Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Le Petit Lapin (Elsternwick) 01/2015

This is a very new 'chocolate' cafe a little isolated from the dense shop front areas of nearby streets. It's very simply furnished 

with indoor or outside seating at a variety of different size tables. Staff, under the watchful eye of attractive and enthusiastic manager Christine Sakkar, are young and keen. It has the usual sorts of things: Tea, good coffee, a small range of house made patisserie, 

sandwiches and rolls and so on visible in glass cabinets.

A white chocolate mousse cake with sugared nuts in a dark chocolate shell ($5) 

was more like a fudge in consistency.  Not too rich it was still nice with my machiato ($3). What makes it different are the range of crepes and the the chocolates. They use chocolate imported from French master chocolate maker Michel Cluizel for their chocolate drinks and also offer a hand made range of chocolates from the local (Heidelberg) manufacturer Chocolatier

These sell for between $1.50 and $2.50 each. They are very good quality and very pretty with a good range of flavours but I did not find them to be outstanding.
I love the name, I love the idea and I wish them well.
Score: 13.25/20

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tulip (Geelong) 01/2015

*Click on pic's to enlarge them.

This is quite an unusual restaurant for a regional city. It looks fairly typical with an open kitchen at the end of the room 

and a bar at the corner of a large L shaped room with bare brick walls. Decor is simple and furniture reminiscent of Ikea. Polished wood tables are bare except for white linen napkins and cutlery. White painted wooden chairs are provincial and rather hard and uncomfortable and a little low for short clients. There is an attractive little court yard fountain visible from some tables 

but it remains a fairly sterile environment.
The menu has a wide variety of unusual dishes. They also offer two chef's choice menus - four 'waves' $65 or six 'waves' $90. A wave is several courses so our six wave meal ended up as at least 10 courses all of which, I think, were on the menu. 
The dishes came in a slightly mixed order but basically starters were followed by mains and ended with dessert.
A good variety of tasty table olives and smoked almonds were offered to start.
These were quickly followed by salt and vinegar pork crackling.
Large creamy Coffin Bay oysters with ponzu was another pleasant but not special starter.
 Next was a salad of tomato, dried anchovy, bocconchini and samphire. This was exceptionally appealing with both cherry tomatoes and Russian blacks adding extra flavour.
A dish of fried baby prawns with smoked mayonnaise was another textural pleasure. 

The mayonnaise had a slightly bitter, but not unpleasant, taste from the smoke.
Cured ocean trout, lightly pickled cucumber and a dressing of dashi powder with some edible succulents followed quickly.
 I found the trout very bland and felt it needed longer and perhaps a better curing mixture - some dill might have helped.
Wessex Saddleback capocollo - cured pork neck, was another excellent starter though by now we had eaten quite a lot to still be having entrees.
It was dressed with a few dobs of a thick bean and cauliflower paste that did not add to the excellent pork.
After all this we came to a series of main dishes starting with a completely out of this world beef brisket cucumber and smoked vignaigrette.
The brisket was cooked to perfection, moist, full of taste, meltingly tender. I would have it first, second and third it just cannot get any better,
 A series of superb salads came next. Mixed grain, including quinoa and fricca, cauliflower and almond salad with goats milk yoghurt

could convert me to health food!
Roasted and pickled pumpkin salad, salsa verde
was next which was flavoured with a little chilli.
Salad of steamed kale, pancetta, hazelnuts and egg vinaigrette
was the best way I have ever enjoyed kale. The flavour was outstanding and the textures beaut with the crunchy hazelnuts.
 The final main was a scotch fillet which looked and tasted like porterhouse to me. No matter it was cooked perfectly for me but too blue for some people.
 Cheese Caprinelle
A rage of cheeses including a bree a blue and manchego precede the dessert.
Chocolate pave, a set chocolate mousse on a biscuit base, caramelized white chocolate and thyme ice cream. 

Served very cold it improved as the mousse warmed.
Tea and coffee were served with cubes of white chocolate fudge with pistachio inclusions.

 It was a very rich finish to an extremely good very very filling meal. 
 Comments: We had an extravagant meal cooked with care and flair. The dishes were imaginative, interesting and a joy to the palate particularly because of the fine matching of sauces and vinaigrette to the food, the mark of a top class chef. Service was friendly, informed and well spaced. They have an adequate reasonably priced wine list. We drank an amiable young Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz ($58/ bottle).
I only wish the chairs were a little more comfortable.
An excellent restaurant. Far and away the best we have eaten at in Geelong
Score:16.5 /20

Custom House (Geelong) 01/2015

Geelong is a treasury of extremely attractive old buildings, if you like that sort of thing, and we do. Custom House is one of them. 

It is a classical symmetrical rectangular building separated from Eastern Beach Rd and the beach by a long, broad manicured lawn 

with a narrow band of water flowing down one side and a variety of, mostly, enclosed sculptures, 

relating to Geelong's history along the other side.
It operates now as a modern Australian fine food restaurant.
We had thought to have a French style dinner and looked at Le Parisien but the only thing French about the place was the name.
Custom House is a comfortable place. 

Tables, covered in some sort of brown vinyl, are reasonable size and upholstered chairs are comfortable. 
They also have a covered outside dining area.
We were served by a very sweet Russian university student.
The food menu is not large but there was quite enough to choose from and the wine list, mostly Australian, is extensive with a big range of cocktails and specialty drinks. 
 A couple of small slices of bread were brought to the table with both butter and a light olive oil. Unfortunately the bread had been left in the oven until they were completely dried out.
We started with a nut fed pork belly garnished with lightly pickled red cabbage and a slice of poached pear. 

This was an excellent combination. I would have liked a fatter piece of belly and could not pick the extra sweetness that characterizes acorn fed pigs but no doubt they had a lot more to eat than that.
For mains Sandra had a sea food linguini which had a delicious aroma, excellent flavour and good texture although I would have preferred the pasta to have been finer.
I had a 400 gm rib eye served with smashed roast potatoes, green beans, broccolini, fried onions and a mushroom sauce. 

This came with just the right amount of very good wine jus. Unfortunately, assured that it could be cooked blue it actually came medium rare.

It was an extremely good piece of meat, far too good to waste, so I did not make a fuss about it but merely pointed it out when I was asked. At the end of the meal I found that the manager had adjusted the price, an unexpected and very decent thing to do.
We finished the meal with a crème caramel and caramelized orange. 

This did not quite hit the mark. It was too soft and tasted a little like condensed milk.
Bavois, the French name for panacotta was more successful.

Served with framboise (Almond) and tuille it was the perfect consistency.
I enjoyed a Clyde Park pinot noir while Sandra had a slightly citrusy chardonnay, with apricot tones with her linguini.
This is a really nice place,far from perfect but comfortable and gemutliche. I’ll be happy to try it again
Score 13.75/20

Friday, January 02, 2015

Vue de Monde (Melbourne CBD) NYE 2014

About 70 patrons of Vue de Monde paid $450 to enjoy a dinner including wine to celebrate the last day of 2014.
The menu was typical of Vue's style. Eight courses, which are really more like 10 courss beginning with a series of amuse bouche style entrées accompanied by a Charles Heisdeck blended NV champagne which is going to become Vue's house champagne.
As always everything is done with style. Cutlery is exquisite resting on 100 year old vine roots

Glassware is extremely fine and a pleasure to drink from. Makers have stencilled their name on the base of glasses.

Salt and pepper reside in hollowed out stone.

Bread is presented in a small bag with a hot stone at the bottom to keep it warm
and butter is aged and churned in house on an antique Miele churn


Salt cured wallaby

Salted chips with a fantastic macadamia puree and pressed apple

Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar

Duck tongue, mountain pepper

BBQ lamb hearts

Several courses were deconstructions of classic dishes including the first course Fish and Chips.
This Queensland mackerel had been lightly cooked and seared with ribbons of just cooked potato,fried capers and finished with a totally mouth watering topping made from oil, apple vinegar and garlic was an exquisite start to the savory courses. 

This came with a 2010 Erath 'Estate Selection'pinot noir from Oregon USA which was remarkably good with light earthy forest tones.

BBQ lamb, a Flinders Island lamb chop with all the fat removed was a delicate and tender mouth full served with onion three ways - pickled, fried and baked (I think) and black butter had only one problem I needed three times as much. A gorgeous dish. 

This was served with a bordeau, a 2010 Villa Bel-Air from Graves which was also very agreeable without being sensational.. 

Called carpet bag Roo the next dish was cooked at the table on Japanese charcoal. 

Almost raw it was covered in an very strongly flavoured oyster emulsion topped with a miniature salad. This was not too successful. The emulsion was overwhelming and did not fit well with the gamy kangaroo. 

The accompanying Pio Cesare barola was inoffensive. 

I think because neither of us cared for this course chef Cory Campbell produced an extra course Duck breast with charred cos lettuce and pickled cabbage and apple puree. Yet another super course. 

For this extra course we had the pleasure of a very excellent 
Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir which was not on the menu The duck was great but the Pinot outstanding.

Back to the menu Waghu, pickle came next. Also cooked at the table 

by an attractive young lady.

this grade 9 waghu was supported by a salad which included a bunch of very moorish pickled grapes

and shredded waghu cheek covered in a mayo dressing.

I enjoyed this dish more than Sandra, who did not care for the cheek. It was served with a 2013 Mount Langhi Ghiran 'Mast' Shiraz

Next came one of their special palate cleansers, a small bowl of herbs, wood sorrel, instantly frozen at the table with liquid nitrogen, which we crushed with a wooden pestle

before a fully flavoured quennelle of cucmber sorbet was placed over the sorrel.

 Egg & bacon came next. A lightly cooked duck egg yolk sat on a truffled puree, brown butter, bacon strips and smoked marrow. An adventurous dish as many people find duck eggs very rich, especially as the yolk was so lightly cooked fortunately I'm not one of them and enjoyed the dish but it was not especially appealing -not a 'go to dish'. 

I particularly enjoyed the 2006 Louis Roderer 'Cristal' they served with it.

This meal was not suiting Sandra very much at all and she let the staff know. A few minutes later another dish, also not on the menu appeared fpr her, a very tasty mushroom rissoto. 

Marron , Gascony was the last savoury course. It was served with a sweet marzipan cream and a light chili emulsion. Another surprise since marrons are so delicate one does not think of them combined with chilli. The sweetness of the marzipan counteracted the heat of the chilli but it is not a great way to eat marrons. 

The 2007 Yering Station 'Coombe Farm' Chardonnay was the only wine that did not appeal to me on the entire menu. 

A second small palate cleanser 'Golden Vue' an ice cream rolled in cereal on a stick 

came before the dessert called blueberry white chocolate.  

This came with a lovely 2011 Kracher Eiswein from Austria.

Finally we were offered a choice of a wide range of cheeses off a cheese trolley and a variety of breads and jams.

This was served with a pear cider - 2013 Eric Bordelet 'Poir Grand; from Normandy.

Tea and coffee were served with an assortment of Vue's special petit fours. 

These included a eucalyptus flavoured ice cream!
The tea spoon is disproportionately small for the handleless tea cup.

This was an interesting dinner with a capacity to disturb queasy eaters. Wines matched the food well and I had to be careful not to drink too much. Whilst I enjoyed the meal, unfortunately, Sandra did not. It was distinctive, inventive adventurous and curious. A meal I will remember, a special meal for a special night. 
Score: 17/20
A few extra pic's