Sunday, March 25, 2012

Momoco Sushi Ni (Kew) 03/2012

This is one of two Melbourne restaurants sharing this name. The other is in Elsternwick. We were recommended this one and we were not sorry to come here. It's an attractive place on a very busy road making parking difficult.
Seating is comfortable, chairs have the name of the restaurant embroidered on the seats and carved on their backs.
They have lots of young waitresses though several seemed to have difficulty understanding requests. The menu is on a large double sided laminated sheet with photo's of the dishes around the margins and a special on Japanese pancakes and beer on a piece of paper stuck on the wall. It's eat in or take away and they have two sittings on Sunday night, all you can eat for $38. Prices are generally on the low side.
We were presented with little bowls of pickled salad before our orders arrived.
We opted for variety, starting with a scallop and mango salad which was excellentand a chicken and a seafood pancake. They looked identical and did not taste much different although there was plenty of chicken, or seafood in each of them. They were quite large, and filling, with a gluggy texture which some people might like better than I do. Chicken and pork gyosa came with a light dipping sauce. For mains we tried an udon noodle soup with tempura vegetables and sea food ($2.50 per extra prawn) which was unexceptional, and a sea food hot pot. This suffered from the sea food overcooking in the hot soup. It would have been much better if this had been added at the table. Red bean paste pancake and ice cream was a nice end to an inexpensive substantial meal.
They have a modest wine list, modestly priced. I drank Sake which is very reasonable at $10 for 250 ml of their house brand.Score 13.5/20

Ocha ( Hawthorn) 03/2012

Ocha ranks with us as not only the most interesting but also the best Japanese restaurant in Melbourne. The food is delicate, beautifully presented, and satisfying. It is distinctly Japanese but has incorporated other culinary elements. Patrons may order from the menu or ask the chef to design a meal, taking account of any special food requirements, which is what we did.
The first thing to appear at the table was endamame, immature soya beans cooked in their pods.
Something to occupy one for a moment or two while settling down.
This was followed by a smoked salmon and eggplant mixture with a little wasabi on a small flat bread.
Very tasty, followed by unusual crab and fish balls coated with crisp ?almond flakes. Crumbed scallops baked on the shell were a little over cooked and dry but still quite pleasant. Pan fried calamari salad was tender but a little bland but the tempura sea food was near perfect. A plate of sashimi was also faultless. The two fabulous main courses followed. A serve of cod fish was to die for. Perfection on a plate. We have never had better. The duck breast that came next was exquisite, remarkable for it's tenderness and taste.Finally something sweet a crepe filled with bean paste and a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. The decor is simple but the food is simply delightful.
They offer a reasonable wine list, very fairly priced and several Sake as wellmas Japanese beer.
Score: 17/20

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Quay (The Rocks, Sydney) 03/2012

Regarded by many as the finest restaurant in Australia Quay has earned its reputation as a result of attention to detail in every aspect of delivery of a meal. The venue is superb. From the simple entrance with it's Asher Bilu hanging curtains, amusingly titled Circular Keys, the dining area stuns with views of the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Lunar Park. Ferries pass constantly creating an ever changing scene. Service is impeccable and stylish. The somellieur poured Champagne with a flourish, at eye level but, importantly, was very well informed about the extensive wine list. Chef Peter Gilmore's menu is complex and diverse and the meal itself ticked every box for us. Everything was attractive including cutlery, crockery table placement and, of course, the food. It was jumping off the plates with freshness, flavours were delicate, harmonious and balanced. It had shape and form. It looked great and it was. It would be impossible not to be impressed. After an amuse bouche we were served series of dishes all of which were beyond criticism.
They were as follows:
Raw native fresh water marron, young almonds, bergamot marmalade,grapefruit, green mango,elder chamomile.
Mud crab congee, fresh palm heart.Next a hidden surprise.Gently poached southern rock lobster, hand caught Tasmanian squid, golden tapioca, lobster velvet.
Smoked and confit pigs cheek, shitake, shaved scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, juniper bay.Slow cooked columix quail breast,stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farrow, walnuts.David Blackmore's full blood wagyu, bitter chocolate black pudding, oxtail consomme.Seeing we might still have been able to manage another course we were now offered a dish not on our menu a most delicate and beautifully presented smoked eel. White nectarine snow egg, a signature dish at Quay.On opening it there was a combination of white and yellow. Chickens might have started this, or did the egg come first, but they were never as sweet as here!
This was followed by another technically astonishing and irresistible seven layer chocolate cake.
Ewe's milk ice cream, caramel, roasted walnuts, prune, Pedro Jimenez, chocolate bark, pulled toffee, vanilla milk skin.Coffee/tea Petit fours.We cannot fairly give a score to this dinner any more than to a great piece of art. Of course it's intensely personal too but for us this was simply the best meal we have ever had in Australia.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sepia (Sydney CBD) 03/2012

Earlier today we visited the Picasso exhibition. There the art was spread around the walls, mostly on canvas or wood. A leisurely lunch at Sepia provides a nice contrast. Here the art is all on porcelain, it titivates more senses and it's edible. It's a sensational meal touching the sense of taste, of touch, of sight, of smell and, with the clink of glasses, even of hearing. Of course to some degree every meal does this but not the way Sepia does. The meal invites a poetic response. *Writing of the food recently Terry Durack, food reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, said it was "smoky, sweet, crunchy, creamy, soft, gentle, toasty, scented, clear, brothy, earthy, floral. The focus is on texture and contrast even more than taste – there's always a crunch, always a cream."
For us the meal we had was not focused on any element above any other except for it's incredible variety. Most of the courses had six or more ingredients, many had unusual flowers and herbs but all were handled with great care and delicacy. We would defy anyone to make a meal anything like this at home. Above all it was not only interesting it was satisfying and it was fun.
The restaurant is very quietly set out encouraging muted voices.Here is what we had:after an entree of Sydney rock oysters with a lime and vinaigrette dressing.
Spanner crab and walnut salad, spiced tomato jelly, fingerlime, elk.Seared swordfish belly,ponzu and dashi jelly,pickled white cucumber, minted buttermilk.watermelon radish, miso mustard, shaved KatsuobushiSashimi of yellow fin tuna, Jamon Iberico, poached quail egg,soy dashi jelly,onion cream, wasabi powder, puffed buckwheat, red elk.Butter poached Bonito, carrot, saki clams,white sesame oil, chive, green tea.Soy glazed smoked freshwater eel, amaranth grain, sea urchin cream, arame seaweed, sorrel, nori and orange.Poached corn fed chicken breast, crispy sansho pepper skin, Saikyo miso custard, elderberries, wild rice, sprouting lentils, garlic flowers and buds.Char grilled miso beef filet, nameko, buckwheat cream, sea samphire, purplette onions, roasted mustard seeds, salt and vinegar potato starch.Coeur de Savoie, apple and plum wine vinegar, fried capers and parsley ($10) was an option we did not have.
We were then offered a small surprise, a strawberry on a bed of grated chocolate that we were told to tap with a fork.It proved to be an imitation filled with ice cream!Sandra now had a cheese plate,while I had the regular dessert.White nectarine, vanilla cream, gingerade and fingerlime.
"Autmn chocolate forrest" was the final course.
Soft chocolate, praline and chestnut, lavender cream,sour cherry sorbet, blackberry candy, green tea, liquorice, chocolate twigs, crystallised fennel fronds, blackberries.
And Tea/coffee, petit fours.
Meals like this are extraordinary. They are full of artistry and need a poet to write appropriately about them. We were not far from speechless.
Score: 19/20

* You can read Duracks complete review here: