Published on 12 May 2021
Canadian-born chef Jordan Clay has cooked around the world, from Michelin-starred fine-diners in London to neo-bistros in Paris. He has stirred the pots at some of the Melbourne’s restaurant institutions, including MoVida and was head chef at Cumulus Up, and now heads the kitchen at a new beachside venture with Tom Hunter, Pipis Kiosk, offering both a snack window and sit-down dining. “We call the food ‘Melbourne bistro’, says Clay. “We let the cooking be dictated by the amazing products, with the menu always evolving and with our interests continuously being influenced by the diverse and multicultural city in which we live.”
Here’s his pick of what’s great right now:
Which of the dishes on the menu best captures what you’re trying to do at Pipis?
The Pipis pasta is an obvious one for me. It’s a cross between an Italian vongole and one of the first dishes I learned to flambé as an apprentice. Cooking this seafood pasta at a tableside station as a 15-year-old in a private club meant the more confidence I gained in my cooking abilities, the larger and more robust the flames. Eventually the head chef kindly asked me to ease up on the alcohol to keep the diners’ eyebrows intact and the low roof from igniting. I’m not Italian, so I’ve taken a liberty or two in terms of the ‘vongole’ aspect, adding a sort of passata, if you will, saucing tomatoes that have been smoked overnight above our mini-hearth, and then crushed.
How about a drink?
Where to start? I don’t know anyone who gets more excited about quality wine than my business partner, Tom Hunter. He has an incredible palate, and loves the oenological sciences. So let him be your guide. Tell him what you usually like to drink, and he’ll be able to steer you towards something unique and interesting. Kicking things off with a Pipis Spritz is also an fine idea; our friend Luke Whearty of Byrdi gave us a huge assist on a signature cocktail. What makes it special is the salted coconut; it can be difficult to have just one.
What if I’m here for a good time not a long time?
You need our $20 snack attack, which is a couple composed snacks, as well as our salted grape focaccia, butter, and a seasonal dip, sometimes a small soup (remember when restaurants served those?). Pair that with a textural white, rain or shine; it’s exactly what you want when you’re bayside and steps from the sand.
Got anything light and fresh?
I try to cook with a light hand whenever possible. No one likes leaving a lunch or dinner rolling out the door, so I love to let vegetables be the star without letting butter or other heavy sauces become a crutch in my cooking. There’s a time and place for those ingredients, believe me, but not all the time. Right now we have a raw sea bream dish that’s dressed with very finely diced mandarin peel and ginger. You eat it with a potato crisp that we make and dust with our seaweed ‘magic dust’. A beautiful fish, treated simply.
I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
A full third of our menu is vegetarian, and always will be. Working with artisan growers is the most inspiring thing for me personally, and I feel really unlocks my creative side. Getting an incredible list of super fresh, super tasty heirloom vegetables and fruits from purveyors like Ramarro Farm or Mushrooms Anonymous is so inspiring. Right now the carrot, persimmon and confit orange salad is one I’m very proud of, as is our potato salad with almond and grilled rainbow chard. The potato salad idea I actually stole from my partner’s grandmother. The family is Croatian, and do their potato salad with silverbeet or rainbow chard and hammer it with big slugs of olive oil and vinegar. I have restaurantified it slightly, but the main thing is that grilled chard and potato really sing together; I never would’ve guessed at what the grandmothers of Croatia already know. A humble reminder that you don’t need to be pushing the boundaries of cuisine to make things tasty.
Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
We have big cuts of meat, and whole fish with tasty sauces, but to be honest, you can just let Tom and I look after the decisions for you. You’ll have the best time. You’ll be able to try a wide cross-section of all the dishes, and Tom will be able to pull some amazing corks (or twist some stelvins) no matter your budget. This is what we love to do: just leave it with us.
What about to close?
Tommy is really into Madeira lately. We have an absolute belter on the list. It’s treacle and sweet vanilla, but still super-vibrant with driving acidity, so it’s not cloying. I have to be honest, I was very dubious about Madeira when Tom mentioned it to me the first time, but I’m fully converted now, I love it.
In terms of dessert, it’s ever-evolving, but right now we have a passionfruit and ruby grapefruit tart. It’s served with a small dollop of lightly charred whipped cream – a very fresh, light, and lively way to finish off the meal.
Pipis Kiosk Dining Room is on the beach side of 129a Beaconsfield Pde, Albert Park. The Kiosk Window is open every day from 7am, and the Dining Room is open 6pm to 10:30pm Thursday, 12pm to 10:30pm Friday and Saturday, and 12pm to 5pm Sunday during winter. pipiskiosk.com.au, @pipiskiosk
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