Monday, April 28, 2014

4Fourteen (Surrey Hills NSW) 04/2014

This cutely named restaurant, it is at 414 Bourke St., is one of Colin Fassnidge's creations. It occupies a great barn of a place, a former bakery, with the simplest of decoration. 

There is a central bar, a large open kitchen in one corner of the room 

and a variety of seating for about 80 spread around the room. The menu is unusual featuring a lot of offal and even has an offal degustation menu ($75)
I turned up late and was delighted to find Colin Fassnidge wandering around the restaurant chatting to patrons. He has come to some prominence lately both as a guest judge on the popular cooking contest program My Kitchen Rules and for the publication of his first book "Four Kitchens" ($45)
 He kindly offered to organize a dinner for me an offer I was glad to accept. 
The first course was called CJ’s Chips and Dips, Chard and Crackling, ($10) which I loved. Crisp and crunchy, I would happily have it any time. 

Among the small plates Chargrilled LambTongue, Sweet Pickled Cucumber, Cos, Mint ($21) was a pleasure for my palate, the cucmber contrasting well with the tongue.

If there was a problem with the dish it was that I wanted more!
Tripe ‘Hot Pot’Chorizo, Tomato ($18)
was accompanied by barbecued bread, 

an idea I will incorporate in some home cooking. It was hard to resist any thing here.
Stuffed to the gills I still wanted one more dish and gave in to Glazed Lamb Ribs Pickled Cabbage ($11) This was extremely rich and would have been hard to take but for the cabbage which cut through the fat. It was falling off the bone, actually it had already fallen off as there was no bone there. Take an extra lipitor and indulgence yourself. I'm sure it's as good as chocolate!

Colin, a very friendly guy,

insisted I have a 'small' ice cream sandwich to finish the meal, described as White Chocolate Sandwich Dulce de Leche ($16) on the menu this was a king size slab of creamy moorish ice cream between sheets of brandy snaps with a nutty sauce for company. 

I would have loved to have been able to try the rest of the menu which included such things as Grilled Spicy Chorizo Pickled Chilli, Capers and Cornichons, Miso Smoked Salmon Lemon Curd, Fennel Lavosh, Seared Bonito Ginger Beer Jelly, Apple among the small plates and Herb Crusted Bone Marrow Chimichurri, Grilled Bread. Other plates were a little more traditional, Roast Quail, Mussels, Corned Silverside, Whole Roast Chicken, but then there are more surprises, for example Pan Fried Duck Egg, Black Pudding, Ham Hock, Red Pepper!!
This is an adventurous restaurant with a fun menu. I loved it.
Score: 16/20

Sunday, April 27, 2014

St.Crispin (Fitzroy) 04/2014

Each month Delicious magazine 'does dinner' at some Australian restaurant. A few times a year they are in Melbourne and are usually fully booked about five minutes after reservations open. We were fortunate to get a seat at their most recent dinner at St.Crispin. Characteristic of this modern style of feast there is no hierarchy in seating, everyone gets the same food, the choice is only to eat it or not to eat it, there are no displays of wealth, no strengthening of  social or political ties. In these cases there is not even an occasion. They are simply an opportunity to eat the best food that the restaurant can produce. Chefs work flat out to get all the dishes out to the guests as near as possible to the same time.
You can go to St.Crispin and often get these dishes, or variations of them on their regular a la carte menu.
Table settings were simple and crowded.

Our dinner began with a platter with two different amuse bouche on tacho'swhich were very moorish.

 Unfortunately we only got one each.
The first course, salt baked celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke, smoked walnut, parsnip, toasted seeds, pleasant but not outstanding. It is interesting to see two different platings of the same dish.

Bannockburn chicken, wild cultivated and mushrooms, risoni, parmesan came next. I would have liked a lot more risoni which was buried under the rest of the dish and full of flavour.

Atlantic salmon, prawns, nicola potatoes, shallots, smoked eel, calamari is an ambitious dish for a big group. There is not enough time to get it right for everyone. It takes only a minute to overcook a delicate piece of fish and unfortunately mine suffered from the extra cooking time.
Wagyu cheek, rump and tail, nettles and shaved broccoli, miso was th best dish for me and even better because Sandra decided she had enough to eat so I had hers too!!

Chocolate, caramelized pears and apples, Earl Grey, crispy pearls is one of those things you would not dream of making at home. A technical and taste rich  dessert totally suited to the occasion delicious for a Delicious dinner.

Finally a platter of sweets.
Each course was complimented by a particularly well suited Victorian wine. My two favorites were the Dal Zotto King Valley Prosseco that we were first served and the last a Rutherglen Chambers Muscadelle dessert wine.

A La Bouffe (South Yarra) 04/2014

It is not often that we enter a restaurant and immediately feel that we are about to have a very pleasing meal. That is how we felt when we came to A La Bouff. The name roughly translates as ‘To the Table’ It occupies a shopfront on Toorak Rd. Décor is simple, and inoffensive. 

There is a well stocked bar.
Tables are adequately spaced with white linen napkins cloths covered with a good quality paper stamped with the restaurant name. 
So how did it turn out.
The menu like the name is very French including escargot, a fish soup, bouillabaisse, and a cassoulet.
Sandra’s first course, seven snails in little metal pots in a classical garlic butter sauce and covered in parsley. As good as one could expect.
 My tripe entrée was in a superb beautifully balanced tomato sauce.
 A pear and walnut salad with blue cheese and rocket was a very good combination.
For mains I had an excellent kangaroo steak in a good jus.
While this was about as good as a kangaroo steak an get the bouillabaisse was the best I have eaten in Australia. Sea bass is not available here so they used red snapper, salmon, prawns, mussels and scallops to make a soup that was almost sweet, incorporating tastes of the ingredient in an unusually fine balance. 
Really outstanding. It came with thin slices of Parmigiano cheese and a very well matched rouille and a few slices of toast. 
Sandra’s pork belly was excessively salty. Although the accompanying cabbage was superb
 she decided to have a fillet steak instead. Because I had ordered chips she asked for mashed potatoes instead of the normal pomme frites. This turned out to be short on salt and could have had a bit more butter.

We had a sample of desserts. 
The berry pie was a little heavy and did not appeal
 and the il flottante was not to our taste 
but their chocolate mousse was outstanding 
and the creme brullee perfect. 
Nougat ice cream was also beaut.
 Service, which was very efficient and informed, came with a French accent. Refill bread and butter were offered without having to be requested. As good as it was there was a major fault when they entirely forgot my charcuterie plate!
The wine list is adequate and reasonably priced though the total bill came out a little above average
Score: 15.5/20

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ocha (Hawthorn) 04/2014

We have not been to Ocha for a year or so and were pleased to find it unchanged. 

Rather than selecting our own dishes we had the chef provide whatever he felt appropriate, as long as there was no chili!
The result was a very pleasant meal.
We were offered a small amuse bouche of mashed potato with something in it giving a nice textural variation.

This was followed by oysters - one lot in a ponzu sauce and the others in a vinaigrette sauce. Both very good but the ponzu were preferred.

Next we got some salmon rillette on a taco. Very simple and delicate. Lovely.

A sushi plate that followed was fairly standard. I find it irritating that, with a table of four most of the sushi came in sets of three so someone always had to miss something or there would be a problem dividing up the sushi, especially with chopsticks!

Calamari, on a bed of rocket with another simple dressing was yet another very simple but very good dish.

 The next dish was delicious, duck breast with bock choy, a sort of variation on Peking duck, it was accompanied by a light sauce and was tender, tasty and almost melted in the mouth.

The dish of the night, for me, was the not too blackened cod fish. It was perfect. Nothing more to say about it.

We also thoroughly enjoyed the 'Gold Leaf' Saki ($10.5 for 175 ml) and Tattinger champagne ($22 a glass), and MOMO, Marlborough Pinot Noir. All this came to about $90/person. Had we had desserts it would have added $16.5.
This was a meal distinguished by it's simplicity presenting very fine, uncomplicated dishes
utilizing the very best of ingredients. I would have liked a bit more variation in the salads which were dominated by rocket and vinaigrette dressing.
 Score:15.5 /20