Sunday, July 13, 2008

Esposito at Toofeys

I have become very cautious about getting carried away by expectation and eager anticipation of great experiences in restaurants. Previous visits, trusted friends recommendations, newspaper reviews, the Age Good Food Guide and even bloggers cannot be relied upon except when they are critical.
Still at 192 Lygon St. Carlton, I have had positive experiences at Esposito when it was Toofeys with Michael Bacash at the helm and again after he left. I was keen to go again now with Maurice Esposito in charge.
We reserved a table upstairs. The carpeted room is sedate with square cloth covered tables, white walls, high ceiling, with a modern chandelier (no crystal) and large curtained windows looking over Drummond Street.
We were comfortably seated, offered drinks, our waiter proved to be very knowledgeable about the wines and bread and olive oil arrived soon after. A request for butter was acknowledged but no butter was seen until a further request 10 minutes later.
It was getting very chilly in the room and my partner asked for her coat. The waiter offered to bring a mobile heater but failed to do that nor did the reverse cycle air conditioner get turned on as it ‘blows onto the adjacent tables’! I was struck by the gentleman at the next table who kept his fleece lined jacket on throughout his meal. Soon after I took this snap the lady opposite him donned her coat too. After a lengthy wait, over an hour after our arrival, perhaps 40 minutes after our orders, entrees arrived.
Ravioli of Tasmanian crayfish with slow cooked tomatoes, micro basil and basil froth ($28) was very bland. It needed something to give it a bit of character
The Quail saltimbocca,
one of their signature dishes was quite reasonable, this is not a fine dish but very well put together on a bed of radichio with carmelised pear and vinacotta sauce to combat the bitterness $19. After a small battle with the thigh bones it left me looking forward to the next dish.
We tried a variety of mains.
The duck,
roasted Bendele Hinterland organic breast and confit leg, Iranian fig and pepper jam$38, was just OK. The breast a little tender enough and the confit of a smallish thigh both short on taste.
Line-caught whole King George whiting roasted with bay leaf and garlic, Ligurian olives and preserved lemons$36 looked appealing
but again lacked taste and was very dull and the hand-cut spaghetti with calamari, fish, scallops, prawns and oysters; a concentrate of cherry tomatoes, chilli and garlic$26/$38, a spaghetti marinara, suffered from the same problem – taste was not up to the appearance.

Ocean Trout wrapped in Istra prosciutto; rosemary roasted prawns, tomato sugo and asparagus$38 is an odd combination. The salmon, quite a small piece, was, as requested, just seared and accompanied by a large barbecued prawn. The prosciuto did nothing for the dish. These offerings looked very lonely as they came on a very large plates that crowded the table and left little space for condiments, wine glasses and tumblers for water.
I tried the rhubarb terrine with ice creamThe rhubarb was very sour. Another good looking but disappointing dish.
I also sampled the white chocolate tart and the and tasted the best raspberry ice cream I’ve had for some time
We enjoyed a Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhône – ($41)
Comment: A beautifully presented meal in pleasing, but cold conditions, disappointingly lacking flavour. The one waiter for the area did his best but couldn’t keep up.

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