Monday, February 27, 2012

Embrasse (Carlton) 02/2012

*Click on the pic's to enlarge the image.

Nic Poelaert
did lunch at Embrasse on Sunday. He insists it's not fine dining but typical French peasant farmers food. Maybe, but for me it's still fine dining We sat down with 27 diners whose interests were either good dining, or food ranging from butter to beef, or just to satisfy various levels of Frankophilia. Regardless it was French from the introductory bubbly to the L'Imposter a granache made in France by Aussie Adam Foster from the vegetable salad to the frangipanni tart. First course was an egg salad, cooked for 12 hours at 61 degrees the egg white was just just cooked while the yolk had become a little firm. This lay on a bed of buck wheat, cauliflower and other stuff, we can't give away all the secrets!This was followed by a smoked salmon saladwith some truly 'signature' bread rolls.Main course was steak with a selection of young beans and root vegetables,with a pea salad.Highlight of the meal was the frangipanni tart, made using his mothers recipe. The pastry was unbelievably good.We each got a huge slice too!A great way to spend Sunday afternoon. Amazing what a few glasses of wine can do to improve your photography.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dunyazad (Nth Balwyn) 02/2012

* Click on pic's to enlarge them.

This spacious suburban restaurant is very much in the tradition of Lebanese restaurants similar in style to Almazet in Caulfield or Abla in Carlton. The decor is very Middle Eastern with scenes of feasting on one wall,
typical cut out lamp shades in Eastern style. White clothed tables are covered with butcher paper and are comfortably sized. Noise, like the banquets, is a variable feast but it is likely to be significant on Fridays and Saturdays when Virginia, a gorgeous Egyptian belly dancer does her thing. They offer several degustation menus one endless without seafood ($45) or endless with seafood or the standard banquet $38 or the standard banquet with sea food ($58), which we elected to have. Starting with the usual tabuli, humus and smoky eggplant salad, served with pita bread.We were immediately struck by the dominating lemon in each dish. Too much for me but I soon got used to it.
Next came a trio of cheese filled triangles, minced meat filled pastry rolls and a very good light and moist felafel ball covered with a little yoghurt, surrounding a little chopped tomato salad.
A lightly cooked prawn and scallop dish on saffron rice with a pleasant home made tomato sauce was also very good. It preceded a whole snapper which had been skinned and covered with a tahini sauce and some crisp nuts. This was an exceptional dish and I could not have wanted better. The fish was very delicate, the flesh firm, but not dry or tough, and with good flavour brought out by the sauce the dish being further improved by the crunchy nuts.We were already well satisfied when a platter of chicken and beef skewers on a bed of rice arrived. Nothing startling but certainly tender and tasty yet again. Dessert, an over gelatinized custard with pistachio nuts and a tray of extremely good Turkish delight (made by Pantheon) and baklava ended a very reasonably priced and substantial meal which I found to be the best of it's kind in Melbourne. Unaware that there was a Lebanese wine available we had a modest red. As with the rest of the menu prices are very reasonable.The meal finished with unsweetened Lebanese coffee!
Footnote: Princess Dunyazad was the sister of Scherazade, who told the King. who had killed his Queen each day for three years, 1001 stories each leaving him in suspense so he did not kill her waiting for the end of each tale!
Score:14.5 /20

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dalmatino (Port Melbourne) 02/2012

Some peoples lives are well ordered, sort of neat and reliable. Others are more unpredictable, perhaps more spontaneous and erratic. I think we are a bit like that. A snippet on TV about a Croatian dish changes our dinner plans and suddenly we're off to a new adventure, completely unanticipated. That is how we ended up at Dalmatino in Bay St. Set out with tables along one side of a long room separated from a bar on the other by a long panel topped with bottles give the place a pleasant bistro feel. Bare tables are a good size and the somewhat uncomfortable chairs the standard for these places. The wall is imitation pressed steel with a long narrow blackboard advertising the day's special. A little research informed us that Croatian food is often regional food the main division being between the Islands and Dalmation coast and the inland areas. The inland cuisine is more influenced by the food of the Austro Hungarian and Ottoman Empires while the coastal area is more influenced by Italian, Greek, French and perhaps Spanish cuisine. Dalmatina obviously derives from the Dalmatian area and is noted for fish stew known as brudet or brujet. As presented here it was a soup rather than a stew. A first course of asparagus soup was full flavoured great for asparagus lovers. Charcuterie was disappointing, a dull small collection of cuts with nothing exciting and a bit over priced too. Slow cooked beef cheek with gnocchi was tender and I especially enjoyed it. The brujet was full of seafood, a little over cooked, how can it not be and the soup tasty. Desserts were pretty but the custard in the creme caramel was very gluggy and heavy. Despite all these criticisms the food is really quite respectable and the venue has an extremely pleasant atmosphere about it. Eno, chef and part owner dropped by and chatted briefly with us. I would be happy to come back to try some of their other dishes.
Score: 13.75/20

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Living Room (Malvern) 02/2012

This was a case where the Living Room is the dining room. It's a split level amalgamation of what was originally three shops. Furniture is an odd collection of lamps, chairs and tables of various sizes. There is also some footpath seating which is pleasant especially for a pre meal drink on a pleasant afternoon or evening. The place is decorated with a few bright sort of pastiche paintings of Melbourne scenes evoking a sense of belonging here. It's open, friendly and noisy. Of course we added our contribution. It has been open for about three years, owned by the proprietors of the Claremont Cafe, across the road. The food has left cafe style far behind and they advertise their status with one framed certificate, and why not. If you've got it flaunt it!This review is an amalgam of several meals. For starters, if your metabolism can take it, the chicken livers were excellent. There was no fibrous stuff left in them, they were cooked but not over cooked, gently seasoned, just the way they should be. A carpaccio of pork neck, I've forgotten the fancy name for it, served with goats cheese and figs was a gentle inoffensive entree with well defined flavours that were agreeable regardless of whether they were eaten separately or together. If scallops are on the menu I'd have them any time too.Croquettes were not on the menu today but we enjoyed them a few weeks ago here.There are a lot of small dishes which it is fun to share.Sirloin steak was served with a pile of crisp chips. Requested medium rare it was quite well done. The menu changes frequently but steaks are always there, although the presentation varies.
Salad was a simple affair.Fish, a crumbed fillet of barramundi, on a bed of spinach was excellent. A cheese plate was very minimal whether with a sliver of truffled bree or a blue goats cheese.On a previous occasion they were more generous.Desserts are pretty and pretty good.
If not for the wine it would have worked out at about $65/diner. We drank a Shelmerdene Heathcote shiraz and an 07 Merricks Thomson Lane shiraz as well as a sauvignon blanc the name of which escapes me just now.
Everything was good but
not yet in the one hat class for me.