Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cafe Latte (Toorak) 09

Looking at a selection of reviews on the net it is apparent that Cafe Latte polarizes its clients.The lovers and haters seem to be about evenly split. Regardless it always seems to be pretty busy.
Just in case you forget where you are (or where you borrowed it from) they have their name emblazoned on the glassware
and crockery but that does nothing to detract from the food.
An entree of spinach pasta filled with fresh ricotta in a lemon butter sauce with sage and almond slivers
did not quite sing to me, the lemon being a bit too prominent, but it was quite pleasant as was a main of crispy skin salmon,
although a little over cooked for my liking.
The braised lamb rump was an real gold medal dish.
Simple. in a perfectly lamb matched jus, not too concentrated , on a bed of spring vegetables, it was tender and mouth wateringly tasty. A perfectly blended dish.
A pannacota surrounded by sliced strawberries was an honest dessert.Service was enthusiastic and informed about the food but not so much about the wines which are reasonably prices.
Score 14/20

Unsolicited but Interesting

About a week ago i got this email and had a look at the sites. Cheese lovers might find them of some interest - I did!
to qwerty

A good story

GK Chesterton: “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

Voila: This book is a poetic view of 30 of the best loved French cheeses with an additional two odes to cheese. Recipes, wine pairing, three short stories and an educational section complete the book.

From a hectic life in New York City to the peace and glories of the French countryside lead me to be the co-founder of Ten years later with the words of Pierre Androuet hammering on my brain:

“Cheese is the soul of the soil. It is the purest and most romantic link between humans and the earth.”

I took pen and paper; many reams later with the midnight oil burning Tasting to Eternity was born and self published.

I believe cheese and wine lovers should be told about this publication.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tokyo Sushi (Richmond) 09

It was lunchtime and a vacant parking place conveniently appeared almost opposite Richmond Hill Larder (RHL). As I crossed the road I was attracted to a packed Japanese take away or eat in eatery- not really a café or a restaurant, although they have about half a dozen small tables and a couple more on the footpath. A glass fronted counter was packed with sushi.

This, the graphic pictures of their dishes,
and the appearance of a staff member of RHL getting takeaway convinced me to go no further. Starting with Gyoza,
six king size specimens with dipping sauce and a little chopped tomato, for $6 they represent good value for volume but the crisp pastry and filling were very average

Sushi Don ($9.5)
was a large bowl of rice covered with a mass of lettuce, mushroom, carrot, seaweed, beef and other unidentifiable ingredients. It was quite tasty, filling and distinctly Japanese ‘cuisine bourgeois’ filling and fairly priced.

Japanese fast food, cash only, good for a casual hungry diner at 60 Bridge Rd.

Score 12.5/20

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mitsuno (Malvern) 09

I have been wanting to visit this well regarded Japanese restaurant at 16 Glenferrie Rd for some time and am only sorry that I only got to trying a couple of dishes. Seating about 40 it's a simply furnished pleasant well lit venue. (despite this dark picure). A couple of blackboards offer the days specials and a selection of saki and beers.
Eating solo I knew what to do this time. I ordered a cold semi dry saki,
a bargain for $8 for about 300ml, picked up a book, Curiosi-tea, which is a fascinating collection of stories and information about tea, and settled back for a relaxed meal.
With the advice of the proprietor I started with a platter of sashimi ($18).
Decorated with thin strands of daikon, thin slices of radish some slices of lemon, there were three slices of five sea foods. The centre of the plate as occupied with Tuna surrounded by Blue Eye, salmon, scallop and kingfish. They came with a knob of wasabi and a saucer of soy sauce. This was a fine dish each fish with its own texture and taste however, without detracting from it, I have have had better. The scallop was perfect as was the Blue Eye but I have had finer examples of the salmon and kingfish.
I followed this with a special rare cooked marinated grade 9 Wahgu topside on a bed of sweet potato mash with a light sweet soy sauce ($18).
This was totally delicious. An excellent combination of well matched fine tastes with the varied textured steak.
I finished the meal with a panacota with chili strawberry sauce ($9.5). The panacotta was disappointing, it could have come off the shelf at Coles, and the chili was undetectable in the otherwise tasty sauce.
Comments: Although till some way off perfect I thoroughly enjoyed this meal.
Score:14 /20

Mr Wolf (St.Kilda) 09

I'm not used to dining alone. It's a little uncomfortable at first. I've got a few weeks to get used to it. Listening to conversations nearby, trying to look at ease, staring at the walls, the menu, the passers by, whatever.
Unfortunately it is not delicacy that prevents me reporting the conversations I heard - they just weren't interesting. Unfortunately neither was the food. Mr.W occupies two large shop fronts and seats about 50 on not very comfortable chairs at very plain bare tables. Dimly lit it was near full on the night I was there. Never the less service was prompt, friendly and informative.
They have antipasti, a heap of fancy pizza's and a few not pizza dishes including some pasta and a few desserts. There are a small range of wines and a larger range of cocktails available. I opted for a Spanish red ($10) and the 'wet dish' the days special- lamb shanks yep there really were two good sized shanks.

Served with pumpkin, parsnip, carrot and potato and bread to mop up the heavy rich sauce it's a man size meal. The meat was falling off the bone tender, the vegetables thoroughly stewed. It is a good solid farmers dinner, honest and unpretentious - just like home cooking.

They provide special meals for the 'bambini' and also supply crayons and paper.
Incidently, Mr.W is one of very few restaurants to appear in both the Age Good Food Guide and Cheapeats. Too bad it's not in the Entertainment book!
To be fair to them I will have to at least try one of their much admired thin crust pizzas but for now-
Score: 12.75/20
Cut into four ("Cut it into four I don't thnk I could eat eight" Yogi Bera) this is the Diavolo ($18.5 takeaway) olives, cheese, anchovy, tomato, chili ever so slightly burnt on one edge it's a nice pizza but not good enough to change my opinion.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nuevo 37 (Melbourne Sth Wharf) 09

Melbourne has a very sophisticated restaurant clientele. It requires more than the backing of a celebrity chef for a restaurant to remain popular and there are too many venues of every kind to make a place successful unless it has other qualities. Novelty alone will not do. Position is important. Atmosphere very significant. Specially important are the food and to some extent the perceived value.
Isolated from the main restaurant areas in the Hilton at South Wharf Nuevo 37 has either to cater for passing trade who visit the nearby Convention Centre or to become a destination restaurant for the locals. The very high ceiling room with a cathedral feeling is impressive, not that I'm expecting a religious experience. Wood lined there are large windows looking to the west with a pleasing light as the sun sets.
Spanish Michelin starred chef Ramon Freixa has designed the menu with the help of Phillipe Perrey and intends, I'm told, to fly over from Spain four times a year.
Regardless of the imprint on the food
it will certainly impact on his carbon footprint.
Entering the foyer of the hotel one is faced with very large wall decoration made from pot scourers in several colours.
More novelty is promised at the restaurant.
The staff, under the direction of assistant maitre d/sommellieur Josh Fraser, have the difficult task of presenting and explaining quite complicated dishes to guests who are frequently intent on their conversations. The food does not stand alone. It needs to be described if one is to have a clue about what is on the plate.
After a bowl of mixed olives and a Spanish version of a bruschetta,

a slightly crisp slice of grilled bread with bits of ham Doubtless they would call it 'jambon' on top we had a pleasant consomme, tomato I think,
with some codfish which could just as well have been prawn, lobster or calamari. Pleasant enough but not very special.
The first dish was called ''white with a black point'', ($27.5)

a central piece of very salty rather coarse cod was surrounded by a totally tasteless benign textured pillar of homogenized set cauliflower, a smear of garlic paste, a liquid almond gel and a second near tasteless gel and caramelized black garlic which we were advised to eat last for it's special flavour. Hardly a mesmerizing experience. we did come for dinner not some unconnected stroll through a variety of textures and unimpressive tastes. I found no logic to the dish Perhaps a more explicit interpretation of these flavours and there relationship to Freixa's Catalonian background might have helped, or perhaps not.
The next course was another weird one - both fish and fowl.
A breast and leg of spatchcock in escabeche, a Moreton Bay bug and a little vegetable mix with a skin of green rice for edible decoration.
We finished with a rather pleasing chocolate cake called

Chocolate 2009.2. ($20)
I found this a profoundly disappointing meal. It was quite expensive coming to $145/ head which included four glasses of wine - a Spanish bubbly, Segura Viudas, a Manzanilla, a Conde de Valdemar Temparanilla red (2004) and a Hidalgo "Triano" Pedro Ximenez super sweet sherry.

I was a little surprised to see that their web site fails to mention Phillipe Perrey who, I gather is actually in charge of the day to day cooking.
Score:12.5 /20

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scheherazade (Caulfield Nth) 09

Scheherazade has a very long history. For years it was an iconic Jewish restaurant. It has been a centre for conversation and Polish Jewish food for decades and recently moved a few miles from one of the former centres of Melbourne Jewish life in Acland Street St.Kilda to its new home at 58 Hawthorn Rd. These remarks from are only true of the food today.

"In 1958, Avram and Masha Zeleznikov acquired Scheherazade and began serving Jewish fare, Chicken broth, cabbage rolls, Cholent, vegetable stew, chicken schnitzel, Black Forest cake, almond torte, apple compote, lemon tea and coffee were served. Scheherazade eventually became an institution for Jewish, Yiddish, Polish and Russian immigrants to gather and reminisce. The cafe became so famed that Arnold Zable, the Melbourne novelist, wrote a collection of powerful stories, fictionalising the horror and hope of the Zeleznikovs and their customers, in his novel Cafe Scheherazade."

When I phoned to make a reservation I asked "Do you have duck on the menu?" A bored lady backed by a noisy TV said she would check and came back a few moments later answering in the affirmative. "How is it cooked?" I asked "Have you been to Acland Street?" she replied in a bored tone. Yes, years ago I said "Same cooking as Acland Street." But how is it cooked? "Same cooking" was the reply. Alright I'll make a reservation. "We only have one serve of duck left" OK I said put it away for me.

So we arrived at this huge empty barn of a place,
quite pleasantly decorated with a large horseshoe shaped bar at the top of the room.
Quite a few blown light bulbs had not been replaced giving an air of neglect to the place. There was one table occupied. We chose a window seat. Large bare tables, paper napkins, ordinary cutlery matched the atmosphere.
The young waitress, who turned out to be a science student took our rather good bottle of French wine and returned with two glasses. After a short time the now opened wine was returned and placed on the table. I rather ostentatiously poured out the 1/4 of an inch of water in my wine glass and dried it with the napkin while the menu was being discussed and then poured two glasses of wine!! (Corkage $6) No comment from the waitress.

A basket of excellent rye bread

with a sachet of Lurpak butter / slice was welcome until the soup arrived . There are half a dozen on the menu. we had a delicious and enormous serve of chicken soup with Kneidlach ($7.90)
and a hot Russian Borcht almost spilling off the plate
with masses of beetroot, a boiled potato and sour cream. Sandra felt it needed some vinegar or lemon to tart it up a bit but I loved it.
For mains we had a boiled brisket($23.50) with vegetables, very plain, tender and under seasoned.

and, of course, the duck ($26.90). It had been braised and then roasted and stuffed with apple.
A huge serve, the meat was falling off the bone. No sauce available. the apple was very tasty and the duck rather bland as was the brisket. Both served with roast potatoes, I love them too, coarse chopped well cooked carrots and broccoli accompanied the mains. an extra dish of coleslaw for the duck and a quarter of a jar of French mustard
for the brisket were very welcome.
A dessert of cherry pyrrogi from the freezer

had very tough pastry making it hard to eat and impossible to enjoy.
It's a shame that this place, which has the elements to be pretty good, misses out in many small ways. The menu is quite wide ranging including fish, schnitzel and steak. There should be something to please everyone. It suffers from a total lack of professionalism in it's approach to customers, yet it is quite friendly and the food not expensive. It is very much a Russian/Polish Jewish cuisine and we've eaten a lot worse.

Score: 12.75/20

Monday, October 05, 2009

Olives (Brighton) 09

This popular mixed Mediterranean style suburban café/bistro serves substantial dishes of fish, meat and pasta accompanied by excellent home made bread and lightly flavoured olives in a very mild, herb infused, olive oil. It is simply furnished with small cloth covered tables in two rooms separated by a long covered walkway. All the staff were extremely amiable but, apart from the proprietor, had little idea about the food. They are fully licensed but for $10 BYO is welcome but not quite welcomed. The Entertainment Book has a voucher for Olives for up to $35 discount for the lesser priced of the meals you order. The menu then excludes a couple of th dishes from discounts. Worse still, if you chose to drink your own wine you cannot use the voucher. In effect this very ordinary café is saying your corkage is effectively up to $45 on your first bottle of wine! This is all a bit strange since they have a small wine list with several bottles under $40.
When I suggested we split the table so, with no voucher we drank the wine and our friends used the voucher and did not have the wine they didn’t like it, initially said “No, it’s one table.”, but then said OK because they didn’t want to argue.
After the olives, courtesy of the café we had a platter of mixed dips-
Tzadiki, eggplant and an egg salad. This was a smallish serve for $18, with plenty of bread. We followed this with a grilled Saganaki, ($14)
which was dry and leathery, on a bed of rocket.
For mains we had a large fillet of barramundi,
lightly cooked as requested, under a white sauce with a couple of very nice scallops and a couple of mussels on a bed of mash potato, again decorated with plenty of rocket. A spaghetti marinara, which I’m told was nice though it didn’t look very special at all had the usual covering of rocket.
A mixed grill on a plain overcooked bed of rice which added nothing but a little carbohydrate to the meal. No need to guess this was also adorned with rocket!!
A dessert of sticky date pudding with vanilla bean ice cream ended a very ordinary meal.
Their arrangements in regard to discount offers are not really in the spirit of the Entertainment Book.
Comment: A filling meal in a café distinguished by liberal use of rocket and little else Their boast that they serve some of the best seafood is not sustained by the dishes they serve.
At best it is a simple family style restaurant. Simple in every way from the decor to the food and service.Score: 12/20

CHATTER 25 Journalists,and Bloggers

There is a simmering resentment between newspaper food writers and bloggers, and some chefs too which was highlighted in an article in the Herald Sun last Tuesday, 29/09/09. I think it is the result a sort of unacknowledged jealousy. Although they may both write about the same things, and might even share identical views, there is a marked difference between what appears in the dead tree press compared to the I’net.

Journalists work under completely different constraints to bloggers and they have obligations that bloggers don’t have. Firstly it is their job. It is unlikely that they would not enjoy it but never the less it is a job. They are assigned to it, perhaps because they ask for the assignment, perhaps just because they are available at the time someone is needed. There is no qualification for the job. No one tests their palate or their knowledge. Not one of them, as far as I know, has a degree, or even a certificate, in gastronomy. Few, if any, would have any serious background in the history of food and drink. Here I’m writing about restaurant reviewers rather than writers of recipes and articles. Not only do most of them begin by knowing very little of what they are to writing about but also their talent for the job is completely unknown. A cynic once wrote words to the effect that journalists are people who know nothing and have the ability to express it!

Regardless of initial enthusiasm after a time they may become jaded, it may become tedious, even boring being sent to places, often not of ones choice, perhaps to eat food even further from ones choice, that one would not normally wish to eat. Further more journalists have to meet deadlines, they have to include certain information and they have to fit it to a specific space. That’s the point, they HAVE to.

As compensation not only do they get paid they also have expense accounts and they have time to research their work to ensure that the factual information they provide is accurate. Perish the thought but prejudices and biases are not restricted to political commentators. There is a misplaced belief that they visit a restaurant several times before writing a revue while bloggers rip off opinion pieces and reviews at the drop of a hat. Frank Bruni, in New York, did go four or five times before writing his revues and had a blog for more casual eating experiences, but most local reviewers rarely go more than once except to high end establishments.

Prominent journalists are recognized by restaurant staff, Matt Preston probably couldn’t go incognito anywhere in Melbourne no matter how he tried to disguise himself, and this certainly influences how they are treated. Stephen Downes, I’m told, is banned from a dozen restaurants around town. George Calombaris is a darling of the Melbourne media and never a week passes without a mention or photograph of him. I’d lay a small bet that if a journalist, with the exception of Stephen Downes, went to one of Georges restaurants on a really bad night, even George has them, and wrote an appropriate review it would not get published, he would be sent back for a further assessment but he has no influence with bloggers which might account for his ill informed remarks in the article.

For more on this see Even without the benefit of quality pic’s, except for the glossy magazines, newspaper reviews strongly influence diners choices. Good reviews are a blessing bad ones a disaster for many restaurateurs although really good restaurants rise above uncomplimentary reviews. Blogs are an uncertain quantity. If they had no influence nobody would care what they said but from my own experience I know that restaurants are concerned about what is said about them on the net. Blogs are being referred to more and more and chef’s and restaurant owners are concerned about them. Fortunately blogs are an open public forum and contrary views get aired and responded to. There is room for dissent and discussion. Many blogs have an international audience and comments come from anywhere in the world. In my view this is a major failing in the regular press. You may write directly to a journalist, and you might get a reply but no way can it open up a discussion with the wider public because the public never get to see anything but the words and wisdom of the little circle of writers favoured by the media. Blogs often have lengthy comment and counter comments and vividly expressed opinions. They provide a forum for discussion and debate rather than a pedestal from which to offer unassailable opinion.

Bloggers might also be journalists but fundamentally they blog because they want to. They are there for the love of it. They fall into niches according to their interests. Food bloggers may concentrate their attention on any subject, coffee or beer or chocolate, cheap meals vegetarian or general recipes cooking hints or discussions reviews or any mixture. They blog as frequently or as rarely as they wish, they write as much or as little as they wish and they often illustrate what they are writing about with pic’s that can be better than words. They have no editor and their spelling and grammar may be sloppy but their meaning is clear

It really is not surprising that journalists have so little regard for bloggers and bloggers are so often critical of journalists. Bloggers are possibly a little jealous of perks for journalists and their ready made, and unearned audience. Journalists resent the freedom of bloggers to express views, which they may regard as ill informed or half baked, with little restraint with regard to language, style and content.

I suspect that the recent extraordinary interest in everything related to food and eating will continue and the public will turn more and more to blogs for information amusement and discussion. There are now over 600 food related blogs in Australia and there is not going to be any way to address the causes of the conflicts that arise between them and newspaper journalists.

Were I a journalist I might have written a better piece than this but until some one else does Vive la difference.

Score: I reckon they're about even