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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


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