It is one of those restaurants that has always captured my attention, but for some reason, I never made it out to dine at Level One... till now.
When the opportunity to check out the new menu at Level One came up, I knew that I had to jump on it. Not only have they been consistently reported to have provided with a great dining experience since the recent changes in their plan of business, but given the intrigue and curiosity around their Asian cuisine with a modern twist to it, my taste buds were tingling with excitement.
Located on the first level of a beautiful and well-aged establishment on King William Street, Level One boasts of blush tones of pink and off-white that bring it a sense of vibrancy and freshness to their dining atmosphere. You don't need to don your most expensive suit or dress to make an appearance here - as long as you look and act presentable and respectful, the team will welcome you with open arms!
The new menu boasts of a party of flavours that are drawn from Asian influences. Executive head chef Jamie Kang has created a selection of dishes that bring together rich flavours from Korea and Japan and takes inspiration from recipes that have been in his family for generations.
Where the culinary magic happens (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
We started off our luncheon by being served with Kingfish Sashimi, which is cooked in white kimchi, green chilli & chive oil. Sourced from local (South Australian) produce, the sashimi oozed with freshness and presented with a tender and succulent texture.
Next up, we had the Salmon Aburi, which was served with fresh slices of smoked salmon, overlaying salmon tartare, crispy rice, and drizzled in shiso soy sauce. The salmon had that all-too-familiar (and well-loved) smoky flavour and presented with a balance of sweet and salty flavours. We only wish there were more on the plate, as they were gobbled up in less than five minutes!
We also had the Korean squid pancake, which resembles an omelette and is packed with pieces of baby squid, Korean chive, and green chilli. A certainly interesting take on your traditional omelette, the pancake was stuffed with pieces of tender squid, whose flavour was brought to zesty and tangy life thanks to the chilli.
One of the most eye-catching dishes by far was the Fried Octopus, which is served with gochujang aioli, fennel, and yellow beetroot. While it looked like a monster to cut into, it surprised us by having a super tender texture with the first bite. It didn't have a super fishy taste and worked brilliantly with the gochujang, which was the perfect accompaniment.
While the restaurant primarily specializes in Asian fusion style of dining, there are some items on the menu that have more of a Mediterranean kick to it. Cue in the Shitake ravioli, which is packed with strong flavours from king brown mushroom, ricotta, shimeji, and miso cream. It was pleasing to see some variety in their menu, where those who were vegetarian / weren't fond of Asian cuisine could opt for this option and still enjoy a satisfying experience of dining here.
Saving the best for last (although, so far, we were fairly impressed with the beautiful selection of dishes!), we were treated with free range rack and belly of BBQ pork. Cooked in an authentic and original recipe of Korean spicy chilli sauce and served with a side of raw carrot, fennel, and celery heart, the meat was juicy and broke apart into pieces without much effort needed. The glaze from the chilli sauce was a brilliant addition that further accentuated the many flavours in this dish and brought some subtle heat with its spiciness. This was balanced well by the vegetables served on the side. Surprisingly a mess-free dish to enjoy, the BBQ pork was a winner in our books!
Free range rack and belly of BBQ pork (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
While we were full to the brim with the many, many dishes that we were pleasantly surprised with, like most regular human beings, we, too, were blessed with a second stomach that could enjoy a bit of dessert lovin'. First up, we had the strawberry choux, which looked like a glowing orb and was packed with goodness in the form of creme patisserie, vanilla, and served in a blanket of chilled strawberry soup. The strawberry soup reminded me of home - it tasted so similar to a strawberry dessert that my mum would make on special occasions, so this dessert practically brought back a lot of nostalgia. Not too sweet, not too bland - just the perfect level of delicious from fresh strawberries, coupled with the smooth and velvety texture of the creme patisserie.
Next, we had the black sesame sponge "cake", which was served with blood orange sorbet, miso cream, and topped with chocolate bark shavings. What can only be described as 'tiny bites of heaven', this dish is one that will challenge your palate in so many wonderful ways. With a bit of saltiness from the miso cream, a bit of sweetness from the blood orange sorbet, and a daring combination of dark chocolate from the shavings, there was an elegant level of substance that mixed well with the fluffiness of the sponge cake itself.
Black sesame sponge cake (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
For drinks, we were treated to the smoothest Gin drink that I've ever had! My Gin My Gin brings together a beautiful blend of Settlers Gin, which is mixed with finger lime, lemon myrtle & saltbush. Mixed with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic and finished off with dehydrated pineapple, this was a drink that was the perfect accompaniment to go with the dishes on a hot 30-degree day. The Gin lover in me made sounds that may not be considered appropriate in a public space, but were oh-so-warranted, given the quality of the drink! The bar is also stocked with a bunch of South Australian gems in their wine and beer selection, so if you're looking for something to complement your food, simply ask the friendly staff and they can recommend what would go best with your meal.
The dishes at Level One can also be catered for those with vegetarian and/or vegan dietary requirements. As restaurant manager Kate Rowlands explained, "several of our dishes are already vegan, and some others can be adapted to make them vegan". Some examples include the char-grilled eggplant with black tea bouillon and miso crunch, the hot soba noodles with spring vegetables and tentsuyu and the vegetable tempura dishes. "There's also the cucumber sorbet dish, which is adapted for a vegan diet, along with homemade sorbet in the kitchen that is vegan-friendly. Majority of the wine that is served here is vegan-friendly as well", reports Kate.
Having won several awards for their "Modern Asian" cuisine, Level One offers their space as one where people can enjoy an "informed yet informal approach" of dining. Shared plates are popular here, so don't be shy to get a bunch of friends together and try a bit of everything from the menu! The dishes not only please the eye, but the palate as well, so while it may seem like a bit of a splurge, it's well worth the buck!
Special thanks to the team at Level One for their hospitality, and to the team at BPPR for the invite to dine in at Level One.