Archive | March, 2011

Merchant

31 Mar

‘HOT’ is how Merchant has most recently been described in a recent review featured in The Age magazine.  Whilst we’re a little disappointed that we dropped the ball in getting a review out before Ms. Dubecki  we will take this opportunity to revel in our own review which we hope will provide a little (lot) more substance than aforementioned foodie fraud (now you know how highly we rate her opinion).

Having suffered a dearth of good quality Italian in the city, Merchant adeptly fills the void.  Serving up Italian ‘Osteria’ style (translates to ‘tavern’, ‘bar’, ‘casual dining inn’) food inspired by the Veneto region, there is a plethora of dishes on the extensive menu that will please the pasta lover (me) as well as the ‘I eat everything but pasta’ diner (my DDO counterpart).  In fact, the menu (split into sections such as risotto, polenta, pastassita etc) can be a little mind boggling – but being a group of 5 we are able to try quite a few different offerings.

First up is the goose prosciutto which comes thinly sliced with a smattering of fennel and olive oil, all served on a wooden board lined with Grossi embossed paper.

Goose Proscuitto

The embossed paper is the only reference to Grossi’s other eponymous restaurant Grossi Florentino – as Merchant is everything that Florentino is not – relaxed and casual as an osteria should be, but with a modern twist.

Next up is the Squid Ink risotto and Gnocchi with spiced veal ragu.  Now both risotto and gnocchi can be a bit hit & miss at the best of Italian restaurants, but I am happy to report that both dishes served on this occasion was damn close to perfect.

Squid Ink Risotto & Gnocchi with Veal Ragu

The risotto was smooth and silky without being sloppy – its served quite simply on its own – no accompaniment needed.  The light, airy parcels of gnocchi melt in the mouth with the veal ragu – we had it with lots of freshly grated parmesan which added a little more bite to each mouthful!

The food journey continued with Char grilled sausages, Char grilled lamb cutlets and Polenta with duck ragu.  The sausages were probably the only slight disappointment – they tasted fine enough, but really weren’t anything to rave about (hence the lack of a photograph).

Char grilled Lamb Cutlets

The lamb cutlets were cooked well, retaining its lovely juices.  Served with some salsa verde, and a squeeze of lemon juice it was the perfect balance to the richness of the gnocchi and risotto that we had previously consumed.

But the real highlight of the meal was the polenta.  Perfectly cooked – nice and thick without being stodgy – and paired with the duck ragu, this dish was big on flavour.

Polenta with Duck Ragu

Now some of you may disagree with our assessment – in modern cuisine, polenta is more commonly fried or served as a cake (retaining a grittiness to it), and so for some palates polenta served up in a more porridge-like consistency may not appeal – but its not the first time that I have seen polenta served in this way by authentic Italians, and I love it!

Potatoes, Braised Cabbage

You may have noticed a distinct lack of vegetables in our food choices – which was made up with sides of Asparagus and eggs, Braised Cabbage and Sauteed potatoes with garlic.

Asparagus with egg

By this stage the group is feeling quite loaded with carbs, but with 4 of us being female there is no skimping on desserts.  We order a Venetian Trifle, Rice Pudding and Chocolate Tart with goats milk sorbet.

Venetian Trifle

Chocolate Tart with Goats Milk Sorbet

Of the desserts, the trifle is the most impressive – the layers of rich custard and cream melt in the mouth as the top layer of crumble creates little explosions in the mouth.  The 2 other desserts are also well executed, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Rice Pudding

All in all, the Merchant is a wonderful addition to the CBD’s culinary map.  And don’t let its casual aura deceive you with its bright lights, open kitchen and funky fitout – high quality food and attention to detail is something that Grossi has transplanted successfully from Florentino to the Merchant.  So if you want white table clothes and fine china go to Florentino – but if its just hearty, good food you are looking for then Merchant is right up your alley.

Oh – I forgot to mention the bread.  Its so good, O (one of our dining companions) is still dreaming about it 4 weeks later!

Merchant

Rialto

495 Collins Street

Melbourne 3000

http://merchantov.com/about

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Steaks n Scrabble at The Terminus

29 Mar

It’s a friday night!  Which means I’ve finally made it through my roller coaster of emotions of a week.  So I give in to those Ants in the Pants and meet my friend Z and L at The Terminus for a Friday Night Feed.  Z and I arrive to find little L already perched at a nice big table in the main cosy dining/drinks areas that is not too rowdy and crowded (but not eerily desolate either).

I’d been to this pub a few times now, (more when N used to live in Northcote) and each time I leave feeling pretty satisfied.  The menu offers a range of typical pub fare: chicken parma, Wagyu burger, fish and chips as well as oysters and starters and salads, as well as options a little more sophisticated than your average pub: lobster risotto, beetroot salad and braised octopus.  But most importantly, (and the main reason I am here) they have an impressively large steak offering with a range of Grain Fed, Grass Fed and Dry Aged (served with salad, fries/hand cut chips and your choice of sauce).

the beginning of our dirty scrabble

So given my rough week, and the onset of a slight chill in the air, there was only one thing I was craving!  Tonight called for a hunk of meat on a plate!!! All 3 of us couldn’t go past the impressive steak menu so we all went with steaks.

In the mean time, we somehow got talking about Words With Friends – and how much of an inconsistent fart of a game it is – when L managed to quietly excuse herself, only to reappear holding a box of Scrabble.  “Who’s up for a game of Dirty Scrabble?”

So with wines on the go and steaks on the way this night was quickly becoming a fun sexy time!

L and I decided to go with the Grain Fed Sirloin which after consulting the friendly bar staff, I was assured this was a slightly longer chunk of steak, with a bit of fat on the side.  I like my steak rare, with horseradish cream and LOTS of hot mustard and french fries.

250g Sirloin – Darling downs, Qld 150 days grain fed ($34)

It was a pretty good looking piece of cow!  I immediately slice it open to assess the chef’s skills, to reveal a perfectly red centre, sealed slightly on top.  Well done chef! That is one good piece of rare cooked steak! Juicy, tender and by no means over cooked and grey.  The horseradish cream was beautifully balanced, smooth with a bit of bite that didn’t send my sinuses into overdrive – that is the job of the Hot English mustard.  I was then offered a range of mustards to accompany my steak.  I think you can safely assume by now which I went for.

Z went for the Wagyu Rump, rare and with horseradish cream which looked equally delicious (well, obviously we had a little swapsy.) I’m not sure how she felt about mine, but I may or may not have had a little food envy.

200g Wagyu rump - Rangers Valley, NSW 650 days grain fed ($33)

The Wagyu is a little more compact in size with a little more height.  But don’t let this petite little piece of flavour bomb deceive you.  My morsel of Wagyu was deliciously rich and tender, again cooked to pinky perfection while being encased by a slightly seared surface.

Dirty scrabble

Steaks devoured, scrabble complete and whole lot of shits and giggles.  Like any good roller coaster ride, you enter wanting it to be over with but leave wanting more.  Thank you Terminus!  You have definitely left me wanting more!!

And in case you were wondering, I won the game of scrabble!

The Terminus  492 Queens Parade Clifton Hill

Ph +613 9481 3182

http://www.terminus.com.au

Yum Cha at Tao Tao Restaurant

27 Mar

Being a pretty traditional Hongky family, we’ve always loved a good Yum Cha.  So it makes me sad that in the recent years, we’ve found it harder and harder to find a place that actually offers decent food and hasn’t given in to the mass produced ‘dim sum’ that are so commonly used.  If it isn’t the bad sticky skinned dumplings, its the weird double deep fried anything that seems to have taken over many a Yum Cha establishment. Between the only 3 acceptable authentic Hong Kong style Yum Cha options (being Lucky Chans, Gold Leaf and Kam Fook) we still struggle to leave each time consistently satisfied.

Enter Tao Tao.  In the last 2 years alone, this restaurant space has changed hands at least 3 times – each time being a different Chinese establishment.  Nestled in the semi top end of Glenferrie Road Hawthorn, it’s not the most ideal location for a Chinese Restaurant offering Yum Cha.  But being local, and given the fact that sometimes, a girl just can’t deal with a) the line for a table, b) the attitude that comes with most Asian establishments and c) the bums on seats churn out the dimmy’s & slap the bill on the table within half an hour, I was willing (clutching at straws here) to give this a red hot go.

Now Tao Tao falls into the high end side of Yum Cha as opposed to the more authentic chaos of other establishments.  Wait staff are well spoken and polite, God Forbid!  Each dish is introduced with care and precision.  This ain’t mass banquet styles!

Turnip pastry

To start, we couldn’t resist the turnip pastry.  You can tell the Chef Jason Au (ex flower drum)

is a master of his craft.  Unlike a lot of other versions of this dish you will find, this pastry was light and not overly sweet with a filling of carefully shredded turnip and onion.  This was the perfect starter to our civilised Yum Cha.  But the best is still to come…

My favourite part of yum cha is the wheel around trolley and the many joyous taste bombs that it holds in its travels as it visits each table.  Obviously it goes with out saying, the fav is Sui Mai (pork dumpling) and Har Gow (prawn dumpling).

Dim Sim Trolley

Sui Mai (pork dumpling)

Hai Gow (bottom) Duck in Bean curd casing (top)

The sui mai is encased in silky smooth skin, and the meat was tasty and kinda succulent without being overly heavy.  The Har Gow had that translucent skin, with a ‘there is real prawns in this’ interior.  Already winning Tao Tao.  Well played!!

It’s always so satisfying eating something that tastes like its actually been made fresh… by a human… possibly not 3 weeks ago and frozen before being shipped out to various big name restaurants that microwave them and serve them dumped unceremoniously into a bamboo steamer.

Of course we ordered the obligatory Cheung Fun (rice noodle roll) although strangely enough Dadsy ordered the vegetable…(?).  Regardless of it not being meat, I still found it really enjoyable.  We also got some tofu (my god this post is reading like i’m a converted vegetarian… yeh… NEVER!)

Vegetable Cheung Fun

Vegetable dumpling (bottom) Egg tofu with prawn meat (top)

 

By this stage we’re all getting pretty full -it doesn’t seem like much food, but believe me…it creeps up on you!  But I’m still yet to get my pan fried pork dumplings and dessert.  The pork dumplings were made to order and believe me, there’s a reason for it.  Nothing worse then pan fried anything that is cooked and then left to slowly go cold as it does the rounds of the restaurant.  And finally!  My favourite part of any meal… dessert time! Yum Cha is not complete without ending on an Egg Tart.  These little guys were still a little warm when they were served.  That pastry, perfectly crisp and warm without the soggy bottom (that is way too commonly found) and with an yellow eggy custardy center that burst into your mouth like a warm custard explosion!  AMAZING!!

Wo Tip (Pan Fried Pork Dumpling)

Egg Tarts

All in all, Tao Tao is ticking many boxes for me!  It’s local.  It offers everything you expect when going out for yum cha, plus there is not a single fried wonton or lobster cocktail wrapped in bacon concoction to be heard of!! Come next Yum Cha, I’ll be keeping it local at Tao Tao! Let’s hope this Chef Au has enough pull to keep this place going longer than it’s predecessors.

 

 

 

Tao Tao Restaurant  815 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn

(03) 9818 0772

Splitting the Bill

25 Mar

We all have one (or several) of those friends who insist on splitting the bill down to the last cent – which can be a real pain if you are a group of more than 2, particularly after a few drinks.  Of course, this can be excused if you are a high school – or even uni – student, but for the rest of us who most likely have a job earning at least an average income there really is no excuse.  So what is the right etiquette…?

An interesting article I came across has a handy guide which I thought you might all find interesting…happy reading.

How To Split A Check At A Restaurant
http://www.theawl.com/2011/03/how-to-split-a-check-at-a-restaurant

Stefan’s Charcoal Grill

25 Mar

Balwyn is not exactly a place where you would find any foodie – in fact, lets face it there really isn’t anything much in Balwyn at all (I will leave it at that – and for those Balwynites reading, I too am a Balwyn resident so I do know what I am talking about).

However there are the odd gems in the locality, and Stefan’s Charcoal Grill is one of them.  For those readers wanting a write up of somewhere trendy, edgy and full of hipsters please stop reading now (go to any of the other blog entries on this site), because Stefan’s is the exact opposite to all of that and doesn’t apologise for the fact that it is all about steak – and that’s about it.

Serving up the usual 3 course meal with salad for around $70, Stefan’s is a no-nonsense steak house and its advantage over similar places like Vlado’s is that its less expensive, allows BYO (although they do have a very extensive wine list) and there are no cows staring back at you whilst you eat.  For those who want something a bit special there is the Black Angus or even Wagyu at market prices.  For those who don’t want steak (why are you even reading this) there is a chicken option (gross!).

House made Cevapcici (skinless sausages)

Green Salad & Bread

To start there is the choice of house made chevapcici (skinless sausages) or vegetable soup – which is actually not so much as a soup but a broth with two tiny pieces of carrot and/or celery floating in it.

I recommend the chepvacici. The sausages go well with what looks to be supermarket bread and little packets of Western Star butter.  The green salad is simple, but fits the bill of balancing out all the meat that is about to be consumed.

Next comes the steak – which is served with chips, unless you ask for the baked jacket potato (which I recommend).  On this occasion I had opted for the Porterhouse (medium rare, more on the rare side) – which is a diversion from my usual Eye Fillet.  My other co-conspirators also chose the Porterhouse option with the exception of JP who went for the Angus New York cut (700g).  The meat is expertly cooked by Stefan himself on the grill, and is succulent and juicy.  There’s something to be said for the satisfying simplicity of a well cooked piece of meat, which needs little else than some horseradish and mustard as accompaniment.  The Porterhouse was delicious, but my personal preference is for the Eye Fillet – which is a smaller, leaner piece of meat.

Porterhouse - cooked rare

The Angus - New York cut, with hot english mustard

Judging by the clean plates, my friends enjoyed their meat too.

Apple Strudel

Walnut Crepe

Lastly for dessert there is a choice of Apple Strudel, Black Forest Cake or crepes (lemon, strawberry, walnut or banana) with ice cream.

Having sampled all of the choices, my vote goes to the walnut crepes, although the strudel is also a good choice (and it doesn’t have sultanas).

Trendy, fine dining this is not – but if you are looking for a well cooked piece of meat, in pleasant (if not a little bit daggy) settings, then Stefan’s is your pick.

 

 

 

 

Stefan’s Charcoal Grill

305 Whitehorse Road

Balwyn

http://stefanscharcoalgrill.yolasite.com/

Chef Lagenda. No wait Laksa!

24 Mar

It’s starting to get cold out!  Which means I switch back to wines instead of cider, wear thicker socks and eat warm porridge instead of cold weetbix in the morning.   It’s inevitable that on first onset of a slight breeze, my brain goes into craving overdrive and YES! It’s for all those hearty, carby, creamy culinary delights that warm the soul and melt away the cold (until of course spring comes around again and your body curses you for giving in to a whole winter of such cravings!)

Lucky for me, it’s only the beginning of Autumn, so I have a whole 6 months of cravings to fulfill.  First one being LAKSA! Now, much like everyone else, I’d been an avid consumer of the Laksa King (pre and post its venue upgrade) and yes it was (still is) THE BEST (in Melbourne).  Always fast (once you were eventually seated), delicious, and cheap.  But given the queuing situation (and the onset of the skinny jeans brigade), it does at times test my patience.  And so, for this particular Laksa night, I decided to throw my craving to the wind, and try Chef Lagenda (on the recommendation of a friend who lives locally).

Chef Lagenda is right next door to Laksa King, taking up a much smaller window space.  As we walked in (Z and I) it was almost instant satisfaction!  No Line!  Already winning. We are seated, tea-ed, and have our orders taken within 3 minutes of sitting down (it’s pretty much the same menu as Laksa King – probably due to the fact that Chef Legenda’s chef is from the original Laksa King).

Lobak (Crispy mince pork roll) $5.80

It comes as no surprise, I’m pretty hungry and that smell of fragrant coconut spices and wok cooking is making my stomach want to eat itself!  So we get the Lobak to start.  Normally I love the chicken roti roll, but I thought we should try something different.  The Bean Curd skin casing was freshly fried and deliciously crisp, while the mince inside had a nice firm consistency (its not the most appetizing looking entree, but it was delicious!!)

And finally the reason we are here!! Z got the seafood curry laksa which was full of fresh seafood.  Whole fillets of fish, prawns, calamari and scallops and of course, the eggplant and tofu cubes.

Seafood Curry Laksa $11.90

I always go with the classic Curry Laksa which comes with chicken, shrimp and fish cake as well as the eggplant and tofu cubes.  The mere arrival of our heavy, fragrant bowls of laksa goodness made me pretty Happy in Pants!

Curry Laksa $9.20

The soup was perfectly balanced – hot and spicy, but still creamy enough without being too rich.  Mixed noodles cooked al-dente (nothing worse than over cooked, soggy noodles ) and of course that chunky slab of tender eggplant!  Devouring that bowl was easily the BEST 4 and a half minutes of my day (Yeh!  Girl was hungry)!   That ‘no wait’, ‘but still taste so good’ Laksa I never thought possible has officially been found at Chef Lagenda.

So yes.  Craving satisified! (…for now…  just wait until you see the page long offering of Bubble Cup…. But I’ll save that for the next craving update!)

Chef Lagenda  16 Pin Oak Cres. Flemington, 3031

03) 9376 2668


The Paris Diaries Series: Entry #3 Chez l’Ami Jean

21 Mar

The Paris Diaries Series: Chez l’Ami Jean

Chez l’Ami Jean came with high recommendations from a friend who had been to Paris several times in the past few years but failed on all occasions to get a table.  Planning ahead I had booked a table in advance for the very European time of 10pm – perfect timing to allow for some retail therapy before our first French meal in Paris (for readers who have been paying attention – yes these diary entries are not in time order).

Weaving our way through the streets of the 7th arrondisement we arrived at l’Ami Jean with people literally spilling out onto the otherwise quiet, dark street.  Inside, even without the all the people, there is little room to move between tables and the place is electric what with the waiters zooming past and the patrons talking (loudly), waving their arms around (very passionately) whilst enjoying the Basque cuisine created by Stephane Jego.  But even with all the buzz, l’Ami Jean is your quintessential Parisian bistro and has the feel of being totally authentic and local – all in the midst of the city, under the Eiffel Tower.

Chez l'Ami Jean

Even though we arrive 15 minutes late, our table is not ready.  But alas we are placated with a plate of the most delicious, finely sliced prosciutto whilst we wait patiently.  After another 15 minutes we are shown to our tiny table, sandwiched between a father/daughter and a lovely old French couple (who knock back at least 2 full bottles of red wine during our meal, and are still there when we leave).  The menu is basic and I can recognise basic terms like ‘Boeuf’ (beef), ‘Porc’ (pork), ‘Fruits de Mer’ (seafood) and ‘Poulet’ (chicken), but unfortunately that is where my French culinary vocabulary ends, so we went with the 3 course ‘prix fixe’ meal and left the ordering to our waiter.

Despite not being a pumpkin fan, J had been talked into a rabbit served on a bed of risotto with a puree of pumpkin.  Aesthetically, the dish looked like a watercolour with the brightness of pumpkin serving as a backdrop to the succulent rabbit and topped with a swirl of bacon.  The dish tasted just as good as it looked – the rabbit had been slowed cooked to perfection, and was perfect with the sweetness of the pumpkin – testament to the dish was that J finished it all, even the pumpkin.

Rabbit served on a bed of risotto and pumpkin puree

I had gone with the seafood – an assortment of razor clams, mussels, squid and other shellfish served amongst a creamy foam, assembled to replicate an ocean scene with a swirl of bacon on top.  Each of these elements together created a beautifully balanced and textured dish with the sweet freshness of the seafood, the saltiness of the pork and the light, airy but at once creamy foam.

Fruits de Mer

At this point J and I are starting to feel the effects of jet lag and general fatigue (it’s past 11pm), but we soldier on – intrigued as to how pork could possibly be cooked ‘rose’ (rare).  It arrives shortly on a bed of herbs and topped with the requisite bacon encircled with bone marrow. The meat is succulent and juicy, and it is indeed pink inside.  First time having rare pork – but can happily report no gastric allergies or viruses contracted…

Pork - 'rose'

I had ordered steak, which despite looking beautiful on the plate, was actually too tough and sinewy for my liking.  This too was served with marrow and bacon artfully placed on the plate.

Steak served with marrow

Time check – its close to midnight and the place is still raging (and the old couple next to us have just opened their second bottle of wine).  Thankfully our desserts arrive promptly, the famous Riz au Lait – a rice pudding with salty caramel and a fruit and nut mix on the side, and an apple crumble with custard served in a cute glass jar.  Both were the perfect finish to the meal – light and with just the right level of sweetness.

Riz au Lait

Crumble - served in a glass jar

And so we departed – very happy to have dined like the locals.  For anyone who does visit Paris, Chez l’Ami Jean comes highly recommended not only for its rustic and beautifully presented food, but also for the quintessentially French atmosphere. Oh and if you have time, sit back and kick on with another bottle…just like a real Parisian…

Chez l’Ami Jean

27 rue Malar Paris

75007 Paris, France

www.amijean.eu/

Sonido!!

20 Mar

Its 2pm on Saturday afternoon!  It’s sunny.  And we are starving!!

After 2 consecutive unfortunate events happening in the space of 2 hours (yes.  One involved food… or lack there of.  The other being an appointment cancellation.) It seems the Higher Powers had decided,  “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was officially the soundtrack of my day!

So after a previous rather disappointing attempt at getting some brunch and having to walk out due to a 2 hour wait for poached eggs on toast -an hour and fifteen minutes waiting over time- , N and I were annoyed, hungry and NOT in the mood for further disappointment.  As we drove up Smith Street I tried to think of the closest brunch option with highest possible success rate (being judged on food quality, zero line tolerance, and absolutely ZERO incapable staff tolerance.)  Then came the epiphany!

Sonido is a quaint Columbian cafe on Gertrude Street which is all Filler no Killer.  Out of the 5 times I’ve visited, it’s been consistently pleasant, if not perfect everytime.  With it’s blue walled interior, adorned in South American paraphernalia and super charismatic (BONUS!!) yet efficient staff, I feel like my day could finally start looking up.

Supreme coffees at Sonido

Specialising in, as you’d expect, Columbian fare we are promptly presented with their menu which offers a range of Arepa’s -an arepa is a dish made of ground corn dough or precooked corn flour popular in both Colombia and Venezuela- Empanadas and a small selection of sweets.  They make an AMAZING Supreme coffee and also offer a range of icy fruit drinks – JUGOS NATURALE with a range of native fruits including Feijoa and Lulo – and Columbian Hot Chocolates (I’m still yet to try the one that comes with cheese… (?)… SO intrigued).

Shortly after our coffees are presented and our orders are placed, we enjoy our surrounds whilst we await our food.  N loves a good scramble, so went with the scrambled egg Arepa (which is normally only served until 2pm, but the friendly waitress made an allowance for us this time -we were 5 minutes late…) .

Arepa Con Huevo - Scrambled eggs with spring onion and tomato

The eggs were scrambled to perfection, still glistening and slightly wobbly from being not over cooked.  The little bits of tomato and onion also added that nice bit of texture through the silky smooth scramble.  Delicious!  It’s a good thing we’ve made a habit of ordering different dishes, so we can do taste testers…. because needless to say, I liked my meaty selection even better.

'Old clothes' beef; Cuban beef

My Beef Arepa came served with guacomole and salsa.  The “old clothes’ beef as they call it, is slow cooked and full of flavour.  The beef is soft but not slimy and is saucy enough without making it soggy and sludgy.  Accompanied with the tartness of the salsa and the creaminess of the gaucomole (and lashings of El Yucateco Salsa Picante Chile Habanero hot sauce … I like it spicey) every bite of this beef Arepa was satisfaction guaranteed!

So it seems my day is finally looking up.  The whole experience only took a little over 45 minutes  and the pep in my Saturday step was fully revived.  Thank you Sonido!! You’ve once again managed to change my tune for the better… looks like (Girl) CAN get Satisfaction, after all!!

Sonido 69 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

http://sonido.com.au/

Embrasse Express Lunching

14 Mar

First Saturday off in FOREVER! So needless to say, I take this rare opportunity to part take in some Saturday leisurely lunching with my 2 favourite ladies N and Z.  Yep.  A Lady (Ladies) of Leisure! With all the time in the world… or at least a whole leisurely hour and 20 minutes, until we must vacate the table to allow for the next sitting.

I’d always heard about how AMAZING the food at Embrasse was, and for some reason I remember the brunch offering being highly celebrated.  Well Apparently not?  Well not this month anyway! It seems they are only doing the express lunch (2 course meal, with glass of wine and tea and coffee $35)!  I’m not sure if it was part of the Food and Wine Festival or a permanent change, but happy to try none the less.  Judging by the fast filling reservations (we were lucky to squeeze ourselves in for the 12pm booking) peoples high regard for Embrasse had not changed. Nothing like a sense of urgency to make you want something all the more.

fresh baked multi seed roll

Butter


The dining room is pleasant enough, the table cloth covered tables and clean surrounds creating a pleasant, clean ambiance.  Service is quick and efficient and within 30 seconds of being seated, I am offered water (tick) and wine (double tick…and a GOLD STAR).  Love being waited on.  Hate waiting to be waited on.

So shortly after our wine is poured we order (ladies of leisure but with a time limit) and bread is served! As soon as I was seated the first thing I noticed was that luscious looking perfectly sculpted blob of butter.  The bread was fresh and perfectly soft on the inside encased in a slightly harder outside.  A wonderful accompaniment to the creamy lashings of butter … or is it the other way around? Either way. YUM!

Kingfish lightly steamed, peas, seaweed, sea water froth

Shortly after, entrees were presented.  I ordered the Kingfish which was surprisingly satisfying given my habit of instinctively ordering every meat offering on a menu.  Plus I love peas! The Fish was steamed just enough so it wasn’t dry, and the textured crumbed encasing added the perfect balance.  Could have done without the Uber fancy sea water froth, but the seaweed and pea mash was a wonderful accompaniment.  N ordered the other entree on offer (we always make sure we order something different so we can do swapsies) of the Pork Belly.

Crispy Pork Belly, burnt carrot, pickled corn, apple/olive oil

The pork itself was to me, a little dry, but the apple oil and burnt carrot we well matched to give it some life again.  It wasn’t a bad dish, but the pork belly was very lean and so when deep fried, it lost that amazing fat-to-meat taste explosion that normally occurs when eaten.  You won’t hear me say this often, but glad I went with the seafood option over the meat…

Confit cornfed Bendigo Chicken Breast, beetroots, golden raisins, soy milk

Onto mains.  I went with the chicken (again, a day of exceptions.  I rarely choose chicken breast.  Breast to me equates to overcooked and dry…).  Now gotta say.  Embrasse gets presentation to a tee.  How can one not be a little excited when that is put in front of them, the beetroot ribbon glistening in all its glory.  Taste wise, this was good enough.  But I think that was largely due to the beetroot and raisin accompaniment.  So lesson learned.  Chicken breast ain’t my thing! N went with the other mains option of the Dory (she on the other hand will almost go the fish 87% of the time)

Dory cooked in rocket, cauliflower, rice, maharaja spice, radish, carrot

Having had a little taster (got to love being raised in the habit of sharing) I actually got a little (… a lot!) food envy.  The Dory was pan fried to perfection, slightly crisp on the top and succulently sweet in the center.  The rice was cooked really well and carried a slight sweetness which had so much flavour, could stand alone as a dish in itself.

So short lived this ‘Lady who Lunches’ experience!  Given the exceptional company, and good food, I wish we could have lingered.  But maybe that is also part of the reason it was so enjoyable.  We always long for the things that we can’t have….

Embrasse

312 Drummond Street

Carlton

www.embrasserestaurant.com.au

MFWF – 2000 and Legs Eleven – Collins Quarter

14 Mar

2000 & Legs Eleven

On a glorious autumn day, between two buildings in a little alleyway (sans sitting on milk crates….oh how Melbourne) Collins Quarter hosted 2000 & Legs Eleven, a celebration of the lusciousness of legs from all kinds of animals.  We were looking forward to chef Michael Nunn’s legs menu (5 courses with matching wines) and the afternoon started well with free flowing Taittinger Champagne.

Unfortunately the afternoon quickly took a turn for the worse, when an hour later the first course (‘The First Leg’ served canapé style) had failed to find its way to our group.  After a quick word with the management the unapologetic waitress finally made stop at our table.  Unfortunate really that the poor service managed to overshadow what was great tasting food – Confit quail leg with romesco; Spanner crab leg tortellini with fennel and tarragon; Crispy calamari tentacles – but lets just say that the experience would have been much more enjoyable had the wait staff been a little less aggrieved with the paying customers that they had to serve.  But this blog is about food – so I will leave the service comments at that.

 

Crispy calamari tentacles

Confit quail leg with romesco

With the first course out of the way, we were seated and the second course of Game Leg Terrine with green tomato chutney was served.  The terrine was not really a hit – a bit too dry and a bit bland – and not even the green tomato chutney could save it.

Game leg terrine with green tomato chutney

The next course was a shared plate of Crispy Duck Leg served with cherry compote, garlic & onion puree and grilled Italian flat bread.  This was a much improved offering – the duck was juicy and tender, the cherry compote the perfect accompaniment with its slightly sour tang.

Crispy duck leg with cherry compote, garlic & onion puree and Italian flat bread

Following the duck was the lamb – fresh from the spit roast which was installed in the Magnolia courtyard.

The Spit

The lamb was quite delicious, and lean enough without being tough – although again, not exactly a mind blowing experience.  The gratin dauphinoise (a baked potato dish) served with the lamb was a good pairing, and was cooked well, without too much cream, and the top crisped nicely.

Spit roasted leg of lamb

Gratin Dauphinoise

By this stage, the lunch had already lasted over 3 hours and we were quite keen to drag our very full bellies to bed.  However there was one course more – dessert of course.  Chef Nunn got creative with this course, creating sweet ‘legs’ of cannelloni – one filled with white chocolate, and the other with a pina colada mousse.  The white chocolate cannelloni was perfect (coming from a non-fan of white chocolate, that’s no small feat) but the pina colada was a little on the sweet side.

Cannelloni with white chocolate and pina colada

After a mammoth 4+ hours we all stumbled home on very wobbly legs and literally fell into food comas for the rest of the evening.

The verdict?  The food was nice enough, but probably not worth $120 (and lets not even bother talking about the wines).  Whilst the idea of such foodie events are nice, I am yet to attend any of these ‘lunches’ that have been worth all the hype (and money) – so would probably not bother with ‘events’ in the future.  Much rather control my own culinary destiny and choose my own dining experiences – unless someone can convince me otherwise.

Collins Quarter

1 Pink Alley, Melbourne

www.collinsquarter.com