Saturday, February 23, 2008

Blue Fire

On a corner at 427 Dockland Dve, Waterfront City with a view over the water from the window seats offers a Brazilian influenced barbecue called ‘churrascaria’ as well as an a la carte menu. Housed in a large modern carpeted room with well spaced tables it immediately creates a pleasing atmosphere.
The open kitchen

has a camera focused on the BBQ and displayed on a wide screen TV set like a picture on a wall.
The churrascaria at a set price $49 on weekdays plus 10% on weekends offers a plate of dips – potato and fetta, artichoke and spinach and a spicy capsicum, with a bruchetta and bread

followed by a range of meats and fish and chorizo off the BBQ, as much as you wish to eat, and a handsome plate of vegetables.
The service is quite fast and friendly with waiters turning up frequently with large skewers of overcooked meat
which they carve off for you at the table. A coaster red side up says no more and green side up requests more A cute gimmick which, even with the No More side up, fails to deter further offers. All the marinades contain chilli though there are some chilli free things e.g. calamari for the chilliphobes (Yes I just invented that word)
The a la carte spaghetti marinara ($16)
in a garlic butter sauce was quite undistinguished and the large porterhouse steak ($34), on a bed of excellent potato gratinee and covered in veggies, was very tough and overcooked for my taste. Strangely, for a specialist meat and fish restaurant the vegetables were excellent, as was a plate of chips.
All the portions were extremely generous as was the white and brown chocolate mousse. Wine by the glass is very reasonable from $6.50 up and its not a question of 1/2 full or 1/2 empty its more than 1/2 full!
A fun place for a party but expensive for what you get

Price We spent $75 for our meal so they must have tossed in a freebee somewhere
Score:13 /20

Friday, February 22, 2008

Out of the Frying Pan

There's only one thing wrong with OOTFP at the Langham on Monday March 3rd (2008). That is that, after the first plenary session there are 5 concurrent sessions and you can't get to them all!
For ANYONE interested in food - and you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't, this promises to be a fabulous day. After the first session 'Global Food Trends' chaired by Joanna Saville and featuring a bevy of international stars there will be 3 sessions of 1 and 1/2 hours discussing subjects such as Food Media Trends, Recipe Writing, Politics of Food, Food Writing , Blogging, The Web, what we will be drinking and half a dozen other topics - see their programme at
A small sample of the heroes of the kitchen who will be offering their pearls include:
Michel Roux
Martin Picard
Damien Pignolet
Gilles Choukourn and many many more. You can book at

This promises to be an absolutely spledid event. I hope I see you there
Price: $135 Discount for RACV members to $115
Score: 20/20 in anticipation!

Monday, February 18, 2008

RACV Club - Healesville

Open to the public for their Saturday night dinner dance the club is in competition with a dozen estaurants in the vicinity which vary from cafe style, bistro style to 'haute cuisine' The RACV is somewhere in the middle. The venue is getting old and a little tired but the tables have good linen cloths, and good crockery and cutlery and they are well spaced.Service is adequate and the band, though a bit loud was passable
I ordered a rabbit rissotto for a starter which was most impressive for the size of the portion which was larger than many mains I've been offered. Unfortunately, if they used arboreo rice it was so inferior as to lose the essential character of rissotto. It was not improved by floating in a sea of whatever it had been cooked in. After adding an adequate amount of salt it became a sort of rice soup. I followed this with beef tenderloin which I requested on the blue side of rare or very rare would be fine. Certainly sir we can do that. Well the chef had NO IDEA. Having eaten the huge entree I couldn't be bothered sending it back.

My companion had the special for the night as a starter. The tortelini in a white sauce. A moment later the waiter returned the kitchen has run out of tortelini would linguini be alright and it's only 7.30pm! This was a very tasty dish though the bunch of grass on top was out of place. Her next course some sort of small lamb rolls, which was promised blue, was seriously overcooked and became tough as leather as a result.

There was quite a small cheese platter 3 small pieces of cheese, a fruit jelly with a variety of biscuits including about half a packet of ryevita. The cheese cake desserts was large and unexciting, dominated by sweetness and lacking textureWe drank a Katnook 2000 Merlot ($85) which was very good after being decanted and rested
Price: Around $45/ person plus wine which is very well priced

Comments: Probably satisfies hungry trekkers and golfers.

Score: 12.5/20

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bella Vedere

View over the Yarra Valley from Bella Vedere

Adjacent to the cellar door of Badger Creek winery at 874 Maroondah Hwy Coldstream, only a few K's from Healesville this restaurant serves breakfast and a la carte lunch Wednesday to Sunday and set menu dinner Friday and Saturday.
Chef and part owner Gary Cooper and his business partner Tim Sawyer were both working for this Sunday lunch. Despite the name and the restored Vespa in the entrance the place is not very Italian. The food is farmhouse with aspirations. The wine list modest featuring some local and some more distant Australian wines.
There is an excellent bakehouse associated with the restaurant and they also run a cooking school.
The large hand written menu with 3 appetizers and 7 main courses to choose from looked appealing.
We all had the double baked sweetcorn souffle with whiting on young salad leaves and walnut dressing($16) The souffle was light, sweet and delicate with very good flavour.
The rest of the dish totally bland. It was also served on a plate that was much too large The penne with zucchinie and ricotta was small for a main dish and very expensive at $28. Despite advertised as with olive oil, cracked pepper and parmesan it was sadly underseasoned and we had to ask for salt and pepper as it was not on the table.
A Navarine of lamb is supposedly a French stew with onions, turnips, potato and herbs. In this case the offering, cooked in a bag to retain the juices,
was a surprise lamb shank on a bed of mashed potato incorporating some other unidentifiable vegetable. The meat was tender as can be, falling off the bone and if only it had been well seasoned would have been wonderful. Also at $30 two shanks would not have been unreasonable.
There was a good range of cakes to choose from
and we tested the passion fruit custard tart, a pear and date cake, and a prune pear and apple (I think) cake served with lashings of cream. All suffered from a lack of sweetness though the textures and appearance were impressive.
Price: Prices have risen 50% in the last two years and there is a 1.5% surcharge for credit cards so this is now quite expensive
Comments: The waiters, all wearing black vests, were very busy so anything different involved considerable delay. There was a very rough olive oil on the table with quite a bitter finish. For example butter or a glass of lemonade took at least 10 to 15 minutes to arrive. Still they were trying hard and good humoured under trying circumstances. The restaurant features an open kitchen
but few tables have good views of either the kitchen or the countryside. I had a look at a few recent menus they looked interesting and adventurous. Perhaps we were a bit unlucky. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt!
Score: 13.5/20

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nobu at Crown

The dust has settled and now you can quite often get a table on the night.
Most of us have heard enough opinions to have expectations about a meal at Nobu. The first is that it's going to be expensive. Beyond that most, but certainly not all, report very positively on the food. The venue and the service rarely get a mention and all for good reason. There is an upstairs bar with an L shaped area with tables and a large downstairs dining room. reputed to have cost $10mil to set up. I can only presume that the 7 kitchen areas spread around the periphery were awfully expensive. The low ceiling and wood floor and bare wood topped tables make this a potential noise trap. One table of inconsiderate raucous diners is enough to remove any skerrick of sophistication. Little better than an office cafeteria. The food is another story. We had a first class meal bypassing the degustation menu ($110) for a similar cost option of a range from the a la carte menu. Every dish was superb.We started with their signature dish of black cod in miso. What it lacked in size ($38 too) it made up for in taste - extremely delicate, very very fresh, moist and mouth wateringly tasty. This was followed by a tempura king crab claw ($29) with a rather strong dipping sauce. As good as tempura gets though not as fine a batter as you get at Tempura Hajime. We were part way through the remarkably good beef tenderloin ($43) when the next dish arrived a beautifully presented butterflied whole baby barramundi ($46) which tasted as good as it looked. I could not fault it. At this point our soft shell crab arrived due to a logistic problem of coordination between the different kitchens and a moment later the whole boned poussin ($25) turned up so we had four dishes at once, the table was overflowing with dipping sauce, rice, wine and water and plates of food. I told the waitress that we had come to dine not gobble a quick meal, that the food would be cold and could she bring the p0ussin back later. Initially reluctant I insisted that if the kitchen had messed up the order and timing they could fix it so back it went. George Orwells "Down and Out in Paris and London" makes me wonder about sending dishes back but for whatever the reason it was absoutely excellent when we eventually got it back. The manageress visited us later, explained the occasional timing problem and removed the charge for the crab which was the only 'ordinary' thing we had. Our last course was a California roll, 6 large slices' packed with tender raw fish, and avocado in a moist rice with dipping sauce ($18)
Dessert called "Spring rolls" was chocolate wrapped in a crisp deep fried thin pancake, some rather sour passion fruit sauce and a serve of coconut ice cream ($16)was pleasant enough, a cute idea, but nothing special
Wine: After a 'Lychinee' a lychee cocktail in a martini glass I drank the original Nobu sake - Daiginjo. Served cold 180 ml for $16 was very reasonable. A glass of Plunkett traminer reisling was presented a cm below the line marking the regular size serve and was apologetically removed and returned in full measure.

Price: This ended up at $298 before the gratuity which is expensive but we had an exquisite meal and I will be happy to go again

Comments: The quality of the patrons didn't come within cooee of the food. The standard dress was shoddy casual for the men, much better for the girls. The self absorbtion at the larger groups was such that shouted conversation, readily understandable 4 tables away and roars of laughter made it more like eating at a football match than one of Melbournes best restaurants. It could so easily have been so very much better!
Score: 16.5/20

Monday, February 04, 2008

OUCH - Apologies are Due

Last week I wrote a comment about Barberino and Wong and GST
I didn't look as closely at the bill as I should have.
The GST was simply a calculation to tell diners how much GST they are actually paying - not an addition to the bill!
My apologies

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sel de la Terre

The significance of the name which translates as salt of the earth escapes me but this small French restaurant at 74 Toorak Rd was recommended to me for its fine cooking and excellent sauces.
Our party was 'banished' to the covered courtyard because the restaurant proper was full - a situation that actually appealed to me. Despite the very basic decor it was pleasntly quiet and we throughly enjoyed being able to enjoy both food and conversation without strain.
Our attractive young waitress was very pleasant and showed us remarkable considerationas the meal progressed.
BYO is resticted to Monday and Tuesday (corkage $10) but I was quite happy to drink from their cellar. The list is modest and reasonably priced with only a few wines from France. We drank Merlot and when it was a little sharp on opening I gladly accepted the offer to have it decanted with almost immediate improvement.
Several entrees loooked appealing and we had the gnochi in walnut sauce which were as light and delicate as you could wish for.

The soft shell crabs - two- $14, were fried till the legs were crisp without destroying the taste of the soft body of the crab.
The aioli sauce and the sweet chilli went well without damaging my palate for the next course. The duck salad entree was unusualy large and, I'm told, tasted excellent
The most appealing man course seemed to be the slow roasted smoked porkbelly. Served with about 2 pomme frite broken in half and a teaspoon or so of pumpkin veloute at least it looked like a good size piece of pork.

Unfortunately looks were decieving Rather than being tender and succulent it was dry and tough. Even with the aid of the requested steak knives it was so hard that my wife left hers on the plate. Here our waitress showed star quality. Without being asked she offered to replace the dish with something else which she did., a large duck salad.

Another in our party left half her pork belly and the head waiter (he might have been the owner!) told us that he would not charge for either of the dishes or the salad and then sent a plate of petit fours. I'm not used to this sort of consideration and as a result am going back for another meal there next week!
Price: Entrees about $16 Mains $26 to $34 desserts about $10 to #20
Score 13.75/20 for now!