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Syracuse

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23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Phone 03 9670 1777

Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:30am til late
. Sat:           6:00pm til late

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Syracuse is a delightful little wine bar hidden away in an old Victorian building in Bank Place. It’s one of those places I’ve walked past a gazillion times without even noticing it. Despite google-mapping it before I got there, I still struggled to find it on my first visit.

I took the delightful M there for her birthday in July (yes, I am very slack with these posts), so forgive me if these items are no longer on their ever changing seasonal menu.

As you walk through the arched doorways in Bank Place, it feels as though you are transported to Europe. This small dining room is nothing short of grand, with soaring ceilings, pillars and arches. There are racks and racks of wine, which allude to the fact that this is a place which takes their wine seriously.

The wine list is extensive, and well thought-out, with a good mix of new and old world wines. We ordered a bottle of Domaine Wachu Gruner Vetliner – an Austrian wine varietal that I am a huge fan of.

The menu consists of some wine snacks, some sharing plates and only a few mains, all chosen undoubtedly with an emphasis on food that may be enjoyed and enhanced by wine.

We begin with

A spanner crab remoulade, which consists of delicate pieces of spanner crab with a tart creamy sauce, topped with a boiled egg. A nice refreshing way to begin our meal.

Next was the pig’s head, which was one of the specials of the night. I had images of chunks from the head (hey – I’ve never had pig’s head before..!), but in fact it seemed like little morsels of fried almost creamy meat. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but they were yummy, and if you hadn’t have told me it was pigs head, I would have been none the wiser. These worked well with the little fried quail eggs they were served with.

We also had mussels which were cooked with chorizo – adding a nice smokey spice to the dish. The sauce was promptly soaked up with the bread.

Overall we had a great night, I love this little bar – good food, good wine, how can anyone complain.

I have since revisited, however I only had pitiful photos from my phone camera, but the experience was just as good.

Jess’ Rating

Taste: 8. Food is very rustic, prepared well.

Value: 8.

Ambience: 9.

Service: 7.5.

Overall: 8. A hidden gem in Melbourne. I rate it.

 

For other reviews, check out petit-miamx, Mel: Hot or notI’m so hungreeeee and spatula spoon and saturday.

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Esposito

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162 Elgin Street Carlton 3053
(Corner Elgin Street & Drummond Street)
Phone 03 9347 9838

Lunch:  Mon-Fri  from 12 noon

Dinner: Mon-Sat from 6.00pm

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Located on the corner of Elgin and Drummond Streets lies Esposito, the restaurant by Maurie Esposito. Esposito brings us ‘seafood dining’ with a strong focus on sustainable, yet the freshest, highest quality produce, with an Italian flair.

With entrees priced between $21-26, and mains $26-$42, this place is not inexpensive. However, Esposito have a weeknight special Loaves and Fishes menu – $35 for 2 courses with a glass of wine. Available Monday to Thursday lunch and dinner. This sounded too good to be true, so we had to go for it..

We began with an amuse;

amuse-bouche

A light seaweed salad, served with toasted sesame, a delightful way to whet the appetite.

For entrees T had;

Mud Crab Tortellini in a leek and crustacean broth

This dish was perfect. Big call, but it was incredible. The hand-rolled pasta was perfectly cooked al dente, filled with fresh mud crab in a rich, warming broth. Although this was T’s dish, I ended up eating most of it.

Mud crab, avocado & green apple salad, young spinach and spinach essence

Unfortunately my entree was not as nice. The idea of this dish sounded good on paper, but in execution there was an excess of ‘greenery’. It was over-powering in a ‘grassy’ sort of flavour.

Onto mains; I had the

John Dory Fillets with calamari ragout with artichokes, watercress and lemon

John Dory Fillets and calamari ragout

The fish fillets were perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The calamari ragout was well restrained in flavour and a great accompaniment to the fish.

Fillets of King George Whiting grilled or in beer batter, thin chips and house made tartare $42

Fillets of King George Whiting grilled or in beer batter, thin chips and house made tartare

At $42 on the a la carte menu, this is the most expensive item on the menu. T was curious as to how you could make fish & chips (which is essentially what this dish is) special. My god, Esposito nailed it. This is the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Bar none. The fish was perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth tender. The house made tartare was also great. Again, I would say this dish is perfect. I cannot imagine how this dish could be better.

Note – I am a terrible blogger, I visited months ago so the menu has changed since.

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Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 9 – high points T’s dishes, didn’t enjoy my entree though

Value: 10. With the glass of wine that accompanied the meal, $35 each for 2 courses made this meal good value. cheap. Good value is an understatement. With the quality of the produce cooked the way it was, it was really a bargain.  I believe the serves are slightly smaller in the loaves and fishes menu – and although we were not stuffed, we were perfectly satisfied.

Ambience: 9.5. Fine dining at its best. White linen table cloths, ambient background music, and just the perfect amount of mood-lighting, accentuated by the candle light on each table. A warm greeting from the staff, accompanied most importantly with a smile makes you feel instantly welcome.

Service: 9.5. Exceptional, the staff made us feel comfortable and at home.

Overall: 9.5. Wonderful.

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Esposito has also opened a new restaurant St Peter’s in Melbourne Place at the old Canary Club with a similar menu, which I have recently visited and loved. Review to come soon.

Written by glutamatejess

November 8, 2010 at 2:12 am

Hako

with 5 comments

310 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Phone 03 9620 1881
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Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-3pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm
Cuisine: Japanese

Tucked away in Flinders lane, this warehouse restauraunt has very much a minimalistic fit-out, with exposed concrete and dim ‘moodlighting.’ It works though, and although noise invariably echoes in warehouse fit-outs, the tables are well spaced enough that you can still hold a conversation with your dining companions.

Tick.

I hate having to yell to hold a conversation over dinner.

The menu consists of a few stalwart items on the regular menu, which is complimented by a rotating seasonal special menu.

Tick.

I love the emphasis on using seasonal produce.

The wine list is limited, with about 30 bottles on offer. The list wasn’t cheap, but they were reasonable mark-ups for a restaurant. We chose one the ’06 Huia Pinot Noir from  Marlborough $64. This wasn’t anything to shout about, but wasn’t bad.

From the winter special menu, we chose;

blue swimmer crab meat and tobiko with shiso leaf wrap (1p) 5

This was pretty average. Well presented, and nice you could wrap it in the shiso leaf, but the crab meat was uninspired and could have been fresher. The tobiko balls were a nice addition, as they ‘popped’ in your mouth.

rare yellow fin tuna w yuzu spice 18.5

The flavours were good, however, the tuna had been cooked a little too much, so it wasn’t quite rare.. leaving the dish a little tough rather than tender and soft. The citrus yuzu spice was nice, and the tobiko roe worked nicely with the dish.

o ka san's special baked pork belly 14.5

This dish was excellent value – a few slices of thick, tender pork belly cooked on a bed of enoki mushrooms. Baking in the bag left this dish tender and moist, capturing the flavours.

oven baked harvey bay scallops w nasu and ponzu sauce 15.5

These scallop were ok, but nothing spectacular. They were quite small and uninspired for the price.

From the regular menu we also had,

agedashi tofu deep fried bean curd with bonito dry fish flakes 11.5

This dish is fine, but no better than what you can get at any other Japanese restauraunt. The tofu pieces are perhaps a tad small.

gyoza fried pastry stuffed with minced meat, cabbage with hint of garlic 12.5

The gyoza, again, are fine, but did not wow me, and again pricey at 4 for $12.50

omakase sushi head chef's selection of sushi e 28.5

In order from the front; grilled eel, oyster, squid, (some sort of fish – I forget what type), king fish, tuna.

The grilled eel was nice, probably the best of the 6. The rest were all nice, but again, but none of it was exceptional. Presentation was nice, but at $28.50, this equates to $4.75 per piece. Poor value.

beef steak char-grilled aged eye fillet steak with a thick garlic teryiaki sauce $35.5

This (and the pork belly) were the stand-out dishes. Thick slices of beef, cooked blue (to order). The teriyaki sauce was delicious, the beef a great cut. Even though I was well and truly stuffed by this stage, I still ate it. Couldn’t let it go to waste.

This was served with a side of

soba and potato salad with the beef

This was delicious, the soba and potato salad topped with a creamy-sesame dressing.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 7.0. None of the food was bad, but much of it was not much better than what you can get at many other Japanese restaurants, which are often substantially more inexpensive. The beef and pork belly were to die for.

Value: 6.0. Overpriced.  Good use of seasonal ingredients, but serves were too small for the prices.

Service: 7. Polite.

Authenticity: 7.0. Head Chef Masahiro Horie and his wife make a great team presenting well cooked a  traditional Japanese food with a modern twist.

Atmosphere: 7.5. Although they could have crammed much more tables in, they have obviously put a lot of thought into spacing the tables adequately. Love the fit-out, very intimate.

Overall: 7. I like Hako. I really do. I just find they charge too much for what they are, especially when there are so many other good places out there, such as Izakaya den. Having said that, I have been a few years ago, and their lunch menu is quite well priced.

Gill’s Diner

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Gill’s Diner is another trendy creation from the man behind Journal, Supper Club and The European, Con Christopoulos. This means that the decor is likely to be rustic but innovative. The food is likely to be classic and hearty but with some slight twists, and the coffee is likely to be Romcaffe. Bloody Romcaffe. What Christopoulos’ obsession with Romcaffe is I have no idea. Why a man would put all that effort into this brand when there are plenty of far better local roasters around is very much beyond me, but whatever, I’ll let it slide.

The beauty of Gill’s Diner for me is all in the concept. Tucked away down a laneway off Little Collins Street (I’m sorry readers, it’s just too easy to use the words “tucked away” when talking about laneways and I have no intention of straying form this well-worn cliche for the time being), Gill’s Diner isn’t difficult to find. Just follow the neon “espresso & bread” and say hello to the jolly pig & cock that greet you, rustic indeed. The space itself is beautifully fitted out. The chairs are reminiscent of your old high school scout hall and aren’t super comfortable, but I’ll let comfort suffer a little in the name of design. Whoever does Christopoulos’ interior design is very good at what they do, the concept is executed perfectly, down to the finest deals like old-school speakers used for music (as The Age points out: Gill’s is an MP3 free zone“) and menus on blackboards (only on blackboards).

Best of all, the design creates a concept of space where there actually isn’t much. you can thank the high ceilings and perpendicular roof beams for that. Good show, Gill’s Diner! But onto the food. The entree I sampled, the house salted cod & smoked eel croquettes with “white sauce” and leeks.

Solid opening but nothing that blew me out of the water. The croquettes were delicately put together and fried, the sauce was intriguing and the leeks worked great but holy crap was this dish salty! The name of the game here was most certainly salt, ladies and gentlemen, and I’m sure I came away with more than my RDI of sodium. Luckily I actually like salty things.

For our mains, my dining companion selected the Kingfish Fillet with broad beans and peas (pictured above), whereas I had the Wild Mushroom Risotto with Taleggio (pictured below). I’ll let you in on a little secret, you know those things you see on a menu that you must order immediately upon discovery? Taleggio is one of those things for me. I love cheese and it is my favourite cheese so if I see it, I’m hooked.

And look at that hunk of taleggio! I was delighted when this hit the table, so much so that I didn’t have a great deal of my dining companion’s fish. Apologies, readers! I can tell you from what I tasted that it was decent but, again, nothing amazing. It’s a classic dish on a classic base, kingfish is a wonderful fish and there were no complaints from my dining companion either.

The risotto was splendid but not special. It was prepared in just the way I like my risotto, not too saucy and not too dry, arborio rice cooked to perfection. The mushroom risotto is such an old staple that it’s difficult to go wrong with, and the taleggio really added an extra level of awesomeness (though I think my sodium intake that day was equivalent to an entire recommended week).

I didn’t bother having coffee. I knew it would be Romcaffe and I wasn’t desperate enough on the night.

So the verdict on Gills?

Alex’s Ratings

Taste: 8. I can’t really complain about the execution of any of the dishes but none of them blew me away either.

Value: 4. This is a gripe. In my view, Gill’s doesn’t offer the same experience as other affordable fine dining options in the same rough price range, like Cumulus. If I’m going to pay $30 for a risotto then it better be a damn mind-blowing risotto, the hunk of taleggio notwithstanding (at least they didn’t scrimp), this risotto was good but not spectacular.

Service: 7. Rushed, efficient, impersonal, no complaints but nothing special.

Atmosphere: 10. I love it. I really love the fitout and everything about it. I don’t give 10s often but this one is deserved.

Overall: 7.88. This is a solid addition to Melbourne’s food scene, has proved its merit over the last few years and will be a long-term stayer but I just don’t think it’s up in the echelons of awesome that some other restaurants deliver. Not quite an 8 but more than a 7.5. Oh yeah and fail for coffee.

Beggar’s Chicken at David’s

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To celebrate the beginning of winter,  Melbourne Food and Wine invited restaurants throughout Melbourne and Victoria to participate by throwing a roast dinner for the month of June.

What a brilliant idea.

I eagerly pored over the 20 page list of events. The one that really stood out to me, was the Clay Roasted Chicken Feast at David’s Prahran to be held on June 24.

‘Roasts’ are traditionally a western dish, I loved David’s Chinese spin on this ‘Roast Collection.’

Beggar’s Chicken is one of the greatest culinary traditions of China, originating from a romantic legend from the Qing dynasty in the Hangzhou region.

Legend has it that a starving beggar stole a chicken, wrapped it in leaves and mud. He was pursued by the officials, so he threw it into a hole. He had no utensils to cook the chicken with, and also could not risk being caught, so he built a fire in this hole and created an underground oven. Whilst cooking the chicken on the fire, the mud formed a tight clay crust around the chicken. The chicken’s clay crust was cracked open, revealing a tender aromatic bird. He realised he was onto something, so he began to sell this to villagers. Impressed by the flavours, the Emperor added Beggar’s Chicken to the list of dishes served at the Imperial court and it has been a traditional Chinese dish ever since.

I had had this dish once prior, and I have never seen this dish on a menu in Melbourne (though admittedly I haven’t looked). I jumped at the chance to have this, and quickly gathered together some of my good friends for the dish. The event was a one-night only event, and required pre-payment.

For $55, we had three courses, two glasses of wine and tea.

Entree: Mustard Cress Salad with finely chopped special Chinese vegetable & dry bean curd and Baby Bamboo in a sweet soy sauce
Glass of Sauvignon Blanc

Main Course: Beggars Chicken stuffed and marinated with shrimps, pork, shitake mushrooms, ham, spring onion and carrots, wrapped in lotus leaves and clay.
Glass of Pinot Noir

Dessert: Sweet “Ye Ba” with creamy custard encased in sticky rice and steamed in a banana leaf
Signature tea

We arrived at David’s, located in Cecil Place, just off Chapel street.

Once our party had arrived, we were promptly brought our entree

The mustard cress salad with dry bean curd was light and refreshing. The baby bamboos were delicious! Lightly pickled, sweet with a wonderfully crunchy texture. I couldn’t get enough of these. We had these with a tasty glass of Sauvignon Blanc – I didn’t catch what it was..

Then onto the main event; The chicken was brought to the table, and then we realised it was a chicken each. We hadn’t expected this, traditionally, we get one large bird to split between a few. Now I understood why full pre-payment was required.

The waiters brought each chicken in its clay encasing to our table, and offered to have us bash the chicken to break the clay casing. The clay broke into pieces, revealing our chickens, wrapped in lotus leaves.

The chicken was perfectly roasted, and was stuffed with sticky rice, shrimps, pork, lotus, shitake mushrooms, ham, spring onion and carrots.

The chicken was delicious, the skin tender and juicy and falling off the bones. The stuffing was a highlight – wonderfully flavoured sticky rice, which had collected the juices from the chicken.

The chicken came with a glass of Shiraz – unlike the Pinot it was supposed to come with. This was the only disappointment of the whole night – the Shiraz was slightly too heavy for the delicate chicken.

As if a chicken each wasn’t enough, we were also given a nice stirfry of vegies – including bok choy, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms and carrot.

To finish, we had a sweet ‘Ye Ba’  – whatever that means. Within the banana leaf, was glutinous rice mixed with a creamy custard. I didn’t love this dish but my dining partners loved it. It was accompanied with a sliver of coconut ice-cream. This was served with Chinese tea.

All in all, a delightful night. Wonderful food with great company in a beautiful restaurant. David’s has been award one Chef’s hat by The Age Good Food Guide for the past eight years, and has also been included in the list of the Top 50 Best Chinese Restaurants outside of China. The night overall was excellent value, with fantastic produce cooked perfectly. Can’t wait to return to try more of the menu.

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David’s

4 Cecil Place, Prahran

Tel: 03 9529 5199

Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-3pm; Sat-Sun 11.30am-3pm

Dinner: Sun-Thu 6-10.30pm; Fri 5-11.30pm; Sat 6-11.30pm;

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Written by glutamatejess

June 28, 2010 at 12:38 am