Disclosure: I was invited as a guest to the pizza smackdown
When I was little, because steamed chicken, broccoli and rice was my favourite food (I'm not even kidding, I've drawn it before for homework in primary school), naturally when I made pizza, my toppings were none other than…broccoli and chicken.
Maybe not ground breaking, and more puzzling than anything else, but that's really the beauty of pizza isn't it? It's such a great platform to play, experiment and express yourself in different ways, as there's just so much you can do. Change the base, change the cheese, change the protein…but just don't add pineapple. Personal pet hate. Blegh.
Yak Italian Kitchen celebrated this versatile canvas, and held a 'Pizza Smackdown' where a selection of Melbourne's chefs congregated to see who could make the best pizza, with the top 3 voted on to stick around on Yak Italian Kitchen's menu for a limited time (which may be over already…I'm a bad blogger…)
We started the night with a cheese stuffed pizza by Yak Italian Kitchen…to warm us up for the 8 pizzas that would be following, just in case we might not have enough or something.
To really challenge our taste buds though, the first pizza was a cricket pizza, with sour cream, smoked bacon and pickled eggplants. Although some did not touch these due to the little critters, I totally dived in, loving how brave and experimental Florent Garadin from Silo had chosen to be. It was an interesting flavour palate for a pizza, with a tanginess from the sour cream and a smokiness from the bacon and crickets. Was a little disappointed that the crickets weren't super duper crispy, but enjoyed them all the same.
All ears and noses perked up as Matthew Macartney from Elanore's black truffle pizza descended on to tables. Covered in generous slices of the black gold, with fried basil, jamon, gruyere, parmesan, mozzarella, pine mushrooms and jerusalem artichokes, this was a stunner. And not to mention, totally delicious, after all is there a much better pairing than jerusalem artichokes and black truffle? I think not…!
Brendan McQueen from Matteo brought an Asian influence to his pizza, bringing the flavours of okonomiyaki to pizza. Baked leeks, cabbage, pork sausage, seaweed, sesame, fennel pollen, a moreish homemade barbecue sauce, bonito flake and kewpie. Plenty of kewpie mayo which makes my heart sing. Whilst I loved the rich umami kick of flavours on this, I found all the toppings made the dough a bit wet and soggy, and there was a little more crust than I would usually like.
Hitting the half way mark, Michael Harrison from Allium Food & Wine brought out his smoked duck pizza, with his own miso and napoli sauce, smoked duck ham, kimchi and prawn floss. It was incredibly aromatic, although I personally tasted a bit more of the kimchi than the duck…having said that, the kimchi was delicious, so I guess this isn't too much of a problem…
Nick Bennet from Arbory Bar & Eatery presented us with a sobrasada pizza, with a delicious salami, cured air dried pork jowl, smoked clams, mozzarella and wild greens. I just adored how moreish this was, the clams adding a nice sea salt flavour to the mix. This was probably one of my favourite pizza bases, with a lovely thin base.
The hoisin pork pizza was well loved at our table, created by Jerry Mai from Pho Nom. With a bit of Vietnamese flair, this pizza sported siracha, pork belly, crackling (YES CRACKLING), hoisin, mozzarella and coriander. Although the base was a bit wet from all the sauce, it was incredibly delicious. The pork belly was perfect, the meat melting in the out, with the coriander bringing a herbaceous note to the pizza and balancing out the richness of the hoisin. Nice kick of chilli too, which is lawys hard to say no to.
The second last pizza was the closest to a classic combination, Jacque Turner from Bellota presenting us a pizza with jamom, sobrasada, red anchovies, belotta ham, goats cheese and salsa verde. Oh. After all the madness, this was so comforting to eat. I could have eaten a whole one if I wasn't so full already. The jamon was just spectacular, with a most delicious and smooth, almost creamy texture. Wholesome and well balanced, I adored this.
But…then Pierrick Boyer from Le Petit Gateau came with guns blazing with his first ever dessert pizza. Oh my goodness, what a showing! A homemade raspberry jam base is covered with peanut praline, fresh raspberries, dark chocolate and vanilla mascarpone. I'm honestly amazed at how perfect he got this pizza, covering it plenty, but not letting the base get to wet, and really providing a symphony of textures to explore. The produce really shone through as well, the raspberry jam and vanilla mascarpone rich and full. Might have had 3 slices.
Might have gone to the gym for 3 days straight after.
The three winners of the night were Pierrick Boyer with his dessert pizza, Nick Bennett with his sobrasada and Michael Harrison's smoked duck. Although I only picked one of the winners personally, I actually believe I was the winner, for managing to fit through the door of Yak Italian Kitchen after all that pizza and walk (not roll) to a tram stop at the end of the night...
150 Flinders Lane