I’ve only mentioned this briefly here – my parents arrived in mid December for a month long visit and it was FABULOUS. In exchange for teaching them how to use iphones and stocking mum up with computer games to play, they did all the house drudgery – buying groceries, cooking dinner, cleaning, and laundry. Life was good! I joked that it was like having a housekeeper… except I didn’t have to pay them! (It really was just like that, hah!) Sadly they left on Saturday, so it’s now back to regular life for me. Boohoo!
On the evening that mum and dad arrived, Bro and I picked them up at the airport, deposited them at home, and then dashed out the door as we were running late for Maria’s birthday dinner. Maria’s partner, Daz, had organised dinner at Bistro Vue as a surprise – isn’t that sweet!
Because there was a large group of us, we had to order off a set menu, with 2 courses for $70 or 3 courses for $80, including tea and coffee. Three or four choices of dish were available for each course.
We went to Cutler & Co for a leisurely Sunday lunch recently with Maria and Daz from The Gourmet Challenge. On Sundays Cutler & Co have a set menu for $65, which we thought was a great opportunity to try them out.
The fit out of the restaurant is quite stunning, the long room kitted out in dark tones and with a rather flash automatic door to the loos. We were particularly taken with the industrial looking lights with a super long filament that hung above the tables.
There were four courses for the set lunch. We received all of the dishes listed for the first two courses, and then for mains and desserts we selected one dish each from several options.
We started with three small dishes: French breakfast radishes, Clair de Lune oysters, and cured ocean trout toast.
Bro started us off on our punny lunch by saying that the radishes were radiscal. Oh dear. I can’t say that the jokes improved from there, but I have recorded them for prosperity anyway! Apart from being radiscal, the rather cute, little crunchy radishes were mild in flavour.
The oysters were lovely. Served raw with a squirt of lemon, they were fresh and sweet.
The ocean trout toast was also delicious, with little cubes of ocean trout on top of the crispy toast. In Bro’s words: it was troutriffic.
The bread was so good that everyone had second or third servings.
Next we received a selection of starters to share.
This was beetroot salad with goat’s curd and apple. It was really nice – seemingly simple, but the little beets were sweet and tender, and fortunately for us non-goat-cheese lovers, the goat’s curd was only a little bit “goaty”. It looked beautiful as well.
We received a bowl of pearl barley with radicchio and ricotta salata. I quite liked the firmish barley with the salted ricotta and radicchio, although it wasn’t very popular around the table.
The next dish was garlic sausage, potato and ravigot. This perked us all up after the barley. Bold and salty sausage and a bit of potato. Nice.
Next up: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Fried green tomatoes, people! Does anyone remember the movie? I have waited years to eat fried green tomatoes! They were great – crumbed slices of slightly tart green tomato on top of what I think may have been eggplant. I loved the little frying pans they were presented in as well.
The last dish before mains was peppers, migas and tuna mayo. This was another nice dish – the peppers were sweet, the bread was crispy, and while the tuna mayonaise sounded strange at first, we all loved it. Alastair said that it was a-mayonaising. Pun of the day!
For mains, there was an option of four dishes:
Alastair had the local line caught snapper, tomato, prawn and chorizo. It looked pretty good, particularly the big bursty prawn underneath the fish.
Bro and Daz had the roast quail, smoked sausage and sauerkraut. The sauerkraut was served separately in a small pot and it was really something – WOW HELLO PORKY PORK – there was nothing sour about that sauerkraut! (ba bow). It was all bacon porky goodness. Poor boys though, they had the biggest appetites and they received the teeniest dish!
Maria and I both had the braised lamb, buckwheat polenta and gremolata. The lamb was very tender although a bit fatty. I liked the soft polenta and the dark wilted greens too.
The fourth mains option was a baked ricotta, eggplant Calabrese and fennel salad, which none of us ordered.
And for dessert, there were three options.
Bro and Alastair both had the Earl Grey tea ice cream, chocolate ganache, and macerated prune. I had a little taste and thought it was delicious, and I adored the faint floral bergamot fragrance of the Earl Grey ice cream. Bro said that the ganache was also great, although I didn’t try it.
Maria and I both had the quince baba, sheep’s milk yoghurt and cherry. I found the baba a little dry – it was nice, but I was expecting it to be drenched in something. The quinces were gorgeous though. I wouldn’t have minded a massive bowl of just the quinces with the yoghurt!
And Daz had… oh Daz… he selected the Gruyere d’Alpage
and shiraz jelly (which I neglected to take a photo of – because I was in fits of laughter). Why was I in fits of laughter? Because Daz had been expecting dessert… and received cheese and crackers and a teeny dollop of jelly. Oh we laughed at the disappointment on his face (sorry Daz!). If I had been quicker off the mark, I could’ve said, “Gryuere’s your dessert?” (bah bow!) but unfortunately I only thought of that one at home. Isn’t that always the way it goes.
We finished off with a round of coffees, which saw us all whip out our phones and google coffee puns. Really, really, REALLY terrible coffee puns ie if you drink a lot of coffee, you’ll be in a latte trouble.
Dear oh dear. Apologies for the terrible puns. At least they kept us amused during lunch. Speaking of lunch, I think the Sunday lunches at Cutler & Co are a definite goer. There were lots of staff working that day – there seemed to be about twenty on the floor – so we didn’t have any issues with service. Apart from a few minor things, overall the food was good (although not mind blowing) and good value for the quality of the dishes. We really enjoyed ourselves and I would be keen to spend a lazy Sunday eating there again.
The other month, we headed to lunch at Nobu. Truthfully, I had heard so many mixed reviews about Nobu, combined with reports about how expensive it is, that I had never been that keen to go. But when I found out that they do a deal at lunch time for $57, which includes an entrée, main with miso soup, rice, and dessert, I figured it was worth a shot. So I roped in Maria and Daz from the Gourmet Challenge and off we went.
The menu for Nobu is long and it’s not terribly descriptive, so Bro and I pored over the menu beforehand to ensure that we weren’t caught out on the day (don’t you hate being in a restaurant and ordering hastily and then having food envy when the food arrives?). For the lunch deal, not everything is included – premium items like wagyu, lobster, and the signature black cod with miso aren’t available for example – but that still leaves plenty of choice. The menu isn’t specifically set up in categories like entrees and mains, but we assumed that the first section – “special appetizers” were entrees and the rest of the menu were considered mains.
Alastair ordered the sashimi tacos with yellowtail tuna, salmon, lobster and crab. I’m not sure what the tacos were made out of, but the crispy shells were filled with fresh sashimi and quite tasty.
Bro and Maria both ordered the beef fillet tataki, with onion ponzu and garlic chips. This was really nice, the thin slices of rare beef just seared on the outside and served in a sharp, tangy, salty sauce.
I had the tuna tataki with tosazu. Like the beef, it was just seared on the outside, and the thin, tender slices of tuna were in a vinegary soy sauce.
We also received a bowl of miso soup, which was pretty standard.
For mains, it wasn’t immediately clear what we could order. I assumed that everything past a certain point was considered a “main” and was part of the deal, barring the exceptions. Turns out, the waiter wasn’t entirely sure as well, but assumed what I assumed!
Alastair had the soft shell crab kara age. It looked really good, and I didn’t hear any complaints from him about it. I really liked the way it was presented – look at that mushroom!
Maria had the tempura baby tiger prawn with creamy spicy sauce. This photo cracks me up – when I went to take a photo, Maria flashed the peace sign without warning me. Naturally, I had to include it in this post! Maria’s prawns were cooked really well, and tasted great with the creamy sauce.
Daz had the wagyu gyoza with goma ponzu. Normally $37, could they be the most expensive dumplings in Melbourne?! I didn’t try any, but they did look and smell good.
Bro had the wagyu intercostal with seasonal vegetables and wasabi salsa. I think this was the best dish of the day – the beef was super tender with a bit of smokiness and the wasabi salsa gave a nice kick to the dish. It smelt so amazing too. Bro ordered very well!
And I ordered something from the grill menu – beef sirloin steak. There was a choice between three choices: teriyaki, wasabi pepper or anti-cucho sauce. I selected wasabi pepper.
I requested it medium rare. It was cooked really well, but it wasn’t as tender as I thought it could have been. I did really like the sauce though, but it was quite a lot of meat for one person and I did end up trying to foist slices on to the others!
The menu at Nobu is really designed for sharing – but with the lunch deal we all ordered our own dishes (tasting one another’s of course). So the timing of dishes, particularly the mains, was off – mine was the last to come out and it was at least 15 minutes after everyone elses. The waiter explained that this was due to the fact that Nobu had seven different kitchens (orly?). If we had been sharing the dishes,we might not have noticed the timing issue, but since we weren’t it really made us wonder about the seven kitchens.
For dessert, Daz and I both ordered the green tea trifle mousse layered with vanilla brûlée, almond and coconut meringue and milk chocolate ice cream, with lime and vanilla foam. I loved the way it was presented, and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t too sweet, or not too rich, and I found the green tea mousse nice and smooth with the almond and coconut meringue providing some crunchy contrast. I didn’t really eat the toffee, but it was very pretty!
Alastair had the Suntory whisky cappuccino layered with crunchy coffee cacao, coffee crème brûlée, milk ice cream and Yamazaki whisky foam. His dessert was very small compared to the other ones, and looked just like a coffee.
Bro had the tofu cheesecake with green tea crumble, berry compote and tuile. When the dessert arrived at the table, the compote was presented in a separate bowl. The waiter, noticing that we were taking photos, offered to pour the compote on top of the dessert for us so we could get a good shot. We all stifled giggles as the compote just plopped on to the dessert in a big blob. Not sexy at all, but points to him for trying!
Maria had the warm chocolate satandagi filled with pistachio and chocolate ganache in a Japanese bun and served with caramelised pistachios, berry coulis and almond ice cream. They looked like big balls with a chocolate filling!
I thought the lunch deal was good value – but only if you order carefully. I wouldn’t mind going back to Nobu again for lunch. There is a $45 bento box that I noticed other tables ordering that looked good, but I doubt I will ever eat there at dinner time. It is expensive. When I go to a restaurant, particularly a fine dining one, I realise that prices on items are going to be higher because I’m also paying for service, the fit out, etc. And that’s fine – it’s part of the experience. However, there is a point where a mark up just seems to be taking the piss – and Nobu reached that point for me. $40-$50 mains can be okay, but when a bowl of miso soup costs $6.50, a bowl of rice costs $4.50, or a milk coffee is $5.70, as it is at Nobu, it just seems ridiculous. But maybe that’s just me!
“Blumenthal has a PHD student at Nottingham university researching taste perception.
‘She’s found that when we are excited we taste far more acutely – this is good for the dining experience. Conversely if stressed chefs taste salt and sweet up to 50% less clearly they could easily over season.’ ‘”
Perhaps this could explain the rather salty experience that we had at Money Order Office (MOO) recently?
Alastair’s mother, Annette, and her husband, Terry, came for a visit a few weeks ago. Not only did we get the pleasure of their company, but they also insisted on taking us out to dinner before they left. Annette’s only requests were for a place with a view – perhaps by the river or the ocean. We took that into account… and ended up going to a restaurant that could not have any less of a view if it tried. Whoops!
MOO, is located in a laneway off Little Bourke Street, and occupies a basement area of the Old Money Order Office. The dining area is separated from the bar by wrought-iron gates, and despite the fact that the restaurant is down in a basement, it doesn’t feel small or claustrophobic. The decorator obviously knew the tricks of preventing the room from being a dim, enclosed space. There is a large mirror on the far wall of the restaurant, and rather clever rectangles in the booths against the walls are painted alternating stripes of a dark and gold/yellow colour, which creates an illusion of blinds covering a window.
For my entree, I ordered the scallops, which were seared and presented with Chinese whitebait and onion bhaji, hummus and shaved fennel ($20). There was rather a lot going on with this dish! The scallops were cooked nicely, but I wasn’t sure about them with the onion bhaji and hummus AND fennel. It was also a touch too salty.
Alastair had one of the specials that evening – fresh oysters. There were two different types – Sydney rock oysters and the other was Pacific oysters from Tasmania. I can’t remember which one was which now (Sydney large, Tassie small or was it the other way around?), but Alastair said that the smaller ones were tastier.
Everyone else had either the scallops or the pork belly. The pork belly was braised and seasoned with cumin, and served with a pea pannacotta, crackling and pork jelly ($18). The long, thin stick in the picture was the crackling – rather novel, I thought! I’m not a big fan of peas, but I tasted some of the pannacotta and it was smooth and silky. The others mentioned that the pork belly was also a bit salty but otherwise good.
For my main, I ordered the rabbit – a braised leg and loin of rabbit, brioche, leek and field mushroom puree ($36). Like the scallops, there was a lot going on with the meal and again, it was just a bit too salty. But the rabbit was cooked well, and although the mushroom puree looked a bit… um… gross… it had a strong, pleasant flavour.
Alastair had the roast lamb cutlet with lamb hotpot and curly kale ($38).
Annette had the gnocchi – and received rather large pan fried potato gnocchi with parmesan roast root vegetables ($32). This looked really interesting, although someone was rather generous with the salad garnish! You can just see a piece of gnocchi peeking out from under the greens in the left of the picture.
My Bro had the quail – a boneless quail wrapped in proscuitto with grilled cotechino sausage, quail egg and pedro ximenz jus ($35).
And last, Terry had one of the specials of the evening – a confit of rabbit leg. Again, someone was rather generous with the salad leaves. I can’t even see any rabbit in this picture!
Across the board, everyone found that their food was a bit too salty. Alastair and I have eaten at MOO before (about a year ago now) and didn’t have a problem with over seasoning at our previous meal, so I’m not sure if the saltiness was just a problem on this night. And let me clarify – it wasn’t salty to the point where the food was inedible, it was just enough for everyone to say, “This is a bit salty!” We still had a good meal, but it could’ve been a really good meal if the seasoning had been toned down.
For dessert, I had a fig tart tartin with red wine ice cream and muscat reduction ($14). When the dessert came out, the waiter advised me that they didn’t have any red wine ice cream and substituted it with coconut. That was fine by me, and I rather enjoyed the coconut ice cream. The fig tart tartin was slightly too caramelised, and damn hard to eat with a spoon!
Alastair and Pat both went for chocolate – a rich chocolate and expresso marquise with fresh raspberries and raspberry sauce ($14). It looked very decadent. I don’t know why I didn’t try any since I normally steal a bite from what Alastair’s eating. Perhaps I was kept busy by trying to cut my fig tart tartin with a spoon!
Annette and Terry skipped the sweet stuff and shared some cheese instead. With the selection of cheeses, came fresh grapes, quince paste and apricot and walnut bread ($22).
Apart from the glitches mentioned, we did have a wonderful time. The ambiance there is great – not too dark, not too bright, not too loud, and not too quiet. Service was friendly without being overbearing or too casual. Oh, and I almost can’t believe that I’ve gone the whole post without mentioning the wine list. The menu is 4 pages long but the wine list stretches to something like 18 pages. It would help to go to MOO with someone who knows something about wine!
The other Saturday, Alastair and I went on a lunch “date” to the Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel (Riverside at Crown).
When we arrived at 12.30, there were only two other tables and we were seated between them at a table by the window. Not a bad seat, but we could easily overhear the other conversations and it felt as if the tables were quite close together.
Al was in a minimal eating mood (whereas I’m always in a big eating mood!) so only I ordered an entrée. I tossed up between the Country style corn-fed chicken liver terrine, with onion jam and toasted sourdough , versus the Snails Provençale tomato fondue, garlic and parsley butter, & puff pastry before deciding on the terrine, as Al didn’t seem keen to share the snails with me. (more…)