Friday, November 27, 2009

Vue de Monde (Melbourne) 11/09

Before anything else I want to say that it is a mystery as to how this computer varies font sizes. Despite fiddling around nothing seems to make it consistent for which I apologise. On the preview it looks consistent but not so when published!

The chefs 10 course menu at VdM has been an unfailing trium
ph for us over the last decade or more and last week was no exception. Dish after dish from the exceptional amuse bouche to the lemon souffle was a joy to the palate and the eye. As always, although there have been some staff changes the service was impeccable. Part way through the meal when I mentioned that we had particularly enjoyed a lobster dish Gareth, who was looking after us, arranged for an extra dish a marron on a rock which I will speak about after the photo of it.
This is what we were served.

AMUSE BOUCHE

Confit egg with white asparagus and wood sorrel.

Cooked at 62 degrees for 12 minutes, the egg white separated and replaced at the base of the shell, served with Panku (bread crumbs), a lightly battered asparagus and a tarragon emulsion. Like a variation of a coddled egg the crunchy bread crumbs and tarragon emulsion added an extra dimension to the endless appealing ways that eggs can be served. This was an exquisite start for the meal.


DÉCLINAISON D’ASPERGES

Asparagus textures

2000 Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon Champagne Épernay, France

An unusual presentation of a variety of cuts of asparagus with a light warm mayonnaise finished with an asparagus juice. A fine, multi textured gently flavoured dish.


RISOTTO AUX TRUFFES D’ALBA

Classically inspired white truffle risotto

NV Barbadillo Oloroso Dulce 30yo Jerez, Spain

This risotto, cooked to perfection was enormously enhanced by the white truffles which had been harvested only 36 hours ago and retained superb taste, texture and aroma - to die for!


PAIN PERDU ACCOMPAGNÉ DE FOIE GRAS

French toast, green apple purée and foie gras with eight spice and jamón Joselito ibérico

2007 François Chidaine Montlouis ‘Les Tuffeaux’ Loire Valley, France

Another outstanding dish, the 'Pain perdu' a sweet French toast topped with a great Iberica jambon matched and contrasted with the puree and the eight spice for added flavour.

MERLAN ET BASIL BALLOTINE

Whiting and basil ballotine, tomato infusion and mozzarella noodle

2007 Adegas Valmiñor ‘Davila’ Galicia, Spain

Served with a tomato stock infused through herbs in a Cona coffee percolator this is a dish of balanced gentle flavours eaten slowly to enjoy all its variation.


ÉCREVISSE RÔTIE

Roasted marron with bisque glaze and radish served on hot river stone

1998 Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru 'La Moutonne' Burgundy, France

The marron sat on a bed of marron mousse and was accompanied by dollops of homogenized sea urchin which, while retaining the distinct flavour of the sea urchin, were not over whelming. The rock, from the Yarra river bed near Heidi Gallery, had been thoroughly sterilized by being roasted at high temperature before being accepted for table service. The baby turnips, also from the Heidi gardens were a crisp delight and the lightly cooked marron as good as it gets.


JUS AU VERJUS

Liquid verjus at - 8°C

Prepared at the table the addition of this super cooled verjus resulted in the formation of a little iceberg in the glass. A favourite at Vue for good reason.


PORC AUX SAVEURS DE LA TERRE

Western plains pork with flavours of earth

2007 Kanonkop Pinotage Simonsberg, South Africa

A rack, in this case one small pork chop, a piece of loin, like belly but not as fatty, and pork neck were a fine trio with a slice of crisp bacon and cep mushroom powder added to this dish completed with an excellent sauce.

AGNEAU RÔTI ET RIS D’agneau

Poached loin and rillette of lamb with Pedro Ximenez reduction

2002 Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ‘Rutherford’ Napa Valley, United States of America

If the previous dish was excellent, and it was, this was even better. It might have been called lamb three ways with a rillette flanked by a delicate piece of loin and some sweetbreads. Tender and juicy, with a collar of potato it was a carnivores delight.


FROMAGE

Le Napoleon, almond toast, fennel and cherry salad, cherry ‘pâte de fruit’

2008 Albino Rocca Moscato d’Asti Piedmont, Italy

A firm tasty cheese enhanced by the cherry jelly.


ENTREMET SUCRÉ

This was a total surprise. you open the carton and this is what you see.

Egg shells filled with super rich flavoured mousses and foams. A dessert for the taste conscious not the health conscious. I loved it.

Lemon meringue soufflé

1993 Domaine Disznókó Tokaji Aszú’5 Puttonyos’ Takaj, Hungary

Although there were still a variety of petit fours to come with tea or coffe we made this magnificent lemon souffle our last dessert. As with the rest of the meal this was beyond criticism with a disinct, but not overwhelming lemony taste and perfect texture for the souffle.

There were a few tiny imperfections. It always irritates me when I put a piece of cutlery on the edge of a plate and it slides down into the centre of the plate, specially if it has soup in it!
To some extent taking matched wines, presuming some person with superior taste and judgment will chose wines that will not only match the food you are eating but also your taste is high risk and almost certain to fail to please at times. On the two occasions where the wines did not satisfy the response was an instantaneous offer of a replacement. The timing of the delivery of the wines was often well before the food arrived thus it was almost finished before it could be enjoyed with the dish which it was matched.

The distinguishing features of meals at VdM are the use of the finest ingredients prepared with imagination and finesse to express the flavours of the foods in balanced combination. Dishes are presented like art on a plate by staff who go out of their way to please their clients. Seasoning is discreet. It is rare to find one flavour dominating a dish

Score:19 /20

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cafe Vue (South Yarra) 11/09

Of all the cafes in Melbourne none stand out with the style displayed at Cafe Vue at 401 St.Kilda Rd. There are a few outside tables which give no hint of the interior with its clean open appearance, modern furniture and several striking features including a large round table partly surrounded by a white wood creation like half a bird cage, referred to here as the Queens corset because of its shape. In front of the kitchenthere is an antique looking refurbished rotisserie. Toilets are unusual too,in deep red with braille to assist the blind to chose the correct door although it's little help after that!
The breakfast menu is very limited 'thugh they have a great range of small cakes and patisseries. When a shrivelled baguette with some dry ham ($8) and a croque monsieur consisting of a couple of slices of toast and a bit of ham ($6) accompanied by a pot of the most watery tea arrived my heart sank. There was a bottle of home made tomato sauce in the little box with the salt, pepper, paper serviettes and cutlery but it didn't help much.
This disastrous beginning was saved when Matt, the personable manager, came over and spent some time discussing our feedback, a waitress brought two more tea bags, and we tried a couple of other things. A chicken and porcini mushroom pie resting on a fine pea puree in a perfectly reduced sauce ($11)was excellent, despite the fact that I could see the mushrooms but not taste them. An escargot pastry was worthy of a French patisserie, crisp on the outside, soft and moist inside it was so good that we will go back again just for that.
They still to have some teething problems but they certainly have the potential to be outstanding. A unique space.
Score: 13/20

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ichi Ni (St.Kilda) 09

Housed in an inside outside split level venue, a bit like an open hut with peculiar, though not unattractive, Japanese decor
around a large open central kitchen
at no.12 on the Esplanade. Ichi Ni offers its food in an environment dominated by an impressive level of noise making conversation difficult. It offers a wide range of dishes in the izakaya style.
Of this SunnyPages.jp tells us "
Izakaya are restaurants that serve mostly Japanese food and various kinds of alcohol (everything from beer to sake and shouchuu). The main difference between izakaya and conventional restaurants is the variety of alcohol available at an izakaya, while the izakaya distinguishes itself from typical bars by the comparatively larger volume of foods it serves. You could say that izakaya resemble American “Bar-and-Grill”-style establishments. One of the best things about izakaya is that no matter how many times one visits one, there is always something else on the menu to enjoy so it's hard to get tired of the selection."
In keeping with that they are fully licenced and offer no BYO. We tried a variety of small dishes including Gyoza -five for $10
were of no distinction as was sea food tempura ($12).
I can do better myself. Miso soup ($3.5) served in the traditional bowl, without a spoon,

was totally ordinary. Rice, which we ordered to eat with these entrees ($4/small bowl) came to late. Grilled tofu was dry and hard

Pork belly, normally one of my favourite dishes, was an encouragement to vegetarianism, tuna sushi a prawn dish with a crispy coating
were equally unimpressive as was a skewer of scallops.($8)
A seafood don ($20) consisting of a skewer each of calamari, white fish and prawns served on rice with a miso soup was yet another disappointment.
The only things enjoyable about the meal were a lychee vodka and lime ($15) and an excellent Kisakura Pure saki ($12).
Price: Expensive if you are hungry
Comments: All dishes were served on coarse china and none had any sign of the delicacy I associate with fine Japanese food. Add that to the noise and for us this place has a returnability factor of zero.
Score:10 /20

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Court House (Berwick) 09


This upper class outer south eastern suburb only about 40 km from the Melbourne CBD seems, for no good reason, to have been over looked by the restaurant reviewers. Apart from the usual pizza and pasta shops there are several good places at which to eat including The Berwick Inn, Dante's, Clover Cottage which offers all you can eat at a very respectable smorgasbord and The Court House which boasts that it is number one in Berwick and I think it probably is.
It is housed in a National trust building, adjacent to its National Trust neighbour, formerly the Post Office both built in 1884 at No. 1 Gloucester Avenue.
The main dining room is the former court room. The witness stand and dock and the area occupied by the judge

remain intact in excellent condition. The room is illuminated by three impressive chandeliers, the whole creating a quite special atmosphere. Service was pleasant and informative for the meal that I had there courtesy of St John of God hospital.
For entree, described here as preliminaries I found the Lemon & pepper calamari
($14.5) deep fried calamari strips served with mixed leaf and cherry tomato salad with home made tartare sauce, a pleasant but uninspiring entree.
Bruschetta ($9.95)

warmed bread topped with tomato, red onion, basil and parmesan cheese with a drizzle of balsamic was, as promised, a simple, unpretentious dish.
Garlic Prawns ($15) was probably the pick of the entrees.
Six prawn tails sauteed in a rich garlic, cream and white wine sauce served over turmeric rice looked excellent.
For mains, called Supreme Court here I had a Rack of lamb with herb crust ($32),

a four point rack served with mash, a warm tomato salad and beans. This might have been more interestingly seasoned and certainly a serrated edge knife would have been helpful but it was a very juicy piece of meat.
Barramundi, ($32)

A whole barramundi deep fried until crispy, served with bok choy on a a shredded Asian omelette of spring onion and Chinese sausage dressed with a fantastic zingy sauce (their description) was seriously disappointing. It looked great but had been cooked to death and was very dry and totally lacking in taste. Photo is as it was served. I would have preferred it served with the head of the fish toward me.
Not Guilty - Just Desserts were indeed just desserts. Sticky Date pudding ($13.95)

was a warm pudding served with their (not very) special caramel sauce and a scoop of English toffee ice cream was unexceptional.
Chocolate mousse mille feuille ($12-.5)
described as layers of rich chocolate mousse and chantilly cream sandwiched between layers of flaky puff pastry served with shards of almond praline far from being a light and delicate dessert was an indifferent dessert. the pastry was heavy and the praline was rock hard, tooth fracturing quality toffee- inedible.
George Dore, a part owner of the property, told me the history of the place and the problems of council restrictions and access that they have to deal with. National Trust buildings certainly have plenty of problems but the Court House is is a wonderful venue, and I expect it to continue to punish or reward its clients, depending on their menu selection.Score: 13.75/20
















































































Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hooked (Windsor) 09

Those fliers that appear so frequently in my letterbox offering handyman services, carpet cleaning, cut price pizzas free home delivery for orders over $x free drink with presentation of this card and similar must work or they wouldn't keep on offering them. Hooked at 172 Chapel St came up with with a couple of offers and their claim to offer the best seafood etc was quite appealing so I took myself off there. Despite the flattering reviews posted on their windows the place is tired to the point of exhaustion.
It is terribly in need of a total makeover. It offers eat in or take away. They have a massive communal table, seats about 14, with a selection of magazines, and a few small tables including a couple on the footpath. A pile of dull looking cutlery in a crude box on the table,
uncomfortable chairs and dull decor encourage the take away option.
Their most popular meal is battered or grilled Blue Grenadier with Bok choy and hand cut chips
or sticky rice. ($9.90) so that's what I had, the batter and the rice.
They offer a variety of other fish and calamari. The batter was crisp and cooked through but a bit thicker than I would have liked inside of it two rather small moist and tasty fillets rested on a mound of sticky rice which had been cooked until it had congealed into a homogenous mass. Unrecognizable as rice.
They have a frig. full of soft drinks and another labelled Booze but no tea or coffee and another small deficiency, no toilet!
Hooked I am not.
Score: 12 /20