MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Young Guns 3×3

with 3 comments

The Young guns of wine Festival, now in its second year, is a celebration of the best young winemakers from around Australia.

The festival runs events, to which these ‘young guns’ can match their wine to some of the top restaurants in Melbourne.

Most of these ‘events’ were lunch or dinner with matching wines. The one that appealed the most to me was the 3×3 Event held at Izakaya Den.

“Take three wine producers, Franco D’Anna (Hoddles Creek), Andrew Marks (Wanderer) and Mike Michael Aylward (Ocean Eight) and ask them to select 3 of their wines each.

Take 9 dishes from the city’s Izakaya Den and you have 9 wines for 9 dishes but that’s where the rules stop! Enjoyment, conviviality and fun are the keys here and the informality of the Izakaya means that anything goes. Izakaya Den has a purely Victorian wine focus especially with young, modern producers who are making elegant, food friendly wines.”

It sounded too good to be true. 9 dishes, 9 glasses of wine. For $80? Surely there was a mistake.

I have dined at Izakaya Den on two prior occasions, and had been very impressed as reviewed previously here.

And, fortuitously, this event fell on one of my RDO’s.

We were greeted by part-owner Simon Denton, who explained the deal. 3 Courses, each with 3 dishes and 3 different wines. We could choose to match these with any and every dish in the course to our liking.

I was a little disappointed when I saw our glasses were only being filled to a third. I was really hoping they’d be full glasses, but then I am very greedy when it comes to booze.

However, we very quickly realised that our wine could be topped up.

My friend and I became very excited. We knew this would be a great lunch.

Pardon for the  increasingly blurry photos, as we had consumed increasingly more and more alcohol.

Round 1

fresh tofu, plum and ponzu

We started with the tofu, which was a little bland, and not to my liking. Fortunately it was all uphill from here on.

kingfish sashimi

The kingfish was absolutely divine. It was the stand-out dish of the lunch, and the best sashimi I’ve had in a long time, if not ever. It was flavoured with a citrus-y sauce, served on a bed of picked bean sprouts. The fish was wonderfully fresh, and its flavours were perfectly balanced – not too sweet, not too tart, not too saltly, just simply perfect.. The only thing that could have made this dish better is if I could have had more. I think I liked this dish even more than the tuna tataki that I have previously raved about. (Though I will need to go back and have them both again to decide 🙂 ).

pork belly kushi-yaki

This dish was nice, a simple dish, but done well. The grilled leek is a great accompaniment for the perfectly cooked pork belly.

These were matched to

'09 Hoddles Creek Pinot Blanc, '10 Wanderer Chenin Blanc, '09 Ocean Eight Pinot Gris

The Ocean Eight Pinot Gris was the stand out of the three. It was well balanced, slightly sweet with nice floral flavours. Very easy to drink. The Hoddles Creek Pinot Blanc wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great. The Wanderer Chenin Blanc had a beautiful floral opening flavour, however a very tart finish.

Round 2

duck breast, pomegranate

The duck was delicious. Perfectly cooked, served on a bed of cracked wheat. The pomegranate lifted the dish from good to exceptional.  We liked this pairing so much, my dining companion SR and I were fighting for the seeds.

sweet corn kari-age

Sweet corn kernels battered together and deep fried, served with a side of green tea salt. I’m not sure how much flavour the green tea salt added, the dish was tasty enough as it was is. Very addictive.

baked blue eye, ginger miso

The fish was delicate, light, the ginger miso a nice accompaniment.

'08 Ocean Eight Chardonnay, '08 Wanderer Pinot Noir, '09 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay

Of the three, the stand-out wine was the Wanderer Pinot. Of course, the Pinot best suited the duck. It’s a no-brainer, Pinot and Duck are the perfect companions – a match made in heaven. Neither Chardonnay were amazing – but Chardonnay is a very difficult wine – if not perfectly balanced they can taste overly musky. These were drinkable, just not great, especially next to the wonderful Pinot Noir.

Round 3

eggplant dengaku

This was different to a ‘typical’ dengaku – which is typically served sliced in half lengthways. This dengaku consisted of cubed pieces of eggplant, deep fried and then served with a sticky sweet sauce. It came with another vegetable – I believe it was radish? SR, not a fan of eggplant didn’t like this dish, just as well, I love eggplant so more for me!

sansho pepper quail

I love quail! And this one certainly did not disappoint. The skin as perfectly crispy, the meat perfectly tender. Accompanied with pickled garlic shoots. I love garlic shoots, I think here they would have been better just boiled rather than pickled.

grilled ox tongue, spring onion

I love ox tongue. these were perhaps served just a fraction too thick compared to what I’m used to, but this dish was delicious nonetheless.

'08 Wanderer Syrah, '08 Ocean Eight Pinot Noir, '08 Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir

Of the last three wines, the Wanderer Syrah was the definite standout. It had deep berry overtones, and was just delightful. Incredibly easy to drink.

I was a little inebriated by this stage. Can you tell?

We had a great position, being seated in the middle of the bar, meaning we could watch the dishes being meticulously constructed. However, it was dangerous, because although we could watch everything, it also meant that we were watching everything… and seeing this image..

meant we could not resist. Even though we were well and truly stuffed, we had to do it.

ginger creme brulee

I adore creme brulees. This one wasn’t bad, but just a tad too gingery for me to handle. I’m not a massive fan of ginger, though the creme brulee was wonderfully smooth, and it’s always so satisfying ‘cracking’ the top.

All in all, a fantastic lunch. Food was exceptional, service amazing, wine great. The wine makers came around to chat to us all individually, which added a really nice personal touch.

It was an absolutely perfect event. I can’t stop raving about how much I enjoyed it.

And an absolute steal for only $80.

Many thanks to the Festival and to Simon Denton for making it happen.


Izakaya Den

Basement 114 Russell Street
Melbourne, 3000
Tel: (03) 9654 2977
Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon

Written by glutamatejess

August 16, 2010 at 1:44 am

3 Responses

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  1. I can’t believe I only just read about this event until today, the last day! As I was scrolling through I was thinking of how expensive the meal must’ve been, but $80?! A steal indeed! Very jealous!


    August 16, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    • Yea it was amazing!! We would have normally paid $80 at least for all that food.. so the wine was pretty much free! The brulee was extra, but only $10 extra. So all up, the two of us $168.
      Best lunch ever..


      August 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

  2. Wish I had known about this event as well – looks like a fantastic lunch! I totally would’ve gone for the creme brulee too.


    August 18, 2010 at 9:12 pm

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