Friday, July 23, 2010

Maze (Melbourne) 07/2010

Seeing Gordon Ramsay on TV and in the newspapers, not always because of his cooking, it's hard to avoid having an opinion about him. Many people detest him. I'm not one of them. I think it rare that a person rises to celebrity status without some special or unusual talent. Masterchef illustrates how hard it is to be a really excellent chef and to be successful, as Ramsay is, also requires managerial skills and judgment. For this reason I am delighted that he has opened a restaurant in Melbourne. The menu is created by his executive chef, Josh Emett, in Ramsay's style and in consultation with him. Emmett,
a charming and very smart chef, has been working with Ramsay for quite a few years and knows the sort of things he likes.
The restaurant is on the 1st floor of the new Metropole Hotel across the the road from the Crown Entertainment complex. It has the air of an extremely classy venue from the moment you walk through the door. The hotel decor is restrained in earthy tones. The restaurant is rather noisy despite the carpet, because of music piped through out the place. It is fairly dark although there are plenty of overhead lights in frames that looks a bit like lobster pots. Our watress offered a torch to help read the menu!
The walls are decorated with a sculpture that looks like tree branches, no trunks, with an irregular scattering of birds. Very gentle and pleasing to the eye. They have bare, good size, wood tables, white linen napkins and good quality cutlery. It is much larger than it looks seating over 100 not counting the Grill Bar. Service is prompt and attentive though questions about the bread, Steca di Bianca had to be referred to higher authority for answers.
So what about the food.
They provide an a la carte menu, about $17 upwards for each dish or a seven course 'Chefs Dinner Menu'. ($95) with matched wines for either $80, $100 0r $120. The first two are chosen from the wines available by the glass, which are about $12 to $18 and the more expensive options a better quality selection not generally available by the glass.
The tasting menu is from the main menu but presumably the serves are smaller. We started with marinated beetroot with goats curd, Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette, toasted pie nuts.
No amuse bouche here. This was a couple of beautifully presented, colourful, bite sized delicacies the variety in textures and tastes pleased all my senses. Of course it helps if you are partial to goats cheeses.
This was followed by a choice. Applewood smoked Kingfish, fennel, pickled celery, globe artichoke, Californian caviar, which I had, seduced by the ingredients, specially the caviar. The alternative seared yellow fin tuna, white radish, yuzu, enoki mushrooms, black garlic which Sandra selected and I tasted, and ultimately much preferred.
It was very delicate and meltingly tender with subtle flavour.
I barely noticed the caviar but it hardly mattered.
The Kngfish was barely cooked the balance of the tastes maintained by the proportions of the ingredients. Pan seared scallops, caramelized kelp, sugar snap peas, mussels, champagne, it was champagne foam!, again highlighted the soft touch of the chef. Strangely the scallops were a little over seared but remained succulent,
almost sweet, I cold happily have had a dozen. Another choice followed. I had the pan roasted barramundi, butternut squash, compressed cucumber, pumpkin seeds.
Crisp skin moist flesh, one needs to be a poet to describe the feelings these dishes produce. Equally mouth watering was the other choice, roasted quail with sage, slow cooked quince and glazed turnips. Quail is often hard to eat. This was boned and presented, like a miniature confit of duck.
Another exceptional dish, beautifully seasoned it only deficiency the small size of the serve. The last main was lamb cannon and shoulder, cauliflower puree, anchovy, stinging nettles which we did not taste because we wanted the "ox tongue and cheek" caper and raisin carrots, horseradish pomme puree.
The cheek absolutely melted in the mouth, it sat atop the slice of tongue which had been overcooked and as a result was hard though Sandra's was better. The jus looked heavily reduced but did not overwhelm the cheek. The small pot of pomme puree was excellent with a mild horse radish taste infused through it.

There were two desserts. The first an exotic fruit vacherin, passion fruit and bannana sorbet was disapointing after the fabulous preceding courses. The merangue was very hard and the 'exotic troical fruit' very acidic.
They failed to impress as anything special. The final course was a deconstructed lamington with rosella jam which appealed to me as the best way you could possibly have a lamington.
The chocolate and coconut are on the bottom, cream in the middle and the sponge of the lamington on the right in this photo. The rosella jam was behind the other ingredients.
The bread, it's in that silver bucket next to the candle, which we both loved, was served with a seaweed infused butter and a small dish of Maldon salt. It came early and often which was just as well as the volume of food for each course was tiny. I do think it would have been much better to have had 50% larger serves because without the bread many patrons would leave hungry.
Wines are expensive whilst cocktails are at ordinary prices about $18
The meal was exquisite in most regards and the service impeccable.
It is expensive by the time you add in the drinks and tip but it is a culinary experience that we thoroughly enjoyed.
I should add that each course came with half a glass of wine. The wines were:
NV Tattinger Prelude
2009 Delakle 'Unique' Sav Blanc Loire Valley
2008 Clonakilla Voignier Canberra
2008 Ata Rangi 'Crimson' Pinot Noir Martinborough N.Z.
2006 Barone Ricadoli Chianti Classico Riserva Tuscanny
2007 Dr Loosen 'Urziger Weirzgarten' Auslese Reisling Mosel Germany
2006 Inniskillin Cab Franc 'Icewine' Niagra Canada
The only one I was familiar with was Dr Loosens Reisling. They all matched the food and were pleasant enough but I did not have an urge to rush out and stock up on any of them except, perhaps, the Tattinger,
Any comments?
Score: 17.5/20


John Salisbury said...

Elliot, Wendy and I went on Sunday for lunch.
We would concur with your assesment of the food.Exquisite and very inexpensive....
How did you prevail upon
the chef to pose for a photograph?

Love your work, John

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi John
I'm glad you share our views on Maze.
(And even more pleased you like the blog).
Re the photo Iasked the waiter if Josh was there and if so might we meet him. At the end of the meal he came over to our table and we had a chat and he was quite happy to have a pic with Sandra, so there it is.