Monday, March 10, 2014

Southbank Grill (Townsville) 03/2014

I paid for my dinner and have no conflicting interests. Although I am a Rydges Priority Guest, as a non hotel resident, they refused to give me the 20% off the food and wine bill that they normally offer!

Feeling a bit peckish after my meal at Dynasty I decided to try something very different. Southbank Grill is attached to Rydges.  It is not only a meat restaurant but it is really a bistro style steak house.
It occupies a simple room with bare tables. Quite unpretentious.

Service was pleasant and efficient. 
I was pleasantly surprised to be offered an amuse bouche, a smoked salmon pate made with Brie on a slice of cucumber. Something easy to do at home and very nice.
I took the opportunity to order a very very rare Kangaroo loin (300 gm for $30), which included my choice of sauce and a side dish.

It came exactly as ordered

with the red wine jus in a small pot and a little edible micro salad decoration. The jus was excellent, not over reduced, and really added to the taste of the dish. 

A side dish of beer battered chips, normally $5 was enough for two. Obviously hand cut they were also excellent.

They also make their desserts (all $15 ) in house but I was tuckered out by now.  
Score: 15/20

Dynasty (Townsville) 03/2014

Evidently I should begin by informing readers that I paid for my dinner and have no conflicting interests. This applies to almost evert restaurant at which I eat, or dine if you prefer that term, although, occasionally I have had a glass of wine or a dessert which has not been noted on my bill!

When you visit a town with which you are not familiar it is a common practice to ask people where they recommend for a good meal, to search sites like UrbanSpoon and Trip Adviser, Yelp, Google or whatever. That was how I found myself at Dynasty, a Chinese restaurant distinguished by a surprising number of very positive and very negative reviews. The other major influence was that it was Monday night and other places I might have chosen were closed. It was a short walk from where I was staying, on Palmer St., which is packed with one restaurant after the next, interspersed with pubs, all offering food from cheap to expensive and mundane to unusual.
Dynasty is a split level place in a large room. White clothed reasonably spaced tables would seat about 50 to 60 patrons.

It is very Chinese in decor, from the floor 

to the ceiling.  

and everywhere in between.

The menu is extensive. They specialize in lobster and crabs. Either there is a lot of money for discretionary spending in Townsville or there is no competition for Dynasty because the prices for their crabs and lobster are startling - about $79 and $159/ Kilo respectively and other dishes are all at the high end. Oysters were reasonable but plain rice $8.5 is a shocker.
I chose the Dynasty spring rolls . Six finger length rolls in a crisp fine pastry served with a slightly astringent sauce could not have been better, ($12). My waiter was pleased and told me that clients had told him that his restaurant was up there with the Flower Drum!  

My next course, a chef's special, Phoenix Chicken, ($33) is a copy of chicken in a birds nest but uses a potato basket instead. This is a conglomeration of vegetables,\; snow peas, mushroom, carrot, broccoli, lettuce, water chestnut and corn and thin slices of chicken breast and scallops all in a light oyster sauce. This was a less than ordinary dish. The potato basket was burnt and inedible and the burnt taste had seeped into the rest of the food. 

The vegetables were cut very unevenly and the broccoli was very coarsely cut.

The waiter explained that people don't eat the basket!! Prepared like this I'm sure they wouldn't. No self respecting chef would send a dish out like that.
They had a selection of wines by the glass from $9.5 to $15. I rejected a Wirra Wirra shiraz that had been open for a few days and another bottle was opened for me which was very good. 
People at an adjacent table told me that they loved the place and to some extent I may have been a little unlucky but I am confident that the Flower Drum is not under any threat from Townsville's finest    Score:13.25 /20

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cucina di Esposito (Nth Carlton) 03/2014

Formerly known as Esposito@Toofeys, the sign is still outside the door, 

as is the menu, this has been a fine restaurant for many yeas. Perhaps because of the Melbourne Food Festival, which is just finishing, they have recently offered a special lobster based degustaion menu at a greatly discounted price through Groupon.  
 The meal began with a pleasant glass of N.V. Clover Hill Cuvee before the first course, clear broth of Southern rock lobster with zucchini flower fritters and crustacean oil.  I loved the dish but it would have been nice to have had more than a teaspoon of broth. There was a zucchini fritter but the flower was no where to be seen. Never mind it was a delectable little dish.

The next course was also quite small. Fluffy egg white lobster omelette with green asparagus and
shaved truffles
It also had excellent flavour. I would have preferred the omelette a little less firm personal preferance, but again the flavours were excellent. The truffle taste was there but I saw no sign of shaved truffles.

Mrs Esposito, Maurice's mum sure knew how to cook magnificent gnocchi.  Maurice’s Mum’s potato gnocchi with wilted tomatoes in lobster sauce came next. It's not easy to get these just right but these were perfect. There some small bits of lobster in with the sauce and again the flavour was light, sweet and distinctly lobster.
Carpaccio of cone Bay barramundi with smoked eel, lobster reduction and black rice foam was a surprising combination that worked well with nothing dominating. Rarely have I enjoyed a meal more.
 Potato-crusted lobster tail with Yarra Valley salmon and reduction, balsamic though, not lobster, was the last lobster course. Not really potato crusted, the potato being separate from the lobster, this was another quite small serve but again really full of fine flavour.  

This was a smallish meal but a lot went into the making of it and it demonstrated high quality of creativity successfully matching a variety of sea food and bringing out great flavours. A fine exhibition of cooking skills of a high order.
A bargain at $90 for two. 
Score: 16.75/20

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Bacash (South Yarra) 03/2014

 It's quite a while since we dined here, where we have had good experiences, so we were pleased to have the opportunity to return. Physically it looks much the same, white linen table cloths and napkins, decent cutlery and good size tables. I think some of the paintings have changed. Any way they are fish oriented 

and so is the food. 
On Chef Bacash,s recommendation I had the sardines and flounder while Sandra had the oyster entree ($4) Before leaving he particularly recommended the flounder as being the freshest possible. We had a side dish of garden salad and one of chips and finished with a very rich dessert.
Bacash is best known for sound cooking. Food is nicely presented, ingredient are excellent and there is a generally pleasant ambiance. It's not theatrical not overly fussy or pretentious.
Sandra's oysters came with a hard crust of cheese and the oysters, while still tasty were no longer a delicate succulent mouth watering dish but dry and over cooked.  

My sardines on a bed of eggplant were plain, pleasant enough, but rather undistinguished.

My flounder was as good as it could be. I have not had a fresher one since I used to spear them at night on Elwood beach. 

Unfortunately Sandra's, which was equally fresh, was not properly cooked. This did not become apparent until shr had eaten almost half the fish. When she got to the head end rd blood appeared between the gills and the roe was completely raw!  It is very unpleasant to get a gob of blood in your mouth from a raw fish. Our waitress offered a foolish excuse and would have replaced the dish but Sandra no longer wanted any more. The side dishes were large and very satisfactory.

Dessert was delicious if you are addicted to chocolate and all thing sweet, as I am.

Comments: What can one fairly say about a meal like this. It was both very good, bad and in between. If it was presented at My Kitchen Rules it would not score well, yet I have never had a better flounder.