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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dinner @ Taxi

Just before heading out last night, dynamic duo Elle and Al called to see if we'd been interested in going to Taxi. As none of us had been to Taxi and in the spirit of expanding our dining experience we said yes.

We opted for a bottle of Yarra Burn Pinot Chardonnay to start and decided on trying the 7 course degustation with wine match.

Tuna belly
Wine match: Saki
Two slices of Tuna belly served with shredded seaweed. The tuna was delicious, meltingly soft as it should be.

Duck soup with enoki and shitake and duck dumpling
Wine match: Leffe Beer

We're slightly confused when the waiter serving this course calls it our first course. Though not said at the time there's a bit of annoyance at the so called wine match. Actually considering we just had sake, we're yet to have wine.

One other point about the beer - when shown at our table it wasn't a full bottle of beer to start off with, when the third serving was poured, a small amount still remained in the bottle - it wasn't poured but taken back from whence it came. Considering we have paid $80 a head for the pleasure of these wine matches you would think that they would be able to fork out the whole $5 (retail price for the bottle) beer and serve it between the 3 of us. Working on averages, we just paid $34 for a part bottle of beer! I don't even want to think about that thimble full of saki!

Pork Belly, Confit Potato, Corn Mush
I love potatoes but I did not enjoy this one. Odd taste and texture. The pork was quite tender but had a rather reconstructed look about it.

Red Emperor, Black beans
A truly terrible dish - the red emperor had the texture of rubber. It was overly salty and bitter.
The skin sitting atop was inedible. The fish had the appearance of having been cooked then having sat in the acid dressing causing it to continue cooking.

Sliced quail breast, Duck portion
Wine Match: French Grenache
After a ridiculously long wait our main finally arrived. It consisted of one sliced quail breast and half a portion of duck - it's other half appearing on our dining partners plate. I don't know but that seems awfully cheap.

Liquorice foam, caramel cream
Another long wait till the dessert comes out, even longer before it's wine match appears. Another lazy dish. The liquorice foam had a most unappetising colour and was too thick to be classed as a foam. The caramel cream was tasty but dull. I don't know whose idea it was to put too similarly textured items on the same plate.

Petit Fours - Chocolate ganache cake, strawberry jellies, honeycomb, chocolate truffles
How about this - our seventh course are the Petit Fours! In what alternative reality are the Petit Fours ever considered a course?

You may well gather that we didn't enjoy our time here.
You'd be right.

There's no way we'll be returning. Uninspiring food combined with tight fisted servings and indifferent service. Having just spent $800 our thoughts are that we were well and truly ripped off. Considering this restaurant had just been awarded 2 hats in the latest Good Food Guide, we were stunned by how bad it was. It's embarrassing.

Since dining we've discovered that Taxi has been bought by Queensland gambling interests whose obvious focus is not in fine dining but trying to screw as much money as possible out of it's diners. Relying on tourist trade may work in Queensland but trying to apply that logic here will see you soon closing the doors - the sooner the better in my opinion.

Rare comment from Paalo follows:
It was good to see that even the minor celebrity on the table behind me got just as indifferent food, (with slightly better service), they would have been tickled pink that their closed eatery may well have ruled over this one.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dinner @ Fenix

We hadn't intended to go out to dinner but time got away from me today causing my cooking plans to be shelved until tomorrow. A call to Fenix and good news followed - we'd be going out to dinner!

There's a change in the house champagne, we're offered a 1999 Drappier Champagne. What doesn't change is that we opt for the degustation or as it's called in the menu "Pollination".

I should note that most of the dishes following are not those listed on the current degustation menu - I suppose because we've had a lot of the dishes, these ones were created for us. Now that's a nice touch!

Tempura Marron, Zucchini cream and Asparagus Sorbet on grated almonds
The marron was terrific but the asparagus sorbet was divine - intense flavour in a pure form.

Pork Belly, sherry jelly, Egg at 62°C, potato textures
A divinely delicious dish - the wonderful 62° egg and meltingly soft pork belly combine with the smoothest potato puree and spiced sherry jelly cubes.

Red Wine Foam, Smoked Eel, Grilled Pineapple on black pudding crumbs
The grilled pineapple sits atop crispy black pudding crumbs. The smoked eel had a fabulous flavour and just fell apart - I can't say I'm usually a fan of eel but this was excellent.

Assiette of Rabbit, kidney, liver, braised cabbage, roasted melon
This dish is on the degustation menu. A rack of rabbit and a seared slice of the saddle accompanied by a sautéed kidney and liver.

Coconut Marshmallow, Mango mousse, fried shallots, salt caramel
Yes, there are fried shallots in this dessert but they do make sense in the context of the dish. They offer a really interesting crunch and slight sweet tang that complements the smooth mango mousse. A sticky pool of salt caramel sits at the bottom of the bowl.

Basil Sorbet, Raspberry Foam

Chocolate soil, milk sorbet, chocolate toffee

Petit Fours - mango jelly, salt & vinegar chocolate, raspberry lollypop

The details:
680 Victoria Street Richmond
Phone: (03) 9427 8500
Open: Tuesday - Sunday for Lunch; Tuesday - Saturday for Dinner

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lunch @ Fenix

On a perfect Sunday, we're joined by Elle and Al for a leisurely lunch. From our vantage point, there's uninterrupted views towards the Yarra River.


For Sunday lunch, there are options of a full degustion, a limited choice menu and the full a la carte menu. We opt for a mix from both menus but begin with glasses of bubbly.

First course:

Paalo's choice: B.L.S. (mi-cuit salmon, veloute of lettuce, onion cream, bacon crumbs)

Al's choice: Egg Poached at 62° (textures of potato, sherry vinegar, maple syrup)

My choice: Tempura Giant Prawns with Wasabi Mayonnaise (special of the day)

Elle's choice was the Chwix.

Main Course:

Al/Elle's choice: Seared Salmon, scallops, cauliflower puree

My choice: Fillet of WA Beef (silverbeet, carrot cream, pomme pave, cherry marmalade)

Paalo's choice: Rib Eye with smashed peas, mint butter, carrot puree and fondant potato (special of the day)

My choice: Pain Perdu (dates, frozen coffee, mint ice)

Other desserts had were the Fenix Crème Brulee 2006 and Tahitian Vanilla Mousse.

The details:
680 Victoria Street Richmond
Phone: (03) 9427 8500
Open: Tuesday - Sunday for Lunch; Tuesday - Saturday for Dinner

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lunch @ Pearl

If you've following this series of lunches you'll have no trouble guessing at the beverage of choice to begin this leisurely sojourn - Louis Roederer Brut Premier is the bubble on offer.

To match the meal we opt for a half bottle of 2002 Mount Mary Chardonnay (from the Yarra Valley) and based on our positive impressions of this makers wine on Wednesday, a bottle of Castagna "Le Chiave" Sangiovese from Beechworth.

Scallop custard with Marrons, caramelised apple, asparagus puree, kellybrook cider butter sauce and crab roe salt ($25)
In the centre of the plate sits the silky smooth custard with pronounced scallops flavours, three plump sweet marrons surround it, interspersed with vivid green asparagus puree - this had the more intense flavour of raw asparagus. Kellybrook is a winery in the yarra valley that also produces cider and an excellent apple brandy. The tiny dice of caramelised apple were very similar in taste and consistency to sweet sultanas. I thought it was a generous serve for an entree.

Wok fried pearl meat from broome with shitake, chive buds, ginger and soy ($44)
Paalo's choice to start - though I did finagle a few tastes. It's not everyday that you see pearl meat on the menu - it's hard to source and certainly an expensive item. Grilled shitake sit on top and underneath the mound of finely sliced pearl meat. The meat has been quickly seared along with the chive buds and ginger and moistened in a sticky soy sauce.

Chicken and egg, steamed organic chicken, a broken egg with spring onion and chilli, Chinese black vinegar ($37)
At the bottom of this place sits a fried poached egg, the exterior wonderfully crispy, the yolk soft and unctuous. It's topped with a salad of finely shredded cabbage and spring onions, the three pieces of crispy chicken on the bone and finally topped with a mix of fresh coriander, lemon zest and finely sliced chilli - Chinese black vinegar is drizzled over the cabbage - flavoured salt and lime cheek to be used at your discretion. Once again another generous serve - the chicken was exceptionally moist even though it was twice cooked. The black vinegar added a sweet element to the dish.

Slow braised hopkins river beef brisket with hot and sour salad, hand rolled rice noodles ($37)
Paalo's main - quite a large slab of beef, incredibly dense, placed upon 3 small rice noodle rolls. The beef really just fell apart - it shredded along the beef grain, the sauce (rich beef jus) was the perfect partner in which to soak the beef shards.

Jerusalem artichoke and taleggio crumble ($11)
We probably didn't need to order this side but we were intrigued at the combination. The Jerusalem artichokes were left intact and just peeled, cooked to fork soft and buried under the crispy taleggio crumble topping.

Nougat and orange blossom ice cream with almond milk jelly and leatherwood honey labna ($19)
On the left, stands a triangle of nougat, propped up against the leatherwood honey labna - I was really interested in this having made savoury version of labna before. In this labna the honey was actually added to the yoghurt so it's flavour is quite intense. Top of the plate is the almond milk jelly, seriously wobbly jelly with a delicate taste. Finally to the right a large ball of ice-cream, studded with small chunks of nougat - now this had the most unusual texture, almost spongy and stringy, a bit like fairy-floss.

Crispy fried taro dumplings stuffed with valrhona chocolate, vanilla custard and gold leaf ($22)
Paalo's choice - and by the look on his face as he popped the first of these dumplings into his mouth, I knew they had to be special. They look lovely, sitting in a vanilla bean custard and crowned with their gold leaf. You can't take a nibble, you must place the whole dumpling in your mouth and as you bite down, a warming spray of molten valrhona chocolate will escape - that's when you'll get that wacky grin on your face.

The details:
Pearl Restaurant
631-633 Church Street, Richmond
Dinner: Sunday-Friday 6.30pm-11.00pm and Saturday 6.00pm-11.00pm
Lunch: Sunday-Friday 12.00pm-3.00pm
Phone: 03 9421 4599

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lunch @ The Press Club

You could be excused in thinking only one restaurant has recently opened it's doors in Melbourne. With all the hubbub about Fifteen and the resulting media circus, another much anticipated (by us at least) restaurant quietly opened on the 8th.

The Press Club marks George Calombaris return to the helm of his own kitchen - situated at the corner of Flinders and Russell Streets - in the old Herald-Sun building.


It's not quite a finished work - the restaurant itself is finished but the neighbouring bar is not. Though it seems it should be coming online next week.


We begin with some bubbly - on offer by the glass Champagne Drappier Zero Dosage - made from 100% pinot noir. It has a slight pink tinge and good acid levels making it an excellent choice for an aperitif.


As we peruse the menu, bread is placed on our table - three types of yoghurt bread, pistachio, olive and plain - to accompany Greek extra virgin olive oil and black salt.

The lunch menu is divided into small plates and large plates. 5 small plates are listed plus two specials (half dozen oysters and grilled mackerel fillets with Greek style baked beans with fetta) along with 3 large plates - meat of the day (cooked on the spit), fish of the day and a pasta dish.

We decide to focus on the small plates - 6 dishes and one side that will come out in 3 courses.

Olives done four ways ($13.90)
From closest - Olive and Feta Dip, Black Olive & Red Grape Salad, Diced Raw Tuna with caramelised olives, Crumbed & Stuffed Green Olives
The caramelised olives are probably one of those "calombaris" touches that tend to be looked upon with confusion and a bit of skepticism. The olives are crunchy and sweet, toffee like and in the dish they mimic the appearance of the black herring roe you'd see in a typical Japanese tuna salad.
The combination of grape and olive is very refreshing and an excellent foil to the more salty and robust dip.

Kritharaki - Rissoni with 3 cheeses ($13.90)
Texture wise, it's akin to a savoury rice pudding - the rissoni (or orzo - it's a pasta shaped like rice) and the cheesy white sauce which surrounds the grains are almost indistinguishable in texture, velvety and soft.

These first two courses were matched with a glass of La Goya Manzanilla

Rabbit Baklava with sweet & sour pickles ($13.90)
The rabbit sits under a case of three wafer thin sheets of filo that are crisp but not fragile - they don't crumble to dust as you slice your way through the lid. Soft shredded rabbit and tiny puy lentils make up the filling. A small dish of sweet and sour pickled cabbage introduces the acid elements needed to match the richness of the rillettes. There's also a very fine dusting of icing sugar over the filo.

Deep fried baby whitebait with school prawn coleslaw($13.90)
It's not often that you see whitebait this small - individually battered and fried. The batter was almost translucent, frilly and crisp. Their texture very much in keeping with the finely shredded cabbage. Interspersed like gems through the bowl were sweet school prawns.

These two courses were matched with a Greek white wine - Antan. Adoli.

Spanakopita - Spinach Pie with poached egg ($13.90)
One of the knockouts - wonderfully flaky filo, creamy spinach filling, soft poached egg, it's yolk mingling so perfectly with the spinach. We both could have eaten all of this.

Mackerel fillets with Greek style baked beans and feta ($14.90)
This was one of the special entrees. As with the other courses, it's a generous serve. Two large grilled mackerel fillets on top of a warm serve of beans and fetta.

Lemon potatoes ($6.50)
There's a few potatoes missing in this has we tucked in before taking the photo. Roasted potatoes with a subtle flavour of lemon - I just love the crusty potato bits that would have come from the bottom of the pan.

These last three dishes were matched with Forrester Chardonnay.

Glyko Mezethedes - dessert platter for two ($22)
Top Left: Watermelon with Cucumber Sorbet
Bottom Left: Passionfruit custard with Chocolate Cigar
Centre: Ice cream with Chocolate Souffle
Top Right: Chios Mastic Panna Cotta with Strawberry Confit and Greek Donut drizzled with honey
Bottom Right: Cherry Sorbet with Cherry confit

You could probably have shared this between four.

Ouzo flight ($14.00)
Paalo indulged in the Ouzo flight with dessert. 3 ouzo's from different regions - the first comes from an island near turkey, the second from Kalamata, the last from another Greek isle.
They are offered with a glass of still mineral water and 3 glasses of ice.

Press club logo that is stamped on the paper top sheet on each table.

At the end of the meal and it's served with or without coffee, is a little digestive of sparkling water and a spoon of chios mastic.

To conclude - fantastic food at a bargain, double the price and we'd still be happy. For a restaurant that had only been only a little more than a week, it was running like a place that had years under it's belt. Go now!

The details:
The Press Club Restaurant and Bar
72 Flinders Street
Phone: 03 9677 9677
Lunch: Monday-Friday
Dinner: Monday- Saturday

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lunch @ Interlude

The last time we walked through the doors of 211 Brunswick Street it was called Diningroom 211 - a couple of years later, a change of owners, a good dose of praise and notoriety we finally return to sample the wares of Interlude.

For an opening salvo we opted for some bubble - of the three available by the glass we opted for the one we hadn't tried - NV Champagne Philipponnat Réserve Rosé.

Rosé wouldn't normally be our first choice but this proved to an excellent drop. It has quite a deep pink hue along with excellent beading - there's yeast on the nose but not a lot of residual sweetness - a perfect choice for an aperitif.

For lunch, there are usually two options a fixed price limited choice menu (2 entree/2 main/2 dessert) and a regular a la carte menu (3 entree/3 main/3 dessert) but we managed to arrange a "quasi" degustation that included items from the regular menu and a couple that form part of the dinner degustation options.

Cauliflower, Herring Roe, Apple
from left to right: apple jelly, apple puree, herring roe and cauliflower puree all encased in a glass tube. To eat, you suck on the cauliflower end, the jelly ensures correct suction is maintained so nothing is left behind.

Blue Swimmer Crab with Variations on Sweetcorn
Wine Match: 2005 Crawford River Young Vines Riesling
a blue swimmer crab salad sits underneath a corn jelly sheet, along with a corn ice cream and toasted corn kernels.
The ice cream is a knockout, wonderfully sweet and creamy; the crab wasn't as sweet as yesterday's and probably a little too wet.

Beetroot Horseradish Veal Shin
This needs to be eaten in one go - the centre is liquid beetroot. For such a small item, it's exceptionally flavoursome.

Red Emperor, Peas, Spaetzle, Foie Gras Consommé
Wine Match: 2005 Ocean Eight Pinot Gris
The consommé is poured at the table, under the fish are fresh baby peas, tiny cubes of foie gras and spaetzle.

Slow Baked Lamb, Onion Puree
Wine Match: Castagna Sauvage (Shiraz Viognier Sangiovese)
The smear running down the plate is roasted onion puree, to the left and underneath the lamb sits a simple diced tomato salad and to the left, roasted couscous

Cherry Splice
Wine Match: Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut
Just like a splice, there's a white core to this cherry cylinder - it's accompanied by crumble topping.

Petit Fours
Carmel filled Chocolate, Nougat, Caraway Seed Toffee and chocolate filled truffles (behind the toffee and out of sight)

The details:
211 Brunswick Street
Phone: 03 9415 7300

Lunch: Wednesday-Friday 12pm - 3pm
Lunch (December): Monday-Friday 12pm-3pm

Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday 6.30pm to late
Dinner (December): Monday-Saturday 6.30pm to late