One way or another many restaurants which get extreme scores from controversial reviewer Stephen Downes fail to live up to expectations when we visit them and that goes as much for some of the critical reviews as it does for the highly complimentary ones. I find it hard to think of any restaurant meal at which the food has been so excellent in every way that it would merit a perfect score but that is what Downes felt about Heirloom.
This French/Japanese hybrid occupies an impressive space with high ceilings and a very open feel to it in Melbourne’s CBD. We had to book a long way ahead and it was well worth going there but perfect it certainly is not. We tried a couple of Isakaya, the Japanese equivalent of tapas.
The slow roast duck gyoza, sauce a la orange ($3 ea) looked crisp but were flaccid and, although well filled with duck it was quite hard to recognise any duck taste.
The crisp salmon and chive cigar ($9) was a misnomer not being at all crisp and also, whilst pleasant enough, certainly not an outstanding offering. I was tempted to have the charcuterie entrée but it hardly displays a chef’s ability. All the dishes had a lot of accompaniments on the plate which kept the kitchen in frantic activity. This resulted in very erratic service at some tables where some diners had finished their dishes before others were served. Kabocha pumpkin parfait, hazelnuts, salted buffalo ricotta, sesame brittle, wasabi pearls, soy, yoghurt emulsion. ($18) was very attractively presented. I found the parfait a bit dull, the yogurt, which had been foamed fell off it and did not improve it for me. Another very well presented dish the rare seared yellow fin tuna loin, piperade, crisp basil, white anchovy tempura, black olive crumbs, ($20) was quite excellent, the tempura especially good. Hickory smoked Pekin duck breast, miso glazed endame, daikon fondant, quail scotch egg, (very cute), bacon bouillon. ($34) was first class. Oddly, whilst ours was extremely tasty and tender, so very good, another member of our party found his duck very chewy and not very good at all!
48 hour pork belly and seared Akami tuna, ginger caviar, braised orange witlof, cider foam, granny smith puree. ($35) another multi product dish was very well prepared, the pork melted in the mouth, the tuna seared, perhaps for 20 seconds more than I would have liked, remained delicate. It did seem to me to be a rather strange pairing but I treated it as two separate dishes on the one plate. The crisp skinned Hamachi/kingfish fillet, crushed kipfler, anagi, octopus tempura, pickled seaweed, smoked tomato sauce ($34) was, I’m told, very good but I did not taste it. Three sorts of bread were served at the end of the meal. It was particularly moorish and perhaps just as well it did not come earlier but I would have liked it sooner. Wines were not notable but I enjoyed the Saki the waitress recommended.
This was an interesting meal with testing modern cooking techniques on display in every dish.