Monday, September 30, 2013

Pei Modern (Melbourne CBD) 09/2013

This relatively newcomer to the restaurant scene has a fine reputation after being selected by The Age Good Food Guide as the best new restaurant last year.
It's a big place with a large area for outside dining in the forecourt of the Sofitel on Collins St. 

They have a large basically decorated bar. The inside dining area is austere with white unclothed tables, and  good quality very comfortable white plastic chairs.

 Lighting, which is dim, is supplied by attractive simple overhead lamps.

The place is very open and very noisy. 
The menu is quite small but includes meat, fish and poultry. The dessert menu was particularly unusual and interesting. Pries are on the high side of average. They have a very modest range of beers wines by the glass or carafe. House made sordough bread was very moorish. Our waitress told us that their business manager said they should stop making it but we were glad they ignored the advice!
I love sweetbreads but rarely see them on the menu so I was happy to have the lamb sweetbreads for entree. It was a very good dish served with well cooked carrot and and what I took to be a white radish in a tasty vadouvan sauce the crumbed sweetbreads were excellent.

Sandra's chicken livers served with smoked pui lentils , onion and rocket were also in a pleasing sauce and were cooked excellently, just beyond rare. The lentils were exceptional.

For mains I chose the Hanger steak which was served with beetroot two ways, boiled as usual and strips of pickled beetroot, onion and caramelized youghurt. Cooked rare the steak was surprisingly tender, in a little light sauce and the beet a very good accompaniment.
Sandra chose John Dory was delicate with mushroom anda light dashi consomme. With a bit more broth it might have been a fish soup, and a very tasty one at that.

Two side dishes were also extremely good. Unpeeled chips were crisp and nicely seasoned. They were further improved with some aoli we requested as a dipping sauce.

A serve of brussel sprouts was also excellent. the outer leaves had been stripped off and fried until crisp giving the dish additional taste and crunchy texture.

Desserts were unusual and unusually good.
A sauterne custard, unique in my experience, was very light with that special flavour of sauterne, covered with a sweet sauce and accompanied by crostolii. It reminded us of the sauterne apple jelly that Tetsuya produced many years ago.

A candied brioche with Valrhona chocolate and cognac cream was also quite excellent. The brioche, sweet and moist, the chocolate dark and bitter and the cream fluffy and lightly flavoured all combined to make an apparently simple but fine display of technical skill that tasted great.

The whole meal was distinguished by a simplicity the obscured the excellent quality of the design of the dishes and the excellence of their preparation. Flavours and textures were varied and well matched. They were deceptively good, indeed very good.
The cafeteria style furnishing, the rather slow service and the noise were negatives but it was a very fine meal. 

Score:15 /20

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Munch Time

 *Click on the pic to enlarge it
 Something for the pizza loving chocoholic!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quaff (Toorak) 09/2013

Quaff: to drink copiously and with hearty enjoyment.   (The FreeDictionary)

It is strange how words, having more or less the same literal meaning, have such different effects. Quaff, a bistro style cafe/ bar/restaurant, at 436 Toorak Rd could have been called Scoll and that would be OK but try Slurp or Belt Down and it drops a level or two.
 I had a brief experience of their food yesterday.
It's a pleasant place with pleasant staff. Tables are double linen clothed and comfortable size.

Walls are decorated with plaques
 and there is a well stocked bar.

I had only two courses. A serve of smoked salmon with rocket on a bed of polenta which was good although rather pedestrian and hardly demonstrated any serious cooking skills.

For mains I had crispy skin barramundi on mashed potato. I requested that the fish be 'seriously' undercooked which I was promised would be achievable - it wasn't! For most people this was a very nicely, not overcooked filet, quite moist and flavoursome but it was not what I asked for. The crispy skin was perfect.

Twice cooked chicken was also on the menu . Again this was a good but rather ordinary dish.

In all a decent suburban eatery, average prices, pleasant in every way but without distinction.

 Score:13.25 /20

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Chatter 51 Tipping Point

The Oxford dictionary provides this definition of tipping point:
the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.
A few weeks ago we came across something new to us in Australian restaurants. A compulsory gratuity. Perhaps it was not really compulsory but that was the way it was presented to us. For parties of seven or more a 10% gratuity is added to the bill. This applies both to the food and the wine. My wife was ill and we cancelled during the afternoon. They not only charged me $100 for the no show but also charged an extra 10% gratuity!
At the end of the meal we forgot that we had already paid an extra 10% and left additional tips. One of the party had, inadvertently left $50 cash on the table! On discovering this 'double dip' she was very put out.
I thought about this for some time and spoke to a lot of people about it. No one thought this a reasonable practice for restaurants in Australia. Some thought it so unreasonable that they declared they would not go there. 
It certainly left me with a bad taste after what should have been an excellent meal not only for myself but also everyone else involved. Even my wife was furious.
I commonly give tips of about 10% in Australia and about 20% in America where the whole waiter pay structure is awful. I don't give tips to display my generosity, to big note myself or to make myself feel good. I do it because I'm pleased with the service and how I've been treated. That is something which happens at the end of a meal not before it starts.
The more I think about it the more I resent it. I see no reason why waiters should share $100's, perhaps $1000's each week from customers who may not have wished to give it to them. Why levy this extra fee only on parties of seven or more? It certainly is not harder to serve one table of seven than three tables of two, two and three, especially for a set menu.
Attica it's time to change your policy.