Friday, November 14, 2014

WoodLand House (Prahran) 11/2014

JaquesReymond has been renamed WoodLand House and refurbished. Outside they have built a small kitchen garden and set up a wood fired stone oven.

Inside the place has been smartened up and simply redecorated. Their light shades, like layers of multi folded muslin petticoats are particularly striking.

The easy sophisticated look is enhanced by a central table in the main room featuring a relaxing flower display.

Wood round backed chairs are comfortable placed around well spaced uncluttered tables.
They now offer a four or six course degustation menu with option of matched wines. Gluttons for punishment we had the six courses on two successive Sundays. The menu changes quite often but many of our dishes were the same.
We were first offered a fine, crisp magenta coloured potato crisp.

Generally I think that is an unappetizing colour for food but this a bit of fun and pleasant though near tasteless. 

and a seasoned butter

were offered frequently and much appreciated.
The first course was abalone, wakame butter and spaghettini accompanied by 
2013 Chablis Domaine Servin ‘Cuvee Le Pargues’, Burgundy, France.  

This was an interesting dish. Delicately flavoured each element was distinct but combined well,

Rock flathead, horse radish, spring greens might sound odd but it was delicious. The horseradish surprisingly good but it also had a light mustard which was a fine touch. The wine, 2013 Crawford River Riesling, Henty, Victoria, Australia  was no exception to the othe Crawford River reislings I have enjoyed in the past..
 Rouget, a red mullet, artichoke, saffron fennel

was another moorish small dish. The wine, 2013 Caves D'Esclans 'Whispering Angel' Rose, Cotes de Provence, France continued to please.
Spatchcock, golden beetroot, roasting juices,

one delicious dish after the next and again a wine to match, 2011 Weingut Bernhard Huber ‘Baden’ Pinot Noir, Malterdingen, Germany.
Veal, broad bean, grilled white onion was the last main course.

This meal is so good I don't know what to say about it. Each course has been excellent. The courses are attractively presented, flavours and textures are refined. Every wine, including this 2011 Gigondas, Domaine La Bastide 'Saint Dominique' Reserve, Rhone Valley, France has also enhanced the food.
A cheese platter of Calendar cheeses before dessert

served with a flourish.

Chocolate, nougat, rhubarb ripple was a respectable dessert.
Not too rich I'll be happy with that at the end of any meal.
NV Chambers Rosewood Vineyard, Rutherglen Muscat Rutherglen, Vic was as good a dessert wine as I would ever want. You don't need a Sauterne!
A variety of chocolate coated crisp nuts and jubes

were offered with coffee.

Next week we came back for more!
There were some variation to the previous menu. The abalone dish was replaced by smoked eel, tomato jelly, gaspacho, 

about as nice a way of enjoying smoked eel and beautifully presented. The next dish was absolutely fabulous. Deep sea rockling, lobster emulsion, shaved almond 

would have been more than presentable without the lobster emulsion but with it it was a mouth watering taste sensation!
Rock flathead horse radish, mustard was as before.
This was followed by veal dolce forte,asparagus, salsify. 

Simply superb. The last main course was Flinders Island lamb, broad beans, red rice which was made into a crisp. A simple honest dish 

once again nothing but praiseworthy.
Cheese platter ($35 to share) was the same as was the chocolate nougat butterscotch dessert.
The six course menu costs $110. The four course menu, eel, rockling, lamb and dessert is $80.
We would certainly take the six courses every day of the week.
Score:17 /20

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Mr Jennings (Richmond) 11/2014

Having enjoyed some of Ryan Flaherty's cooking when he worked with Scott Pickett at the Estelle we were keen to try his own restaurant. They offer either a la carte dining or a 5 course degustation menu. We invariably go for that - it saves so much decision making. They do not do a wine flight but will 'steer you in the right direction' from their small and slightly unusual list of wines.
From the moment we arrived we both felt this was going to be an awful evening. The noise was oppressive. We changed tables to try to escape from the worst of it but it was hopeless. 
The venue is quite bare and austere. Tables are plain blonde wood

furnished with a white napkin under a knife and fork. Chairs are hard.
Offered sparkling or still water ($4) we choose tap water. We had to ask twice for ice and had to ask again when the first lot was finished. It took quite a while to get to the table. Bread and butter are available 

but you have to ask for them and we also had to ask for salt which was brought but then removed as the course was cleared and had to be requested a second time. The point is that service was not good although Hamish, who greeted us on arrival was excellent.
The meal started with a boudin blanc/Dagwood dog on a home made very tasty tomato sauce.

Made from chicken with paprika salt it was  a delicate and gentle start to the meal ($6)
The next course was crab, salmorejo, chili, black pepper. 

This was a spicy cold soup, more a puree, a sort of hybrid gaspacho, half Spanish half Italian, It has a little celery in the crab which gave it some crunch, a couple of thin slices of chili and was dressed with a mustard leaf. The salmorejo totally overwhelmed the delicate crab making this a rather dubious combination. ($18)
THis was followed by sashimi of cobia, which we were told had been treated as a ceviche, and accompanied by cucumber and fennel salad, orange dust and a simple Asian dressing. 

This was extremely bland. That was when we asked for the salt. The dressing was minimal and so was the taste.
Mulloway, a fish we rarely eat, with a sesame, spring greens and tofu dressing, was a very pleasing dish. The fish was excellent and was well matched to the dressing. ($21) 

They next served a 350 day grain fed sirloin, cooked almost as requested. 

This was an outstanding piece of meat. there was nothing else on the plate but a couple of mustards. Separately thrice cooked chips, 

Heston Blumenthal style, were not very crisp, perhaps they need to look at using a different sort of potato, and a pleasantly lightly dressed lettuce salad. 

Very plain, it was the best dish of the night. ($34/ 250 gm or $45 for 350 gm).
The final course was a Jaggery cake, apricot, double cream with wild fennel fronds. ($16) 

Some people might love this but neither or Sandra are among them. The cake which was supposed to have been dehydrated to make it crunchy was only very little crunchy in  part of the dessert. The apricot and double cream were fine but hardly a display of culinary skill and the fennel fronds did nothing for the dish. Jaggery is a sugar popular in Asia, often made from a combination of palm and cane sugar it is dark and unrefined. 
Mr Jennings certainly has some good points but overall we found it disappointing. Possibly the a la carte menu offered better possibilities than the chefs choices. I think the people at the table next to us also felt that the meal could have been much better and the noise was overwhelming. 
Score:13.5 /20