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Friday, January 25, 2008

Dinner @ Koots

Koots is located within a ball-toss of the famous Kooyong Tennis Courts, one-time home of the Australian Open. As the Australian Open is currently underway, it's appropriate that we are here tonight.

First impression is that it is quite a small place - one room that seats around 40, although there is also an outside dining area.

As we do enjoy our bubble, we order a bottle of 1998 Pol Roger.


I think Elle would approve of these champagne flutes!

The menu is also rather compact - a choice of 6 starters, 6 mains and 4 side dishes.

To begin:

haramasi kingfish

Paalo chooses the Hiramasa Kingfish, drizzled with a citrus sauce and topped with shredded wakame and flying fish roe.

My starter was char-grilled quail with balsamic reduction and a mille-feuile of eggplant purée and tomato concasse.

For mains:

lamb rack
Paalo orders the Lamb rack with Capscium Cannelloni - the cannelloni is quite clever, they use the flesh of a roasted red capsicum to take the place of pasta.

My Choice: 150 day grain-feed sirloin with bercy butter and hand cut fries. The bercy butter was excellent a mix of softened shallots, white wine and parsley and was solid enough that it was only starting to melt as I received the dish. The meat, though cooked closer to medium than rare was well flavoured and tender.


We chose a side of these simple green beans, arriving piping hot and still with a nice bite to them. They had obviously been flashed cooked in a really hot pan.

Since this is a French restaurant, cheese is next

Cheese platter for Two - Swiss Gruyere, Brie, Fourme and Milawa King River Gold

The cheese came out at the perfect temperature - it has obviously been sitting out of the fridge and so was at it's best. The last thing you want to have is cheese served cold.

As we have a problem with choosing, we also opt for the dessert platter for two:

dessert platter
Dessert Platter:
From top, going clockwise: Creme Brulee, Peach sorbet, Strawberry and Berries with Berry Foam, Apricots Mille-feuille - in the centre Almond Financier.

A much more reasonably sized dessert than that offered at Wildflower.

The only thing that was a bit off-putting was that the restaurant was empty by 10pm! The waiter, when serving the dessert, told us it was normal for them and that there was no rush for us to finish.

Overall, the food was enjoyable, the service efficient. We will probably return and see if we can make it to 11pm!

The details:
479 Glenferrie Road
Phone: 9822 3809

Lunch: Tuesday - Friday
Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lunch @ Cafe Vamp

Cafe Vamp is one of those places that seems to be perpetually full - it certainly isn't your typical Hawthorn cafe and looks like it's been transported from Brunswick Street.

It's a casual and rather funky spot, the menu offers all your typical breakfast and lunch options, with salads and pasta as well as freshly made focaccias. After much thought we settle on two brunch mainstays


Paalo has the 3 stack of pancakes with mascarpone, strawberries and vanilla syrup. As a pancake aficionado this gets a big thumbs up.

big brekky

I order the Big Brekky - toasted sourdough sits underneath this pile which contains 2 small spicy pork sausages, spinach, sautéed mushrooms, bacon and grilled tomato. 2 poached eggs (not quite as soft as I prefer) and hollandaise top this dish.

The coffee is also excellently made and served at the correct temperature.

The details
Cafe Vamp
727 Glenferrie Road

Open Daily : 7.30am-5.30pm

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dinner @ Wildflower

With the sad news about Fenix we're off to drown our sorrows at Wildflower - we last ate here close to a year ago where we enjoyed a leisurely degustation lunch.

We're escorted upstairs, a surprisingly large room that gives us a good view of Theatre Place.


After a look at the menu we opt to try the 8 course dinner degustation.

Seared Salmon cube topped with Salmon Roe that sits on a nest of shredded iceberg lettuce, wrapped with smoked salmon - at the base is a bed of small diced potato salad

Bacon and Potato filled Zucchini Flower

I love bacon but it's probably just a bit too heavy for the delicate zucchini flower.

0-170120081047.jpg 0-170120081048.jpg

This next plate just had way too much going on - too fussy and not all the flavours worked. It reminded me of something Gordon Ramsay had said during an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, once you get to 9 items on a plate, stop! The worse element was that pinot gris jelly topped with truffle sauce. Alone they were just passable, together they were almost inedible. The truffle and the acidic nature of the jelly clashed terribly. The actual quail elements were quite nice though in all the dishes so far, the seasoning has been a hit and miss affair with some parts of a dish being undersalted and others oversalted.


This dish was described as salt and pepper calamari on stir-fried rice. Once again the seasoning was uneven.


Shredded Pork served with Beef, roasted peach and potato croquette. The shredded pork was very tasty but also quite rich.

Cleanser: Jasmine Tea Sorbet


The final savoury course comes out as a huge platter to share. It is a meat extravaganza. Seared Sirloin, a larger portion of that shredded pork, eye fillet, deep fried Tripe. Vegetable wise, there are a couple of baked onions, a cylinder of parsnip, carrot purée and some fresh baked fig.

We do enjoy our meat but this was just too much food and not enough vegetable to offset the protein.

By the time it came for dessert, the waitress must have felt sorry for us having to put up with a spoiled screaming brat and his ineffectual "parents" for most of our meal and asked us if we'd like to move downstairs. The offer was gladly accepted.

I don't think it is too much to ask that when going out to dinner you don't have to put up with the tantrums of a spoiled child. Especially one that should have been in bed way before his plate of chips (don't get me started on that) turned up close to 10pm! If they are too cheap to hire a sitter then they should just stay at home and leave the rest of us in peace. The child obviously knows he runs the show, clearly evident when he threw his chips on the floor and when the father went to pick them up, the child jumped on the chips grinding it into the floorboards.

Back to the food - dessert came as a huge platter to share


Chocolate Pudding, Raspberry sorbet, Vanilla Panna Cotta, Plum Pudding Ice cream, Blueberry Torte, Pineapple Sorbet, White Chocolate Semifreddo and Chocolate Sorbet.

An overly generous platter that at this stage of the evening we couldn't really do justice to it. Four people would have trouble getting through it.

While the lunch degustation was very good, this dinner degustation just has too much going on, too much food, too many things on the plates, perhaps they are just trying to do too much which resulted in uneven dishes. They need to simplify and shrink the portions. If we go back we'd try ordering from the a la carte menu and see if that produces a more balanced meal.

The details:
1 Theatre Place, Canterbury
Phone: 03 9888 6662
Tuesday - Saturday noon-2.30pm and 6.30-9.30pm;
Sunday: 9am+

Vale Fenix

This should have been a post about dining at Fenix tonight but instead this will serve as notice that Fenix appears to have shut the restaurant side down and will be concentrating on the function side of the business.

When I last wrote about Fenix I started off by saying that it was our last visit for the year, it now looks like it was our last visit period.

It's sad not to have been able to say goodbye to all the great people that work there and have made dining there such a great experience.

We both hope that this isn't a permanent thing and that Fenix will rise again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dinner @ Dozo

Dozo is probably as far away as you can get from Nobu - it's certainly not trendy, there are no beautiful people here and it's located in that gastronomic junction of mediocrity, Camberwell. Don't let that put you off, you do get good food here.

One of the things that does make me chuckle and cringe at the same are the words raw fish that appear in brackets after Sashimi on the menu. That certainly sums up the food IQ of its typical clientele.

You certainly don't come here for fast food - this is a place for leisurely meals.

We order 4 starters to be followed by the Sushi and Sashimi Platter. The starters come out one at a time.

Gyoza ($6) come as a serving of 4 - these have a pork and vegetable filling.

Gyu Tataki ($10) - this is one of Paalo's favourite dishes. Barely seared beef sliced finely and served in a sauce of ginger, garlic and vinegar and topped with eggyolk. The beef is very tender and the sauce is nicely spiced.

Sake Soft Shell Crab ($9.50) - marinated in sake it is then fried in an tempura batter. It comes whole and is then silver served at the table - lovely and crisp it is one of the nicest versions of soft shell crab we've had.

Chicken Yakitori ($7) - you do get two per serve. It's a good example of yakitori.

Sushi and Sashimi Platter consists of 3 maki rolls (2 are identical and filled with Prawn, avocado and cucumber and rolled in a little flying fish roe), tuna and salmon sashimi and 8 pieces of nigiri

Well worth the time it takes, it's fresh and delicious and certainly has us thinking about our time in Japan.

The details:

509 Riversdale Road
Phone: 9882 3618

Lunch - Monday to Saturday 1130am-3pm
Dinner - Sunday to Thursday 6pm-10.30pm and Friday to Saturday 6pm-11pm

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dinner @ Nobu

To celebrate Al's birthday we're off to visit Nobu.

Things didn't start off too well during booking when Al was informed he could only book at 6.30pm (and be out by 8.30) or 8.30pm - no other times were allowed. So not to be rushed out the door, the booking was made was 8.30pm.

When we arrived at the allotted time, the hostess manning the door informed us that our table wasn't ready so we'd have to wait upstairs at the bar. So much for the strict booking times. As an aside, I don't know what the hostess was thinking wearing white shoes with black stockings, eeck!


The situation didn't improve as we were basically left to our own devices - no menus offered. It wasn't until White shoes returned a good 15 minutes later to let us know the table still wasn't ready that we finally were offered a wine list.

Champagne was ordered, warm glasses arrived but no bottle. It was a good 30 minutes after our booking that we finally got to sit at our table, sans champagne. No unison chant of "irasshaimase" greeted our arrival. Our perky waitress knew nothing about our champagne order but eventually the bottle arrived - warm glasses used down here as well!

After scanning the pages and pages of menu offerings we all settled on having the 8 course degustation (the Omakase Menu).

It began with this chilled offering of yuzu infused lobster on shiso leaf with salmon roe. Perhaps a little too much yuzu was used but it was a nice refreshing way to start the evening.


Next up was a threesome of fish - the centre offering we were told was a "Nobu signature dish" - yellowtail with jalapeño.

More fish - torched tuna slices served with an excellent onion and citrus sauce


The signature Black Cod with Miso served with hajikami, sweet pickled ginger root. No complaints about this dish, it truly deserves to be a classic.


Sizzling hot, it's presented with a flourish as the domes come off the incredibly hot dishes. It is seared beef fillet straight from the wood-fired oven.

This bowl of Clam Miso comes out with the plate of nigiri - The clams are quite tough so I don't think they are supposed to be eaten (at least I hope they aren't!)

A good plate of nigiri, though having just come back from Japan, it really does fade in comparison.

Dessert is the Chocolate Bento Box - a dense round of warm flourless chocolate cake served with green tea ice cream.

While there wasn't anything particularly wrong with any of the dishes they also weren't very inspirational, perhaps a bit too much repetition of ingredients, especially yuzu. On the service side, Elle thought it a bit too "pancake parlour". While it is a nice space all those bare surfaces mean the noise just ricochets to a loud roar making conversation difficult - you certainly wouldn't go here for a quiet dinner for two. The noise also made it very hard to hear the waiters when they described the dishes we were having. The banquettes while comfortable make service very difficult with the poor waiting staff having to lean over people to top up glasses and pick up/deliver plates.

Having now dined here, Paalo understand where AA Gill was coming from, the food is a bit twee, a bit dated. We all agreed that we probably wouldn't return but that shouldn't matter to Nobu as they seem to be doing a roaring trade.


It's a restaurant in a casino and part of a chain of restaurants, and that sums up its place in the gastronomic world.

The details:
Nobu Melbourne
Crown Casino
8 Whiteman Street

Sunday - Thursday (Dinner) 6:00 - 10:45
Friday - Saturday (Dinner) 6:00 - 11:15
Sunday - Thursday (Bar) 5:00 - 1:00
Friday - Saturday (Bar) 5:00 - 2:00
Bar Menu daily from 5:30

Tel. +613 9696 6566

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Lunch @ Magic City

It's been a while since we last dined here - a combination of being out of the country and Magic City being closed for "refurbishment". With not much open, we decide to check out the new menu.

It takes a while to select something from the menu, not because everything sounded great, it was more the case of not finding something that really appealed. Eventually we settled on a few dishes and when asked if we wanted to share the mains, we agreed as that would mean we'd be able to pick and choose.

For starters:
Crab and sweet corn dumpling with Pat Chun chilli dipping sauce ($4.50)

When it came to our mains the waitress informed us that they would be served one at a time because there wasn't enough room on the table. Now that would be reasonable enough if we weren't the only people in the restaurant! We both looked at the empty tables beside us and wondered just how difficult it would it be to just join the tables together.

The first dish to come out
Coconut marinated salmon , green mango salad and spicy Thai caramel ($14.50)

It wasn't until near the end of this dish that Paalo finally tasted the coconut - overly acidic, this is a dish I couldn't really eat.

The second dish
Green curry of prawn with baby corn and Thai basil ($20) with steamed Jasmine Rice ($2.50)

The curry itself was quite runny but quite tasty - five fresh king prawns lurked in the curry.

The details
Magic City
871 Burke Road, Camberwell
Phone: (03) 9882 7788

Open 7 days from breakfast to late