Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ocha (Hawthorn) 04/2014

We have not been to Ocha for a year or so and were pleased to find it unchanged. 

Rather than selecting our own dishes we had the chef provide whatever he felt appropriate, as long as there was no chili!
The result was a very pleasant meal.
We were offered a small amuse bouche of mashed potato with something in it giving a nice textural variation.

This was followed by oysters - one lot in a ponzu sauce and the others in a vinaigrette sauce. Both very good but the ponzu were preferred.

Next we got some salmon rillette on a taco. Very simple and delicate. Lovely.

A sushi plate that followed was fairly standard. I find it irritating that, with a table of four most of the sushi came in sets of three so someone always had to miss something or there would be a problem dividing up the sushi, especially with chopsticks!

Calamari, on a bed of rocket with another simple dressing was yet another very simple but very good dish.

 The next dish was delicious, duck breast with bock choy, a sort of variation on Peking duck, it was accompanied by a light sauce and was tender, tasty and almost melted in the mouth.

The dish of the night, for me, was the not too blackened cod fish. It was perfect. Nothing more to say about it.

We also thoroughly enjoyed the 'Gold Leaf' Saki ($10.5 for 175 ml) and Tattinger champagne ($22 a glass), and MOMO, Marlborough Pinot Noir. All this came to about $90/person. Had we had desserts it would have added $16.5.
This was a meal distinguished by it's simplicity presenting very fine, uncomplicated dishes
utilizing the very best of ingredients. I would have liked a bit more variation in the salads which were dominated by rocket and vinaigrette dressing.
 Score:15.5 /20

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Treehouse (Balaclava) 04/2014

 Formerly the Ugly Sisters this reborn cafe/restaurant serves basic food in a shabby chic, more shabby than chic, environment.

I think it likely that the fact that perhaps hundreds of back packers live in squalid conditions with awful conditions for cooking, within a few kilometres of this spot helps maintain it's popularity.
We enjoyed a casual hamburger and chips but they have plenty of competition around here for this style of food.

 Probably their bar

 and prices

 and good coffee keep the patrons coming.
Score:13 /20

Borsari Restorante (Carlton) 03/2014 03/2014

Nino Borsari was a legend in the Melbourne Italian community having won a gold medal at the 1932 Olympic games as a pursuit cyclist he settled here and became a huge supporter of the Italian community. He opened a bike shop at what came to be known as Borsari Corner which later became a restaurant which has served authentic Italian cuisine for over 40 years.
Nino may be gone but memories of him and his activities line the walls of the restaurant and it is well worth taking a few minutes to look at some of the highlights of his life.

The restaurant now has an enclosed street side eating area as well as a white clothed, slightly more formal dining area.

The menu is very Italian. Pasta and veal dominate although there are plenty of other options. An attractive option is a three course menu for $52 which effectively offers choices off the a la carte menu.
We tried the antipasti vari. I expected a variety of meats but only one, though plenty of it, a very good ham accompanied by some peppers, rocket, a hard boiled egg and some pickled cucumber. Totally unexpected but a very decent  serve of good food.

A scampi avocado salad was reminiscent of a prawn cocktail, so popular years ago. This would not have added to their reputation.

Fetuccini primavera with Milawa cheese, tomato and parmigano, as an entree was classical Italian.
   Our mains were varieties of veal. Each presented on a mashed potato base and a small amount of seasonal vegetables looked extremely similar to each other and, in fact, despite the different ingredients, did not taste all that dis similar either!
Scallopine Milanese
Milk-fed veal pan-fried with basil, tomato, marsanne wine & gratinated with ham & bocconcini cheese,
 Scallopine alla Genovese
Tender baby veal panfried with basil sauce white wine cream and pine nuts,
Scallopine al Vino Secco
Milk-fed veal pan-fried to perfection with prawns in a dry wine & fresh butter sauce.
Desserts were distinguished by their size!
Tiramisu was too much even for two.
Gelato Misto
assortment of gelati held no surprises.
Cheese cake was served with a pistachio ice cream - I'd try the strudel next time.
 In summary solid domestic style typical Italian food. Plenty to eat efficiently served in comfortable surroundings by knowledgeable waiters.

Score:13.5 /20

Pope Joan (Brunswick East) 04/2014

 We paid for our meal and have no relationship with Pope Joan or Colin Fassnidge and are unaware of any conflict of interest.
Starting as a breakfast and lunch cafe a few years ago Pope Joan expanded into the next house, opened up a court yard garden, and began to operate as a restaurant. It remains extremely popular.
On this occasion Books for Cooks organized a promotion of spunky chef Colin Fassnidge's latest book with a four course dinner and matched wines.

Fassnidges reputation has been growing rapidly with his appearances as a guest judge on the TV cooking show My Kitchen Rules. It is likely to be further enhanced if he takes over from Peter Evans who is leaving the show at the end of this series.
We arrived too early and had a pre dinner drink at the bar and a serve of crinkly cut chips with ketchup. These proved to be excessively salty and we were pleased when the barman had them replaced.

Eventually we got to our table and the first course arrived. Crispy ham and cheese balls, mustard and creme fraiche. Excellent when hot and crisp the mustard added an extra dimension to the taste. We were pleased to be offered a second round though they were not quite as good as the first lot. The accompanying Los Hernandos 'Saludo al'Txakoli, 2012 was an extremely pleasant wine and a good match.

This was followed by three starters; smoked eel and Beetroots a good combination of tastes and textures,

Tuna 'Bresaola', buttermilk curd & celery, which I enjoyed,

and a fresh fennel, pea, fetta and yoghurt salad which looked nice but was rather tasteless.

Crittendon Estate Fume Blanc, 2013 would be welcome with any salad. 
Bread was very sweet, served with creamed butter.

The main course, described as confit lamb breast, miso eggplant puree & red pepper jam was very disappointing. Far from being a nice piece of lamb the meat was shredded, wrapped in crumbs and dry. The eggplant was not a puree but a tiny wedge. This was a meal that Fassnidge would have been very critical of it had been served to him by an amateur MKR contestant.  The side serve of 2 hour cooked buttered baby leeks and lettuce & lovage certainly did not stand out as a chef's dish.
Los Hermanos 'Homenaje'Garnacha/Mataro/Tempranillo 2012 was a soft and gentle wine low in acid and tanin. Although it was pleasant enough the lamb could have done with a heavier Shiraz style wine.

Dessert, lemon verbena parfait, apple and ginger, honeycomb was lovely, perhaps the best thing at the dinner. A sauterne would have been great but Crittendon Estate'Pinocchio' Moscato, 2013 was a benign acceptable sweet wine.

 Score:13.25 /20

Monday, March 10, 2014

Southbank Grill (Townsville) 03/2014

I paid for my dinner and have no conflicting interests. Although I am a Rydges Priority Guest, as a non hotel resident, they refused to give me the 20% off the food and wine bill that they normally offer!

Feeling a bit peckish after my meal at Dynasty I decided to try something very different. Southbank Grill is attached to Rydges.  It is not only a meat restaurant but it is really a bistro style steak house.
It occupies a simple room with bare tables. Quite unpretentious.

Service was pleasant and efficient. 
I was pleasantly surprised to be offered an amuse bouche, a smoked salmon pate made with Brie on a slice of cucumber. Something easy to do at home and very nice.
I took the opportunity to order a very very rare Kangaroo loin (300 gm for $30), which included my choice of sauce and a side dish.

It came exactly as ordered

with the red wine jus in a small pot and a little edible micro salad decoration. The jus was excellent, not over reduced, and really added to the taste of the dish. 

A side dish of beer battered chips, normally $5 was enough for two. Obviously hand cut they were also excellent.

They also make their desserts (all $15 ) in house but I was tuckered out by now.  
Score: 15/20

Dynasty (Townsville) 03/2014

Evidently I should begin by informing readers that I paid for my dinner and have no conflicting interests. This applies to almost evert restaurant at which I eat, or dine if you prefer that term, although, occasionally I have had a glass of wine or a dessert which has not been noted on my bill!

When you visit a town with which you are not familiar it is a common practice to ask people where they recommend for a good meal, to search sites like UrbanSpoon and Trip Adviser, Yelp, Google or whatever. That was how I found myself at Dynasty, a Chinese restaurant distinguished by a surprising number of very positive and very negative reviews. The other major influence was that it was Monday night and other places I might have chosen were closed. It was a short walk from where I was staying, on Palmer St., which is packed with one restaurant after the next, interspersed with pubs, all offering food from cheap to expensive and mundane to unusual.
Dynasty is a split level place in a large room. White clothed reasonably spaced tables would seat about 50 to 60 patrons.

It is very Chinese in decor, from the floor 

to the ceiling.  

and everywhere in between.

The menu is extensive. They specialize in lobster and crabs. Either there is a lot of money for discretionary spending in Townsville or there is no competition for Dynasty because the prices for their crabs and lobster are startling - about $79 and $159/ Kilo respectively and other dishes are all at the high end. Oysters were reasonable but plain rice $8.5 is a shocker.
I chose the Dynasty spring rolls . Six finger length rolls in a crisp fine pastry served with a slightly astringent sauce could not have been better, ($12). My waiter was pleased and told me that clients had told him that his restaurant was up there with the Flower Drum!  

My next course, a chef's special, Phoenix Chicken, ($33) is a copy of chicken in a birds nest but uses a potato basket instead. This is a conglomeration of vegetables,\; snow peas, mushroom, carrot, broccoli, lettuce, water chestnut and corn and thin slices of chicken breast and scallops all in a light oyster sauce. This was a less than ordinary dish. The potato basket was burnt and inedible and the burnt taste had seeped into the rest of the food. 

The vegetables were cut very unevenly and the broccoli was very coarsely cut.

The waiter explained that people don't eat the basket!! Prepared like this I'm sure they wouldn't. No self respecting chef would send a dish out like that.
They had a selection of wines by the glass from $9.5 to $15. I rejected a Wirra Wirra shiraz that had been open for a few days and another bottle was opened for me which was very good. 
People at an adjacent table told me that they loved the place and to some extent I may have been a little unlucky but I am confident that the Flower Drum is not under any threat from Townsville's finest    Score:13.25 /20