Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cutler & Co (Fitzroy) 09

This great barn of a place, probably built as a warehouse, has been transformed featuring white bare brick walls, modern low energy lighting,

padded comfortable chairs, a long padded bench seat along one wall and
plain unclothed tables a little to close to each other set with an eclectic set of knives.

These were not all mine.. The space is split into three areas. A large bar occupies most of the entrance area and there are two large open dining spaces.
Service is exceptionally obliging. We started with two entrees - hand dived Coffin Bay scallops, artichoke soup, migas, crusty bread and almond milk.

This was a great combination. The almond milk was rich and creamy and had a delicate fragrance. It mixed wonderfully with the delicate, lightly cooked scallops and the soup. ($18) The wood grilled quail, foie gras parfait, celeriac and golden raisins was perhaps the best quails I have ever eaten.

It also had some roasted almonds, spring onions and baby broccoli leaves- some one must have had fun in the kitchen! A brilliant dish, the quails tender, moist matched well with the small cigars of foie gras and the textural variation of the vegetables. Not so simple but simply superb. ($22). Wood grilled rock flat head with sauerkraut, just a dash of it, oyster and farm house smoked bacon ($39)

was more interesting than outstanding and expensive. Sauteed wild mushrooms, flaky pastry,white onion and fresh burrata ($28)

was a vegetarian entree size main. Dry aged 1 Kg Angus beef rib eye, wood grilled on the bone over Mallee root, served with shaved fennel, orange and dried chilli salad ($140) to share.

This came with a seed mustard, a Dijon mustard and a creamy mild horseradish sauce as well as a fabulous wine sauce - a reduction of Madeira, shallots, star anise, and ginger. An excellent rib eye made great by the accompaniments although the meat came to the table very cool and had to be reheated, and slightly more cooked as a result. Steamed Kiffler potatoes with chive butter ($8) were very good as was the cabbage and fennel salad. A chocolate ice cream sandwich ($16) was about average

as was the steamed pear and suet pudding with liquorice ice cream ($17),

the flavour of the month. The house made bread is almost irresistible and a request for more butter was fulfilled with heaps more! Tea is serve din an imprssive service.
An Italian Sorelle prosecco was very poor($65) and not improved by the generous addition of a little cassis. Heathcote shiraz by the glass ($15) was even worse but gladly replaced by a French bordeaux.
All in all a superior meal putting this restaurant at 55 Gertrude St Fitzroy, in the two hat class.
Score 17/20

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cafe de Stasio

Cafe de Stasio has remained largely unchanged at 31a Fitzroy St. St.Kilda for decades. Its high end Italian cuisine has been a favourite of former Age food guru John Lethlean whose unfailing flattering reviews, combined with promient advertisments in Epicure, have helped maintain its prominent place in the Melbourne food scene.
We have been to a couple of $30 'business' lunches which failed to impress except for the noise. The serves were small and the food unimpressive but perhaps dinner would be a better meal to judge by.
The place is as noisy as ever, the place to go if you don't want to talk. There is a competent air about the waiters in their short white coats, bow ties and professional demeanour. The tables are a good size for two with good linen, cutlery and glassware though the wine glass containing a candle

and wrapped in a cone of paper stuck into shape with a strip of paper titled de Stasio is more suited for a table at a cheap cafe which this certainly is not.
After the ", would you care for something to drink " as we reached the table which always annoys me, we were left alone for sometime before receiving menus.
My entrees of Parmesan herb crusted scallops on the shell was dry and overcooked the crumbs close to burnt.

The lobster omelet was also completely overcooked

- really a frittata . We returned them both. The replacement scallops were little better, still dry and missing the tender succulent sweetness characteristic of the best scallops. Rather than another try of the omelet we had an angel hair pasta in a fish sauce with some fish in it.
This was a very good entree and the waiter actually split the serve and presented it to us in two plates as we said we were sharing. Probably reduces the laundry bill that way.

For mains I indulged myself with roast suckling pork

which was served with a roasted apple some tough chard and a good rich sauce ($43) Sandra had an excellent roast duck

for her main.
The dessert was disappointing-
small, sweet and unremarkable. A bottle of Bellusi Prosecco about $34 retail was $75 or $15 by the glass was one of the least expensive offerings.

Over priced and over rated It will be a long time before I come back
Score: 13.5/20 but less for the food!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

En Izakaya (Balaclava) 09

Surrounded by an eclectic collection of ethnic cafe/restaurants and bars at the site of the now defunct Pipers (at no. 227 )this is a pleasing addition to the Carlisle St dining scene. Dishes are all entree size and ideal for sharing a feature that appeals to me. There are about 16 dishes on the menu in three groups - from the garden, from the sea and from the paddock and a few specials on a

blackboard. Prices max out at about $16 with a miso soup at $4

and others at $8+. They also offer takeaway at slightly lower prices. We enjoyed a miso soup, perfect for a winter night, followed by deep fried prawns with yuzu marinated eggplant and pickled ginger. ($16)
very good too. An good size serve of eggplant tofu was dominated by thick miso sauce. A special of silver whiting wrapped with shiso and salted plum in a tempura batter, only $10,

would have been excellent had the batter been lighter. It came with a small handful of Murray River salt flakes too! Similarly the two, very good size soft shell crabs in batter on a garden salad. ($14).

Rice is $3/serve. There is a small, reasonably priced, wine list. We drank prosecco by the glass $8, and a redbank pinot $7
Comments: A positive addition. We will be back again.

Score: 13.5/20

Friday, May 15, 2009

Arkybar (South Melbourne) 09

This is a destination restaurant at 27 Coventry St. there is not another restaurant or shop in sight. Small tables in a long narrow room seat about 40 and they seem to have plenty of customers so it is advisable to reserve a table. The husband and wife team keep things moving at a good pace. Apart from the printed menu there are a large number of very varied special dishes, indeed there are more specials than set courses! We tried quite a few starting with entrees. My veal involtini rolled, braised and lightly spiced

was a nice start. For polenta lovers a mound of polenta with mushrooms and cheese

was a good but unexciting first course. An antipasti selection featuring prosciutto and cold cuts with lightly pickled plump green olives

was particularly appealing. Another special for that night the rack of veal cutlets served as three pairs on creamy mashed potato

was a very good meal. The lasagna had an undistinguished meat ragout with little taste

was bland and disappointing. It needed a better photographer to make it look good too. A chilli pasta dish was much better. A bread and butter style pudding with chocolate and apple and a creme anglaise sauce was another 'nice' but ordinary dessert. In all a pleasant place unpretentious and generally satisfying

Score: 13.75/20

Kimberley Gardens (St.Kilda East) 09

One of a few kosher restaurants in Melbourne, attached to the Quest Motel of the same name,at 441 Inkerman St. The restaurant is in a large irregular room with curved bay windows looking over the garden. Clothed well spaced tables make this a pleasant setting.
The menu has little to distinguish it from any other eatery.
Serves are large, the cooking 'domestic'. They open only for dinner Monday to Thursday and have a smorgasbord on Sunday
We tried a range of dishes starting with a selection of dips
with peta bread and some spring rolls. Neither were particularly good or bad. The pastry on the spring rolls was rather thick and heavy. A whole flounder
was on the small side but very tasty and cooked well to retain its moistness. A veal schnitzel was very large served
with a mass of chips and a salad. Steaks come in a variet of sizes, and prices, starting at and going to 750 gm for $64. We skipped them. Lamb chops were another handsome serve. As was the chicken schnitzel. Onion rings were specially tasty with a light batter, again a huge serve.

Desserts are not for the calorie consciousService is amiable and responsive but a little slow initially.
They have a limited wine list with Australian, New Zealand and Israeli representation at very reasonable prices. Despite the mass of food we couldn't get Ruby to eat anything!Prices are about average for this sort of meal. This is a good place if you don't feel like doing the dishes. Cuisine bourgoise - a good feed. Score:13.25/20