Monday, September 28, 2009

Grossi Florentino The Restaurant (Melbourne) 09

After your team loses the grand final following a sensational season is not the best preparation for fine dining but you can’t keep a pair of good eaters down for long. So off we went to degustate once more. Grossi has a down stairs bar and a bistro dining area but high class dining is provided in two rooms up a narrow staircase on the first floor. Large imitation painting- a dark reproduction Boticceli on one side and an even darker Caravaggio opposite decorate the magnificent room in which we ate. It is a spacious room, carpeted, the tables well spaced, double white clothes, metal chandeliers hang from domed hollows in the patterned ceiling and large windows face on to Bourke Street, a major city thoroughfare. Truly a grand setting.

An eight course degustation menu ($195) looked like good value, if you can speak in those terms, since entrees are in the vicinity of $40 and mains around $50 and more. Matched wines add $65 to the bill. They are mostly Italian and some are grapes we do not see in Australia.

The meal began with a chef’s offering, a shot glass of a cream of celeriac soup, with a pleasant celery taste. There was a plentiful supply of bread and bread sticks with both butter and a very raw olive oil.

The first course was a seared tuna with avocado, called cucumber by the waiter, lemon, and set off with an extra virgin olive oil ice cream which made the whole dish quite special. The best way I have ever eaten seared tuna.

This was followed by a Russian Lobster Salad, Why Russian? Regardless it was excellent. Lightly cooked, firm and sweet it contrasted well with the sea urchin and a light horse radish cream accompaniment. An indifferent note was introduced by a black rice crisp which tasted like a bit of burnt wood.

The third course was a black wild rice risotto with a very fresh delicate, just cooked, Morton Bay bug with a Parmesan sabayon. Texturally more like wild rice than Arborio rice and possibly darker because of the inclusion of some mushroom, this interesting variation on the usual presentation was another very pleasing surprise.

Pine needle smoked quail had a distinct smoky flavour and again had an interesting blend of textures and tastes provided by the accompanying slice of ‘Jambon’, toasted pine nuts and pine nut oil, fegola and candied quince. Sweet, salty, smoky with a bit of nutty flavour it may not be for the purist but we both loved it.

Next came the renowned Glenloth pigeon, roasted breast and leg raviolio with cous cous, crème de tapa, cardamom and liquorice powder. Sandra loved this but, having had the same dish here a few months ago I opted to swap for a tender veal fillet with porchini lentils. I was hoping for milk veal but could find no fault with the slightly older piece they served.

The final main was a slow cooked Wagyu rump cap. Cooked sous vide it sat atop a slice of lightly pickled veal tongue with little cubes of potato, fennel and rosemary praline and a green salsa. Yet another really tasty dish. The wagyu was delicate and tender and superbly representative of what good wagyu should be like. It contrasted perfectly with the rich, almost meltingly tender, tongue balanced by the potato and salsa.

Three palate cleansing gelatos, lemon which was very tart, mango which looked the right colour but tasted only of passion fruit and strawberry which was slightly strawberry but very very sweet.

The final dessert was a fine souffle with a vanilla bean ice cream and valhronna chocolate sauce

It was nice to not have to pay extra for a coffee/tea and some little sweets to complete what was a first class meal in first rate surroundings.

There was one significant deficiency. It was the service. They really try hard, to hard. Firstly it was in your face and bordering on obsequious. Secondly we had four and possibly five different waiters only the first remembered what we each had ordered. Sometimes they offered the matched wines to me when I had not ordered them. Our guest was offered a dessert that she had not ordered. It took half an hour to get a cup of tea and later another half hour and a reminder to get another and finally I had to seek out a waiter to order a coffee.

This is a two and a half hat restaurant and with better service well worth three

Score 16.75/20

Le Petit Bourgoise (East Malvern) 09

Three years ago we wrote this: A small surprisingly good suburban French restaurant at 330 Waverley Rd, East Malvern
Ambience: Pleasantly decorated, well spaced tables, gave me the feeling that this was a nice place to be. A homely atmosphere

Service: We were well looked after by the wife of the chef

Food: Classical French style. The menu is not large with interesting meat and fish dishes. For entrees ($15) the Scallops in a rich cream sauce were excellent but surpassed by the crab presented 3 ways

Mains ($26) the Kangaroo was outstanding the lamb excellent and the confit of duck about average.

Desserts ($11) also very good both the souffle and the Il flottante worth having for the sweet toothed
Wine: BYO corkage $3/person They have a small list at reasonable prices

Price: 3 courses are about $60/head

Comments: Well worth a second visit. I really liked it

Score: 15/20

There’s been little change. The menu is still much the same, hand written menu, the tables with double white napery and the forgettable décor in a pleasant room. Prices have risen Entrees are now $18, Mains $30 and desserts $15. The character of the food has not changed although the there are different things available. Perhaps a little staid it is nicely prepared and presented with very good quality produce. We started with a Chef’s selection entrée which included an oyster, olives, a duck rilette, an excellent cellariac salad in acram sauce and a stack of green beans, some beetroot and a couple of cubes of a soft yellow tofu. ($28 for two) This was a nice tasting dish with good variety. I would have preferred two oysters though because you can’t easily divide an oyster! We followed this with a very tender serve of lamb straps with potato Dauphine and some greenery. We followed this up with an excellent pair of soufflés one mango and one Grand Marnier, very sweet and flavoursome. Definitely worth a third visit and soon too.

Score: 15/20.

Friday, September 25, 2009

CHATTER 24 An Offer from Menulog

Menulog contacted us recently with an offer to 1001 Dinner readers which you might like to take advantage of.

This is what they wrote:

Menulog Restaurant Delivery Guide (link to is Australia's largest restaurant guide (20,000+ restaurants) Order home delivery online (600+ restaurants) and get $10 off on your first delivery order using this voucher code: D72F8F

Note: Available for participating restaurants only (which display the “accepts vouchers”) sign
The voucher is valid until November 30, 2009.It can be used for purchase of a minimum of $20.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maha (Melbourne) 09

21 Bond Street sounds like an impressive address. It's the home of George Colombaris' modern middle eastern restaurant with partner chef Shane Delia. It is a dark and unattractive short street unrelieved by any lit signage and Maha from the outside looks very unappealing so why does it work so well. It's often hard to get a reservation. it's not cheap and yet the 130 odd seats are turned over almost every night. The place itself is pleasant enough but certainly not in any way spectacular. Dimly lit and simply decorated, a shelf of varied nicely displayed Venetian vases the only feature near my table. Unclothed wooden tables, just big enough, quite close together, white cloth napkins and reasonable quality cutlery and crockery, but nothing special. It could be anywhere. Service is cheerful, unhurried unobtrusive but quite attentive. Again it's good but it could be anywhere. So what's the secret? It's all the above plus THE FOOD. That is something special. They have a four ($75 or $120 with matched wines) or five course ($80 or $120 with wines) degustation (the difference is a soup) or a la carte which is largely the same as the dishes offered on the degustation menu. Naturally we had the degustation but chose our own wines.
Food is brought to the table in plates on wooden platteres and there is a herb mixture and sea salt on a small platter
The four courses are a selection of small cold dishes, a selection of small warm dishes, a selection of mains and a selection of deserts.The meal begins with a shot glass of palate cleansing Hyacinth syrup.
The cold dishes, served with pita bread, were fairly simple, inoffensive, unfussy, distinct, lightly spiced, distinguished as much by texture as taste. The two that stood out was the duck pate, smooth as butter with indescribably excellent taste and the hummus. The beans, bean salad, olive selection and the other salads were pleasant additions.The soup was flavour of the month it seems - pumpkin and we could have done without it.
The warm dishes, Quail wrapped in a vine leaf, lamb ribs with just a touch of chilli and sesame seeds. a dish of grilled cheese gnocchi was exceptional. There fine soft consistency and light cheese taste were a great combination.
The main an ever so slightly over grilled Blue Eye was tender and tasty, a garden salad OK but a spatchcock with a superb pine nut stuffing demonstrated a light hand and a refined palate was a top dish.Here'd a selection on my plate. There are a lot of spices in these dishes but they blend beautifully and none dominate. A mixture of deserts included a salt/sweet ice cream, watermelon with mint and, I think, rosewater, Turkish doughnuts with a centre of Turkish delight, a semi fredo ice cream, baklava and a glass of custard with pieces of jelly and honeycomb would satisfy the sweetest tooth.
The striking thing about the clientèle was their age. Almost no one looked to be over 40.
Wines are expensive but there are a few around $50
that are acceptable,
The bill comes in a box designed to look like an illuminated middle eastern book.
Score: 15.5/20

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Spot Cafeteria (Caulfield North) 09

If John Batman famously said "This is the spot for a village" speaking of the place that was to become Melbourne it might well have been said that this is a spot for a Cafe at 215 Balaclava Rd. a site which has indeed been the site of several, the latest being The Spot. It's a handy place for breakfast or lunch seven days a week and for dinner Thursday to Sunday.
Some pic's sent to me by Iphone evidedntly come with access to my emails so I've had to remove them
Comments: You wouldn't go far out of your way to eat here but it's an honest meal for a reasonable price. Very good for breakfast and they serve a minimally bitter pleasant coffee
Score 13/20

Namaskar India (Malvern) 09

Intending to go to either Chun Po or the Japanese restaurant next door, when both were closed we decided to try Namaskar at 20 Glenferrie Rd. It was an extremely disappointing experience. Because Sandra has recently become allergic to chilli we tried to have a largely chilli free meal. Their are approximately 230 numbered items on the menu, which includes eight different Malaysian breads and eight more cooked in the Tandoor and five rices and a number of drinks. Of the main courses and entrees, about 180 of them almost all are described as medium hot or very hot and of the rest most contain chilli so we were somewhat limited. After extensive consultation with the waitress we started with Egg Bahajji, six boiled half eggs coated in batter an deep fried. No chilli we were told. They were very good but there was some chilli in the batter. I had a medium hot Gobi Manchurian. I have no idea what the name means. It was florettes of cauliflower, battered, deep fried and tossed in a special Indo-Chinese masala I enjoyed the crisp sensation of this very large entree which was pleasantly hot on the palate without destroying all taste sensation.
The main courses were a disaster. A cheese and spinach dosa, there are 15 others on the menu, a South Indian rice pancake, was served with chutney and sambar without a mention that the chutney included chilli. A Theen Rukkha Murgh, boneless chicken pieces marinated in yoghurt, herbs and spices, cooked in the Tandoor and topped with three different gravies in Chef's unique style was yet another dish which contained chilli in part. Finally a prawn and vegetable dish in a gluggy sauce where the fried prawns had a light chilli batter sent us home looking for the the antihistamines having left almost the whole dinner on the table. I did not mind the chilli but the food so lacked distinction it left me quite shocked. There were plenty of happy customers, the place is pleasant enough and the waitresses very attractive BUT they provided grieviously incorrect information. It is probably great if you want nothing more than a vehicle for chilli so by all means go for that but not for the food. Sadly, too often Indian cuisine seems to be something fibrous, meat or chicken, concealed under some lurid coloured sauce dominated by HOT or sweet.
They also have takeaway.
Wine by the glass is cheap as is the food. Our concerned waitress also took something off the bill for the kitchen's part in our distress.
Score: 11/20

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Tutto Bene (Southbank) 09

Whether Tutto Bene is really a two hat restaurant, as it was according to AGF in 2006, or a no hat restaurant, as AGF now rates it, is debatable but what is really odd is that I doubt that it has really changed much over the last few years but its ratings have changed drasticly. It is still presided over by Simon Humble, whose reputation as a master risotto maker is undiminished. Service, which has been criticized from time to time, may be variable but surely not that variable. The place is older but its Bistro/restaurant atmosphere is resistant to aging and if the place had become so crummy why was it packed when we visited the othe night. Not only that most of the food was pretty good.
We had a pre theater dinner and our waiter, Luke, was conscientious about keeping our meal coming at a reasonable pace. There were a number of tempting starters , referred to on the menu as Primo Platti. I enjoyed the very flavoursome red wine stewed baby octopus with potatoes and capers $16.50 =0>and Sandra was p
artiucularly pleased with the vitello tonnato - fine slices of poached veal with tuna mayonnaise $17.00. We tasted a variety of mains. Fish of the day $33.50 was a very lightly and moistly succulent Hapuka, a New Zealand import. The slow braised baby goat and vegetables with baked polenta and roasting juices $34.50 surprised me with its tenderness and lack of gamey taste. If you're not having one of the dozen risotto's this is a good choice. The mushroom risotto was excellent butmthere was one serious disappointment. The bistecca di vitello alla fiorentina - Two baby veal T bones marinated in sage and rosemary with cherry tomato relish $40.00. The most expensive main course it was tough and grisly. It was hard to cut even with a serrated edge steak knife and even harder to eat. Unfortunately we were too late to try the famous prize winning gelati!
Score: 14/20