Sunday, March 30, 2008

C'est Bon Revisited

I liked it last time, I liked it even better this time.
French onion soup ($12.90) was a substantial serve. It could have done with the onion being cooked a little longer to bring out their sweetness and with a bit more cheese. The coquilles St. Jacques had scallops in a creamy sauce that were large, moist, delicate and delicious ($15.90). The quiche with bugs ($15.90) OK. The farmed rabbit stew ($29.890) had little to distinguish it - I think I'll avoid farmed rabbit in future.
The duck a la orange ($32.90) was excellent The icecream filled profiterol with chocolate topping was good to share
and the creme caramel -just good.
Desserts around $14.
Wine: No BYO so my $60 bottle sat aside and we drank a $40 2005 Bordeaux (advertised in the menu as 2004) which was very pl easant

Price: A little above average for food that is quite above average in an extremely pleasant environment

Comments: C'est bon, non, c'est tres bon
Score: 14.5/20


Looking for a Japanese restaurant and not wanting to drive to the city on a suddenly cold wet Melbourne night I found Asakusa at 127 Waverley R, Malvern East (Ph 9569 2051) What a surprise
This is a small restaurant, seats 40 at the most, with an area in front of the kitchen where Chef Steven Yu can be seen making fresh Sushi rolls to order.
We started with half a dozen deep frie oysters in a light batter ($16), Tempura oysters you might say. They were a beaut start. Two more entrees - Gyosa, five moist, lightly seasoned dumplings, and then Eggplant stuffed with minced chicken, were both outstanding although one of the Gyosa was slightly burnt. We had the Katsu- Curry, deep fried crumbed pork in Japanese curry served with a small dish of salad. The pork was more delicate and tender than a chicken breast! and the curry mild and satisfying. a slight hiccup in the kitchen resulted in Sakana Teriyaki - grilled butterfish basted in Teryaki sauce arriving after the curry. It was a little dry perhaps because we were not ready for it when it was ready for us but none the less more than acceptable.
For dessert the Red bean filled pancake with red bean ice cream was super. The black sesame seed ice cream interesting but not sweet enough for my taste.
They have a small OK wine list but corkage for BYO is only $2/ bottle
Price: Mains are around $20 to $25. Desserts, mostly icecreams, $3/ scoop. BYO corkage $2/ bottle
Comments: This is really good Japanese cooking from an extensive menu which is sure to please. It deserves a good rating in the AGF Guide, in which it doesn't get a mention but does score 3 stars in Cheapeats.
They are only open Tues to Sun from 5.30 pm and also have a take away menu.
Score: 14.25/20

Monday, March 24, 2008

Amici Bakery-Cafe

In the heart of "cafe land" at 242 Chapel St Prahran almost opposite the Prahran Town Hall this is an impressive example of how good a cafe can be.
It has inside and outside seating and fast turnover means tables become available quickly The service provided by neat young black uniformed staff is extremely obliging. The food is very satisfying. Eggs are a specialty and large serves come with a variet y of accompaniments but there is plenty more on the menu, both Thai, Spanish, French and English style dishes. Focaccio and sanwiches are wholesome and filling - my beef and salad roll, overflowing with beef, was a good lunch and I'll have to go back to try the great looking pastries.
Nice to get leaf tea instead of tea bags too.
They boast the best bread in Prahran and their loaves certainly look magnificent.
Prices are very reasonable and you have to really pig out to spend more than $25
Comments: This is certainly worth more than the ever erratic Age Cheapeats miserable underestimated one star.
It fits well in the cafe culture of this wonderful city which matches, and generally surpasses, anywhere in the world that I've ever seen.
Score: 14/20

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pacific Seafood BBQ House

Recipient of 2 stars in the recently released Age Cheap Eats 2008 situated in the middle of a busy shopping strip at 210 Toorak Rd. South Yarra this Chinese restaurant is always busy with both eat in or take away diners. The service is efficient with waiters and guests constantly brushing against the chairs of patrons - the tables are so close that if they were any closer they'd have to be stacked, as would the guests!!
There are paper napkins, no table coverings, the crockery is coarse, cutlery, if you need it, is also cheap stuff. Walls are half covered in slabs of coloured paper with menu items and prices in both English and Chinese.
We started with a seafood congee ($10) It had a good variety of of prawns, calamari, scallops and tofu in a very thick not quite homogenized congee. It lacked salt and as greatly improved by a dash of soy sauce.
We followed this with a lobster with ginger on a bed of noodles ($52.80/lb). They have a sign saying all their fish are carefully weighed. Our lobster lost 0.3 of a pound when I requested it be weighed again after disposing of the water in the bucket in which it was weighed - hmmm.
It was served with the requisite equipment surounded by a massive amount of sliced ginger and would have been even sweeter and more tender had it not been a little overcooked
Comments: This place is all about food. Good size serves of good tasting (slightly above average)
dishes served promptly at reasonable (slightly below average) prices.

Score: 13.5/20

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grape Expectations

Jonah Lehrer, an editor at large at Seed magazine and author of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist.",
reported this interesting experiment in The Boston Globe a couple of weeks ago.

SCIENTISTS AT CALTECH and Stanford recently published the results of a peculiar wine tasting. They provided people with cabernet sauvignons at various price points, with bottles ranging from $5 to $90. Although the tasters were told that all the wines were different, the scientists were in fact presenting the same wines at different prices.
The subjects consistently reported that the more expensive wines tasted better, even when they were actually identical to cheaper wines.
The experiment was even more unusual because it was conducted inside a scanner - the drinks were sipped via a network of plastic tubes - that allowed the scientists to see how the subjects' brains responded to each wine. When subjects were told they were getting a more expensive wine, they observed more activity in a part of the brain known to be involved in our experience of pleasure.
The human brain, research suggests, isn't built for objectivity. The brain doesn't passively take in perceptions. Rather, brain regions involved in developing expectations can systematically alter the activity of areas involved in sensation. The cortex is "cooking the books," adjusting its own inputs depending on what it expects.
Expectations can even play havoc with experts. A few years ago, Frederic Brochet, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Bordeaux, conducted a rather mischievous experiment. He invited 54 experienced wine tasters to give their impressions of a red wine and a white wine. Not surprisingly, the experts described the wines with the standard set of adjectives: the red wine was "jammy" and full of "crushed red fruit." The white wine, meanwhile, tasted of lemon, peaches, and honey. The next day, Brochet invited the wine experts back for another tasting. This time, however, he dyed the white wine with red food coloring, so that it looked as if they were tasting two red wines. The trick worked. The experts described the dyed white wine with the language typically used to describe red wines. The peaches and honey tasted like black currants.
There's a message here for foodies, professionals and amateurs alike

Friday, March 14, 2008


In the middle of a tiny shopping strip at 81 Brighton Rd. St. Kilda, almost opposite the end of Chapel St, this restaurant, serving contemporary Turkish cuisine, has recently taken over the next door property and with a few outside tables is now double its former size.
Tables have paper coveringtheir linen cloths and good quality linen napkins
There was a constant stream of takeaway customers as well as a fair number of dine in clients on this Thursday night which I took as a good sign.
The Meze entrée with hot Turkish bread was stock standard. Despite the appeal of their ‘Gourmet wood fired pizzas’, from $9 for small up to $18 we chose from the main course menu.
The Ottoman Lamb $22.50, slow cooked four 4-5 hours in the wood fired oven with corn and green beans on a bed of eggplant and topped with béchamel sauce was a little dry in parts failing to meet the menu’s promise of melt in the mouth succulence. The grilled prawns on pilaf rice $24.50 seasoned with lemon pepper and zest with a light garlic sauce and rocket leaves were dominated by the garlic as was the lamb kebab $19.50. Nevertheless they were satisfying and good sized serves. The barbecued bugs and prawns $29 were, I’m told, sweet and pleasing One Lezzet Sunday proved to be too much for four of us. Filled with Turkish delight which was supposed to melt in the mouth and surrounded by berries it was very rich and stuck to the teeth so firmly it would be a risk to fillings and a no go zone for dentures.
Corkage $7.50 or choose from their modest wine list
They have membership benefits and a webpage where you can see some images of the restaurant and the food. Book on line and offer Wi-Fi but I’m unsure if it is gratis
Price: Average suburban restaurant costs - fair value

Comments: Turkish delight - well almost

Score: 13.5/20

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Oggi Enoteca

The multitude of restaurants, bistro, enotecas and cafes crowded along the strip on Lygon St, Carlton can readily be defined as upmarket (a few) mid-market, (the majority) and down market (quite a lot). For me Oggi at, 237 falls clearly at the lower end of down market.
The pavement seating at small tables covered with cheap cupboard liner are the most unprepossessing on the street and inside tables are little more appealing. Perhaps the most attractive feature of the place is the blackboard displaying the specials, for lunch in this instance, all for $15 with a glass of wine. The best that can be said of the meal is that the serves are large.
The wines a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir were just drinkable
The linguine marinara were liberally spiced with too much pepper and the salmon patties needed a magnifying glass to find the salmon in the mashed potato. I lashed out for an extra $10 and had the farmed rabbit cacciatore with olives, capsicum and tomato.
Whilst the olives were there there was a miniscule amount of tomato and capsicum. There was, however, an extremely large serve of boiled potato and sliced carrot. The sauce became very gluggy as it cooled but it was quite tasty and the rabbit tender and not at all dry. We didn't consider a dessert
Comments: You get what you pay for but at least here you get plenty of it
Score: 12/20

Friday, March 07, 2008

Techno-emocionale and global food trends

Out of the Frying Pan, a segment of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, brought together many chefs, restaurateurs, writers, bloggers and reviewers from around the world.
The first session dealt with the subject of global trends.
William Sitwell began with a view from Britain which was largely endorsed by speakers from France (Benedict Beague) Spain (Oriole Belaguer) and USA (Gabrielle Hamilton)
There is an immense and increasing interest in food which is now being strongly influenced by ethical considerations. At the same time there is ever more fast food being sold.
Despite the barrage of cooking programmes surveys show only 4% of viewers are tempted to actually cook the dishes. It is pleasing to know that the trend is to real time cooking using readily available ingredients and the photography, in food mag’s too, are the genuine item- not faked with things like creamed potato presented as ice cream.
So what’s happening at the restaurants and in the supermarkets.
It seems that there is a strong movement toward more traditional cooking, whilst Techno-emocionale, the name adopted in Spain to both describe molecular gastronomy and demonstrate their independence from the English speaking world, is becoming less popular as copycat chefs are not able to maintain the standards of the best proponents of this art. Furthermore there are criticisms of the inability to savour the tastes in the tiny serves, further depreciated by matched wines which , if offered in reasonable amounts, soon blunt the palate, and the difficulties of maintaining convivial conversation with constant interruptions from helpful waiters constantly barraging guests with information about what they are being served.
Indeed many restaurants are going ‘down market’ tablecloths are being replaced with place mats, stem glasses are disappearing and waiters are becoming ever more casual, not only in appearance but also in manner.
The eco movement is gathering pace with questions about bottled water, imported products organic foods, out of season foods and so on. The ’Fair Trade’ symbol is disadvantageous to small traders because of the associated costs and may be failing to achieve its purpose and decreasing small business returns as shoppers may not buy their excellent products
There is increasing emphasis on fresh and local everywhere and farmers markets are everywhere.
In France, perhaps partly because of the depressed economy, home cooking is becoming more popular. Interestingly small bistro eateries are the most awarded by the French Le Guide to food which give marks solely for the food
In New York the trends are towards small plates, belly of something, home cured hams, oozy eggs, grass fed beef, Greek food and Greek wines and African food. Bottled water is out and raw food is in
In Spain
Techno-emocionale is popular, product driven tapas but also trends to local and traditional.
Another theme is food as entertainment
There were many other minor points made but bloggers will be pleased to know that food blogging, almost non existent a few years ago, is taking off!

A Wine Tasting Experiment

The Ordre Mondiale, a part of the Chaine des Rotisseurs with a particular interest in wines attempted to pick the origins of eight wines – four Australian and four French.
They were presented masked and after a Pol Roger N/V champagne and an appetizer A Tasmanian oyster, Goats cheese and caramelized onion tart, confit duck pastie and a salmon blini, the wines were served with an excellent four course menu prepared by Michael Bacash at his eponymous Domain Rd. restaurant
In all cases the majority of the 16 participants correctly identified the national origins of the wines and there was a distinct preference for the French offerings with the exception of an overwhelming preference for the Australian Pinot Noir.
These were the wines and the accompanying dishes.
Trimbach Fredrich Emile 2001 Reisling v Crawford River 2006 Reisling
served with a salad of Hiramasu Kingfish, dressed with citrus and celery salt, EVOO,with a watercress, orange and olive salad
Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2002 Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin v Main Ridge Estate Chardonnay
served with seared sea scallops with cauliflower cream, crisp pancetta and a fine herb salad
Vosne-Romaine 1er Cru Les Orveaux 2005 Mongeard-Mugneret v Bass Phillip 21 2006 Pinot Noir
seared crispy skin ocean trout with sauteed spinach, fondantpotato and rosemaryveal jus
Chateau Coutet 2001 Barzac Sauterne v De Bortoli Noble One 2005

with a trio of Verbena desserts - jelly, granita and syllabub

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Interludes 4th Birthday

Interlude celebrated its fourth birthday with a five course degustation menu accomp[anied by five different Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin champagnes on Monday February 25th.
The meal began inauspiciously with Blue Swimmer Crab with variations of sweet corn served, without comment, some 40 minutes after we arrived at the appointed time of 6.30 pm. Since it was particularly difficult for me to get there at that time and they knew exactly what they would be serving I found this inexcusable. Even worse the sweet corn jelly atop this tiny portion was completely tasteless and the fine taste of the crab was defeated by the excess salt in the dish. The accompanying Yellow label NV Brut was a good choice being slightly sweet despite the name. Alphabet soup was a cute gimmick spelling out the name INTERLUDE before the consommé, which was quite nice, introduced a degree of dyslexia. The NV Rose was an interesting choice and will undoubtedly become popular for celebrations.
He next course- barely two mouths full, Sea bream, baby Gem, Morels, Barley, Haddock Air, was beautifully produced and the fish excellent but oh so very little. By now I was getting pretty hungry and was well into the second of the 7 pieces of bread that ultimately became the major part of the dinner. But that the crust was burnt on the walnut bread I might have had even more!! The vintage Brut 2002 might have been stimulating my appetite! This is a lovely wine dryer and crisper than the previous offerings- a joy to my palate!
What I guess passed for the main course was another small snack Roast chicken, nothing special, Roast egg, filled with bouillon, very ordinary and leek truffle again very ordinary could not be saved by the most excellent 1998 vintage ‘La Grand Dame’ The dessert, Almond, Cherry, Coconut looked better than it tasted. The NV Demi-Sec was pleasant enough but I felt that a dessert wine would have been more appropriate. In summary there were some excellent and some very poor aspects of the food. The serves were tiny and I had to go home and eat supper. It was poor value for money at $180 if not for the Entertainment Card $40 discount.
I certainly hope the Monday night special dinners do better in the next few months.
Score: 14/20