Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Aja (Albert Park)

On the edge of a cluster of restaurants including L'Oustal, Riccardo's and Nest at the Albert Park Hotel Aja has plenty of competition. The place is split level, understated with wooden tables, linen napkins, distinctly Asian style cutlery,

(as well as chopsticks), not very comfortable rattan cane chairs and a background of unobtrusive Asian style muzak.
The menu is small , (as was the entree) and shows SE Asian influence, a sort of Chinese fusion, with Malaysian style curry, coconut milk, lemon grass and light chilli tastes featuring.
We started with duck dim sum,

four very tender, moist and tasty dumplings, ($10.80) and a lightly spiced fried squid entree ($12.80)

which could have been crisper but was very good though quite a small serve. For mains an interesting sweet and sour pork belly ($27.80)
had a fairly well balanced s&s sauce, was less fatty than I expected and again could have been crisper. I very much enjoyed the Aja curry, with chicken ($27.50).

was a good size serve, quite delicately flavoured. We dank Coombs Pinot Gris ( $9) by the glass from a small, reasonably priced list. It was crisp, slightly dry and appropriate for the food.
Comments: This is a good suburban restaurant reasonably priced and well worth a visit. Entertainment book subscribers can get 25% off their bill up to $40
Score: 14/20

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vlado's (Richmond)

Some 25 years since my last visit I thought it well past time to revisit this renowned steak house. At 61 Bridge Rd., a few doors west of Epworth the place does not seem to have changed at all. Vlado, who I think accurately describes himself as not a chef but a red meat specialist, stands behind his glass fronted meat counter punching down and trimming his steaks before barbecuing them according to the customers orders. The eye fillet was cooked as requested
Cloth covered tables are very close to each other barely leaving room for the waiters to squeeze between them. The menu is fixed price ($80) with the only choice being eye fillet, porterhouse or rump when available. They now also serve a good size piece of grade 8 Waghu for an extra $35 - very good value since it is near double the size of the $110 serve at Rockpool, The meal starts with a tasty beef and pork sausage followed by a selection of meets including a small hamburger, some veal and liver. Everything is served with a cabbage, lettuce and tomato salad. You can choose either a standard or a smaller piece of steak which is displayed raw on a tray.
Condiments include a light mustard, horse radish and salt and pepper. There are no chips, no side dishes on offer and no sauces. The meal ends with home made strawberry crepes
or strawberries and ice cream and tea or coffee which is freely refilled. There is a limited and relatively inexpensive wine list with a chardonnay or a cabernet blend by the glass. ($8) We drank a pleasant Domaine Chandon NV bubbly ($55). Not only did I have to remind the waiter that I had ordered the wine he even had to be reminded what it was that I ordered!! It is astonishing to return to Vlado's which seems to have been trapped in a time warp. A visit to Vlado's is tinged with nostalgia. Melbourne now has a large number of restaurants serving very high quality meat with a lot more to offer besides.

Score:14 /20

Chatter 8

A restaurant proprietor emailed me some time ago claiming, incorrectly, that I had reviewed few restaurants in his area and suggested I review his. I went anonymously, had a fairly ordinary meal and posted a review with a couple of photos that offended him. One showed a toilet which served a secondary purpose as a store room and one was of his kitchen door with a crude written sign saying kitchen and below that a further notation saying toilet with an arrow pointing the way. I didn’t mention who I was. Now, some months later, I have received an email from him asking that I remove those two photographs which I had taken “without permission”

Be careful what you ask for – you might not like it when you get it

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bistro Guillame- Age Readers Dinner

About 60 people dined at the $130 a head Age Readers Dinner at BG last night. The evening began with canapes in the downstairs lounge area before moving to the main dining area for a three course meal at shared tables. The initial offerings of oysters with salmon caviar, cheese gougere and tuna tartare were plentiful and accompanied by free flowing NV Mumm. A fine way to start any meal.
The entree was an assiette of charcuterie - jambo,pork, rabbit and duck rilletes, a small dollop of exquisite duck liver pate, several terrines, sausage with baby gherkins, mustard and a fruit paste

This was quite a nice looking dish but not very exciting. The accompanying Chenin Blanc from Vouvray was fresh and fruity, well balanced and specially pleasing.

The main course was another unexciting dish - Barossa Valley chicken on a bed of mashed potato with a chasseur sauce served with green beans, spinach and a green leaf salad.
The The 2006 Bernard Moreau Borgogne Passetoutgrains was another lovely light red from Burgundy. The dessert, a pavlova!, was spoiled by the unripe mango and the very sour unripe passionfrui. The delicious 2004 Alain Brumont Pacherenc du Vic Bilh from Sth West France almost made up for it. Tea/coffee and petit fours completed the meal.

Comments: This is a beautifully appointed venue, even the seats in the waiting area by the toilets are so very chic but I was saddened to come to a supposedly top French restaurant and find such a dull main course and a pavlova for dessert.
Value for money - certainly, specially if you enjoy the wines, which I certainly did but the food so so dull.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quizz Answers

1. Bamboo House
2. Jamon Sushi
3. Bistro Guillame
5. Stones of the Yarra Valley
6.China Grill
7. Drunken Chicken
8. Bamboo House
9.Bala Da Daba, now closed because of a fire!
10. Shannon Bennett
11. After the Tears
12. Coco
13. Michael Bacash
14. Court House
15. Liquid Nitrogen
16. Kan
17. Yountville
18. Rockpool (Southbank)
19. Guggenheim California
20. Silks
21. Australia Club
22. Beppi's
23. Pizza e Birra

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Half Moon (Brighton)

Manager and wife of Chef Paul Wilson, Rebecca expressed girlish delight andf surprise at the moment I took this picture.

At present this is the only restaurant I know of in Melbourne where Yellow Belly flounder is on the menu. Here’s a bit of odd information. Flounders are a flat fish with both eyes on one side of their bodies. They are divided into right eye and left eye depending on which side that is. The Yellow Belly flounder that I will speak of shortly is right eye, a native of shallow New Zealand waters, and conservationists will be pleased to know there are strict limits on the amount of these fish that can be commercially fished each year. This is not the only unusual thing on the menu at Half Moon. Most things are a little out of the ordinary. Take the oysters - there are six mostly artisan varieties on offer. We tried the Moonlight Flat Angasi, described as delicate and smoky and almost identical to the famous French Belon, the Moonlight en Surface, a small lightl ‘refined’ flavoured rock oyster that finishes it’s life under a unique flotation process, and the Rusty Wire another small lightly salty oyster.

Others on offer were the Claire de Lune Bouton, the Kamamoto Fingerling and Blackman Bay Tasmanian oysters. They are served on crushed ice with a variety of condiments to create flavours to your taste. The selection includes Gaspachio and Kilpatrick sauces, a Mirin soy spring onion combination, lime caviar and two Tabasco sauces as well as a wedge of lemon ($3.5 ea or $36 for 12 of the chef’s selection).

Then there are the starters, two soups and 11 more tonight including Paul Wilsons signature warm poached egg with Reggiano, trufles & soft polenta.
I’ve eaten this many times from the days when Wilson was at Radii and found it consistently excellent as it was last night. He must use truffle salt to get the powerful truffle taste .($24). Others include Spanner crab with smoked ocean trout, asparagus and deviled egg and a wide variety of other seafood combinations. I had warm local white asparagus with Crystal bay prawns, blood orange and citrus mousseline ($24) Nicely presented, isn’t everything these days, it worked well with pleasing contrasts in textures of the asparagus and the prawns and tastes of all the ingredients. There are a few vegetarian dishes and a couple of steaks that looked good but we wanted to try the fish. I can't comment on anything but the flounder but everything that went past our table looked very appealing. The flesh of the Yellow belly is finer and less firm and more succulent than the regular local flounder. While the fish was narrower there was more to eat because it is a little thicker. It was served braised with jamon stock and had a couple thin slivers of prosciutto topped with three good size clams and the whole lot covered in a sort of broad bean green bean salad with orzo pasta. ($34) It’s a decent size serve and I loved it. We finished with a Half Moon selection of desserts which were a delight to the eye as well as the palate. The service was exceptionally slow and rather familiar, though most patrons would probably not mind. I think my original wine order, Quartz Reef Pinot Gris ($57), was forgotten. A later inquiry instntly produced a bottle which was astringent and warm but went well with the food. The restaurant has touches that are reminiscent of the Botanical such as a wall of wine and this is reinforced by the menu. The service was exceptionally slow and rather familiar, though I think most patrons would not mind. My original wine order, Quartz Reef Pinot Gris ($57), was forgotten. A later inquiry instntly produced a bottle which was astringent and warm but went well with the food.
Score: 16/20

Monday, November 10, 2008


A dinner companion asked me about tipping where we were sharing the bill. I said I generally tip 10% in Australia to which she responded that she refused to tip for the wine component on the bill! The reasoning was that the wine prices were already over inflated. If you continue this line of thinking might you not conclude that over priced meals should be treated accordingly - but why penalise the waiters?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Garlic Kiss (Mornington)

First it should be said that this restaurant has nothing to do with garlic. There's not a clove in sight and the menu doesn't mention it either.In fact it is a sort of eclectic Hungarian - Austrian style menu featuring things like Weiner Schnitzel, goulash und so weiter.The restaurant is split level, the lower level rather noisy and full when we arrived. The decor is odd. A few posters seemingly unrelated to anything, some tables with clothes some without. The menu is eclectic. We started with the double cooked goats cheese souffle. The first time it was presented it had been overcooked and burnt. The waitress needed little convincing to return it to the kitchen.

The replacement was perfect and a very good tasty entree. We followed this with a Weiner schnitsel with spatzle which was lovely. The schnitzel was a piece of yearling beef which had not been beaten flat in the traditional manner
Not a very picturesque dish but tasted fine.

I ordered the special herb crusted rack of lamb off the blackboard. Despite the assurance that it would be rare it was medium to well cooked. Regardless I enjoyed it and the accompanying cabbage, and the goats cheese mash were very good
Desserts were particularly calorific and I suspect, from that point of view, I should have fasted for two days after the pavlova

The chocolate mousse was good rich dark chocolate.

Price A bit above average

Comments Quite good overall. I'd be happy to go there again

Score: 14.5/20

Thursday, November 06, 2008

JacquesReymond Nov 08 (Prahran)

A couple of years ago Jacques spent a small fortune renovating his eponymous restaurant at 78 Williams Rd. The dining room is a sophisticated and elegant area. The tables, set with good quality cutlery and white linen, are well spaced and the seating is comfortable, although the corner banquette is low and a short customer might need a cushion!
They currently offer 'A Taste of Spring Degustation Menu' ($150, $240 with ]matched wines), a 'Menu Vegetarian' ($115) and an a la carte menu from which you can choose three courses ($98), Four courses ($125) or five for ($150). We selected the five course dinner and asked the sommelier , Natalie, Jacques daughter, to match wines for us . ($100). These were good size dishes and it proved to be a bit of a challenge to eat the lot.

In his traditional way prior to the first course a large and very tasty cheese gougere arrived at the table with the chefs compliments.
Hot bread rolls, just out of the oven,another regular pleasure, were dangerously moorish.

I started with the Hervey Bay scallops and smoked condiments. These were seared, covered with a light liquorice foam, and sat on a bed of smoked ocean trout in sake tempura with a smoked eel brandade, smoked tomato sorbet and cucumber jelly.
This colourful display tasted wonderful although the smoked eel taste in the brandade was barely present. A great start

We followed this with steamed coral trout in dashi broth, made from bonito flakes and kombu with apple, globe artichoke and olive dumpling. Another outstanding dish.

Next came the Wycheproof young pigeon the breast and one leg grilled with honey and szechuan pepper, the other leg in tempura. Served with wheat, coriander and lemon (both handled with a very light touch) rocket juices, ham hock oil and
grapes (peeled and butterflied too!!) Another fabulous dish. The small copper pot had a mixture of chicken and duck liver in a mushroom sauce

The milk fed veal fillet, slow roasted and poached with kombu, citrus and red onions On the same plate blow torched tuna with sesame and alight ginger and sake dressing. Everything was tender, flavours were delicate and combined well. It was served with a 2001 Jacques Reymond Reserve Bass Phillip Pinot Noir.

This was turning out to be one incredible dinner.
The fifth course was gilding the lily - a supreme of pheasant, steamed and lightly seared with mild spices, king brown mushrooms bargoile, a parmesan salad and cooking juices emulsion.

With a side dish of young salads with blue cheese and walnuts ($18) I could not even consider a dessert. Tea/coffee and lovely petit fours completed a devastatingly good meal.
This must rank as the best meal I have eaten in Melbourne. I don't have enough praise for it

The one area in which there is room for improvement was the lack of knowlege about the way in which dishes had been prepared. Time and again waiters had to return to the kitchen to inquire as to how this or that had been produced
Score 19/20