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Late night at St Katherine’s

1 Jun

Mr Colombaris.   I’m sure we’ve all cringed at the sight of him ‘tasting’ on Master Chef (the man takes to a fork like a 3 year old toddler with a shovel..) but the man knows a thing or two about creating a dining experience.  He is responsible for 3 of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne (Maha, Little Press and Hellenic Republic) and his latest offering, St Katherine’s, in my locale certainly did not disappoint.

Pre meal palette cleanser

Despite it being a Tuesday night, the earliest we could get a table for 5 (DDO plus regular foodie companions Z, JP and Ev’s) was 8.45pm.  Needless to say we all arrived rather famished and ready for our feed.  Before we get into the wine list and menu, we are welcomed with a little pre palette cleanser of Jelly of Cardamon & Coffee.  The jelly itself is a touch on the sweet side for my liking, but given my excruciatingly empty stomach, it is devoured before I can even question starting a meal in reverse (sweets first… how cheeky!)

The menu is designed with dishes to be shared, and trust me, you are reminded of this on every surface that can take some printed text!! With dishes categorized under Stuff, Wood Fire Oven and Turkish Grill, then Sweet Stuff, Stuff to Drink… there is a lot of STUFF!!

After a little deliberation and ABSOLUTELY no question that we order the KFC, we decided on a plethora of “Stuff” which we were assured was more than plenty!  First to arrive was the Coca-Cola Lamb Ribs, which was the first thing to catch my eye on the menu.  Meat and sugar!  I’m livin’ the dream!!

Coca-Cola Lamb ribs with Candied coconut (half tray) $13.50

These lamb ribs were the perfect start to the meal, cooked to tender perfection.  The lamb was soft and tender, and the coca-cola added a sweet, toffee glisten.

KFC “Katherine’s fried chicken” BBQ sauce & Mayonnaise (half bucket) $13.50

Next to arrive, was the much touted KFC; Katherine’s fried chicken which comes as a half bucket (5 pieces) or a full bucket.  Presentation and condiments were better then the actual chicken, which tasted very dry!  SAD!! Especially since most articles had given this dish such hype.  Thankfully though the BBQ sauce, which had a subtle kick of heat, and mayo was the saving grace… (you could pretty much douse dry pasta in that sauce combination and I would happily devour it…)

Lahem Arjine ($22)

So far, each dish had come one after the other!  Which, I don’t really vibe on.  Especially when the servings are generally 4 per serve, which meant 2 people had to be the sacrificial eaters and only get half of at least 1 dish.  Next to arrive was (our only carb fix of the night) the Lahem Arjine which was like a thin crust pizza topped with lamb, aleppo pepper, parsley and lemon.  This was pretty delicious and the base was lovely, crisp and thin so as to not fill us up too much.  At this point we are 3 dishes in, and have only another 3 to arrive…well, 4 dishes with 1 being our ‘greens’ component.  (So 3!)  Let’s just say, thank god 2 out of the 5 of us chose not to take part in this carb fix… leaving more for me!  Coz those 2 previous morsels of meat had about the same affect as a stick of carefree gum!! Thankfully the last  3 dishes arrived simultaneously and it was meat time!

Rotisserie Chicken ($28)

We decided on something from “Off the Rotisserie” which offer 2 daily specials.  Tonight was either lamb or chicken, to which despite our better judgment of NEVER ordering chicken, we did anyway.  Needless to say the chicken was uninspired, and a little bland with the only flavour coming from the squeeze of lemon that was drizzled before serving.  I read an article by Anthony Bourdain, highlighting that chicken “…bores the hell out of chefs” and that it “…occupies it’s ubiquitous place on menus as an option for customers who can’t decide what they want to eat”.  Unfortunately after tasting the 2 chicken dishes here, I’d fail to prove him wrong.

Angus Beef Rump Skewers ($28)

Lamb chops with Green chilli, spring onion & sesame ($32)

Thankfully, the other 2 meats arrived at the same time, so I didn’t have to waste time on the lack lustre chicken.  Between the Angus Rump skewers and the Lamb Chops, the Lamb was the clear standout!   I carved my chop in half (4 chops, 5 people… awkward!) to share with N, to reveal a soft, perfectly pink center.  The very slight hint of chilli and spring onion worked brilliantly in harmony with the sesame sauce to balance out the bitey flavours.  The Angus Rump on the other hand, was overcooked, dry and the only thing I enjoyed about it was the tahini, soy and walnut garnish.  Amongst all the meat we also ordered a green – Charred Zuchini with candied garlic and feta.  I think I would have enjoyed that eaten with maybe the coca-cola ribs… or maybe some bread…

 

The zucchini had a nice freshness to it, and was a good addition to the meat heavy meal.  Although I would have enjoyed it with some bread to soak up those glorious garlic-y/herby oil juices that was left in the plate.  So with our bottle of Shiraz done, we find ourselves still enjoying each others company despite it being late and ‘a school night’.  JP and I decide to order another glass each and after a little contemplation, decide we could do with a little more food.  Let’s be honest… we were never going to leave satisfied on 4 small bites of meat (2 of which I had to share…) and some zucchini!!

Charred Zucchini with candied garlic and feta, herbs ($12.90)

We go straight to the “Turkish Grill” section (we’ve had enough “stuff”.  Time for substance) and order the Sticky Pork Belly with saffron, orange, honey blossom and almond skordalia.

Sticky Pork Belly ($28)

Perhaps it was the wine talking, but boy did we save the BEST for last!  This was phenomenal!  Pork Belly!  Enough said right?!  This was a beautiful cut of meat, perfectly layered proportions of meat to fat and so well paired with the mellow sweet tartness of the orange and honey blossom juice.  And when you thought you’d reached layer upon layer of flavour/fat Nation, the almond puree sauce!! Smooth.  Creamy.  Party  in Mouth!!

Maltese Pork sausage with pickled beetroot, almonds ($18.90)

And finally, the pork sausage!  Cooked well, these sausages were tender, with a slightly crisp outer so when eaten with the pomegranate spiked pickled beetroot and dusting of sesame seeds on top, made for a heavenly mouthful of textures and flavours.  Again, would have loved some bread, to soak up those amazing juices… but maybe that’s their way of doing me a favour, so I can save what little room I have left for dessert!

There’s quite an intriguing offering of icecreams “Mr Whippee” style, as well as watermelon salad, donuts and their “Disgusting Dessert”.  I was sold and intrigued by the name… disgusting and dessert in the same title?  (Doesn’t involve chicken does it… ?? HA! I jest!)  We had to try!

Disgusting Dessert ($26.90 for 2 to share)

This funny sounding dessert was served (funnily…? Disgustingly…) in a glass pyrex container and had a mix of reinterpretations of St Katherine’s “favourite chocolate bars”.  So the chocolate bar inspired recreations included a violet crumble, rice bubble chocolate fudge, marshmallow, salted caramel, coconut ice cream and a cherry foam.  Really great idea, and the zany presentation added to the shits and giggles part of the whole concept!  My favourite was definitely the salted caramel (ALWAYS) and the coconut ice cream.  I’d come back for this, just to see what their next lot of favourite chocolate bars will be!

Looking back now, and even as we fixed the bill (about $60 p/head), we consumed a hell of a lot of food!!  And although I suspect there are a few staff teething problems (there was no recommendations of portions or notification of daily rotisserie specials, and N caught a lamb chop bone in her lap and a pile of sauce next to her feet… all to an unaware waitress) But despite all the negatives, which came hand in hand with many positives, I can at least leave knowing i can thankfully continue eating at my Mr Colombaris favourites, without me having to watch him do any of the eating.

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Road trip to Mr Carsisi’s

26 Apr

It’s finally reached that time of the year again, where for one glorious week, eating chocolate for breakfast is mandatory and we get to enjoy a food filled 4 day weekend (…well this year 5 day… AMAZING!)    Fellow foodie, Z and I had already successfully put on Good Friday Seafood Lunch, (with the exception of a little chorizo… that was my fault, i totally forgot the whole point was a no meat thing… Oooops!) where we created a feast of Red Wine Mussels, prawns with guacamole & ‘fancy sauce’ (a la Step Brothers) – also known as Thousand Island Sauce – a few salads and green beans with fennel, fresh oysters and crumbed sword fish.

Good Friday Seafood Lunch

It was an excessively delightful lunch, but my proudest moment was making Apricot Hot Cross Buns that looked the part and actually tasted pretty great!  Go ME!!

Homemade Apricot Hot Cross Buns

It was basically a day of dining, wining, snacking, wining and more dining!! And even though we eventually carried our full bellies home to nurse the food coma, it didn’t take long for Z and I to start cooking up our next Easter Culinary Adventure.

Feeling a little heavy headed, and a lot heavy bellied, we looked into some options for short road trip destinations with ‘DINING’ being our main prerequisite … Oh, and being able to get out of town, see endless rolling fields and not be ruled by traffic lights.

Our final choice:  Piper Street Kyneton!  Being only a little over an hour out of Melbourne, Piper Street in Kyneton leaves any foodie spoilt for choice.  It was hard deciding where to choose given the over whelming offering of resturants/bistro’s/cafes, but we decided to go with the Turkish inspired, Mr Carsisi.  (It may or may not have been in big part due to their Dessert platter for 2 that I’d come across while looking up fellow food blog sites…)

Mr Carsisi’s shed like spacious interior, is the home for owner Matt Fegan’s (formally of award winning Royal George Hotel) Turkish inspired dishes.  We’d made a booking so were seated promptly upon arrival.  The service is relaxed, friendly and efficient.  Within 10 minutes of arriving, we were watered and had been served our wine from their extensive internationally sourced wine list.  At this point I was feeling pretty confident with our Piper Street selection!  As mentioned, I’d seen a lot of photos showing the dessert platter, so choosing the savory part of this meal was pretty trying.  The menu offers a mezze section, as well as mains, sides, and a daily specials list.  Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about it!  Spot a Steak or Lamb on the menu (in this case, slow roasted lamb shoulder with persian red lentils, grilled lamb cutlet, pomegranate & walnut sauce) and its a done deal.  But having lusted over this dessert platter, I (with a great amount of difficulty) fought my instinctual cannibalism …

We decided to get a bunch of Mezze to share (to make sure we left room for dessert) starting with a special of the day, Saganaki with Figs and Sauteed Prawns in a Spiced tomato and corriander sauce.

Sauteed prawns, spiced tomato & coriander sauce $11.50 (left) Saganaki with Figs $11.50

The Prawns were fresh and fragrant with the spiced tomato sauce.  The spice added a really nice complexity, although I found it a little too overpowering for the prawns.  I DID however, enjoy dipping the sauce on the Pide and Battered eggplant dishes (you’ll see them below shortly!)  The biggest let down was probably the Saganaki.  Which makes me pretty sad! It was cold and therefore stiff as a board by the time it arrived to our table… speaking of board, it kind of lacked taste as well.  So essentially, I felt like I was eating cardboard, with some fancy fig jam.  The Jam was lovely… (?)

Fried chickpea battered eggplant, zaatar, garlic & dill yoghurt 9.00

Thankfully, the rest of the dishes arrived relatively quickly so my disappointments were quickly distracted.  Next came the Chickpea battered eggplant and the Sucuk sausage pide.

The Chickpea battered eggplant doesn’t photograph the best, but it was a lovely combination of flavour and textures.  The chickpea batter created a crunchy casing, housing a silken zaatar laced eggplant slice.

And the Sucuk sausage (Turkish dry, spicy sausage) Pide below, was freshly baked, although I found it a little on the dry side.  But that was easily amended by dipping the bready bits into the sauce from the prawns!

Sucuk sausage, Turkish sweet chilli paste, tomato & shanklish pide, coriander yoghurt 10.50

The last two of our share plates were green beans with tahini lemon dressing (it was a side, but the Z is having a ‘green beans’ phase at the moment…) and the lamb pistachio kebabs.

Green beans, crispy shallots, tahini lemon dressing, walnut oil 8.00 (right)

Personally, I thought the beans were a little lazy.  They were well blanched, but the dressing was a bit lack luster and didn’t live up to it’s colourful sounding description.  So far, two dishes to add to the ‘disappointed’ list!  At this stage, we are both feeling a touch on the disappointed side.  Given the lively nature of turkish ingredients (spices, aromatics, sesame etc), it seems to be a little difficult to find an establishment that draws on Turkish flavours well and uses them to their full advantage.

And then… the saving grace!  Our final dish arrives and yes! It is MEAT!  Glorious MEAT!!

Antep lamb pistachio kebabs, flatbread, tomato & parsley salad 11.50

The Lamb was cooked just right, all tender and juicy but not so tender that it crumbled off its skewer.  The tomato’s were fresh, and combined with some flatbread, parsley and crumbly pistachio-ed lamb, lightly sprinkled with zaatar, this was a mouthful of FLAVOUR NATION!  Turkish nation!!

And just as I’d devoured the last mouthfuls of that Turkish Flavour High, I swallowed with great anticipation!  It was DESSERT time!  Two Turkish coffees and a Dessert Platter for 2 please…

Tasting Plate for two $28

The Tasting plate for two was a platter of nicely sized Turkish sweet HEAVEN!  It involved (from left to right):

Pistachio baklava, Talumba (sugar coated donut) with Turkish delight & rose syrup, Pistachio halva ice cream, Chocolate ganache, Salep – wild orchid & orange blossom custard, Lokma (cinnamon sugar donuts), Turkish delight semifredo and Semolina & cinnamon halva, pistachio & vanilla fairy floss.

Tasting dessert plate for two (close up of semolina Halva with fairy floss-left. Turkish delight semi fredo-right)

As you can see, this platter is NOT for the faint hearted!  My favourite was definitely the Turkish Delight semifredo (thats the one on the right with the pistachio top sandwiching the pink), which combined my 3 favourite textures:  baklava, turkish delight and ice cream!

Also fantastic in flavour was the Pistachio Halva ice cream (which is the little white ball, glistening from behind the shot glass of white custard).  Z tried to explain to me that it reminded her of a Lebanese dessert her uncle used to make… for me it was like eating condensed milk on toast.  But cold!  And better coz its Ice Cream!!

We were advised to dip the Lokma; cinnamon coated donuts (not to be mistaken for the Talumba, which are dipped in icing sugar and cinnamon) in the Salep – wild orchid & orange blossom custard in the shot glass or the chocolate ganache.  The Talumba seen at the back, was to be dipped into the turkish delight and rose syrup sauce which was housed in the  Cezve (coffee pot) it was perched atop.  Both the Lokma and the Talumba look the same to me!  Churros! YUM!  Both the dipping sauces however, weren’t the most appetizing, in texture or taste.  The turkish delight and rose syrup was far too gelatinous and resembled snot… Rose scented snot.  Thankfully the chocolate ganache made for a trusted and delightful pairing.   Last but not least there was the baklava and the Halva with Pistachio & Vanilla fairy floss which were nicely washed down with the help of our Turkish coffees.

So 6 dishes, 2 and a half hours and a plate of fragrant diabetes-on-a-platter later, we take our full satisfied bellies back to the car and make our way back to the bright, traffic lighted streets of Melbourne.  Although there were some flavour lows at Mr Carsisi, I don’t know a single human in the world that wouldn’t go from their lowest low to their highest sugar high just looking at that Dessert Platter.  So Thank You Mr Carsisi, for keeping my confection-filled Easter-High alive!  You won’t find me rushing back in a hurry, but if I found myself  in the area again, I wouldn’t rule out revisiting the Desserts… any time of the year!!

Mr Carsisi

7 Piper Street Kyneton 3444

(03) 5422 3769