Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vue de Monde, a special dinner, 07/2011

Usually when writing about VdM it is a struggle to find enough superlatives, but not on this occasion. It was a Dinner of Appreciation for the Grand Chapitre of the Chaine des Rotisseurs. This world wide organization, devoted to the ever increasing enjoyment, and knowledge, of food and wine has a heritage going back to the 13th Century.
Two hundred and forty guests from all over Australia indulged in this meal at VdM's new home on the 55th floor of the Rialto building.
Firstly it must be said that the venue is outstanding, with 360 degree panoramic views over Melbourne. This relatively flat city looks magnificent on a clear night with 10's of 1000's of twinkling lights in every direction.
It was crowded and noisy but the chairs were comfortable, the tables large, the cutlery, crockery (some made especially for Vue), the modern lighting subdued
and the accoutrement's attractive.

All it needed was excellent food and wine. The wines, all French, were excellent and well matched to the food but the meal could have been much more exciting.
After canapes and champagne, an NV blanc de blanc, the first course was quail and tarragon.
This would have been much better had it not been cold. It was pleasant enough but very ordinary for VdM, in fact rather dull.
The 07 Alsacian reisling helped.
Marron, beef tongue, brown butter emulsion was, for me, the dish of the night.
Very fresh, barely cooked amd most delicate, served warm the only thing that could have been better was to have more of it!Again the 07 Chablis was a good choice.
Truffle risotto could be called a signature dish at Vue.
We've had it often. On this occasion there was plenty of truffle but it was cold. Lucky the 1er cru burgundy was magnificent.
Pork, apple smoked bone marrow was the fourth cold dish to arrive at the table.
More wine was the saviour, an 07 Pierre Amadieu Cote de Rhone Grand Reserve.
The last courset, lemon meringue ice cream, white chocolate, lemon curd, parsley, was the only dish that was meant to be cold.
It was a very good dessert. The 07 Chateau Jolys Jurancon Tardives was unexceptional. Tea was served and with a choice of tea bags in litttle pots.
and a kettle of hot water for the table, whilst coffe in a caraffe again very cool. There was a choice of six sweeteners including Heidi honey, organic raw sugar, orgnic panela Columbia, Stevia natural sweetener, crystal sugar candy and organic muscovado. They were identified under each little cup.
Perhaps a little over the top.
All in all we were disappointed in this meal which could so easily have been so much better.

Monday, July 25, 2011

PM 24 (Melbourne)

There is an old advertisement that has the tag "When your on a good thing stick to it." We enjoyed PM 24 so much a couple of weeks ago that we came back to try some other dishes and we were not disappointed.This time we tried French onion soup, a very filling, winters dish with plenty of taste.
The caramelized onion and cheese on a bread base were as good as it gets.
The degustation charcuterie ($25) was first class, absolutely the best,

with superb chicken liver pate surrounded by a few slices of spicy sausage, jambon, some duck breast, a pork rillette and outstanding foie gras and pork terrine served with toasted brioche. Tiny pickled gherkins, or cornichons, were served in a separate container so one could have as many as one wished.
We could watch the rotisserie from where we sat and wondered if we should choose the one and a half kilo line caught Snapper, for two,

but settled for two pork dishes.
A pork duo was yet another excellent choice. ($36)
Braised trotter and pork belly with a lentils ragout in natural jus was matchless.
There is a magnificent double rotisserie which stands out as a feature in the kitchen. The rotisseried pork loin ($37.5)

was accompanied by a superb braised red cabbage, which is hidden by the meat here, and sage jus.
Very large serves and very filling we could not manage a dessert!
After Louis Roderer to start ($24/glass) we drank a very pleasant Gamay, Beaujolais, ($42 the half bottle served in a carafe).
Yet another triumph for Phillipe Mouchel who supervised every dish before it was served to a customer.
Returnabilty factor 10/10

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chatter 37 Buddha's hand Citron

It is not surprising that a fruit as unusual as this should be surrounded by more mythology than most. It's a variation on a citron which appears to have developed about 1000 years ago in China. The citron seems to have originated in India, before making its way to China and Japan, and has been known for almost 3000 years.
It is characterized by a pleasant strong citrus like aroma causing it to be used in clothes cupboards where it is thought , by some. to kill moths. Despite being inedible, with a thick rind and minimal core of fruit it is also left in fruit bowls to perfume rooms. The zest is tasty and the skin can be candied. It has a reputation as an antidote to poisons, but I would not rely on it, and is regarded as a holy fruit by the Jews who use it at the Feast of the Tabernacles (Shavuot)
It grows well in temperate climates. Curiously, although they always have more than five 'fingers' descriptions of the fruit almost invariably describe it as having five fingers, even when accompanied by photographs clearly depicting more than that!
This example was given to me by Louis Glowinski, author of the definitive book "Fruit Growing in Australia" and was grown in his garden in Caulfield, an inner Melbourne suburb.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Golden Fields (St.Kilda) 07/2011

People are constantly opening, and also closing, restaurants. Who knows what the magic is that makes some so very successful whilst others languish. Of course the food is important but there are so many other factors which play their part. I would venture to say that, for some, it's the reputation of the chef, the venue and fit out is important for some but not others, service counts too as does ambiance that hard to define feeling you get, created by the everything about a place is another important factor. An indifferent wine list matters to some and the mark up on wines my also act as a deterrent and price is important for many, Of course everyone wants 'value'. Position also seems of varying importance.
Most people who come to Golden Fields come deliberately, there is no shingle hanging out the front and the name is in quite small lettering on the door, they could not book a table but they are going anyway. Whatever their reasons plenty of them come. Our motives were mixed. We certainly like Andrew McConnels' cooking
We had no trouble getting a table although it was quite busy. The stone floor and almost bare walls reflected a lot of noise but the atmosphere was agreeable. The place has a sterile, in the hospital sense, feel about it. A long white tiled bar

and white walls with chicken feet coat hangers,
bare tables and minimal settings all contribute.
The first thing brought to the table is a small dish of seasoned, roasted pumpkin seeds
which take the place of bread and butter and and the menu, on both sides of a sheet of quality paper. It's divided into some small piquant bites, Raw, To Start, Salads and Vegetables, Meat and Fish and Dessert. Designed for sharing courses are brought to the table one by one. To get a good range of dishes we chose a meal of starters and one main course. We broke the ice with shredded cabbage, Moreton Bay bugs Kampot pepper and mint ($17)
A very delicate dish this was very bland and under seasoned, the bugs were barely cooked, moist and tender. We next had "Pork and Prawn" fried school prawns, pig tail scratchings, garlic mayo. ($12).
The scratchings similar to crackling and the prawns, full of flavour, and could be eaten just as they were or with a light chili sauce or mayo. New England lobster roll, hot buttered bun, cold poached crayfish watercress and Kewpie. ($15)
is a bit like a crayfish burger but the the cray was too delicate and lost in this format. Our next course was rustic pork dumpling with Shanghai chili vinegar (2pc) ($9)

The last of these was twice cooked duck, steamed bread, vinegar and plum sauces (3pc) ($20) actually referred to three pieces of the steamed bread which tastes like a beijing bun. the leg had been cooked sous vide then coated in bean paste and deep fried. Frequently twice cooked duck legs are dry tend to coarseness and lack flavour. This was the complete opposite.
Served with two sauces and a couple of pieces of fresh cucumber the patron chooses how to eat this.
We made Peking duck style delights, splitting the steamed bread
and dipping into the sauces.
By now we were ready for the main course. Whole roasted flounder,lime, sorrel, burnt butter ($32) turned out to be headless. I have this old idea that, as a fish is born with a head on it, no matter how unattractive, or useless, a whole fish should have a head on it. Regardless it was an outstanding dish, served with mayo, tartare sauce was not available! We both missed bread and butter and asked for a serve of steamed bread. I found it on the bill at $8 for the four pieces.
The wine list is quite limited with a small range by the glass.
We ended the meal with baked meringue, vanilla rose and lychee. We're sure to be back here again to eat through more of the menu and soon.
Score 15/20

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Bistrot d' Orsay (Melbourne) 07/2011

Next door to the Atheneum Theatre, across the road from the Regent Theatre and around the corner from the Melbourne Town Hall this little restaurant suffers from a pre theatre rush from about 5.00 pm until 8.00 pm when it is completely filled with patrons who want to eat and run.
Under these circumstances the chefs do a fantastic job, and so do the waiters.
We had quite acceptable waiting times and we had a 3 course meal in about an hour and a half.
Tables are small and crowded and the place is naturally noisy and bustling. Decor is art noveau with unusual lights and a ceiling fresco
which looks like some sort of rural bacchanalian scene, perhaps related to the harvest.
Bottled wines stand in alcoves beneath the ceiling.
We started with a goats cheese souffle on beetroot with walnuts, very similar to what we had the two nights before at Pm24 and equally good. The souffle was light and had risen well and the beetroot, in small cubes here, and nut were not worse than Mouchel's offering. A bouillabaisse as an entree, or main, was flavoursome and had plenty of seafood in it.Beef cheek is not an ideal pre theatre meal as it is usually rich and heavy.
This was no exception, very tender in a pleasing reduction, on a bed of mash potato. It was a very good sized serve.
A sea food linguine was much more appropriate.

Excellent pasta and full of sea food.
For dessert we had a couple of scoops ice cream which were barely worth mentioning.
A solid meal it cost about $65 p/p including two glasses of wine.

Monday, July 04, 2011

PM24 (Melbourne) 07/2011

The stars and planets seemed to have come into conjunction for Philippe Mouchel at his latest restaurant. After a dazzling start 20+ years ago at Bocuse in Daimaru he seemed to struggle a bit. Most recently he had to compete with the hype of Bistro Guillame, where, in our view, the cooking was less than ordinary. Away from all of that now he has really hit his straps.
The open kitchen allows him a visible presence while he can supervise every dish that goes out.
Neil, of At My Table ( www. ) and Dorothy, shared a fine meal with us at a very reasonable price.
There was no pretense about it all. Delicious warm crisp crusted sour dough rolls were presented in a small sac

with a dish of home made salmon pate.

Entrees were extremely good. A goats cheese souffle ($21.5) on roasted beetroot carpaccio with caramelized walnuts
was light with good flavour, A cured New Zealand King salmon ($19.5) with a very light cucumber a la creme and a horseradish cream
was superb. We shared a main course, a special not on the printed menu, as another entree,
a Pithivier,, a French round puff pastry pie which can have a variety of contents. It was packed with venison and foie gras. Not too rich but exceptionally tasty, and very very good.
Praised by food journalists for their rotisseried corn fed duck,, a serve for two, ($40 p/p) we were not going to miss the best duck dish in the country and we were not disappointed.

The breast perfectly cooked, was full of taste and almost meltingly tender for Sandra but, for some unknown reason, rather firmer for me. It came with a celeriac puree, poached figs and a spiced jus that was not too intense and added to the pleasure of the duck. The leg meat had been shredded and fried in Japanese bread crumbs, a bit like a crumbed rilllette, it was also moist and retained the flavour of the meat. The puree and the figs were a great accompaniment, it was a fantastic main course.
We had a side dish of ($7.5) French fries
and a bowl of French style garden fresh baby peas ($8) with a little blanched lettuce
to round out the meal before the desserts.We tried three of them.
Their creme bruleel was as good as they get with a perfect rich creamy textured custard.
A pearr souffle with a scoop of ice cream light and pleasing.
The least pleasing dish of the night was a degustation dessert
made up of creme caramel, a slice of chocolate cake, a tart with berries and a couple of scoops of ice cream.
A moment after the desserts were finished our waiter approached with an attractive bowl of marsh mellow

from which four pieces were cut and placed on a saucer.
There is plenty to choose from on the menu including a five course degustation menu for the table ($95 or $155 with matched wines). Most mains are under $40.
The wine list is international, extensive and on the expensive side. By the glass they start at $12. We drank Chateau Tour du Haut Moulin Cru Bourgeoise, 2001 ($95) which was well past it's best and
Chateau La Bourdieu Cru Bourgeoise, 2005 ($85) which was full of fruit and close to it's peak.
This was an very excellent meal in the style of a normal three course dinner where first quality products benefited from first class cooking.
Score: 17.5/20