Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Hotel Windsor (Melbourne) 04/2011

This magnificent old style hotel has been the watering place innumerable foreign and local dignitaries.Sir Robert Menzies, one of Australia most famous Prime Ministers, has a suite named after him in which he resided for some years. It has style and refinement and you feel it as soon as you enter the foyer. The dining room is an elegant space with well spaced tables, white linen and comfortable seating.
It offers both an al la carte menu and a pre theatre dinner, which we indulged in last night. It's a main course and an entree ($57), but we but we broke the mold having an entree from the a la carte menu (about $22) and I'm glad we did.
The meal began with an amuse bouche, a pea sorbet on bacon foam with tomato skin.

I love this idea, always a surprise, it gives chef's free range for their imaginations and often puts me in a great mood for the rest of the meal. This was a good combination of flavours but, though the chef defended their presence, the prominent ice chips in the sorbet detracted from it for us.
Sandra's entree, Mille feuille of wild mushroom with artichoke and parsley gnocchi and Reggiano foam was superb capturing the various flavours magnificently, especially of
the mushrooms, which seem to have been layered with pasta rather than pastry.
I had 17 hour smoked pork belly with confit of desiree potato, capers and a caperberry and gribiche inspired chicken broth. The piquant berry cut through the belly fat making both very appealing. Griviche refers to a cold French sauce made from hard boiled egg yolks emulsified with mustard and a neutral oil. This was a very mild and inoffensive version making a negligible contribution to the dish. It may have been more successful served in a broad bowl. Still, it was an attractive dish although the pork belly could have been more tender.
I chose the 350 gm rib eye for my main (about $40) served on a bed of creamy mash it was a very good piece of meat prepared as requested in a particularly good jus.

Fish and chips, trevally, was the only really disappointing dish. In crumbs, rather than batter, the fish was dry, stringy and tough. When Sandra pointed this out to our waitress she consulted the chef and Sandra accepted a replacement of rib eye.
Desserts were first class. A creme brullee was very light and smooth but,
good as it was it could not match the deconstructed avocado and banana vacherin on bitter chocolate sauce.
Vacherin is named after the cheese but its current relationship is only in its shape. It is a meringue dessert, usually presented as a tower of meringue filled with cream or ice cream. Modern versions may have slices or pieces of meringue in a variety of concoctions molded into a tian.
Served by attractive and helpful waitresses in beautiful surroundings this is a very nice place for a meal where quiet conversation is the norm.
Wines by the glass mostly range from $10 to $15. As the bottles may have been opened for some time it's best to taste before you buy.
Score: 15/20

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Fountain (Box Hill) 04/2011

The Fountain is the restaurant associated with Box Hill TAFE. It's a place where future chef's cut their teeth and patron, at times, grind theirs. Not so last night when Chef Daman Shirivastav supervised a quite superb meal.
Starting with an entree of pan seared Atlantic salmon

accompanied by a pea puree,glazed baby fennel and a wonderful orange and Pernot zabaion ,which looked beautiful on the plate and was excellent on the palate. The salmon was lightly seared on the outside with crisp skin and pink and moist on the inside. Rare to get fish so ideally cooked. Here is a pic endeavouring to show the inside of the fillet.
The main course, a very large grain fed eye fillet, on horse radish and potato roesti, sauteed baby autumn vegetables, onion, bone marrow and a large zuccini flower stuffed with cheese.
Every element of this was so good that I felt no need to try the accompanying sauce Bordelaise sauce. The ever so slightly cooked meat hardly needed a knife and melted in the mouth.In case one felt the need bread rolls with olive oil and salt was available to mop up the juices from the meat.
Warm chocolate fondant dessert with a strawberry sorbet was the only slight weakness in the meal. The chocolate was too cool and did not run when the pastry was cut.
None the less it was rich and very desirable for any chocoholic.
Coffee was served with hand made chocolates too.No doubt there is considerable variation in the standard of meals served here but this was a two hat meal anytime.
Score: 16.5/20

Friday, April 08, 2011

Daneli's Deli (Balaclava) 04/2011

Daneli's is comparable to the many kosher deli's that abound in Manhattan. It's fleischig , literally flesh, which means that they serve meat and dairy products are not available.The meat is kosher so there is no pork. It's eat in or take away. The toilet is through the kitchen but for the orthodox there is a hand basin in the room. Tables and chairs are simple,
unadorned, cafe style, as is the food. There is a pleasant interpretation of a St. Kilda scene on one wall.
The glass fronted counter was packed with ready to eat food,
and soft drink.
It looked good but I had no great expectations when we ordered a beef burger with tomato, gherkin, mayo lettuce and an egg
with a side plate of chips.
It was an EXCELLENT burger. The large buns were well filled with plenty of meat, furthermore it was moist and very tasty. Matt Preston chose Daniels, a kilometre down, the road as the best burger in town. I think he'd be surprised if he had tested the opposition here. The only thing missing was cheese and it really didn't need it. The substantial serve of chips was good too.The only thing they could have improved was to toast the buns a bit more, a trivial matter.
If you want a really good burger we'd recommend Daneli
Score 13.25/20

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

CHATTER 34 Wine Myths

This article appeared in Australian Doctor last month. I found it interesting. It is reproduced here with their permission.

Mineral myth

WINE: Wine’s character reflects the minerals in the soil that the grapes were grown in? That’s a bit rich, says Dr Peter Hay.

IT seems old wives’ tales exist in the wine world too. I was at a dinner party the other day and one of the guests was making a lot of the fact that the riesling we were drinking reflected the minerals in the ground in which it was grown.

Not true, I suggested, and it took a fair bit of discussion to get him to the point where he could be convinced the minerals in the ground can’t travel up a vine and end up in the grape and then of course in the wine itself.

If that was fun, think how hard it is to pass up the opportunity to tell a winemaker his or her wine “tastes like schist”. Most take this as the compliment it was meant to be, given many of the world’s greatest wines tend to have a pronounced mineral edge to their aromas and flavours.

How these wines consistently end up with these characters is generally put down to terroir and, more specifically, to the soil they were grown in. Mineral-related adjectives commonly appear in tasting notes for wine coming off Burgundy’s limestone or Mosel’s schist. But do these wines contain the minerals that were in the soils they were grown?

The short answer is no. There is romance, but then there is science, which tells us minerals don’t cross over through a vine’s roots, nor is there any direct absorption into the grapes themselves, nor traces of a specific soil’s minerals in the resultant wines.

On the other hand, soils with a dominant mineral type certainly do grow grapes with different characters than those grown in another soil type. France’s Sancerre region produces sauvignon blanc grown in flinty soils and definitely has a flinty character to it, although this has more to do with how the minerals in the soil metabolise the plant than any flint ending up in the wine.

Flint or gravel won’t retain water throughout the growing season as well as clay or limestone, so vines grow very differently on each of these.

Somewhat related to this is the fact some people mistake “mineral” characters in wine for “reduced” sulfide characters derived from yeast: gunpowder, flint, burned rubber, sulfur, etc. These are definitely not soil related.

In small amounts they can be quite attractive, but in excessive quantities they detract from the fruit expression the winemaker is trying to achieve and also produce a bitterness that blunts a wine’s finish. Like many wine faults, a little minerality is a welcome addition whereas too much is an intrusion.

The last word has to go to a friend of mine and a master of wine who sent me a rather “punishing” email on the subject of minerality in wines. “Ah, this is really gneiss! Not like the other schist you served me last time. Granite, it is probably the best you can do.”

Sometimes it is easier to choose the wine you drink than your friends.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Loving Hut (Richmond) 04/2011

We are not vegans and have never even toyed with vegetarianism, I think it is a sort of religion. It's fine for those who believe in it but if there is a philosophical argument for it I find it a bit suspect. Having enjoyed several vegan tit bits at the SBS Food Safari a few weeks ago I thought it interesting to visit Loving Hut, where some of them were made.
It's a very nice, very clean looking place at 10/242 Victoria Pde, quite near Church St. I was struck by the large flat screen TV at the far end of the room, no it didn't fall on me, which had a continuous program centered around the Supreme Master Chng Hai. It really should have been Supreme Mistress but that might have been misunderstood.

The program is in English with sub titles in about 10 languages, including English. It is a constant promotion for Ching Hai interspersed with a little news.
Ching Hai is an attractive 62 year old woman, the self titled leader and founder of a trans national cybersect that promotes her philosophy and the Quan Yin method, a form of meditation.
She is extremely wealthy and is a poet, painter, author, musician and entrepreneur, designing dresses and jewelery and is associated with the Loving Hut chain of vegan restaurants. She is known for her self promotion, and philanthropy. Some of her fiscal dealing have come under considerable scrutiny.
So what about the food. Looking around I could see that tit was beautifully presented. I ordered an entree of Crispy Delight made up of taro and enoki mushroom wrapped in sea weed and
bean curd skins, cooked in batter ($8)
It was as it said a crispy delight. A little oily but very moorish.
After that I had a mild version of their Assam Curry. That was a throat tingling, eye watering, nose running face reddening religious experience in itself. It was indeed very good.
A big serve filled with tomato, peppers, beans, taro and tofu in a reasonably mild chili curry sauce it needed a long cool beer but they are alcohol free so I had only Chinese tea and rice to help.
This is a really nice place for vegans, vegetarians and free thinking omnivores to eat.

Score: 13.5/20

Friday, April 01, 2011

Ilona Stalller (St.Kilda) 04/2011

It especially appeals to me to visit restaurants that have had both strongly positive and strongly negative reviews. Ilona Staller falls into that category. Most of the negatives have to do with the venue, although more +ve than -ve, and the service and some about the food and value for money. (What else is there!!) Service has been commented on as generally unsatisfactory, rude or too slow, whilst the food has generally, but not always, been well regarded.
We love the art deco architect designed interior, which perfectly matches the art deco building itself.
It was, for many years, the Balaclava branch of the Commonwealth bank before becoming the home of Red Rooster. After a very brief stint as a warehouse style outlet for a variety of clothes it has now been reborn in it's current form. It still has that sheen of the brand new. It's very clean. neat wooden tables fill the room with comfortably covered bench seating along the walls or partitions and simple wood backed chairs opposite them. There is a wide curved bar as you enter, mimicked by the ceiling. All very attractive.
We arrived early before the main rush of dinner patrons and it looked exactly like the sort
of place Edward Hopper would have painted
but in the next half hour it filled to capacity.
The menu was also interesting. My entree of lamb tongue salad was a good blend of flavours and textures.

Alone the tongue was very bland but in the salad, rocket, thin strips of cucumber and Puy lentils, the dressing made this a very sound dish. Sandra chose a goats cheese and white anchovie souffle
which was served in a smooth and full flavoured veloute the remains of which were soaked up in the very fresh, crusty bread from a Chinese bakery in nearby Chapel St.
We seem to have had very little chicken lately so I opted for the stuffed chicken which was aromatic but just a little dry.
What more than made up for that was the outstanding white bean puree on which it was served. The slow cooked short ribs would have fallen off the bone except that it had already happened in the kitchen.
A large serve, they were moist, tender and rich with a reduction which was not too intense for the dish.
Desserts were also very good. We did not want to wait 20 minutes for a souffle so waited 20 minutes for our second choices but they were worth the wait. Their panacotta was near perfect.

Coeur de creme is a classic French dessert of cream cheese mixed with cream, or sour cream, with or without sugar and molded in a heart shape, hence the name, and served with fruit. Mine had completely lost it's shape to become a large blob and the texture was too loose, none the less it tasted very good.
There is a good and reasonably priced wine list with a lot of choice by the glass from about $10 to $15. We enjoyed both a Heathcote Shiraz and a Chianti Classico. Black garbed waiters provided very friendly, and quite efficient, service but as the place filled it was clearly going to be a challenge for the kitchen to keep up with the heavy demand.
The prices are on the high side for the food, we paid $170 for the meal with no coffee and only two glasses of wine, but we will be more than happy to try more of their food and very soon too.
Score 15/20