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Archive for the ‘Fine Dining’ Category

Fit for a King

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The Palace

505 City Rd
South Melbourne 3205

(03) 9699 6410

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Hours: Mon-Sun Lunch 12pm-3pm
Dinner 6-10pm


The Palace is not the kind of place you stumble into… I often drive up and down Bay Street to go to Thomas Dux green grocers, and although I knew roughly where I should be expecting to find it, it still took me a couple of times driving past to spot the Palace.

Basically, it’s on City Road, South Melbourne just before it turns into Bay Street, Port Melbourne. Even though I’ve now been there twice, I still need to keep my eyes peeled for it so I don’t drive past it.

Drive towards the bay, look left, and it’s just after a petrol station, in a blue double story period building.

Inside, there is a pub with the standard bar, but behind it a small, but warm dining room with white linen table cloths. The first time I went, we were seated in the dining room, which was very comfortable. The second time, we were seated just outside the dining room which wasn’t as comfortable, sort of in a dark  space between the bar and the dining room.

The wine list is approachable and reasonably priced with some pretty good quality drops. There is a selection of around 8 entrees priced around the $20 mark, around 5 mains around the $35 mark, a choice of 5 steaks and three main dishes to share, with a few changing daily specials. The best way to the describe the cuisine would be Modern Australian I guess.. though it is heavily influenced by other cultures such as Italian, or Chinese. Though, I guess that probably is the meaning of Australian cuisine – dishes with inspiration from the best from other cultures to highlight great quality produce. We’re lucky to be Aussies.

Anyways, I digress.

The only entree I tried on the two separate visits I had was the steak tartare.

Steak tartare $20

I have this horrible habit of staring at other peoples dishes shamelessly. During my first visit to the Palace, I noticed that half the tables seemed to be ordering the tartare. Thus, I vowed to order it second time round, however, when I arrived I was devastated to see it was no longer on the menu. My pout turned into a massive grin when the waiter said that the kitchen could make the dish for us.

The steak tartare is chunky tender minced eye fillet mixed with herbs and topped by a quail yolk. This is mixed up, and eaten on mini toasts with your choice of the perfectly quinelled condiments which I believe are minced gherkins, white anchovies, capers, shallots and Dijon mustard. A small bottle of Tabasco accompanied so spice could be added if required. The steak was wondrously soft and the condiments went well to highlight the flavour of the meat.

I’m a big believer of variety is the spice of life, but after my first visit, I had to order the next dish a second time around.

The Chateaubriand.

chateaubriand - in all it's glory

chateaubriand - plated up

The photos really don’t do this dish justice. I fell in lust at first sight, and in love at first bite.

The Chateaubriand consists of 500g (yes, half a kilo, this is why it’s for 2) of tender steak, cooked to order served on top of a bed of brussel sprouts and pancetta lardons, crowned with onion rings and served with bordelaise sauce. Accompanying is potato mash and rocket and parmesan salad.

This dish is as close to perfect as I’ve come in a long time. The steak is wonderful. I’m not the type to order steak unless we’re at a steak restaurant, but i would say this is one of the best steaks I’ve had. Juicy, tender, the accompanying sauce wonderful. My dining companions all claimed they didn’t like brussel sprouts, but I argued that they just hadn’t had well cooked sprouts. A taste of these buttery, perfectly cooked sprouts quickly changed their minds (the fat pancetta lardons accompanying also may have helped sway them). The mash was perfectly smooth and simply divine. And onion rings. Really. Palace – you had me at onion rings. These certainly did not disappoint.

At $42 a head, an absolute bargain, especially considering the quality of the meat and the fact it comes with two sides. It reminds me of a similar dish of a hanger steak for two to share that the Station Hotel in Footscray do, but I prefer this one. Though the one at the Station Hotel is fricken amazing also.

Sadly, I must admit that I went to the Palace a few months ago and I can’t remember the exact components of the next couple of dishes we tried.

jewfish - served with a stew of mussels and prawns

The jewfish was well cooked, the seafood was quite fresh. The dish was good, but not exceptional. I did enjoy it though.

confit duck leg, served on a bed of lentils

I really liked this dish, I am a massive fan of duck though, but it was well cooked and the lentil stew was a great accompaniment.

Excuse the blurriness of the photos of the desserts, I was losing the steadiness of my hands as I increasingly consumed the wonderful wine (who can resist Bass Philip Pinot Noir?!?!)

hot chocolate fondant with cookies and cream - $17

Crème brûlée with almond biscotti - $15

eton mess

The desserts were nice but not amazing. The fondant was wonderfully chocolately, and seeing the chocolate ooze from the pudding is visually orgasmic. The brulee was well flavoured, and the eton mess was a compliment from the kitchen (which I suspect was because we spent a lot of money on wine).

The service was exceptional both times I went. Questions were answered thoughtfully and knowledgeably. I often put myself in the hands of the wait staff, and I hate nothing more than when asking for a recommendation, receiving a response like “I dunno… what do you like,” or worse yet “I don’t know, I haven’t tried them.” There was none of this here, the staff were happy to guide us in our decisions and were very attentive and friendly throughout.

The Age Good Food Guide rates it 14/20.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 9. I think the food is amazing. Each dish is full of well balanced flavours.

Value: 9. For the price you pay, you’ll be hard-pressed to find similar quality. Food is surprisingly well priced for the quality and quantity you get.

Service: 9. Hard to fault.

Atmosphere: 8. The dining room is wonderful. The side part next to the bar is a bit dingy.

Overall: 9. Love this lace. Can’t stop raving about how much I love it. Can’t wait to go back. Best of all, only a 5 minute bike ride from home.

Gastropubs. Win.

Written by glutamatejess

December 8, 2010 at 12:56 am

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

Sunday Lunch at Cutler & Co

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This is a guest post by Jillian Liew, who will hopefully soon be joining our ranks as a regular contributor. The post was originally published at her personal blog. You can also follow Jillian on Twitter.

Cutler & Co.
57 Gertrude St
Fitzroy, 3065
(03) 9419 4888
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Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon

Not like the folks at Cutler need any more publicity and recognition but being awarded the Best Restaurant of the Year in the 2011 Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards and Two Hats by The Age Good Food Guide 2011 are totes more than reason enough for you to make your way there and soon.

My dining partner, A (who runs The MSG) and I made a booking for Cutler’s Sunday lunch special where Andrew McConnell and the talented kitchen staff plan and prepare the day’s menu with a focus on fresh ingredients sourced from the local farmers. The idea is to come in, dine with us, and enjoy a long leisurely lunch with good food and company. The menu consisted of several appetisers and entrees to share, which has been set by the kitchen, followed by your choice of main and dessert. And all that for just $69 pp, which is very reasonable.

We were promptly seated by our host in the dining room area that was decorated with gorgeous light fixtures and some palm trees around as well. I actually quite like the palm trees even though I thought it was a bit off with the rest of the decor but I digress. I ordered an aperol with blood orange drink to start the day off light while A went with a coffee. The waitress explained how the Sunday lunch menu worked and I was suitably impressed and excited with the way things looked and started already.

We started off with fresh Coffin Bay oysters to get our appetites going. It wasn’t the best nor biggest oyster I’ve had (PS: Tasmanian oysters FTW!) but it was a decent palate cleanser.

This was followed by cracked wheat salad, labne and barberries. This starter was rather surprising as I’ve never had cracked wheat before and it reminded me of barley and risotto combined together to make this delightfully light and refreshing dish. We promptly finished this and I would definitely go back for more if I remember the name of this dish in future.

Next was the wood-grilled prawns and celeriac remoulade in a tangy mayo dressing. The prawns was quite good and went well with the salad on the bottom.

The next dish brought out was carrots, walnut cream and shanklish. (PS: I knew you’d want to know what shanklish was.) I really enjoyed this one even though when it arrived at our table, my first thought was, “Eh? Carrots?!?” But when I tasted it, I went, “Mmm, carrots. And yummy yammy paste thing.” The “yammy paste” was actually walnut cream once I managed to get the proper menu names off A. The carrots were beautiful and had a lovely bite, which paired well with the walnut cream and shanklish. The shanklish was peppery and threw me off a bit but I really liked the combination. A hates carrots but had a try because you simply had to, so I had to take it upon myself to finish the dish. Tried as I might, I couldn’t but it remains one of my favourite of the lunch.

By this time, our stomachs were about ready to implode from too much food too early in the day with two more entrees, mains and desserts yet to arrive. A typically Australian breakie choice at most brunch eateries; avocado and spring onions on grilled bread arrived, following that a terrine of pork with a mustard fruit puree. The avo toast was nothing that remarkable but the next time I make it at home, I’m going to add some coriander on it fer shure. A thought that the terrine lacked flavour and tasted bland but with the marmalade, I thought it was good and was texturally fine, just not as awesome as I wanted this terrine to be.

We were given an interval between entrees and mains, which I am so grateful for, and A even more taking a short smoke break. A chose the pork belly and I the duck leg.

The corned duck leg was meltingly tender and crispy breaded skin on the outside which complemented the purple broccoli and creamed leeks. I would have preferred for the leeks to be cooked a little more because it was too toothsome for my liking but paired with the soft duck meat, the dish would have been a textural mess of mush on mush, so I won’t complain too much.

A thought the pork belly was good but the skin a tad less crispy than we liked pork belly skin to be. The cavolo nero and pearl barley were good garnishes to the plate.

Desserts arrived momentarily where I was about ready to fall into a food coma. A chose the Meyer lemon curd, rhubarb and blood orange granita. I decided to go for the Tomme D’Abondance cheese served with apple chutney, which was a slightly better choice because I very nearly went with the chocolate cake and chestnut ice-cream.

The granita was refreshing and a great finish to such a rich meal. I loved the cheese paired with apple chutney and maybe a little mustard seeds eaten with crisp crackers. Not the lightest end to a meal but certainly one of the more memorable ones.

To surmise, I will definitely be making my way back here again for their ala carte dishes at the bar for a different dining experience. I have to say that on a Sunday, the place was full on packed out by 1pm with likewise diners as ourselves who just wanted a relaxing day out. After this meal, I can see why Cutler & Co. are doing remarkably well. With almost perfectly executed dishes, delicious flavours with complementary textures, pleasant service and host, and awesome company, you’ll walk away from this restaurant happily satiated.

Taste: 9/10 – I loved almost every one of the dishes save for a few nitpicks of one or two components of an individual dish. The tastes and textures are unique and allowed me to explore new foods, which I hadn’t tried before this. Definitely would love to return here for their degustation dinner if I can get a booking at maybe some time next year. (Tip: Their weekend dinners are completely booked out til December 2010.)

Ambience: 9/10 – Very casual but keeping in with the fine-dining vibe, I love the restaurant’s design and look of everything. I managed to sneak a peek into their kitchen as we exited and noticed a stuffed duck tacked onto the kitchen wall. A quirky WIN in my book.

Service: 9/10 – The host and wait staff were very pleasant and good-natured with us. The waitress took care to explain the menu and how things ran for the Sunday lunch. The host was attentive but not too overly so that we felt that we were preyed upon

Value: 9/10 – I thought it was great value for the number and variety of dishes we had as I was ready to bust open at the seams of my dress at the end of the meal and go into food coma. The Sunday lunch menu is a more relaxed and more affordable way of getting a taste of what Cutler has to offer. I liken it to crack as I really, really want to return for their degustation dinner after this gastronomical lunch affair.

Overall: 9/10 – Almost perfect execution and excellent service and food. I am tempted to round it up to a 10 but nothing in life is perfect unless you’re eating at El Bulli or The Fat Duck, which both are still a long stretch to call perfect though everyone tries.

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.

Libertine

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500 Victoria Street
North Melbourne VIC 3003

Tel: (03) 9329 5228

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In May, Gem from eat drink stagger got together a group for a Sucking Pig Banquet at Libertine.

Located just around the corner from the bustle of Errol Street lays this charming French restaurant is tucked away between a couple of random shops.

Blink and you could miss it.

Walk inside, and you are welcomed into this elegant dining room by the very refined but friendly staff.

This tiny restaurant is decadent in many ways, from the large gold gilded mirrors, wood-panelled walls, the chandeliers, and the gastronomic delights that are to be had.
This place is so chic, and oh so French.

The Suckling Pig Banquet is available at Libertine for groups of 10 or more. It is served á la Normande with roasted baby vegetables, presented whole and then carved by Nick for $75 per person including a choice of three entrees and three desserts. The restaurant requires a weeks notice pre-pig.

Choice of entrees were; Chevre & potato paupiette with sweet corn basil soup, terrine du jour on toasted sour dough & pear chutney, or Hervey Bay scallops with a forest and mushroom ragout.

Everyone on our table chose either the terrine or the scallops.

The terrine du jour was a venison terrine. It was very appetising, and paired well with the pear chutney it was served with.

The scallops were absolutely devine. I’m so glad I chose this dish – this was my favourite dish consumed on the night. The  scallop was just- cooked, the texture was so perfect and I cannot think of another way to describe it other than ‘bouncy, yet soft.’ The forest mushrooms were a delight, in flavour and again texture, and I’m not sure what the smear of orange sauce was, but it was fricken amazing.

And then.. onto the main event.

The waitress arrived with this pig on a silver platter in all its grandeur.

The pig (although sans pomme to the dismay of some of my companions) almost looked like he had a smile on his face, that he was happy he was sacrificing his little piggy life to be delicious in our bellies.

He was paraded around for a bit of a photo-shoot (with all us foodies and bloggers pulling out our cameras and firing away), then taken back to the kitchen where he was carved and dished up.

Each portion consisted of slabs of pork and crackling served atop creamy mash and a mustard sauce with mustard leaves. The meat was deliciously tender, however the crackling was a bit leathery and tough. That would be my only criticism of this dish,  because it was wickedly heavenly.

In case we needed it, we were also given sides of extra creamy mash and buttered baby veggies.

After the main event, which I do not think any of us were able to finish, dessert was served.

Our choices were;

a passionfruit marshmallow with autum fruit and a seeded shard

a chocolate pave with warm plum mousse and almond crumbs,

and a crème caramel with Calvados, accompanied by herbal tea sorbet.

I chose the marshmallow, which thankfully, as I was already stuffed, was the lightest of the offerings. It was definitely an  interesting dessert, different to anything I’d had before, but in a good way. The flavours were not intense – rather they were quite restrained and highlighted with the wonderful textures – contrasting between the softness of the marshmallow, the tenderness of the fruits and the crunch of the shard.

I had a taste of the other desserts, the chocolate pave was nice however a little “dark” for my liking but would have been loved by anyone who likes intense chocolately flavours. The creme caramel was delightful.

Overall a wonderful night, and many thanks to Gem from eat drink stagger for organising us all together. Can’t wait for the next one Gem!

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Several weeks later, K, my fellow food-enthusiast and I were chatting over drinks and got talking about Boullaibaise night at Libertine.  Both fans of Boullaibaise, well… let’s not fool ourselves, both fans of food with a shared craving for some Boullaibaise, we decided to organise a group together for Boullaibaise night at Libertine. On Wednesday evenings during half the year, Libertine puts together a Boullaibaise for $25. We finally got together a date, and I rang to book, only to be told that they had just had their last Boullaibase night and now that it was winter, Wednesday nights would be cassoulet night.

Disappointed, but not deterred, we decided to do cassoulet night.

On offering is a  traditional Toulouse-style cassoulet for $25, during all Wednesdays in the colder half of the year.

On the specials menu, was an entree of snails. Given that we were in a French restaurant, we could not resist, and six delicate little morsels of snail meat (sans shell unfortunately) were brought, lightly panfried in garlic and butter.

And then onto the main event.

Cassoulet of the night was a confit duck, pork sausage and pork belly served atop a mélange of cannellini beans and vegies.

…and a closeup.

The duck skin was crisp, its meat luxuriously tender, the sausage had wonderful spice. The stew was hearty and filling, perfect for warming our bellies on a cold winter night. The couple of bottles of Pinot we had also helped.  We consumed three bottles between the five of us, two of which included the 2007 Domaine des Nugues from Beaujolais – a wonderful, light, silky wine with nice berry overtones.

We also decided we needed some greens – and ordered buttered brussel sprouts – $8.50

and young beets, fennel & parsley – $8.50.

Brussel sprouts are one of those things that many people hate – and can be bitter and disgusting, but when cooked were are delightful. Libertine did not fail to please.

And although we were stuffed, we couldn’t resist the special souffle of the day – a white chocolate souffle. It was simply perfect – light, fluffy, delcieux.

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Both nights spent in this wonderful little French restaurant were wonderful. Service was impeccible, food was perfect, the wine was wonderful and the company was amazing.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 9. Food is sinfully good. Very rich, but then, live a little.

Value: 9. With mains typically priced around the $35 mark, the $25 cassoulet represents excellent value. Eating a la carte is obviously not as inexpensive, however the food represents excellent produce cooked perfectly.

Service: 9. The wait staff are attentive, very professional yet friendly at the same time.

Atmosphere: 9. Wonderful.

Overall: 9. If you haven’t done it already, gather together some friends and head over to this charming establishment. Love it!

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.

.

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

Attica

with 3 comments

Attica
74 Glen Eira Rd
Ripponlea
(03) 9530 0111
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February marked the departure of one of my very good friends, so to send him off, we decided to take him out for one last supper. He chose the Age Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of the year for 2009, Attica.

Located on the quiet end of a high street in Ripponlea, it’s very easy to to pass this place without realising the magic that happens behind the doors. In fact, our guest of honour parked right in front of it and spent a good ten minutes looking for the place. The dining room is cosy and comfortable, we were seated in the quiet side room next to the entrance.

First to come out was the complementary bread accompanied with;

house-cured butter, tomato relish, almonds and olives.

The relish was delightful. Very addictive, the perfect accompaniment to the house-made bread.  In fact, it was probably a little too nice as some of our dining party struggled to get through some of the ensuing dinner. Great presentation.

We were brought out a petite amuse bouche, of carrots.

amuse bouche with carrot

It  was a very pretty dish but did little to whet the appetite. It didn’t taste of much apart from carrot.

Our first dish, described on the menu simply as ‘snow crab.’

snow crab

snow crab closeup

Threads of blue swimmer crab, dotted with puffed rice and salmon roe resting underneath a liberal dusting of horse-radish snow. Well, not so much dusting, perhaps a better description would be an avalanche of snow.

This dish was delicious;  a real texture and flavour explosion; the delicate tender pieces of snow crab contrasted with the cool, punchy horseradish snow, the puffed rice adding texture and then finished off with little explosions as the salmon roe popped in your mouths.

Peas entailed..

young peas, grains and natural pea juices

A couple of dining companions didn’t quite get this dish, they thought it was strange to have a dish of just peas. But my, when you can make peas into peas, you can really impress me. To take something so simple, but make it into something so refined, with a wonderful mini-explosion of textures and flavours, this dish is a tribute to good produce. I can’t remember exactly what else was in the dish, but there were quinoa grains.

Our next vegetable dish; potato.

a simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown

The potato had been slow-cooked for 13 hours in a combination of roasting and steaming, it sat on a dollop of sour cream and a pile of salt-bush leaves and coconut husk ash.

This dish again divided our party. Some really liked it, whilst I didn’t. It sounded and looked impressive, an smelt amazing. We all raised our eyebrows knowing that this potato had been slow-cooked for thirteen hours. I think this dish showed me that potato did not need to be cooked for thirteen hours. It made the texture somewhat chewy and gluggy.

Moving away from the vegetables into the ocean..

bass groper, garlic, rosemary

A beautifully cooked fillet of fish, as with all the other dishes of the night presented beautifully, but also smelt amazing due to the liberal use of garlic chips and sprinkling of rosemary. Perfect. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life. This was one of my favourites of the night

And then onto some meat..

beef, sour milk jam, dandelion salt, witlof

I can’t remember what cut of beef this was, I think it was rump? It was slow roasted, and cooked to medium. I loved the witlof in this dish, it was beautifully caramelised. It was also accompanied by some  mushrooms. Another favourite of the party.

Pork followed,

pork loin, morcilla, wild fennel pollen

A fillet of slow cooked pork loin, sprinkled with fennel seeds and pollen ? There were so many components of this dish (as with all the other dishes), the black ball in the front was a delicious black pudding; encased in a delicious crust, the insides melting in your mouth. Very mild for a black pudding. This was accompanied by a shelled out cucumber filled with some greenery, which was ok. Dotted in the middle was a delicious apple cider gel produced from pink lady apples. A fantastic dish.

The next dish tied the savoury dishes to the sweet dishes.

terroir

Terroir, or French for “earth bridged the salty to the sweets with the combination of a carefully chosen range of mild flavours from the sweet and savoury spectrum.

The “soil” was composed of fresh and dehydrated berries and beetroot, with the “leaves” composed of a granita of sorrel leaves.

smashed terroir

Underneath the soil, was a citrusy fromage frais sorbet and I believe some of the other components were avocado oil jelly, kiwi fruit and white pepper. A bizarre combination, our waitress advised us that eating the dish in parts was not advised; they really need to be combined together for the full effect. So we ‘smashed’ our terroir and mushed it together.

A cool, refreshing dish, lovely to refresh the palette tempting the taste buds for more sugary delights to come. I really liked this dish, definately different, but well thought out with each element carefully selected to excite the taste-buds.

Our final dish, our dessert, the violet crumble.

violet crumble

A triumphant end to a stunning meal, in the centre a delightful ball of ice-cream literally made with violet flowers. It sits above a pile of smashed honeycomb and a river of caramel, then dusted with a chocolate powder. Brilliant, each component unique in flavour, but lovely as it is mashed together, with the chocolate powder melting through to lift the other flavours through. Love it.

Taste: 9/10. Wonderfully thought out dishes, each one obviously with extreme care and effort. Some flavour combinations did not work, but most were stunning.

Value: 7/10. Tricky one to score. It was a very expensive meal, and I certainly wouldn’t be going there if you were starving. The food was filling, but it wasn’t the type of food to stuff you. It was more about the experience, the tastes, rather that to sate.
Ambiance: 8/10. Nice fine dining restaurant.
Service: 9/10. Attentive and friendly. The dishes came slowly, but were well timed.
Overall: 9/10. A dining experience. Brilliant.


This post’s for you Jason. Miss you already. xo

Written by glutamatejess

February 28, 2010 at 11:42 am