Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another Vue

On that day, unlucky for some, Friday 13th of June I experienced one of the finest meals ever.
After an unusual and very pleasing Amuse Bouche there followed 12 extraordinary courses, beverage and petit-fours. I have never had any of these dishes before and each was a delight to the senses.
Of all the great restaurants that I have experienced only The Fat Duck, regarded by international reviewers as either the best or second best restaurant in the world, was superior to this meal. That Vue du Monde is currently rated 74th only means they haven’t been here enough.
Better than Thomas Kellers’ The French Laundry, clearly better than Joel Roubillards’ three star Vegas restaurant, The Manor, and at least the equal to Kellers’ Per se Shannon Bennett has created something very very special.
This was a new menu demonstrating, in dish after dish, imagination and flair in presentation, taste and textural combinations – visually and orally exciting. Vue has also had a new set of very attractive double blown tumblers made specially for them by Reidel to replace their somewhat cumbersome predecessors.
What next – sound effects?
Service was unobtrusive and Raoul, our sommellier, particularly sensitive to our needs in choosing a couple of wines to accompany the menu.

A remarkable meal
This was the menu

Pea and jamon soup with a jamon tartare served with a confit quail yolk on a lettuce raft. This miniature san chao bao with it's lightly cooked quail yolk over a super tasty pea soup makes my mouth water even now a week later!
King crab, sautéed, with a crab emulsion, Sterling caviar and potato tuile. Note the peeled grapes between the brick of claw meat on the right and the head meet on the left. A sweet dish good to look at and even better to eat. LINGUINI AUX TRUFFES
Linguini cooked in cep stock served with freshly shaved Manjimup truffle. These Western Australian truffles are geneticly identical to those from France but have the advantage of getting to the table much more quickly - only 3or 4 days after they were harvested and the difference is very apparent in the taste. I did not take a photo of this dish
Carpaccio of foie gras with fennel, pear and verjus sauce. Contrasting texture and taste made this an interesting, and very good, way of eating foie gras, or pears if you like. Much better than the pot or slab I usually get
Poached coral trout, with spring onion, parsley purée and spices. Cooked to a delicate pefection with a consomme added at the table. The papparadelle on the left is actually a very long thin strip of apple
Marron, poached in an orange saffron sauce with smoked clams and fennel
Liquid frozen verjus. I always wondered what I might do with verjus to impress my dinner guests - now I know
Poached breast and confit leg of chicken with handmade Brussels sprouts and mushroom reduction. The brussel sprouts were a surprise package wrapped around a ball of herb cheese. The chicken might look ordinary but it was exceptionally tasty
Poached loin of hare with a garlic purée, chestnut, yeast air and bread lattice. Another exceptional combination of tastes and textures beautifull presented
Goats curd served with sugared rose petal, rose jelly topped with goats curd ice cream. Yet another beautifully executed dish. It's hard not to be boring about how good this all was.

Fruit salad. Frozen slices of Kiwi fruit atop a pomegranite infused yoghurt fruit salad.
Pistachio soufflé with triple sec custard. Yummy
Quince foam set into a caramel sphere with white chocolate cage and frozen white chocolate soil.
An amazing dessert. Surrounded by a white chocolate filligree sphere, like one of those Chinese hand carved ivory balls there is a thin red sphere, like a X'mas tree decoration, made of sugar and containing ice cream.

A selection of coffee, teas, infusions and petits-fours
There are pic's of these on my other reviews
Handmade chocolates to take home. A small box of four special chocolates for each of us that remind us of another great dinner
I don't feel comfortable commenting on wine and asked Raoul to choose a couple of wines to go with the dinner. The Spanish white reminded me of New Zealand Savignon Semillion Blanc with a clean finish and low acidity. The Greek red was somehow different in character to Australian wines - but I like ours better!!

By the glass Champagne, Gardet brut $24/ glass
2006 L’Olivera Missenyora Maccabeu Costers Del Segre, Spain $16/ glass
2004 Gaia Estate Agiorgitiko Nemea, Peloponnese, Greece $20/ glass The food was $$250/ person.
Score:19 /20

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

San Choi

Elizabeth Chong organized a dinner for her Gourmet Club at San Choi Chinese seafood restaurant at 300 High St. Kew. The meal incorporated dishes which are all available for regular diners though some have to be ordered a day ahead because of their long preparation times. Hanging Rock winery supplied a range of their wines matched to the food. After a pre dinner NV Brut Rose the meal began with appetizers: Two tasty but stodgy king size dim sims, the cup is included to give some perspective,rather salty and filled with meat, a rather undistinguished scallop roll, and a deep fried oyster in a copious heavy batter, a bit like a bun with an oyster in the middle.
This was accompanied by an acidic Tazali Riesling. A san choi bao filled with seafood and crispy noodles followed
leaving me wondering how I would cope with the six main courses to come before the fruit platter.
The meal was served ‘Chinese style’ with large dishes set on a ‘lazy Susan’ for guests to take from as they wished.
The first three main courses were served with Poppet Head chardonnay a lightly wooded clean finishing wine that went well with Chinese food.
King prawns and vermicelli glass noodles were drenched in garlic and the prawns, cut in half but still in their shells, were impossible to eat with chop sticks.
It would have been better if we did not have to pick them up to eat them
The diced chicken with honey was overwhelmed by the pickled ginger but tasty and had a pleasing texture
The lamb brisket hot pot had been cooked for four hours before it reached the table. It contained a plethora of goodies apparently to disguise the taste of the lamb which is not generally a popular in the south of China because of its smell! They included tofu skins, bamboo shoots, large shitake mushrooms, sugar cane and a variety of herbs. After most of the lamb was eaten spinach leaves were added to the claypot and cooked for a couple of minutes before being served. The broth with this dish was excessively salty, reminiscent of a miso soup. Steamed rice was offered with the next three dishes.
Seafood stir fry with Japanese bean curd was very bland with the usual prawns, bok choy and calamari. It was, however, distinguished by the wonderfully silky the bean curd. Tender pea sprouts and King Mushroom was a textural dish similarly lacking in taste. The last main course, braised oxtail claypot was very much to my taste but by now I could only indulge myself with a very small serve. I preferred the Cambrian Rise Heathcote Shiraz to the Yin Barun cabernet merlot franc offered with these dishes.
This marathon meal ended with a fruit platter.
The service was fast and impersonal.
They offer take away and BYO
Although there were some very appealing parts to this meal in all it was of a patchy standard with considerable unrealized potential
Elizabeth entertained us with stories from her childhood and provided a commentary about the food. She related how her father had started the rage for dim sims outside of Chinese restaurants and not only started the first dim sim factory but also, with the help of an engineer, made the first machine to produce dim sims.
In my opinion Elizabeth Chong is a National Treasure and I love to eat in her company

Score: 13.25/20

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dress Codes

Adam Roberts posted this article
on May 29th on the Amateur Gourmet and drew quite a few comments
No Jacket Required (An Anti Dress-Code Manifesto)
Make sure you put in the http//
What do you think?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Grand Hotel

In splendid isolation at 333 Burnley St. Richmond The (not so) Grand Hotel continues to catch the eye of restaurant reviewers. Following a rave review of Stephen Downes and a more rational but still very good one a few weeks later by John Lethlean it became necessary to reserve a table weeks ahead. Even Gourmet Traveler’s restaurant guide has included it for the last couple of years and the AGF has given it one hat since 2006. Not bad for a run down pub.
From the outside I thought I’d come to the wrong place. The paint was peeling off the walls and if not for the sign indicating that it was open it looked closed.

Entry to the dining room is through a dimly lit shabby bar so it is a surprise to see this carpeted bright room with it’s’ double linen table cloths and napkins.
Décor is, to say the least, basic.
So it must be the food.
We started with the roast duck. Half a bird, extremely succulent, on a little, indeed very little, cabbage with a sprinkling of spatzelle noodles in a loose jus was an excellent dish although the jus fell away from the duck taking most of its’ taste with it. Although I had ordered rabbit the waiter arrived with two serves of duck. He handled this embarrassing hiccup with aplomb and offered apologetic and a
glass of wine while I waited. Both waiters had the odd appearance of players in an old French movie with their long and plaited hair. The rabbit casserole was worth waiting for. Served with fettuccini, parmesan and olives it was in a very tasty sauce enhanced by the addition of some chicken liver. The famous Italian donuts with slices of orange and filled with pistachio ice cream was as good as its’ reputation. Photo here after it 1/3rd eaten!No longer quite as cheap as it used to be entrees $15 - $18 most mains are a little over $30 with sides about $6. Desserts are $10 – 12.
Wine by the glass $8 upwards are also a little dearer than usual.
The Grand is very dilapidated with paint peeling of the walls. A rather dull mural on one wall does nothing to inspire. It has been described as shabby-chic but here I can’t tell the difference between that and shabby. The food is far and away the best thing about the place and I will happily return to try more of their food but it hardly compares to my vision of a one hat restaurant.
Score 13.5/20

Monday, June 09, 2008

ezard at the Adelphi - again

Down a wheelchair unfriendly staircase, below street level, one enters a dimly lit room with an air of quiet sophistication. It immediately feels like ‘a good place’. Carpeted, comfortable seating, everything about the place says quality. The maitre d offers drinks and the menus. There are several degustation menu’s, with or without matched wines, or a la carte dishes if you wish.
As usual we go for the degustation but choose wine by the glass.
A small tray bearing spices to flavour bread after dipping it in the heavy extra virgin olive oil proves to be so good we have to ask for more. The sesame seed, sea salt dashi, bonnito (dry fish skin flakes) and nori and the sweet salt combinations are specially appealing.
The first course, an oyster shooter in a lightly wasabi flavoured mirin, is accompanied by a mini nori roll and an amuse bouche, a small tasty dumpling. The whole lot is but a mouthful but it’s full of unusual and interesting taste sensations
This was followed by kingfish covered by about eight other ingredients including sesame custard, lime caramel and pear salad with a few of drops of a sweet and a tart sauce decorating the plate.
Out of curiosity after the explanation of the complex combination before me I asked the waiter how he would eat an offering like this (actually not much more than a mouthful) He was probably surprised by the question and suggested deconstructing the dish to get the separate flavours. and textures After the trouble the kitchen has gone to to plate this up as it was presented I rejected this idea and greatly enjoyed the kingfish plus all the rest. A delicate serve. Steamed prawn dumpling with cauliflower cream, curry oil, celery cress and yarra valley salmon roe would grace any restaurant
- the fine taste of the delicate creamy cauliflower the contrasting cruchy bits of salmon roe and the prawn producing a wonderful dish
This was followed by a dish which would be unidentifiable without the assistance of the waiter, which was the case with most of the offerings. Anchovy crusted swordfish with beetroot, pomelo and Persian fetta salad with salsa verde.
I loved it.
Another textural experience, not for the peanut allergic, was provided by the rice crusted korobuta pork cheek with spiced apples, yellow bean soy, tamarind and peanuts.
A great combination of crisp, crunchy and gelatinous
Next came wild mushroom tortelli with a slice of wagyu salami, crispy lotus root and soft herb salad.
Sichuan peppered duck with coconut rice, stir fried silkmelon and tumeric caramel was as pleasing a way to eat duck as I could ever want
After a tarte palate cleanser
the final dish was a bitter sweet dark chocolate torte with mandarin sorbet.
After all of this we decided to skip the opportunity to try the dessert tasting dish for $15 per person

This is a colourful meal, far to complex to consider for home cooking. Every aspect of the meal is at an extremely professional level. Definitely one of Melbournes’ best restaurants with French international background to delicately south east Asian additions making unique tastes and textures .
Wines are expensive
Price Degustation $135 with wine $235 A la carte starters about $26, mains about $45
Score 17/20

Richmond Oysters

Richmond Oysters at 437 Church St. Richmond,has been a wholesaler and retailer of fresh and frozen fish and crustaceans for decades. It will be their 50th anniversary next year! In the last few weeks it has opened a kitchen and set up tables so customers can browse over about 60 feet of glass fronted counter space, a small section is shown here,
and choose from a vast selection of seafood. This can be cooked, more or less, to ones specifications. Chicken and steak are also available. Prices are very reasonable so a dozen Tasmanian oysters for $9.80 are well nigh irresistible. Sydney rock oysters are $12.80 and oysters Mornay only $15.80 and that’s for a dozen! Sry folks they add $4 to have them served -still the cheapest in Melbourne! As a venue the place is rather antiseptic – very clean and bright, white tables, no nonsense furnishings. A café
After Tempura oysters, actually oysters in the coarse and thick batter they use for fish and chips, we had excellent oysters Mornay.
After this we shared a crayfish pie ($7.90). Larger than the average pie with pleasing pastry case and covered with potato,

Shepherds pie style, it was packed with crayfish which was a bit stringy but very sweet and very fresh. They were so good I bought some to take home.
A spaghetti marinara turned out to be a very substantial dish again packed with seafood in a rich tomato sauce.

A seafood risotto was under seasoned and too dry, again a large serve and a challenge to eat the lot after the entrees.
There is nothing very refined about these dishes they are simply prepared with extremely fresh seafood and taste good for that reason.
The staff are young and enthusiastic and the proprietors keen to hear from customers as to how they may do better, which I found refreshing.
They currently have no license for alcoholic beverages but expect it in the next couple of weeks.
A good place for a seafood feed, eat in or take away


Sunday, June 01, 2008


Courtesy of Wikepedia I can inform you that Japonica means "of Japan", or "Japanese", in Latin
Japonica is a common name for species or hybrids of flowering quince.

Japonica is a short-grain variety of rice (Oryza sativa subsp. japonica).
Japonica (butterfly) is a genus of the Theclinae subfamily of butterflies
The restaurant Japonica is in William St round the corner from Toorak Rd., close to Sth Yarra railway station, the address being Shop 6, 180 Toorak Rd. This small restaurant serves a rapidly changing clientelle who may eat in or take away.
It has a reasonable range of dishes and I tried several entrees and main courses.
There was nothing to 'write home about', but except for the grilled ox tongue, which was exceptionally tough and chewy, every thing was quite acceptable. Eggplant stuffed with chicken mince was very nice 'tho I've had better, grilled tofu was pleasant enough, salt and pepper calamari was very good, Udon tempura with prawn and vegetables was so salty it had to be diluted but was then good and a substantial serve of a sea food platter noodle dish was packed with seafood and good value.
A doryake dessert - pancake stuffed with red bean paste served with icecream and strawberries was well worth a miss!
Unfortunately a couple of tables of shrieking women and the bare utilitarian atmosphere makes this an eating experience not a dining experience.
Price: I spent $85 with a couple of rather ordinary glasses of wine

]Comments: This is a food shop selling quite good Japanese food at very reasonable prices
Score: 12.75/20