Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Millswyn (South Yarra) 03/2011

For decades Lynches served Melbourne's some what sedate and affluent diners on the corner of Millswyn St and Domain road but not any more. New owners and a refit has completely changed the character of the place. Indeed it has removed it's character. The place, now The Millswyn, is now barely furnished. Tables are bare as are the walls, painted in cool ochre tones. Floors are polished wood and every thing encourages noise.
Black dressed waiters scoot about doing their duty in an efficient impersonal manner. There is no meet and greet, no warmth and what style there is could be termed cafe
de luxe.
The wine menu arrives in a colourful box. It is set out in an unusual way with lots of cocktails first ($20) followed by beers and then wines which, again are set out differently from the usual. By the glass they range from about $10 to $15.
Dench's sourdough bread came, fresh and warm, with a Chef's offering, a buttery slightly over seasoned white onion and puy lentil and chive veloute.

The menu is not large but it is interesting. My assiette of charcuterie was excellent.
A fine jambon, a few slices of local sausage, a fine prosciutto and a farmers terrine were all excellent with some pickles, cocktail onions and cornichons, to counteract the richness of the meats.
Sandra's gnocchi with goat's cheese in a pumpkin pureed sauce was normally a main but served as an entree.

This was also very rich and buttery and every part of this large serve was delicious except for the gnocchi. They had a spongy consistency and were too firm.
My main, lamb chops, served slightly pink, was beautifully presented and tasted as good as it looked
The twice cooked, sous vide then roasted, pork loin was quite bland whilst the pork belly was perfectly cooked with crisp skin and succulent fat over tasty meat.

These were both good size served leaving us very satisfied. A side of beans with shaved almonds, olive oil and sprinkling of parmigiana ($8) was very fresh and crisp, an excellent accompaniment.
Before our dessert a pre dessert dessert was served.
Berries on a custard on a pear jelly, We could both have done with a lot more of it. A frozen chocolate fondant with butterscotch ice cream ended the meal. There was plenty of crunchy butterscotch in the ice cream.
The outer chocolate, half way between a chocolate cream and a mousse was as smooth textured and tasty as one could want but the fondant was not as well filled with chocolate sauce nor as rich as we would have liked.
A character filled place serving indifferent food has been replaced by a characterless place serving very good food!
Comment: It is becoming ever more evident how important front of house staff are to the success of restaurants.
Score 14/20

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mirka at Tolarno (St.Kilda) 03/2011

I had a very ordinary preordered menu at Mirka at a meeting recently. Starting with a tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella salad, which is on their menu for $22, they then served a main of three slices of pork sausage on a substantial bed of lentils.
This looked unappetizing. I don't think it was a fine example of anything, certainly not of fine dining. What I then found astonishing was that, in replacing the dish for one guest who did not wish to eat pork, they served a fillet of over cooked fish again on an equally large bed of lentils. A very unattractive combination
Desserts were average.
Ricotta canneloni were nicely presented
and, I was told, a lemon tart was very good.
Over recent years Mirka seems to have slipped quite a lot. It slipped into Gourmet Traveller for a couple of years and earned a hat from the AGF (15/20) but the following year scored only 14 and in 2010 was down to 13.5.
How often can good restaurants can serve bad meals and still be rated as good? Artistic decor and good service aside any restaurant prepared to serve really poor food can not rate as a good restaurant even if they are also capable of serving good food.
Score, for this meal 9/20

Pic' from Ripples (Malvern) 03/2011

Here are a few pic's from a recent visit to Ripples.
Roast duck

Chicken pies

Steam dumplings.

Paper spring rolls.

Crispy tentacles.Custard tart

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yaki Niku (Malvern) 03/2011

Yakiniku literally translates as 'grilled meat'. Shin, our amiable Korean waiter told us that this form of dining is now all the rage in Japan. We're not surprised. The way it is interpreted in restaurants is to marinate meat, fish or vegetables and bring them to the table where guests put them on metal grids over hot coals and cook their own meals.
Yaki Niku at 16n Glenferie Rd. has a long neat row of tables set with decorative paper mats
and with over head heaters.
The menu includes entrees and grills as well as some a la carte dishes. We started with a miso soup ($2.5)
followed by tempura prawn
and grilled silken tofu.
The tofu was lightly covered with a sweetish mild teryaki sauce, well matched to the delicacy of the tofu. The prawns however, were a disappointment. The were actually crumbed and not in tempura batter and the dipping sauce did nothing for them.
A large pot of glowing coals was now placed on the table under the overhead heater

and a grate placed over it.
We had ordered a plate of noodles with vegetables to eat with the grills
and the leaf salad that comes with them.
Shin now brought these to the table with two half inch thick slices of quite excellent meat, which he cut up, while they cooked, with scissors, into bite size pieces and a plate of pork belly marinated in garlic, onion, fruits and sweet soy sauce.

He brought a fresh grate for the pork.

We finished the meal with a black sesame and a green tea ice cream which were particularly good.

This was a real fun meal but more than that it was very good food. the cuts of meat were beyond complaint, the marinade was excellent the service friendly (We were the only ones there at the time!!) and the place was spotless. It's quite inexpensive, entrees mostly about $6 to $10, mains $15 to $20, except waghu and desserts $5.5. The have a small wine list and BYO. We were disappointed that there were no Korean or Japanese wines on their list but the place has only been open about 4 months so they are constantly improving.
Shin's brother is in the kitchen and together they make a good team.

It's wise to book for the grills so they can have the coals ready.
Score: 14.5/20

Friday, March 18, 2011

Le Petit Bourgeoise (Malvern) 03/2011

Reviewers who are seriously impressed with restaurants have nothing but joy in expressing their pleasure and are normally in general agreement with their colleagues. There is only one problem about raving about LPB. It's a very small restaurant and it's already often hard to get a table so this can only make the situation worse. Never the less we have to say that we find it one of the most under rated restaurants in Melbourne. The food is outstanding and this is acknowledged by every review I have seen for the last decade and We have invariably had superb meals there.

It's a husband and wife team with John Salsbury in the kitchen and Wendy looking after the front of house. The restaurant is small, one room, with a cool, understated elegance. Patrons generally come to enjoy a meal in comfort and without excessive noise. For all that sobriety it is a happy place to be.
Service is paced for a long dinner. This allows John to cook each dish perfectly and he does.
He has an understanding for cooking that is rarely seen. His sauces are delicate and balanced. Not everything is French but the onion soup certainly is. Slightly caramelized, the onion adds just a touch of sweetness. If you like French onion soup you will not get it better than this. ($18).
A , grapefruit, red capsicum / tomato relish ($18) was exquisite. Excuse the pic, my flash failed.
Perfect pastry, gentle flavour and melting texture. Mouth wateringly good.
Mains are around $32 for dishes well balanced, well seasoned and truly excellently cooked. I'm not going to go on about them. Go and try them for yourself.
Desserts are a treat. ($15)
is rich and light and big enough to share When it comes to souffles Chef Salsbury is a master. They rise beautifully and do not collapse, and have excellent flavour. Although fairly sweet they are really really good.
It's BYO with a small modestly priced, adequate wine list.
Score 15.5/20

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Simon's Peiking Duck Chinese Restaurant (Box Hill Sth) 03/2011

If you spell Beijing with two i's why not Peiking? Who knows but that's how Simon Lay has chosen to spell it in the name of his new restaurant. After four years of retirement from Old Emperor, which he fronted for some 20 years, this 'Charles Bronson of the East',
is up to his old tricks, making fun of everything, including himself, with all the energy and humour for which he is famous.
More renowned than this, however, is his Pe(i)king duck. My italics.
Peking duck is not a simple herb spiced roast duck. It may even be deep fried. It's preparation includes being stuffed with special herbs, having the skin pneumatically lifted from the body of the duck and having additional herbs inserted, blanched and marinated for 24 hours before being cooked to produce the special taste that distinguishes it from other crispy skin roast ducks.
Simon presents his Muscovy ducks at the table cooked to a glorious tan.

The skin is crisp the duck moist with a minimum of fat. Plates of spring onions and cucumber and plenty of plum sauce accompany a stack of paper thin pancakes which Simon separated and, Frisbee like, lofted on to our waiting saucers
before carving the bird. The bits unsuitable for wrapping, neck, wings and some bones were left in the centre of the table. It was do it yourself from then on. A pancake ready for the duck.
A hefty slice of duck with plum sauce ready to be folded into the pancake.
One duck for two people was more than adequate.

In the corner of this simply furnished room two ladies were preparing hundreds of pancakes on special electric hot pans
which they oiled, dipped into a watery batter for a moment, cooked for about 30 seconds
before turning them for a further few seconds and then removed to cool. They then lightly oiled them before stacking them in piles.
There are close to 100 in this stack.
We also took the noodle option, thick, thin, rice or hand pulled for an extra $8

The hand pulled were much thicker than I've had previously but had slightly chewy texture and good flavour
with mushroom and plenty of duck meat.
The last course was a very good duck soup with some silken tofu.
The star anise and five spice and pickled vegetables gave it an especially oriental flavour. Well what else would you expect!
There are two things of which you should be aware. It is wise to reserve a table and let them know how many ducks you want a couple of days in advance, after all if you come for duck you don't want to end up with the a la carte menu AND

they do not take EFTPOS or credit cards.
The basic Duck is $55 or $63 with the noodle option.
It is easy to see that we were not the only ones to
enjoy the very pleasant 2008 White Box Heathcote Shiraz.Wine is extremely inexpensive.
Simon's is a sort of every man's restaurant offering a taste of the real thing with a signature Chinese specialty dish. Whilst we thoroughly enjoyed our meal I felt the the taste of the herbs in the duck were very diminished and the slices were much thicker than I would have liked.
Without deciding the relative importance of these things we might score Ambiance 7.5, Service 6.5, Noise 6, Food 7.5, Presentation 7, Returnability 6, Value 7.5 all out of 10