Saturday, August 25, 2007

More from 'The Editor'

What a strange thing this Sydney/Melbourne thng is. Gourmet Traveller 2008 Australian Restaurant Guide has just come out with TEN 3 star Sydney restaurants and only ONE in Melbourne (and not any in the rest of Australia!)
I've had the pleasure of eating at a few of these establishments, including Pier and whilst I don't disagree with their fine ratings I do think they are extremely Sydneycentric
Despite Victorian restaurants having picked up a swag of awards they seem to me to be sadly under rated and a very uneven selection.
Some examples Isthmu of Kra doesn't get a mention, nor does Fenix which is ridiculous in my view. Mercers, which was there a few years ago s dropped out - they deserve to be there. I wold certainly put Orita or Akita in before Bar Lourinha and how did Gingerboy get in in front of them?? Flower Drum is largely living on its reutation it is good but terribly dull whilst Lau's Family Ktchen is surely only there because of Gilbert Lau's reputation. The food there is also good but the menu is extremely limited.

What we realy need in Victoria is the equivalent of the American Zagat Guide. Over 300.000 patrons offer their opinions on restaurants!
Am I right or am I wrong?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Special Events ...... Les Toques Blanche................La Chaine at Matteos

Les Toques Blanche

I was exceptionally pleased to atend the 17th Annual Grand Gala Dinner of Les Toques Blanche - the white hats. This is the name of an organization of executive chef's. Currently under the presidency of Massimo d'Lucca it has some 120 members. Executive chefs include largely unheard of chefs of major corporations, law firms and so forth.
Some 500 formally dressed guests were entertained at the Regent's Plaza ballroom with a pot pourie of pieces from the Phantom of the Opera - the theme of the evening.
On arrival we were offered a 2001Clover Hill Blanc de Blanc bubbly or a 2006 Buddha's wine rose.
On entering the ballroom we found a variety of masks at our places. Each table was adorned with a centrepiece- a foot square cube of ice in the centre of which was a half mask, phantom style, and a rose.

The meal began with 'Phantom Intimacy' four delights. A South Australian oyster with champagne vinegar and shallot dressing, a prawn cocktail on a fine onion, tomato and cucumber salsa, a seared scallop on a pea puree with lemon oil and a winter salad. this was accompanied by a 2001 White Box Heathcote Voignier or a Buddha's 2004Sangiovese if you preferred
A great start to the night

The next entree was a duck conft with porcini mushroom agnolotto, in a pinot noir reduction. Another outstanding dish.
The main course was oven roasted crusted lamb with mint eggplant caviar, potatosubric and piquant sauce accompanied by the best wine of the night a 2005 White Box Heathcote Shiraz Voignier.

A cheese platter preceded the Plaza Ballroom dessert Symphony - a mini ginger and roast cardomon creme brulee, a dark/white chocolate truffle mousse, a fine sauterne jelly with berry fruits and an almond strawberry tart with gold leaf.

It is indeed a rare event to get excellent food in a party of 500. I hope to be able to try it again next year

La Chaine des Rotisseurs

Matteo's new chef, Brendan McQueen produced an outstanding meal accompanied by well maching wines selected by wine master Peter Millington.

Starting with a large Pacific oyster with a cucumber and salmon caviar salsa and a Louis Roderer Brut Premier NV Champaigne the meal continued with Antipaso di Pesce a superb tasting .trilogy consisting of a lightly cured Carpaccio of Hiramasu Kingfish, prawn remoulade, a seared scallop, 'baccala' salt cod brandade and a smoked eel on a coddled egg salad. This was accompanied by a 2006 Bollini Pinot Grigio from the Nth East of Italy.
An absolutely outstanding very large forest mushroom raviolo with sauteed cavolo nero, chestnuts and Porchini mushroom sauce was served with a 2004 Felsina Chianti Classico a heavier chianti than most matching the strong tasting raviolo

The main course 'Osso bucco' style braised veal shank in crepinette with bone marrow dumpling, roasted parsnip puree and slow roasted cherry tomatoes was also outstanding and was well matched with a Poderi Colla Barbera d'Alba 2005 red
It appears that the wine was affecting my focus!

The dessert of poached beurre Bosc pear, Zablaglone and pistachio biscotti with a lovely Vin Santo Vigna del Papa was a fine finale with a double strength long black for the road!
A memorable meal
Whilst these dishes are not on the regular Matteo's menu the do serve variations of themand it will not be too long before I return to again try McQueens' fine fare

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Introduction: A culinary institution at 30 Jacka Boulevarde, St. Kilda Ph 9525 5555. It has a casual downstairs bar and restaurant and a more upmarket upstairs dining room.
Ambience: Feels like quality but not excessively refined. The ultra modern chandeliers made from plastic dinner implements that have been heated and twisted contrast with the art work - rather naive Tahitian stuff roughly in the style of Paul Gaugin the French stockbrocker turned artist (could a few more of them please do that too?)

Service: Very professional

Food: Despite several changes of head chef over the last four years every review I've read has been rapturous about the food, and the service and the venue. Well the venue is as attractive as ever - great views across the bay, white table cloths and linen serviettes, an open airy and clearly refined establishment. The sevice is as above and the food - well I have only good things to say about it. Entrees, mains and desserts were as good as they get. Italian inspired international.

Mussels in a light creamy soup, not too salty, with just the right amount of wine were a great start. The pork loin with slow cooked pork neck was beautifully prepared and presented with taste to match. The fillet of John Dory did nothing to diminish the reputation of the chef.
Desserts were to die for. The lemon tart delicate and mouth wateringly yummy.
Wine: Extensive but not necessarily expensive list with an adequate variety by the glass

Price: Not much more than at many far less impressive places. Around $40 for mains

Comments: Not only can you enjoy the food but the scenary often includes more than the bay - good place for celebrity spotting however Eddie McGuire and Sonia McMahon both failed to notice me!

Score: 16.5/20

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Editors comment

When I started this blog about 2 and 1/2 years ago, it was with the idea that it would provide me with an aide memoire of the many restaurants that I go to. It would act as a record and a diary.
It soon changed.
I began to feel that there was something missing from food journalism as represented in our daily newspapers and food magazines. There were a relatively few people who had become , I'd like to say, because I just thought of it, the gurus of gluttony. The rest of us, you and me, never get a look in. What's more the opinions I was reading were quite often well wide of what I and my friends thought but there was never any opportunity to say so, so God bless the internet. It's not that the food press is all that bad but it's off a very narrow base and the central characters have barely changed in 10 years
The next stage was for me to not only write my reviews but also to invite opinions, and reviews from any one who might care to make an offering.
As with the other blogs that I've come across there is no commercial aspect to this it's just for information and fun. It would be great to get some more input from you all
Now who knows what those who read these blogs are really interested in. That's a question that I'd love answered because I would be delighted to tailor my blog to make it more appealing and at the same time, hopefully, get a lot more views about a lot more restaurants.
How about it

Jamon Sushi

Charles at work

Introduction: This is a specialist tiny sushi restaurant at 3 Murphy St, South Yarra Ph 98045710
This is a unique one man show. Working behind a small bar which seats about 7 patrons Charles, the chef acts as artist/cook, teacher, philosopher and host. He has a passion for what he does producing wonderful sushi combinations.
The service is slow and the Japanese waitresses difficult to understand but patience is rewarded
Food: Jamon prides itself on 'fresh today' Rather than a menu there is a list of Ocean (seafood) and Earth (vegetables). The dishes are combinations of both designed to be pleasing to look at and provide interesting textures and tastes.
Here is a list of the products we had
oysters, 'coffin bay' and octopus, (sa), yellowfin tuna and swordfish (nsw), ocean trout (tas), king prawns (qld), squid (vic), 'unagi' grilled eel and 'tobiko' flying fish caviar (japan) and 'ikura' almon caviar
fresh wasabi root, mushrooms - shimeji, shitake, fungus, portobello, swiss browns, enoki, oyster, japanese snow mushrooms, okra zucchini, daikon, snow peas, ch. brocolli, whitlof, sugar peas, konbu & wakame seaweed (japan) 'takuan'- pickled daikon, asparagus, 'kimichi' -sw chilli pickled ch. cabbage, 'oshinko' - japanese pickles and nashi fruit
There are no commercial sauces used
It is not appropriate to go through these delights dish by dish instead I have put in a few photographs. My apologies about their quality.

I would however highlight 2 specially intertesting items - the dashi a fantstic broth made from the heads of prawn and the exquisite textural and taste sensation from the lightly poached snow mushroom
Wine: There is a small list available by the glass or bottle. We enjoyed a chianti (Peppolo I think) and a William Fevre Chablis

Price: Four degustations snack, regular deluxe and gourmet range from $35 to $140. The major determinants of the price are the number of courses and the amount of effort in the design and presentation of the food.

Comments: Charles is a purist and eating at Jambon is all about the interface between the patron, the chef and the finest and freshest available produce. Individually dishes served moments after they have been expertly prepared can never be matched by large restaurants. No commercial sushi comes within cooee of Jambon
Score: 16.5/20

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Horn

Introduction: An African Cafe Music Lounge at 20 Johnston St. Collingwood. Opened less than a month ago by Peter, a professional saxophonist, and his wife Enushu a singer, this is my second experience of Ethiopian food.
Ambience: This is a very small restaurant and would vary in ambience considerably depending on the clientelle. Simply furnished with plain small wooden tables that can be pushed together for groups. A few small artifacts and brightly dyed curtains give it the "African" colour

Service: Extremely personal and sincere - our waiter being the proprieter.

Food: An experience. Between ten of us I think we ate through almost the entire menu and what a pleasure it was. We began with samosa's. Served with a sort of mild tomato chutney the lamb samosa's are filled with minced lamb and black lentils fill the vegetarian samosas they were a reasonable size and very tasty.

Ethiopians traditionally eat with the right hand, tearing off pieces of injera, a sort of large flat round slightly yeasty bread, and scooping up food in the injera.

It takes 3 minutes to make a round of injera on this electricly heated ceramic pan

A large plate with a salad on one side and a rolled up piece of injera duly arrived followed by a variety of dishes in small tureens. There are both vegetarian (dairy free) and carnavorian stews at around $13 to $18/ dish.
We had a red lentil stew, a split pea stew, a vegetable and dahl combination, a red beef stew, a lamb stew and a free range chicken dish. All these had a variety of traditional spices as well as familiar garlic, chilli and ginger. None of the dishes were excessively hot and I will be happy to come back and have them again. Unfortunately I found the injera rather tasteless ad it might have been nicer if it had been warm.
The dessert - Boola Surprise, mae from ground banna tree root is a creation of Enushu. Rather sweet it is served in a large cup. Layered with a sort of creamy mousse, biscuit and topped with a dash ofhoney and nuts it's just the thing for a sweet tooth!
Wine: fully liceced or BYO The house reds ($29), a shiraz which was just OK and acab/sav which I disliked encourage me to bring my own. Corkage $2

Price: Around $25/ head plus drinks gets a pretty solid meal

Comments: They're doing all sorts of things to get this place going including live Jazz Thursday nights,

Coffee ceremonies 1.00 to 3.00 pm Sat and Sun, where green coffee beans are washed and roasted, ground and infused with jebena. Pay by donation with 50% going to an Ethiopian charity and traditional skista dance nights and competitions.

Score: 13.75/20

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bistro Vue

Introduction: At the side and rear of Shannon Bennet's fabulous Vue de Monde entrance via Chanery Lane, next to Normanby Chambers at 530 Little Collins St. in the CBD Ambience: A kind of upmarket bistro with parketry floors, wooden inlaid tables, white linen napkins but no cloths and comfortable padded straw back chairs. Spread over 2 rooms there are some rather plush banquettes. Service : Unike most French bistro's in Melbourne where abruptness and even rudeness from the waiters is par for the course here the service is peerless. The attention is unflaggingly polite, the explanations patiet and thorough. Full marks Oliver.
Food: Interesting! The entree of mussels ($18) was in a particularly salty soup. A complaint to the waiter resulted in a fresh dish of mussels being prepared which was much more acceptable although no salt had been added to the first one.

The French onion sou ($12) was beautifully presented in a La Creusette pot with a decorated pastry top. The soup was a little short on onions and sweetness because of the degree to which the onions had been caramelised. Nevertheless it was pretty satisfying.
There is a regular plat de jour which changes daily. It comes with a leaf salad or pot of cassoulet and a glass of wine ($32) I had the mixed grill, that's Wednesdays offering. All in a rich well reduced jus, the lamb was excellent, the tongue, liver and kidney a little overcooked, the sweatbreads very very good and the wine quite pleasant. This is not the place to come for wagyu steak ($29). The Potage Palourdes , a curry soup with clams ($22) an interesting dish which I find to small as a main course and the lamb galette rather poor value at $33.
We had only one dessert the Creme Brullee I needn't shout BUT THIS WAS THE EQUAL OF ANY Creme Brulee I have ever eaten ANYWHERE!
Wine: Areasonable, small list - see their enu and wine list on their web site

Price: A bit dearr than most bistro's but not off the planet

Comments; I'm keen to go back for a tste of a few more things on their menu

Score: 14.25/20

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


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