Monday, May 24, 2010


We've been so busy we've hardly had time to eat at home and not had time to write up the pleasing, and the disappointing, experiences of the last month or so. We've revisited a lot of our former favourites with mixed feelings and been to a few new places that We have not yet written about. What follows is a compendium of meals. One meal at home, others at Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps, Belle Videre, Bacash, Jaques Reymond, Matteos, and MoMo Restaurant

Dinner at Home

Not the usual by any means.
Following an accidental meeting with Daman Shrivastav, an accomplished Indian chef who teaches at Box Hill TAFE, we arranged to subsidize a dozen guests for an experimental Indian/French dinner.
After four dozen oysters and several rounds of canapes, with some lubricating champagne
we entered the dining room to eat.
In good restaurant tradition an amuse bouche was served first with a conventionally Indian fermented premium lager. Served by Daman's colleague, Manou,
who was somewhat better dressed than I was, each course came in good time. A rocket and ginger consomme with a dry Fino Sherry

was the first course. Unique, but not something I'd want to serve, a sort of gastronomic peculiarity.
Things became more interesting with a Tandoori duck liver pate, petit pappadum, shaved black truffle and micro salad.

Could it have been the 2008 Dopff Gewurtztraminer? I don't know BUT I could not really distinguish the tandoori taste in the pate and I could neither taste nor smell the truffles though I could see some little black specs. It looked good, it was rich and smooth and had a great feel in the mouth but it was not quite 'as advertised'.
Fortunately my taste returned with the next dish, an assiette de fruit de mer. This wild barramundi roulade, seared prawns, confit of salmon, char grilled squid tubes with cumin and saffron infused beurre blanc missed out in only one , unfortunately common area.
The salmon was over cooked. Even The Hill Chardonnay could not correct for that, nor did it help me focus the camera.
An apple and sage palate cleanser before the main course went down well at this point. The main course was a trilogy of lamb: Braised in red wine jus, parcelled in marinated cabbage, pomegranite and labna and roasted, tikka style, with korma sauce served with pomme fondant filled with goat cheese mousseline, wilted spinach and buttered asparagus. A lot on one plate.
The Black Chook sparkling shiraz was an excellent accompniment to this multi-national dish which best summed up the spirit of the night.
A chocolate and orange souffle with chai ice cream was another winner. Chai makes a great ice cream. perhaps it was our oven that kept the souffle a little lower than it might have been.
The accompanying Stanton and Killeen muscat was very sweet. I loved it.
It is incredible that Daman made all this in our kitchen. He arrived about midday and left a little after 1.00 am and had the help of only one girl for the cooking. Everything was prepared on the spot and he brought it all except the champagne, oysters and chocolates and some cheeses. A remarkable achievement. The final cheese platewith, would you believe it, Indian theme chocolates, (PG recommended!) found us very full. That must have been the reason no one was keen to touch the chocolate.
One more red - Turkey Flat a blend of Barossa shiraz, grenache and mourverde ended a night of eating and drinking which, if not for the wine, would be remembered for many years.
Score: Not markable but remarkable.

Bacash 05/10

It is not very fair to judge a restaurant to harshly, nor too flatteringly, on the basis of a single visit though one often gets a pretty good idea. MoMo disappointed but a subsequent visit, by friends who found it indifferent when we were there had a much better experience. the spicing and seasoning were more delicate and the whole meal much better. at Bacash the shoe was on the other foot as colleagues reported a poor experience. The restaurant acknowledged that they had had a bad night. Since I often recommend them we hastened to check out if this was just a blip or had things gone awry there.
the place has not changed. A little cramped, full on Friday night, service, which is occassionally patchy under pressure, was good.
after an offering from the kitchen of a gently seasoned lightly grilled mussel with a little corn, tomato and herbs
we went on to entrees. I tried the duck neck sausage filled with chicken and sweetbread served with bourghol, pancetta and pickled basic pears, which i forgot to photograph. It was quite good but i didn't notice the sweetbread Which I particularly enjoy. Gravalax, Tasmanian Atlantic salmon, cured with dill, and pepper, served with celleriacremoulade and grissini were simple and unexciting.
less classical was an interpretation of Waldorf salad with brussel sprout leaves, roasted walnuts brioche crumbed quail egg, gorgonzola, pear and apple foam.
The best looking entree, a deconstructed tuna pie might have been good but for the pastry being undercooked.
Side dishes were large and tasty.
Brussel sprouts with chestnuts and bacon

Bacash is known best as a fish restaurant although they do serve meat and poultry. We were happy to have grilled flounder, which was not on the menu, which we asked for at the time we made the reservation.

Presentation was quite plain. It was excellent, with the delicate flavour undisturbed by dressing it's only deficiency was that it was quite small.
We finished the meal with a variety of house made ice cream which were all smooth, creamy and individually tasty.Mains are $42, entrees about $20 oysters about $23 or $42/dozen.
Despite several deficiencies we enjoyed our dinner. We felt it was not quite as good as it used to be and it is a bit expensive.
Score: 14.5/20

Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander 05/10

This is an extremely successful multifunction venue on the main street, (336 Maroondah Hwy), in the heart of Healesville. Purpose built this great barn of a place is divided by a large glass wall into a wine making section
and a retail section which includes a wine tasting area, a cheese maturing room and counter a patisserie and bakery
and a pizzeria and a cafe with particularly good coffee which they roast.
Apart from the menu, and a little booklet describing their history and philosophy, there are black boards

and a mirror filled with quotes, perhaps graffitti, to inform about dishes or simply to amuse. An odd assortment of chairs and sofas provide seating at various size simple unadorned tables. Staff all seem to be very young energetic and enthusiastic. Packed on weekends it has great atmosphere and this is well supported by the food. A salt cod brandade
with house smoked sourdough bread displayed their excellent artisanal bread with a fine brandade. A thin crust rosemary, roast garlic and buffalo mozarella pizza was a simple, well made, though slightly singed,
and pleasing It's very good cafe food
and doesn't pretend to be anything else. Their quite extensive menu is available on the I'net, as is their substantial wine list.
Score 14/20

Belle Videre

Belle Videre.
Saturday night the choice at this Yarra Valley restaurant is have the five course set menu or go some where else. What's more you can't get the menu beforehand because they don't quite know what they are going to have!
What they do say is that there will be plenty to eat. Of course at night it could not live up to its name but it is warm and comfortable with an open fire at one end of the large L shaped room and an open kitchen.
It's a bit of a performance. Everyone has to be seated at 8.00. No staggered entries here. After an amuse bouche of a half fig on whitlof,
chef and part owner Gary Cooper, far left, brings out the staff and has them introduce themselves and their function in the restaurant.
After that it's down to work. First course a less than classical Ribollita (can you have a classical peasant dish?)
with Borlotti beans, cabbage chicken broth and pancetta. it was a satisfying country soup. A leg of lamb marinated with lime, garlic and brown sugar was roasted at the fire place and chefs came to the table and carved it on to our plates. Served with rosemary, mayonnaise, anchovy and capers.
The initial couple of slices were not much but they came around offering a second helping which virtually everyone in the restaurant accepted. A hunters purse goat capretto in tomato and garlic wrapped in sour cream pastry with broad beans was quite benign. The meat flavours modified by the pastry making a great pie. Grilled garlic rubbed sourdough with creamed tete de Moine and bitter greens was not very unusual. The normally hard yellow cheese was now a soft creamy white.
Others may have liked it. Neither of us did.
Finally a twice baked chestnut and frangelico souffle with caramel chestnuts, sabayon and double cream was very good though the souffle did not rise as high as I would have liked and was little heavy.
An interesting night for $99 plus drinks, if you are in the vicinity.
Score: 14.5/20.


Chef Brendan McQueen's Tasting Menu, $110 or $170 with 100ml of six selected wines plus a Botrytis Semillon has never failed to please. He consistently produces good standard interesting food. The menu changes changes slowly, often with variations on what had been on previous menus. the menu currently is made up of a first dish of Carpachio of Hiramisa Kingfish, a great favourite here, Yabby tail in sweet dashi sauce and teryaki glazed baby squid sushi roll. This was followed with an interesting watermelon, radish and coriander salad, tamarind vinaigrette with fetta stuffed zuchini flowers. Despite the strange mixture of ingredients this salad worked surprisingly well. McQueens cooking has both Thai and Japanese influences as illustrated in the next dishes. a miso baked Japanese black cod fillet, daikon linguine and wakame seaweed salad, Yarra Valley salmon roe, pickled ginger sauce, which i forgot to photograph, was superb. Certainly encourages further visits. Thai style braised oxtail wrapped in zucchini, green curry sauce, "kimchi" spiced tomato relish and a baked Asian pie of minced pork chicken, eggplant soya bean pureemade up the last main courses. Each dish was a small example of masterful design and fine cooking.
the dessert a coconut milk gelato and Kaffir lime splice, mango puree and a dark chocolate fondant pudding failed slightly because the pudding was over cooked and the chocolate did not ooze out of its centre giving both the visual stimulus as well as the textural variation that makes this dish so irresistible.
Matteos is a comfortable restaurant. everything is better than good. I would have liked a bit more to eat. The meal amounts to nine very small very tasty but tiny entrees.
Score: 15.5/20

Jaques Reymond

Jaques Reymond
Despite its $x million refurbishment one feels, as before, that one is eating in the front room of a Victorian mansion. There are several new faces who have migrated from other leading establishments, such as Vue de Monde, bringing a high level of professionalism, understanding and attention with them.
Another plus is that Jaques is usually in the kitchen.
He claims to "have introduced a new approach to fine dining. The concept is designed to encourage you to sample a wider variety of dishes in a more dynamic and accessible way" They therefore offer only entree size dishes. Evidently he has not noticed what has been going on at fine dining restaurants around Melbourne for the last decade. He has a eight dish 'Menu Vegetarian' plus petit fours and tea/coffee $130 or $225 with six matched wines. Which looked extremely interesting. An eight course 'Taste of our Degustation Menu' including coffee and petit fours for $170 or $265 with six wines matched by "our sommelier 'Nathalie Reymond'''. and a sort of a Carte, a menu of quite different dishes, offering three, four or five courses for $98 $125 or $150 respectively. Finally he notes that the restaurant will not be responsible for any illness caused by the use of nuts and asks that the waiter be informed of any food allergies.
We opted for the one with the lot. As usual an outstanding bouchere arrived at the table first.

The first course, an odd conglomeration, Lemongrass, spinach and rock lobster soup, fragrant Tiger prawn, sweet potato and turmeric ice cream,

was interesting and I would have happily had more except for the ice cream which was a mismatch on this dish. A Tyrrell's 2004 Semillon was pleasant enough was pleasant.
Seven more courses.
Sandwich of spanner crab, mirin, fresh wasabi jelly, lacquered Petuna ocean trout, black bean and sweetcorn dressing, - everything on the plate gets a mention,

was a taste bud pleasure. The fish and the crab both contrasting in flavour and delicacy represented very fine cooking. The wild barramundi with pepper, yoghurt, black garlic Kafir lime hidden by lemongrass espuma

shows Jacques is moving far from classical French and this dish, for me, was over fussy and overcomplicated failing to achieve anything in the taste department. Many wines would have done here a 2008 Toolangi 'Jaques Reymond' selection Chardonnay served well enough.
There is even less French about the Peking duck and Hervey bay scallops, Peking juices, spiced marshnallow like a crepe (not very like one though), crispy rice, ginger sesame and pandan oil

bore no resemblance to any version we have ever seen of Peking duck. I suppose you can call anything whatever you like and it did have duck but I felt misled. It didn't taste that good either and 'Jaques Reymond' selection 2007 Bass Phillip Pinot Noir was far from his best. At least their bread is extremely appealing, looks like bread and tastes like bread.
Highland venison came next.
with a 'Jaques Reymond' selection 2005 Dalwhinnie Shiraz which I liked but why doesn't he tell us what it really is?
The last 'main' entree was suckling pig.
A rather ordinary Chateauneuf-du-Pape came with this. The food was very good but we were both getting a bit jaded by now.
The Pacific rim martini with liquorice ice cream and honeycomb was a nice palate reliever.
before the milleleuilles, plural you see, of chocolate, white chocolate mousse, Carribean chili ice cream dark chocolate mousse and praline ice cream.It was as rich and sweet as it sounded. The Seppelts Field Grand Tokay was an ideal accompaniment.
This was a very good meal regardless of my picky comments. It is expensive and the wine selection were not especially good.
Score 16.5/20

MoMO Restaurant

MoMo Restaurant at the Grand Hyatt is beautiful. It's elegance is emphasized by subdued lighting from tracks of crystal chandeliers
curving around the ceiling. Everything about the place is lovely. The service is well mannered, calm attentive and informed. Although they basically serve one of two set price menus ($100 or $140) depending on the number of dishes, for sharing when pushed they did offer an a la carte menu off the set menu, which turned out to be a more expensive option. Food is beautifully presented beginning with a colourful beaker of raw vegetables and a dipping sauce
followed by a fried oyster won ton, a main and ending with an eye catching dessert of small dishes.
There is only one problem - you have to like that sort of food and those spices. For me it was over seasoned. For example the fish which, I like just just cooked through to maintain as much succulent flavour as possible, was very well cooked and overwhelmed by the seasoning. The lamb suffered the same problem with the seasoning.
A fetta and tomato salad was excellent but hardly a challenge for a chef.We wanted to see what it was like and now we've seen it.
If you love sharing, and modern middle eastern cooking you would give
high marks for everything except the bill. Somehow five of us managed $60 for bottled water and a less than astonishing Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir for $150.
Score: 15/20, otherwise 13.5/20