Creative fine dining at Opel Khan’s Métisse
The highly accomplished family serves creative fusion cuisine in a polished Potts Point restaurant
“Most chefs take their inspiration from what they see in other restaurants: from the world of food. I take mine from somewhere completely different: from the world of art. From fashion and music and architecture – from the world outside of the kitchen,” explains Opel Khan, the warm, engaging and stratospherically accomplished chef behind Potts Point’s refined, sophisticated fine diner Métisse.
Khan’s current muse is Christian Dior, whose recent collection Indian Summer is a celebration of “the deep friendship nurtured between Dior and India, and their respective heritages that meet and enrich each other”. This joyful collision of cultures is the backbone of Métisse: whose name is an ode to Khan’s French and Bangladeshi roots. “Métisse means mixed race in French, and that’s a big part of what we are,” he reflects. “The techniques are French, but the food is without boundaries – I break every rule,”.
Though his inspiration might be more abstract, Khan’s expertise is the result of decades of experience working at and consulting for leading hotels and restaurants around the world. After opening his first restaurant at the age of 17, Khan found himself as the owner of six Sydney restaurants at just 21. A desire to see more of the world took him through Europe and India, informing an approach to cooking that he describes as a “self-portrait”.
Métisse – which Khan explains is the 49th restaurant he has opened throughout his spectacularly extensive career – opened in 2019, and closed just months later when COVID brought with it a city-wide lockdown.
While Khan was accustomed to taking inspiration from his travels around the globe, lockdown didn’t curtail his creative expression, and he spent the time crafting the ten ambitious degustation menus now on rotation at Métisse.
One of the standout dishes on the current eight-course menu was inspired by a stained glass window that Khan noticed in a documentary.
“There was a scene with a church service, and all I could pay attention to was this beautiful stained glass window – the burnt orange and pink and white and charcoal was a combination I’d never seen before. I decided to recreate it on the plate, and it’s something people seem to really love,” Khan explains. The result is a meticulously presented “mosaic” of raw ocean trout, bluefin tuna and kingfish, punctuated by a delicate, vegetable-based charcoal outline and doused in a caramel-like beurre noisette.
Other visually striking standouts from the luxury degustation include a gently spiced pea macaron, a salt-crusted celeriac tart crowned with artfully sculptured fermented daikon, and Khan’s personal favourite: a perplexingly savoury carrot marshmallow that comes served on a bespoke ceramic pillar. While these might be the most aesthetically remarkable, each masterfully crafted element of the menu is afforded equal attention by Khan and his team, who present each course with seamless, white-gloved service. The level of formality might be at risk of being labelled pretentious if it wasn’t for Khan’s charismatic, approachable presence. The acclaimed chef spends the evening buzzing through the space: discussing wine and art with diners and assisting with the harmony of the service.
And while it’s Opel who conceived (and even designed) the space, he’s quick to assert that Métisse is a family-run operation.
We were welcomed to the space by Khan’s eldest daughter: blessed with her father’s warm demeanour and magnetic smile. His youngest daughter Luci didn’t appear until we were nearing the end of our meal – as the youngest hatted chef in Sydney, she was the terrifyingly talented person responsible for the series of delicately crafted dishes we’d been enjoying over the preceding hours.
The family element of the restaurant is a perfectly surprising narrative twist – the elegant interior fit-out is almost diametrically opposed to the makeshift, mismatched vision that comes to mind with the term “family-run”.
The glass-wrapped room is gently illuminated by low-hanging lights that Khan had commissioned from a Maroubra-based artist – the same person responsible for the bespoke ceramic objects d’art upon which the menu is presented. A large sculptural light piece – crafted from a series of hand-blown murano crystal globes – is suspended above a table in the centre, and by the bar there’s a piece of art which Khan explains is one of six in the world. “Bill Clinton owns one of them,” he says – a fact which is somehow not remotely surprising.
Like every good family-run establishment though, it’s the people behind Métisse that make it sing. I left my dining partner chatting with Luci over the final course, hugging Opel at the door as I said goodbye.
5-9 Roslyn Street Potts Point, NSW 2011