Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tenkai (Bali Padma at Legian) 07/2012

In my experience Japanese restaurants fall into two major categories - traditional, serving either tepanyaki or sushi, sushimi tempura, terryaki and udon style dishes or modern tapas style variations of traditional dishes. Tenkai falls squarely in the traditional category. It is a simply decorated and simply furnished, almost minimalist venue. Tables are well sized but chairs are uncomfortable. The settings are attractive. The menu is arranged around a main course preceded by an appetizer and miso soup and finishing with ice cream. Tepanyaki is offered on some nights. We wanted to share both a mixed sushi sashimi dish and a tempura udon which was not a routine situation but, with several explanations they managed to provide two pieces of everything. The appetizer was a delicate mouthful of minced tuna. I had saki from the very limited beverage list, which matched the food. The remaining dishes were stock standard. Sushi mix was as delicate as ever.Tempura came with a very small bowl of pickled cucumber.Udon soup.Just what we expected and so good that we are going back again.
Score: 14/20

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Taman Ayun (Bali Padma at Legian) 07/2912

The Bali Padma is a 5 star establishment, we were told and in some ways it certainly is. Set in 10 acres of well tended gorgeous gardens with lots of interesting sculptures and modern works in metal and attractive landscaping with many pools stocked with some very large goldfish it's a paradise. It also offers several restaurants and cafes. At different times they serve Italian, Japanese and other ethnic food. The main restaurant, Taman Ayan, occupies a large area, open on all sides with views of the garden. Tables are a good size and woven plastic backed chairs are comfortable. Here Sandra discusses her choices with one of the many waiters. The menu has both Western and Indonesian fare on different pages. For some reason the Indonesian dishes were much less expensive than the Western ones. Generally, even with a 21% tax prices were about half or less than they would be in good International hotels. Service is seriously bad. Wait staff are very gentle and nice but they are readily confused, take orders two and three times and forget requests. A discussion about chili in the spring rolls led to a decision to have the soup. The entree arrived - spring rolls! They apologize frequently but it's all rather meaningless. The cooking is disappointing. The spring rolls were not very crisp, contained duck and crab and were mildly spicy. Minces fish and prawn, a sort of fish sausage was very firm and lacked taste. Waghu steak with mash potato was a bit thin but OK , without distinction. An Indonesian style duck, served with two colour rice and a mild chili salad, was quite tasty but overcooked, tough and dry. A dessert of banana fritter and ice cream was also grilled to death and almost inedible. The ice cream was the best bit with it's sugar cone. The fruit here is remarkable. Pau pau is the sweetest ever retaining that special tropical flavour and although the red water melon was what one might get in Melbourne the yellow water melon was superb. Coconut ice cream was watery.
All in all a very poor meal.
We did return for another meal. This time we had the corn and crab meat soup which was excellent with plenty of crab meat and a fine blending of the crab and corn flavours.
A sirloin "Rendang" offered mild, hot or very hot was just fine with Dijon mustard and no chili sauce. Strangely it was about half the cost of a similar piece of meat served 'Western' style!
Score: 13/20

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Melasti (Bali) 07/2012

There are about 15 restaurants along the shore at Jimbaraya beach which, we were assured, are all of similar very good quality and moderately priced. Assurances assurances. They may be of similar quality but it's not very good and it can be pretty expensive. There are some added extras, apart from sitting by the sea and listening to the lapping waves. There was a group, dressed in Balinese outfits but sounding distinctly Russian, singing 60's hit tunes, and a pair of Balinese girls performing traditional Balinese dances. We also had a most delightful waitress, Annie, who was instantly at our side if we wanted anything but otherwise unobtrusive. On arrival we were greeted by a very pretty girl who picked a flower out of a great bowl of them and put it behind our ears. Despite these substantial organs in my case that lasted about 20 seconds.
The waiters happily moved our table closer to the stage and within moments a bowl of soup arrived. It was a thickish chicken broth with some corn kernels and some spices but very light on taste.
We ordered the two largest lobsters they could find which were grilled, over cooked unfortunately, served with a garlic sauce, fries, rice, a viciously acidic salad and sea spinach, a sort of fibrous green vegetable. A cafe style meal and an unforgettable night, mostly for the wrong reasons but we pretended as much as we could!Score 13/20

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Merrywell (Southbank) 07/2012

How should we tell you about this. It's a little bit of America come to Southbank. Merrywell is not the usual bar and hamburger joint it's more like an upmarket cafe with a specialty - hamburgers but not just meat, also chicken and fish. What's more they are remarkable for being both inexpensive, $15 including chips and a pint, but also they are remarkably good. They come in a paper bag that conceals a big bun filled with a ton of extremely tasty and very moist, just cooked beef and the usual veggies.
They leave those dives like the former Daniels, so beloved by Matt Preston, for dead. Scottish chef Grant MacPherson, seen here with Melissa Pinder, who invited us to this lunch,
comes here after 17 years in Las Vegas having cooked at Wynns and the Bellagio. He has a light hand and Merrywell serves a variety of Taco's,
and desserts
as well as their burgers. It's a very big place seating about 400. It offers a casual inside/outside ground floor eating area and a large, slightly more formal, 1st floor dining area.Up the stairs
Definitely a great place for 'burgers.
Score 13.75/20

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Estelle (Northcote) 07/ 2012

We came here a couple of times soon after Scott Pickett took over the place with his mate, the extremely well traveled and well qualified Ryan Flaherty. Whilst not overboard on the modern trends in cooking the influence of places that Ryan has worked at, such as The Fat Duck, El Bulli and Arzack has helped make The Estelle one of the hidden gems among Melbourne suburban restaurants.

They put on a particularly fine meal for the Chaine de Rotisseurs last week which was accompanied by an outstandingly well matched set of wines mostly purchased from Prince Wine store in South Melbourne.

On arrival we enjoyed a NV Andre Clouet Champagne with an entrée of puffed veal tendons with a caramelized onion cream and a pressed melon wrapped in what looked like cellophane but was actually an edible film, yoghurt and basil. The tendons had the cruch of prawn crackers and the taste of veal which was not diminished by the gentle onion cream. The melon a, surprise packet, was another technical triumph like a fruity little sweet.Delicious. A 2010 Pichot Vouvray Sec Coteau de la Biche was served with a beetroot and ashed goat cheese salad. This beautifully presented dish well matched the clean finishing demi sec wine. A second entrée of smoked eel, carrot and camomile came with a sweeter 2010 Robert Weil Rheingau Reisling Trocken with a pleasing indefinable minerality. The eel was so very good I could happily have had several serves. Rock flathead, caramelized cauliflower puree, pickled mushrooms and beurre noisette with capers and raisins was a little disappointing as the fish had been cooked through and had lost the juicy succulence that marks it at it’s best. The 2010 Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne Montrachet was very dry with a buttery acidity, a fine accompaniment. The next dish was outstanding. Suckling pig, nettles and apple was truly to drool over. The excellent 2009 Alain Burguet Gevrey Chambertin was well matched but the 2006 Domain Charvin Chateau Neuf du Pape which came with the kangaroo, black mushroom and black garlic was the wine of the night although it scored a mere 94 Parker points. Dessert, sour cream, pumpkin, salted caramel and olive oil sponge while pleasant was unexceptional. The 2009 Chateau la Roukerie Coteaux du Layon Chaumes Les Aunis was quite sweet without being cloying.

Another excellent meal. Score 17/20