Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Le Petit Tracteur (Main Ridge, Mornington Peninsula) 06/2018

Rightly or wrongly I always thought the idea that the name 10 Miles by Tractor was intended to convey was of environmentally conscious organic local food. That restaurant is now closed but it's little brother, you might say, Petit Tracteur, is serving French style cuisine in an attractive rural environment roughly an hour and a quarter out of Melbourne concentrates on the same sort of thing.
Adjacent to the restaurant we came across something new to me.
 but we came to eat and anyway I had a three hour drive later that afternoon so alcohol had to be minimal.
The restaurant has a room attached to the main venue which is a sort of conservatorium, filled with greenery.
 Tables are large, attractively set

and well spaced.
Waitstaff are neatly dressed in white shirts and blue overalls.
Remi looked after us very well.
They offer a typical French style of food though the bread, which was appealing, was not the typical baton.
 Between us we tastes quite a few dishes starting with Coffin Bay oysters ($15 for 6!)
 Steak tartare
Seasoned minced raw fillet steak, egg yolk, capers, shallots, croutons. A little light on the seasoning.
Tarte au Celeri-Rave
Puff pastry celariac tart, mushroom duxelle, salt baked celeriac. Good but dominated by the pastry.
Portrine de Porc

Pork belly, quince puree, black barley, pork jus.  Aparently some people order this dish and then complain it is too fatty, au contraire, as the French might say, it could have been even more so, and could have been cooked for longer too. The skin looked good but was barely crisp but the black barley was excellent. 
Barramundi au Legumes D'Automne

Crispy skinned Barramundi, leek consomme, roasted celeriac. Perfectly cooked, it could not have been better, moist and rich.
Selle D'Agneau au Topinambour
Pan seared lamb rump, artichoke puree, roasted Jerusalem artichoke, lamb jus. Almost sweet this very tender piece of meat was excellently prepared and presented. Not too fussy it ticked all the boxes.
Canard a la Orange
Confit duck leg, orange sauce, green beans. A classical French dish.
This side dish was brilliant. I'm not sure what was in it apart from the peas, some onion, probably shallots and lardons which gave the whole dish a fabulous mouth watering taste. Yum.
With a long drive ahead of me I was happy to drink a 5% alcohol Massolino Moscato d'Asti

which fitted well with the desserts.
Tart Tatin

Pink Lady apples served with cream and ice cream was too sweet and lacked character.
Cream Brulee
looked good even with the unusual berry dressing but the custard had the wrong texture and was so loose that it ran onto the plate once the crust was broken and a spoonful had been eaten.
Tea was nicely presented.
Let down by the desserts this is well above average though a little short of 'fine dining'.
Score: 15/20

Monday, June 11, 2018

Woodhouse (Bendigo) 06/2018

Shown to a corner table near the central fire place this smoky and dim venue 

reminded me of The Pyjama Game "I know a dark secluded place, a place where no one knows your face" Of course it is not really that dark,
and not at all like a speakeasy.

but they have a wood fired grill that creates the atmosphere. It's a no frills sort of place.

The place is most noted for wood fired pizzas and steak, although they do have other dishes. They also offer 'Express Lunches' two or three course meals at set prices.
I had no hesitation in ordering the Sher family wagyu grade 9 steak tartare with cornichon, quail egg yolk and shaved manjimuk black truffle. 
It sat on bresaola and had some puffed wagyu tendon chips on top of it. If you can stand raw meat and more or less raw egg yolk this is an excellent dish. Full of flavour, gently spiced it was as good a dish as it could possibly be. 
There was a choice of air dried steaks, I'd passed them in their cabinet, 

as I came into the restaurant.
Top choice for me was the 600 day grain fed 280gm grade 8 waghu scotch fillet. ($62) served with Hasselback potato.
Cooked as requested,
It was meltingly tender, rich with fat through the muscle fibres and  with all the character and taste of top quality waghu. It came with a well made red wine jus, though I could have had a butter sauce, and a choice of mustards or a herb dressing. This snap does not do it justice.
For dessert I had the wood roasted Harcourt Pink Lady apple, dulce de leche, cinnamon palmier, nutty crumble, caramel glass.
A pleasant finish to a fantastic meal.
 Score:17 /20

Balgownie Estate (Maiden Gully, Nth Victoria) 06/2018

People go to particular restaurants for a lot of reasons including their reputations, to be seen or at least tell their friends and acquaintances that they went there, for convenience, for a particular dish or special ethnic cuisine, because of recommendations, because they're cheap and combinations of these. I'm sure you can think of more reasons.  It was a beautiful day, Balgownie was only a short drive and I had heard that the chef from Bouchon, where I had an excellent meal a few years ago, now closed, designed their menu. 
They have an outside dining area
The restaurant, a simple open space, is separated from a bar and tasting area by an island wine cabinet.

The tasting area 

is also a no nonsense space adjacent to the kitchen. Their best wines for tasting were preserved with a layer of Argon 
which works extremely well to prevent  oxidation.They offer a range of Chardonnay's, Pinot Noir's and Shiraz's none of which appealed to me until I came to the 2013 Old Block Shiraz. This I enjoyed immensely BUT it is $28 a glass!
Tuesday lunch time was not exactly rush hour. I was glad they were happy to serve one solitary customer. I ordered their Vialone Nano risotto with duck and mushroom. Ready in 5 minutes was not a good sign and indeed the risotto was not what I hoped for. It had no creaminess, for which this rice is especially noted and little character - just a soft rice.
The duck and the mushrooms were beaut.
Not much to judge by.
Score: 13.5/20

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Tulum (Balaclava) 06/2018

Tulum occupies a very plain space in a popular strip shopping street which also has restaurants offering Shinese, Vietnamese, Italian and Japanese ethnic restaurants as well as fish and chips and numerous coffee lounges and hamburger joints.
Decor is minimal, 
there is a small bar near the entrance, tables are almost bare 

and chairs are not very comfortable.
There was a very friendly atmosphere, perhaps a little too familiar for some people. We were seated promptly and at my request the volume of the pleasant Western 90's music was turned down.
What is extremely interesting is the food. We've eaten at Turkish restaurants in Australia as well as Turkey and other countries such as Israel. No other place has served a meal to compare to this one. It's a banquet style five course ($70) meal currently from the SE Anatolia region. The menu changes again in about three months.
So here's what we ate.

Chestnut Mushrooms & Spiced Rice Stuffed Onion, Mushroom Puree & Turkish Apple Tea. A great start, the slightly vinegary apple tea was excellent in this dish.
Barramundi, Tahini Baba Ganoush Soup, Leek Cigar Borek. Very modern with a little ?fennel foam, lightly cooked barramundi a super dish I could have it every day.

Lamb & Bulgar Meatballs, Lamb Fat Onion Puree, Chickpeas & Lamb Bones Corba. This is also known as mother and daughters, the meatball representing mother and the chickpeas the daughters!

Lamb Neck, Tulum Cheese Custard, Sucuk Crumble, Tahini & Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Smoked Date Jam. Slow cooked at 85 degrees left this overcooked but still less stringy than usual and tender and tasty
Half Quail Salt Baked with Sumac, Quince Puree & Pickled Quince.
supplement ($16)
The quail was very very small and also overcooked but nevertheless this was a dish not to be missed.
A surprise canteloupe palate cleanser

Sekerpare, Hazelnut Mousse, Turkish Black Tea Ice Cream & Black Tea Syrup.
Not too sweet, this was a nice finish to the meal.
They have a small wine list and do not accept BYO.
It was also nice that chef Coskun Uysal, who was born in the Anatolian region, 
served some dishes and visited our table to chat.
Score: 16/20

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Rocks on Rosalind (Bendigo) 05/2015

Around the heart of Bendigo almost every building has a plaque 
describing a little of the buildings history.
Rocks on Rosalind (the fine, large park alongside Bendigo's main street) is no exception. This fine building dating from the 1860's, was once a bank and there's plenty of evidence of that inside the restaurant. They have a basement dining area but the large high ceilinged main dining room 
features a large safe 
cut into one wall which is used as a wine storage and private dining area.
That pattern of black spots is made up of wine bottles in a rack. On the opposite wall one of the glass panes has a bullet hole, 
the last sign of a bank robbery.
As well as an a la carte menu a sandwich board advertises a luncheon special 
and the menu is impressive. It reads like this:

Scallops. Almond Skordalia, chive oil, shaved almonds, rhubarb chips.

Slow Braised Squid. Smoked paprika ragout, chorizo, tomato, basil.

Buffalo Haloumi. Orange, clove and beetroot relish.

Wild Mushrooms. Truffle goat cheese.

Master Stock Pork Bao Buns. (Actually one bun) Soy ginger caramel, pickled carrot,bean sprouts.

Hand Cut Chips. Twice cooked, garlic aoli.

Sounds very impressive. So this is what they served.
 A very nice sourdough and the balsamic and olive oil were excellent.
A very small serve. The scallop tender and sweet, the haloumi dull but the squid very good, improved by the accoutrements.
All more than pleasing tastes. 
I was reasonably satisfied although it is quite a small lunch.
A pleasant glass of wine 
made the whole thing good value.
 Score: 14/20