Friday, April 20, 2012

Union Dining (Richmond, Melbourne) 04/2012

Delicious magazine organizes a meal each month sponsored by Volvo, and in this case TarraWarra winery. It's not often in Melbourne and you have to be quick to get a reservation as they are very popular. On this occasion Stephanie Alexander, an iconic figure in the Australian culinary field, seen here speaking to the guests, got together with one of her former kitchen colleagues, Chef Nicky Reimer to produce a four course dinner. It was a loud and crowded affair with short speeches from both Nicky and Stephanie who is now occupied in writing books and bringing kitchen gardens and healthy eating to schools across Australia. Delicious even sent a photographer to record the event.Our meal started with a smoked eel and ham hock terrine with pickled baby beetroot and horseradish. Served with a 2010 TarraWarra Estate Chardonnay. This was an excellent match for this dish. The elements of the terrine were all distinct but the jelly that bound them was not properly set so it fell apart when we tried to cut a slice from it.
Next course was an escabeche of sardine with shaved fennel, pine nuts and Marsala currants. Escabeche is similar to ceviche the difference being that the fish, or it could be meat, has been cooked before being bathed in an acidic marinade either of vinegar or citrus. Served cold, we both found the acidity excessive. The sardine had a strong characteristic taste which many people, including me, are not fond of making this a dubious choice for a fixed menu.
The accompanying 2011 TarraWarra Pinot Noir Rose, a wine we would not usually drink, was particularly appreciated for this dish with it's dry clean finish.
Abbachio of Rutherglen lamb shoulder served with Savoy cabbage salad with saba dressing and white polenta with Talegio followed.
If you don't have an Italian/English dictionary handy Abbachio translates as young lamb. Saba dressing is a balsamic reduction which is sweet and syrupy and Talegio is a cows milk washed rind cheese that gets its name from the area of Italy that it originated in, Val Taleggio. Here the lamb had been slow cooked and was tender but it was not very young and, after removing it from the bones, there was not much of it. Again the salad had too much citrus, although it looked goodand the only really enjoyable part was the polenta.The last course was a croustard of spiced apple and armagnac prune with almond cream. Unfortunately the pastry was undercooked on my dessert which was also dominated by sweetness. Chef Reimer and the kitchen staff worked hard to get these dishes prepared and on to the tables for 95 guests in good timeWe were disappointed with the meal which we felt was flawed in several areas but thoroughly enjoyed the accompanying wines which were served generously. Again this is a restaurant we will return to so as to get a better view of their cuisine.
Score: 13/20

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Point (Albert Park) 04/2012

A year ago this was home to Scott Pickett, now at The Estelle. Highly regarded AGFG awarded them two hats and we agreed with that rating. Things are different now. The place looks exactly the same with carcasses hanging over magnificent steaks in a glass fronted cabinet just outside the entrance to the restaurant. Well spaced white clothed tables look out over the lake. Frank, the head waiter is still there but they now have a new general manager, Brian Lloyd, formerly from Vue de Monde and a new head chef, Justin Wise who worked for six years at the Press Club and more recently at Maze.
Service is exemplary. Wait staff are always at hand but never in your face, bread rolls are offered frequently and butter, which is a cultured butter from country Victoria, is replaced promptly with out having to be requested. It speaks of quiet quality. They concentrate on meat but also offer some sea food dishes and a degustation menu which, had we desired, they would have modified as to the number of courses. They have an extremely extensive wine list. Many of the wines are hundreds and thousands of dollars a bottle but there are a few around the $80 mark. By the glass they range from about $15 to $27
On this occasion we chose the a la carte menu.
An amuse bouche arrived with a French accented waiter consisting of a rabbit rillette with a ring of crisp fried onion and little pear puree which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I got more of my share as no one else at the table would eat rabbit! Eating is a psychological experience too. If they had and closed their eyes opened their minds a little they would have loved it. For entree we had a scallop risotto with squid ink. This was disappointing. A small serve for $29, the rice was still quite hard and it was not in the sort of creamy sauce we expected. The scallop had been cooked nicely, just seared and then cut in half. Here we would have preferred a larger serve of risotto and two scallops rather than two halves.Never the less it did deserve a better photo. I had a tasting plate of meats consisting of 100 gm of pasture fed Cape Grim Eye fillet,100gm of Sher Fi Wagyu Porterhouse, 350 days grain fed and 100 gm Hopkin River Eye fillet, 120 days grain fed. On Scott Pickett's menu they had five different cuts and I would have liked to have tasted more than these three.

All were exceptionally tasty with the grain fed being fattier, in the meat itself, than the grass fed steak. The waghu was the fattiest of the three.Grass fed had better flavor but the texture of the grain fed meat and the feeling it produces in the mouth is superb if you like fat. Sandra had an impressive rib eye, cooked as requested. It ticked all the boxes.Our friends had chateaubriand, removed from the bone at the table. They have taken control of the hanging and aging of their meat and are doing it really well. These equal the best steaks we have enjoyed for a long time. A side dish of carrots with pine nuts in a honey sauce was excellent.Dessert, a deconstructed creme brulee, bore little resemblance to the dish it was named after.
We will come back and try the degustation menu. This is a sophisticated restaurant, a bit more expensive than the average. We both feel that, despite their magnificent steaks, they will struggle to keep their two hats although there were certainly some high points.
Score: 14/20

Monday, April 09, 2012

Einstein (Caulfield) 04/2012

This busy little cafe promises outstanding coffee turned out by professionally trained barista's. After lauding it's coffee and outlining it's philosophy on the first page of it's seven small page menu it describes a range of breakfast dishes and salads. Some of these have cute but meaningless names like 'relativity' and 'E=mc2'.
It's an inside outside place with high tables and stools of different heights to accommodate shorter or taller clients.
There is also a supply of blankets for the less hardy on colder days. The place is kitschy with buckets of cutlery and a portrait of the great man inside a long fairly dark room. Service is friendly. Food is good cafe style, reasonable size serves without being excessive. Here is a curried omelette sandwich.Teryakii chicken salad.A pleasant place
Score: 13/20