Monday, September 28, 2009

Grossi Florentino The Restaurant (Melbourne) 09

After your team loses the grand final following a sensational season is not the best preparation for fine dining but you can’t keep a pair of good eaters down for long. So off we went to degustate once more. Grossi has a down stairs bar and a bistro dining area but high class dining is provided in two rooms up a narrow staircase on the first floor. Large imitation painting- a dark reproduction Boticceli on one side and an even darker Caravaggio opposite decorate the magnificent room in which we ate. It is a spacious room, carpeted, the tables well spaced, double white clothes, metal chandeliers hang from domed hollows in the patterned ceiling and large windows face on to Bourke Street, a major city thoroughfare. Truly a grand setting.

An eight course degustation menu ($195) looked like good value, if you can speak in those terms, since entrees are in the vicinity of $40 and mains around $50 and more. Matched wines add $65 to the bill. They are mostly Italian and some are grapes we do not see in Australia.

The meal began with a chef’s offering, a shot glass of a cream of celeriac soup, with a pleasant celery taste. There was a plentiful supply of bread and bread sticks with both butter and a very raw olive oil.

The first course was a seared tuna with avocado, called cucumber by the waiter, lemon, and set off with an extra virgin olive oil ice cream which made the whole dish quite special. The best way I have ever eaten seared tuna.

This was followed by a Russian Lobster Salad, Why Russian? Regardless it was excellent. Lightly cooked, firm and sweet it contrasted well with the sea urchin and a light horse radish cream accompaniment. An indifferent note was introduced by a black rice crisp which tasted like a bit of burnt wood.

The third course was a black wild rice risotto with a very fresh delicate, just cooked, Morton Bay bug with a Parmesan sabayon. Texturally more like wild rice than Arborio rice and possibly darker because of the inclusion of some mushroom, this interesting variation on the usual presentation was another very pleasing surprise.

Pine needle smoked quail had a distinct smoky flavour and again had an interesting blend of textures and tastes provided by the accompanying slice of ‘Jambon’, toasted pine nuts and pine nut oil, fegola and candied quince. Sweet, salty, smoky with a bit of nutty flavour it may not be for the purist but we both loved it.

Next came the renowned Glenloth pigeon, roasted breast and leg raviolio with cous cous, crème de tapa, cardamom and liquorice powder. Sandra loved this but, having had the same dish here a few months ago I opted to swap for a tender veal fillet with porchini lentils. I was hoping for milk veal but could find no fault with the slightly older piece they served.

The final main was a slow cooked Wagyu rump cap. Cooked sous vide it sat atop a slice of lightly pickled veal tongue with little cubes of potato, fennel and rosemary praline and a green salsa. Yet another really tasty dish. The wagyu was delicate and tender and superbly representative of what good wagyu should be like. It contrasted perfectly with the rich, almost meltingly tender, tongue balanced by the potato and salsa.

Three palate cleansing gelatos, lemon which was very tart, mango which looked the right colour but tasted only of passion fruit and strawberry which was slightly strawberry but very very sweet.

The final dessert was a fine souffle with a vanilla bean ice cream and valhronna chocolate sauce

It was nice to not have to pay extra for a coffee/tea and some little sweets to complete what was a first class meal in first rate surroundings.

There was one significant deficiency. It was the service. They really try hard, to hard. Firstly it was in your face and bordering on obsequious. Secondly we had four and possibly five different waiters only the first remembered what we each had ordered. Sometimes they offered the matched wines to me when I had not ordered them. Our guest was offered a dessert that she had not ordered. It took half an hour to get a cup of tea and later another half hour and a reminder to get another and finally I had to seek out a waiter to order a coffee.

This is a two and a half hat restaurant and with better service well worth three

Score 16.75/20

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