Eddie Uzan, owner/chef of Avvia Restaurant in Palm Beach, brings a world of culinary experience to the Gold Coast. You may not have travelled abroad, but in many ways the tides have brought world cuisine to us.
It’s common knowledge that the most interesting places on earth are those where nations meet; where the waves of history have thrown together disparate cultures, like the clashing of ocean currents. What emerges is sometimes different to either culture, a fusion of elements which takes on a life of its own.
This principle also applies to food. Some of our most exciting culinary experiences result from a melding of cultures and techniques, applying imagination and classic skills in new ways, experimenting with combinations and process to bring to the table a unique creation.
Sometimes, however, it’s as though one person is the epicentre of that melding of cultures. So it is with Eddie Uzan. Born of Israeli and French parents, Eddie grew up with cultural diversity. His father’s Israeli cuisine of braised lamb and cous cous differed greatly from the foie gras and raspberry crostini prepared by Eddie’s mother. Following his very European childhood, Eddie travelled the world: bi-coastal USA absorbing cuisines from New York to California, Tex-Mex in southern states, and Pacific Rim/Polynesian in Hawaii; as well as Central American, Japanese and Canadian food.
Three years ago, the tides brought Eddie to Sydney to work at Tetsuya’s, then north to Kingscliff to establish Babalou, before settling down to open their own restaurant in Palm Beach: Avvia – ‘a new beginning’. Eddie and his wife Cherie saw potential in an old house which was close enough to glimpse the ocean and sense the pull of the tides.
“We wanted a venue with charm,” Eddie says, “where people could eat top quality food but in a relaxed dining experience.”
It’s a casual airy restaurant, olive trees silhouetted in metal hugging one wall, the indoors opening onto a large verandah overlooking the ocean. Despite its close proximity to the highway, there’s surprisingly little noise, drowned out by the surf just a house block away. It feels peaceful and earthy, yet invitingly open to the outdoors.
For Eddie, the restaurant brings many pleasures: a beach lifestyle he enjoys, the freedom to experiment with flavours and combinations, the opportunity to break some food boundaries for diners, sharing his passion and philosophy about food provenance and his commitment to excellence pledged on a plaque in Avvia.
“Our food is made with the best ingredients we can find in our area…These are the flavors of place…Our dishes are animated by flavors and textures both familiar and strange.”
The ‘Fish of the day’ is just that: freshly caught offshore, it’s served with crisp asparagus in rich classic brandied lobster bisque, the intensity of the sauce defining the hours spent on its preparation. Every dish in the restaurant is made from scratch ingredients without the use of pre-mixes: stock, demi-glaze, cakes, sauces, even hollandaise.
“My cuisine is basically French,” says Eddie, “but I add pieces from around the world to create something completely different, bringing all of my experience to make something unique. My mind is always open. I’m still learning, and that’s exciting.”
Open even to iconic Australian food, it seems. One stunning dish, when we dined, was the Mongolian Baby Back Ribs, the meat falling from the bones, held together by its deliciously sticky Asian-style sauce which we ceremoniously licked from fingers, trying to identify flavours. Noticing that ribs were also a house specialty of the famous Roy’s Kahuna Bar and Grill, where Eddie had worked in Hawaii, I enquire about the dish. Eddie comments that short end ribs are a quality cut, not often seen in Australia, but one of the most popular dishes he’d brought to Babalou. The secret ingredient he’s added? Vegemite, which gives an extra richness to the flavour.
“No Way!” I comment, laughing. “I could not taste that at all!”
“That’s great!” he says. “I want people to say ‘No way! How can you do that?’” So I’ve got some exciting dishes planned for the menu that really break boundaries: White chocolate puree with lamb; Lau lau – the freshest fish wrapped in special tea leaves, which give the dish ‘umami’ – the Japanese word for the fifth flavour, a blending of sweet, sour, bitter and salt all together.
There are also plans for event nights, retro movie showings, so Palm Beach residents can claim Avvia as their own, rather than it being an overblown destination restaurant that has landed on their shores.
“The ocean is balance,” Eddie says humbly. And from Avvia’s kitchen, it’s clearly in view: the ocean of experience that brought him to this place, the source of provisions for the table, the ebb and flow of providence, the calming of the soul nourished in the company of good friends.
NOTE: Eddie and Cherie have since opened Balboa Italian Restaurant, Palm Beach.
Avvia is fully licenced with BYO wine Wednesdays only.
3, 23rd Avenue, Palm Beach Ph: 07 5520 2668
Open Wed – Thurs 5.30 – 9pm; Fri – Sun 6am – 2pm.