Friday, July 17, 2009

Embrasse Restaurant

It's pretty unusual to get up from a restaurant meal with the feeling that you've had a quite excellent dining experience. That is exactly what we felt when we rose from the table at this reincarnation where Andrew McConnell formerly had his restaurant Three one two. Chef Nicolas Poelaert

has created a menu style based on "purity and simplicity" using the freshest of ingredients with a light touch to capture fine tastes with varied textures especially concentrated on herbs and vegetables. He grows many of his own herbs, but not in mid winter, and gets vegetables from a nearby farm. The decor has been only slightly altered with new curtains, some vertical mirrors and chandelier and light fittings and a bar at the end of the room.
The stone floor encourages noise but despite being near full the guests were more considerate than usual and all spoke quietly not disturbing other diners. White linen table cloths are contrasted with black napkins. Cutlery is good quality but is inclined to slip into the very large plates. Butter, which is salted, is served on stylish little wooden platters with a wood butter knife and the bread, sourdough or white was served hot, crisp and fresh. The menu is plain but the food is certainly not. Entrees ($15-$17) included smoked ocean trout, pork belly and a selection root vegetables as well as the two we chose. Yabbies, pacific oyster, muscovada infuse consomme shellfish glass/ balsamic powder, borage, is a superb modern variation on a bouillabaisse with delicately lightly poached oyster and the best yabbies and shellfish I can remember. The calf sweet bread, was prepared with a delicate touch the sweet breads rich and tender a super dish. Seven mains ($29-$38) give a lot to think about. We left venison, John Dory, lamb an vegetarian dishes for another day. My Wagyu, Spanish flat beans, black sesame, braised onion, nasturtium

supposedly grade 6 rump was tough and could have had some sauce, very lightly cooked it was well flavoured but, a bit disappointing. The accompanying veggies were very interesting and as with everything displayed a fine touch. The farmed roasted partridge, confit leg, cabbage, wheat, giblet jus, eucalyptus was a great dish.

Very nicely presented it was not excessively gamey the vegetables unusual and quite excellent. That alone is worth a return visit. We also enjoyed two OUTSTANDING side dishes, a cheesy mashed potato ($11), eat your heart out Joel Roubochon, and a wonderful lightly fried Zuchini salad ($8). Cheeses are mostly French $22 for three or $34 for five,
attractively presented. we were happy with a Roquefort, a Brie and a super conte. Four desserts each $16 all looked appealing on the menu but we settled for Mandarin, gateau de Gene, marmalade. If I thought we were getting a slice of mandarin flavoured cake I was mistaken.
It was a sort of sweet mandarin flavoured flaky creation, looking a bit like orange snow flakes with tiny mandarin flavoured cakes and miniature meringues. It was quite nice but I think we might try the Quince almond gateau or the chocolate parfait next time, and there will be a next time. You can also have four Petit fours ($5) with your tea/coffee ($4). Nicolas' wife Tara runs the front of house. She's very keen to please but not overly well informed about details of cooking. Open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday, lunch12-2-00pm Friday and Saturday and Sunday brunch 09.30-2-00pm. Score 17/20

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