MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Posts Tagged ‘duck

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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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.

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Old Kingdom

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Old Kingdom

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197 Smith St, Fitzroy  3065
Ph: 9417 2438‎

Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm, 5pm-10.30pm
Sat-Sun 5pm-11.30pm. (Dinner seatings at 6pm and 8pm only)

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“Hi I’d like to make a booking for Saturday night.”

“6pm or 8pm” barks the answer on the phone.

“6 please.”

“How many people.”

“4”

“How many duck.”

Everyone that is familiar with Old Kingdom will be familiar with this ritual; You ring, you order the amount of duck. A good rule of thumb is one duck for two-three people, depending on how much duck you can handle.

Located in the middle of Smith Street, this place has become an institution for peking duck.

Prior visits, we have ordered other things on the menu, but we have since learnt that despite the large menu, there is no point. Everything else is average at best.  We, as most other people in the restaurant just opted for the duck banquet.

The duck banquet consists of a three course meal for $55.

The first course, the whole duck (minus the head) is brought out and presented to you, glistening in all it’s glory.

The duck man holds the duck in one hand, and in the other a cleaver to carve the shiny duck skin for you.

These pieces are then rolled in a thin pancake, with some pickled cucumber and radish and rolled in hoisin duck sauce.

The rest of the meat is cooked in a stir-fry with spring onions and bean shoots.

And the bones are used for a soup with tofu and vegetables.

*Looks* amazing right? Unfortunately, Old Kingdom has changed ownership in the past couple of years and it is not what it used to be. The duck skin is not delicately crispy as it used to be, rather it is just hard and seems fried rather than roasted. The stir-fry is overly oily, and the  soup had a hint of ‘dirty-dish-water’ flavoured with MSG. The famous ‘duck-nazi’ is gone, who used to dictate and tell you how to roll your peking duck pancakes, and the kid that carved our duck for us did it quickly and robotically.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 4. Such a let-down. A lot to live up to as past visits had always been nothing short of delicious.

Value: 4. Peking duck is notoriously expensive, this however was a poor example of it. Each additional pancake is $2. As if.

Service: 4. They just didn’t care.

Atmosphere: 4. The restaurant was cold. The most fun thing about this place is that everyone else is eating the Peking Duck.

Overall: 4. So disappointing, as prior visits had always left me full and satisfied, and I had always claimed that Old Kingdom was the best peking duck place in Melbourne for excellent value. the only saving grace is that corkage is still $2 a head, so our dining party at least were able to enjoy some nice Pinot Noir with our duck.

Such a let down – left me craving Peking Duck more, as it did not fulfill my Peking Duck cravings. So, leaves me with the question – Where is the best Peking Duck in Melbourne?

Written by glutamatejess

May 26, 2010 at 8:20 am