Friday, April 01, 2011

Ilona Stalller (St.Kilda) 04/2011

It especially appeals to me to visit restaurants that have had both strongly positive and strongly negative reviews. Ilona Staller falls into that category. Most of the negatives have to do with the venue, although more +ve than -ve, and the service and some about the food and value for money. (What else is there!!) Service has been commented on as generally unsatisfactory, rude or too slow, whilst the food has generally, but not always, been well regarded.
We love the art deco architect designed interior, which perfectly matches the art deco building itself.
It was, for many years, the Balaclava branch of the Commonwealth bank before becoming the home of Red Rooster. After a very brief stint as a warehouse style outlet for a variety of clothes it has now been reborn in it's current form. It still has that sheen of the brand new. It's very clean. neat wooden tables fill the room with comfortably covered bench seating along the walls or partitions and simple wood backed chairs opposite them. There is a wide curved bar as you enter, mimicked by the ceiling. All very attractive.
We arrived early before the main rush of dinner patrons and it looked exactly like the sort
of place Edward Hopper would have painted
but in the next half hour it filled to capacity.
The menu was also interesting. My entree of lamb tongue salad was a good blend of flavours and textures.

Alone the tongue was very bland but in the salad, rocket, thin strips of cucumber and Puy lentils, the dressing made this a very sound dish. Sandra chose a goats cheese and white anchovie souffle
which was served in a smooth and full flavoured veloute the remains of which were soaked up in the very fresh, crusty bread from a Chinese bakery in nearby Chapel St.
We seem to have had very little chicken lately so I opted for the stuffed chicken which was aromatic but just a little dry.
What more than made up for that was the outstanding white bean puree on which it was served. The slow cooked short ribs would have fallen off the bone except that it had already happened in the kitchen.
A large serve, they were moist, tender and rich with a reduction which was not too intense for the dish.
Desserts were also very good. We did not want to wait 20 minutes for a souffle so waited 20 minutes for our second choices but they were worth the wait. Their panacotta was near perfect.

Coeur de creme is a classic French dessert of cream cheese mixed with cream, or sour cream, with or without sugar and molded in a heart shape, hence the name, and served with fruit. Mine had completely lost it's shape to become a large blob and the texture was too loose, none the less it tasted very good.
There is a good and reasonably priced wine list with a lot of choice by the glass from about $10 to $15. We enjoyed both a Heathcote Shiraz and a Chianti Classico. Black garbed waiters provided very friendly, and quite efficient, service but as the place filled it was clearly going to be a challenge for the kitchen to keep up with the heavy demand.
The prices are on the high side for the food, we paid $170 for the meal with no coffee and only two glasses of wine, but we will be more than happy to try more of their food and very soon too.
Score 15/20

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