Monday, September 08, 2014

Brooks (Melbourne CBD) 09/2014

We used to come to this subterranean venue when it was the home of Mo Mo's. It is physically little changed but it seems to be lighter and brighter. There is a large shield near the entrance which looks like a tribute to produce and industry, but apparently is the symbol of Melbourne. 

Next to that is a glass fronted cabinet displaying drying Waghu

hanging above pots of edible greens. 

Beyond that there is an open kitchen 

opposite a large and very well stocked bar. 

The drinks menu takes about 30 pages and is distinguished by a wide variety of very reasonably priced Australian and International wines. Decor is generally attractive and low key. 

Tables are set simply with white cloths and linen napkins.

Service was efficient and unobtrusive and information about wines was accurate. 
Weekdays there is an a la carte menu and a degustation menu but on Saturday's only a seven course degustation menu is available ($140 with wines $60, but there are plenty by the glass around $12 to $16)
It was Saturday so we happily had the seasonal tasting menu starting with several little appetizers - Smoked quail eggs had a nice smoky aroma, the whites were firm and the yolks soft and runny.

Next came a crispy rice biscuit with a dob of quite mild Vegemite 

and then one of Chef Nicholas Poelart's specials, nettle and goat curd pillows with a rhubarb jam. Served on a square of turf it was a striking presentation and achieved a appealing combination, of course the turf is just for appearances.

The first course was hand caught squid, finger lime, verbena and ink, roe, leeks. As with virtually every dish this was an artistic presentation, this time in black and white. The outstanding feature was it's delicacy and the textural variations with little pops taste when the roe fractured in the mouth. A great start.

Meli Melo of vegetables, herbs and flowers was classical Poelart. Pretty as a picture, 

full of varied tastes and textures, the plate still looked like abstract art after the food was gone. 

Just gorgeous.
Cured trumpeter, a New Zealand fish, yoghurt, foie gras, oysters, dill came next, I found this a little bland.

Braised Waghu beef, spring honey cabbage,fermented garlic, green salt. was another  tender and tasty dish. The Waghu was intercostal muscle (from between the ribs) which, we were told, had been cooked sous vide at 70 degrees for about 60 hours. I can not imagine that 30 hours would have done just as well. Regardless it was superb although it did not have the amount of fat one gets in a Waghu porterhouse, which we both find exceptionally appealing.

The last main course was Flinders Island milk fed lamb, peas and mint had only been cooked, our waiter told us, sous vide over night at 60 degrees. Another very pleasing dish, despite looking similar to the Waghu the taste and texture were totally different.

Fromage frais, parsley, sorrel was a total surprise that worked really well.

The final dessert course was brown rice, miso ice cream, macadamia rice pudding, milk skin. These are very unusual desserts. Some might like their desserts sweeter than these but I found them a welcome change.

Two wines stood out a1999 Jim Barry Riesling which has just been released. This had a complex flavour that was extremely well matched with the the Meli Melo. The other wine that we both particularly liked came with the lamb. This was Telmo Rodriguez 'M2 de Matallana' Tempranillo, 2008- Ribera del Duera, Spain. It did disappoint me that this wine costs about $62 a bottle retail but is sold here for $26/ glass. This amounts to a 150% mark up!
We found this to be an adventurous meal, full of surprises. Beautifully and artistically  presented it was exciting to the senses, you could say a sensational meal. The menu changes gradually with new dishes every few weeks so, in a few months we'll try and get back for something which we anticipate will be new and exciting.
Score 16/20

Monday, September 01, 2014

Jatt Flava (Brisbane) 09/2014

To open a restaurant in an area packed with restaurants may help attract customers or it may provide so many alternatives that it might just lead to a paucity of diners. Jatt Flava, which apparently means farmers tastes, or perhaps peasant flavours, is surrounded by various ethnic competitors and seems to be doing very well. Thai, 





it's all within a stones throw in this little mall called Brunswick Central at 421 Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley. 

 Jatt is a very simplly furnished place with a distinctly  Indian cafe flavour. The plasticized table cloths, 

the shape of the chairs and the wall decor 

 all say this is a suburban Indian restaurant. 
Fully licenced it has a small wine list.

The food menu however is extensive with very good variety of mild to very spicy dishes. Serves are good size and inexpensive.
Butter chicken was a nice example $16.5 or $14.5 take away it had an excellent slightly sweet flavour.  

It came with a lovely crisp chaupati.

$3 more bought a slightly under cooked naan. 

They also offer extremely cheap take away specials and eat in banque

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Estelle (Northcote) 07/2014

We have been greatly restricted by extensive home renovations limiting our restaurant excursions to brief local outings for months now but an opportunity to have an eight course degustation long lunch on Sunday cooked by a team under the guiding hands of Scott Pickett and Philippe Mouchel was too good to miss. Mouchel came to notice more than 30 years ago as sous chef for Paul Bocuse and, after Bocuse's restaurant at Daimaru closed, continued to run his own restaurants at Crown Casino and PM24 in the CBD. His cooking is modern French which fits well with Scott, who had previously worked with him as "protege and mentor" at three restaurants.
Estelle looks much the same as it did last time we visited. Walls are tiled, I think by an impecunious  student paying his way throughUniversity. They are reminiscent of our bathroom in the sixties. Very retro.
Bare wood tables in side, white clothed tables

in the covered outside area with plant boxes along the walls.

Toilets are clean and neat with a live flower and plant arrangement

We elected to have the eight course menu ($150) with both the premium ($150) and the standard ($80) matched wines.
A delicate amuse bouche small cheese filled gougeres and a finger of biscuit base with foie gras with a streak of ?strawberry jam and a crunchy topping made a pleasing start.

The first course, a Paul Bocuse truffle soup created in 1978 was served in a tiny cup topped with a light buttery puff pastry which retained all the flavour and taste of the soup.
The NV Medot Brut Tradition, Epernay, France was a mild rather undistinguished champagne with very light yeastiness. Not a favourite for me.
Spanner Crab Mornay had a touch of chili in the very creamy cheese sauce. Unfortunately these two elements totally overwhelmed the delicate crab.

The 2012 Mader Reisling, Alsace, France was light and dry and could not be compared to the Alsatian 2009 Albert Boxler 'Sommerberg' Grand Cru Reisling which offered a rich complexity.
Confit Salmon, spring onion compote, salmon caviar, vinaigrette was the opposite to the previous dish in delicacy and finesse. My friend Neil remarked that he could do with a whole plate of that and I heartily agree. Adorned with a little edible succulent and a few thin slices of spring onion and surrounded by little dollops of lemon and lime it could not have been better, only bigger!

 Once again the premium 2012 Gangloff Saint Joseph, Rhone, France topped the 2012 Bird on a Wire, Yarra Valley, Victoria although neither of these wines had great appeal to me.
Barramundi, gnocchi, mushrooms and Chardonnay jus was another beautifully prepared and presented dish. It was handled with gentleness, the sauce perfect, the gnocchi soft. It was the sort of dish that makes MasterChef judges like their lips. Yum.

Served with a 2010 Chestnut Hill Chardonnay, Mt.Burnett, Victoria, the premium offering, 2010 Domaine Chandon de Brailles Corton Grand Cru, Burgundy, France again turned out to be the preferred pairing.
Next we got away from the surf to the turf with roast breast and confit leg of duck, burnt orange and navet, the French name for turnip. Only positive things to say here. It looks beaut and it was.

Sher wagyu, black truffle & heirlooom carrot was the last main course. It was nicely presented but if truffle and waghu were to be the hero's of this dish they did not quite make it. The waghu had none of the character that I expect of this meat. I doubt that there was ever much marbling and in the end it could have been any reasonable piece of beef.  There was plenty of shaved truffle but, somewhere along the way it had lost most of it's distinguishing aroma. For all that it was an enjoyable dish.

Best of all was the 2003 Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol, Bordeax, France. For me this was the best wine of the night. It had aged beautifully producing a superb mellow wine.
Pear gratin, hazelnut & praline was the first dessert. So very good we were prepared to pay extra for a second serve but our waiter provided it gratis.

The wines on offer here were from the Loire. A 2011 Baumard Coteaux au Layon and a heavier more complex 2009 Baumard Quarts de Chaume.
The final dessert Quince, pain d'epice & Sauterne had a little too much sweetness for me.
It came with Sauterne a 2010 Carmes de Rieussec or the premium 2005 Chareau Coutet.
Although we had not, at that stage, ordered coffee we were presented with a small platter of petit fours. The apple jelly was particularly appealing.

 In all we had a great afternoon in a most pleasant environment with mostly fine food and well matched wine. I would highly recommend Estelle. For us it is a destination restaurant.
Score:16 /20

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Anada (Fitzroy) 05/2014

As patrons of this restaurant we paid for our meal and have no relationship with the proprietors and are unaware of any conflict of interest.

This tiny restaurant 
offered us either 6.00 pm or 8.15 pm seating for dinner on Friday night to make sure they could get two full services for the night which did not suit but we wanted to go so we turned up punctually for the first sitting. Service was pleasant and we had no trouble finishing our meal on time. Great chunks of very crusty moorish sourdough bread with olive oil were irresistible.

The menu is split between Tapas and larger serves, Raciones. There is a reasonable list of Spanish and Australian wines by the glass or bottle but no French wines, including champagne, at all and no BYO accepted. We did enjoy their last bottle of 2011 Don Ramon Granache Tempranillo  ($44) which was a light smooth inoffensive red. A large blackboard announces their sherries.

Tables are bare and very close to each other but the noise level was low.

We started with tapas. Sobrasada bomba were  meat balls wrapped in something like mashed potato and deep fried. There was a smear of yoghurt and a spicy sauce on the plate. A coarse but pleasant dish. ($14)

 Charred eggplant with yoghurt & pomegranate was also pretty unrefined. The difference between charred and burned is a bit academic. These tended towards the latter. ($14)

I am a fan of cauliflower and this dish, fried cauliflower with hummus and flat bread, did not disappoint. ($14.50)

Prawn & calamari fideos, Spanish for spaghetti, was the dish of the night. The calamari as tender as you could want, the prawns so crisp they could be eaten from head to tail without the prawn meat being too dry and the thin pasta a fine accompaniment. ($18)

Chermoula chicken with bulgar & sumac is quite a spicy dish. It was OK but did not greatly appeal. ($18)

If the chicken was a little spicy the slow cooked pork shoulder with almond picada was totally bland. The shoulder had been well cooked and was very tender but I would never have it there again.

The dessert tasting plate, ($25 for two) was very nice although I could taste nothing in the Pedro Ximenez & muscatel ice cream of the Pedro Ximenez in the ice cream. The churros with bitter sweet chocolate were very good and the rest of the plate, pomegranate and orange blossom sorbet with sugared pistachios, crema Catalana, poached quince, honey labneh, hazlenuts was interesting without being of particular distinction. 

A single serve of crema Catalan ($12) had very creamy custard.
The success of this place is because of a combination of being at the right place at the right time and creating a pleasant bistro style atmosphere.
Score: 13.5/20