joinery comprised of reclaimed timber from a long-gone Melbourne brick factory, Amaru’s interior is simply relaxed and comfortable. The dining experience is equally relaxed and comfortable, mildly reminiscent of a friendly dinner party, and is overseen smoothly and efficiently by a professional, knowledgeable and friendly team.
What about the food? What ABOUT the food?! It is true that the degustation-only menu has been inspired by contemporary Australian cuisine; however, it is so, so much more, as it contains a variety of cuisines from a variety of regions around the world. These global influences are undoubtedly the result of McIver having cut his teeth in Holland, Spain, Brazil and the United States, as well. The eight-course dinner menu is designed to evoke the senses and challenge the imagination. That is to say that once you open your mind and abandon all preconceived notions, you had better well prepare to have that mind blown. To whet your appetite, consider the following: smoked duck liver served with onion, buckwheat and rose geranium; octopus accompanied by chicken fat and desert lime koshu; Shark Bay scallop, garlic scapes, mizuna and marrow; smoked pigeon dressed with munthari(a type of bush tucker), celeriac and grilled yabbies; raw sheep’s milk, peach, bee pollen and elderflower. Lastly, but most definitely not “leastly”, conclude your culinary adventure with a pineapple and cassia bark doughnut. Amaru’s wine list is, not surprisingly, uncomplicated and offers a well balanced selection from nearly 100 Australian, French and Italian wineries. Beverage pairings for the tasting menu are also available. Note to self, as Amaru caters for a mere 34 diners, bookings are highly recommended. To conclude, here is a quote from John Lethlean, Australia’s only national food critic: “It is one of the most impressive dining experiences of the year, endlessly fascinating and plainly delicious.”