Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Botanical (South Yarra)

Unchanged in the several years since I was last here the Botanical still features it's 'wall of wine, bare tables on hard wood and marble floors. Still a noise trap and although the place was full we were fortunate to have a considerate lot of diners.
The menu describes, at some length, five varieties of artisan oysters ($3.75 - $4.5) which I did not try in favour of their signature entree -warm poached egg with Reggiano, new season Yarra Valley truffles and soft polenta ($29.5). This is a glorious dish. The truffle flavour was distinct as was the Reggiano, the egg just right as was the polenta.The Burgundy style ham hock terrine ($20), on special with soft boiled baby chicken egg, pea puree, cauliflower remouladeactually came with a small green salad, coleslaw and wasabi producing a good variety of tastes and textures although the terrine was a little fibrous.
Botanical is really a specialist steak house although they do have a range of seafood and a vegetarian offering. We tried the spit roast 120 day grain fed Darling Down New York strip steak with cauliflower macaroni, spinach puree and onion 'frites' ($45) which came with an impressive unserrated Portugese steak knife. Cooked medium as requested it had good taste, with a very good sauce, and the cauliflower macaroni was good enough to serve as a dish in its own right. Similarly the BBQ 450 gm dry aged T-bone with cotechino sausage and broad bean salsa ($48) was a fine piece of meat and served warm blue a condition few kitchens are able to achieve.The salsa was surprisingly hot and dominated the other tastes.
The wood roasted miso caramelised Patagonian toothfish with tempura oysters, native lime and wasabi dressing ($48.5)also came on a lotus leaf with strips of pickled ginger and had a spoonful of green roe. The wheel shaped vegetable is lightly fried lotus root. A very delicate textured fish this was moist and succulent - I have never had better.
we had a side serve of hand cut chips with Provencale salt and aioli ($8.8). These red russet potatoes had been blanched, dried and pre cooked at a lowish temperature in duck fat before the final cooking in canola oil. I certainly preferred them to the usual French fries
For dessert we had the blood orange cream caramel with blood orange sorbet and chocolate filled crepe Suzette ($17.5)The blood oranges have a special taste which was very good but the texture of the creme caramel was a little firm.
The hazelnut and coffee creme brulee with warm chocolate donut and biscotti ($19)tasted as good as it looked - a great dessert.
Wine: We drank by the glass The Pepper Tree reserve merlot ($14) and the New Zealand pinot gris ($14) were both excellent but the shiraz needed more aging.
Service was pleasant, not so slow as previously, despite the crowd, and informative in response to questions.
Comments: It was particularly nice to sit by the open kitchen watching the chefs plating up a variety of dishes - The shanks with harissa looked wonderful.
I think the AGF got it right it deserves its two hats, or the two stars from Gourmet Traveller, however from the terminology I get the impression the same person wrote both reviews!
Score: 17/20

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