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Archive for July, 2010

The food was amazing – but let me set the scene…

The first thing that we noticed at Maze, aside from the very grey interior, was how young the staff are.  The sommelier introduced himself, and looked to be about 15.  Though he reassured us he’d spent 2 years training in France.  Our waitress was incredibly sour faced, and did not respond to any of our attempts to lighten her mood.

It was a grey day outside, and the interior was a similar colour.  This gave a very flat mood to the beginning of our dining experience, but the world was lit up by the bright first course of either the soft pink of the tuna or deep passionate burgundy of the beetroot.

As soon as the food arrived, the outside world was quickly forgotten.

We had decided to take the 4 dish lunch option for $49.  There were 8 savoury options (4 light and 4 heavier dishes) and 4 dessert options.  We decided to forgo dessert in order to try as many of the savoury dishes as possible.  Between the 6 of us, we managed to order all 8 savoury dishes, and yet no one had the exact combination.  The dishes are presented in order from lightest to heaviest.

To start, we were served warm mini baguettes with unsalted butter infused with roasted seaweed and a garnish of sea salt.  The unusual combination of flavours was surprisingly tasty.

My first dish was the Seared yellow fin tuna with white radish, enoki mushrooms, and black garlic. It was so delicate in flavor, and caused my eyes to roll back in pleasure.  It was consumed in 4 bites, with the sweet flavor of the black garlic and the earthiness of the enoki mushrooms.

Those who were not dining on the tuna had the beetroot and goats curd.  It looked so wonderful on the plate, the blood red beetroot and the creamy goats curd peppered with horseradish sprouts and toasted pine nuts.  The little taste I had was a delicious combination of the sweet beetroot, the ever so slightly tangy creaminess of the goats curd and the acid note of the cabernet sauvignon dressing.

*another bite of bread between courses…

I am not a wine drinker, so whilst my companions sipped a pinot grigio, I like the palate cleaning experience of ice cold sparking mineral water.

The second course arrived, with many different delights served to our table.

My second dish was the Seared leg of rabbit, jicama, green olive, almond, and brown butter vinaigrette.  The rabbit was so light and juicy, a cross between quail and chicken.  The paper thin slice of jicama (a kind of turnip) was a crisp palate cleanser.  The nuttiness of the toasted almonds and green olives was very complimentary to the sweetness of the rabbit, which was interrupted magnificently by little bursts of acidity from the tiny, tiny pickled onions.

Friend # 1 (who is leaving for a year in France, hence the event) had the visually extravagant smoked haddock veloute with watercress puree, and a poached quails egg.  The watercress puree was poured, steaming hot, over the dish in front of Friend # 1.  The strong fishy flavor of the haddock was gently softened by the creamy peppery-ness of the watercress puree.

Friend # 2 had the cured Malborough Salmon with Jerusalem artichoke, sugar snap peas, Buddha’s hand. I have to idea how it tasted because she inhaled it in a matter of seconds.  It looked very picturesque, and Friend # 2 extolled its virtues, as we quietly consumed our second courses.

* another nibble of bread between courses….    Waitress fail – pouring my sparkling water into Friend # 3’s still water glass, which was half full of still water at the time…

My third course was the Pan roasted Barramundi, butternut squash, compressed cucumber, pumpkin seeds.  The skin was crisp to perfection, the flesh was complimented by the luxurious pumpkin puree beneath it.  The cube of roast pumpkin was sweet and delicious, coated with nutty toasted pumpkin seeds.  All the sweetness was complimented by the unusual experience of hot compressed cucumber in vinegar.  Very tasty.  Not spectacular, but perfectly balanced in it’s simplicity.

Barramundi

Friend # 4 had the Poussin ‘coq au vin” with savory cabbage and smoked bacon.  I didn’t get a nibble, but it smelled wonderful, fantastic presentation too.

* the bread basket was refilled, and we couldn’t say no….

Dish number 4, the Grande Finale.  Ox cheek and fillet with capers, raisins, carrots, horseradish pomme puree.  Now, my only disappointment of the meal – the carrot.  Not carrots – carrot – singular.  It was warm on the outside, cold and raw in the middle and completely flavorless.  (However, the three of my companions who had the same dish, did not have the same response to the carrot – clearly I got a dud).  But the meat! Oh the meat!  What a wonderful idea to showcase two such different cuts of meat, side by side.  The check was hot, sweet, moist, and began to fall apart as soon as it was touched by my fork.  The fillet was smooth and velvety.  The meat was accompanied by a little pot of creamy mashed potato with a hint of horseradish.  It complimented the meat like a little horseradish and potato cloud.  I think that serving it in a separate pot, looks lovely for presentation, but was finicky to scoop out to eat with the meat.

I was amazed at how inexpensive a light 4 course lunch would be with ingredients of the caliber.  Even though the serves were small, they were perfectly balanced.  With the fresh bread being served between courses, I feel comfortably full and more than satisfied at the conclusion of our afternoon.  I can’t wait to go back and try more!  No regrets whatsoever for turning our back on dessert.

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After my first week of paid work in 4 months, I thought it was time for a culinary adventure.  So many people to catch up with, so many delicious restaurants to try…

Saturday

The first stop of the day was at Kamel in Albert Park to have brunch with a friend I’ve known since the age of 3, but haven’t seen in 8 years.

There was much catching up and consuming of delicious Middle Eastern and North African inspired goodies.

Dan had a ‘do-it-yourself’ breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, hash browns, herbed mushrooms, and Lebanese snags.

I had the ful madames, which was a wonderful sort of middle eastern baked bean experience, combining fava beans, chickpeas, tomato, onion, and herbs with baked feta on the top – accompanied with a side of those delectable Lebanese snags and some freshly baked Turkish bread.

It’s my favorite place to eat in Melbourne, I love the atmosphere, the décor and of course, the menu.  The staff at Kamel are fantastic, helpful, and know the menu back to front – which seems to be very rare these days.

Kamel

http://www.kamelrestaurant.com

19 Victoria Ave
Albert Park VIC 3206
(03) 9696 1386

Birthday drinks for a friend at The Railway Hotel on Chapel Street.  I am not much of a drinker, but the cocktails here are excellent.  Unfortunately the gathering was outside, so everything – including myself – was infused with cigarette smoke.

The Railway Hotel : www.therailway.com.au

29 Chapel St

Windsor VIC 3181

(03) 9510 4050

After the cocktails, it was time for something sweet and naughty to soak up the alcohol, but where do you go on Chapel Street when it’s almost 1am…

The Pancake Parlour at the Jam Factory.

Sure, it’s overpriced, but usually it hits the spot (especially if you use the voucher on the back of your Woolworths or Coles docket that gets you a buy-one-get-one-free shortstack).

Last time I had the pancakes with Rhubarb compote and mascarpone.  It was really lovely and well balanced.

This time, I thought I’d try the special – which was The Lammington.

2 pancakes with jam and cream, topped with chocolate fudge sauce and toasted coconut.

Mistake… The used that horrible fake cream that tastes of nothing but chemicals.  Completely inedible!

The Pancake Parlour : http://www.pancakeparlour.com/

500 Chapel St

South Yarra VIC 3141
Get Directions

(03) 9827 2477

Sunday

Catching up with one of my old housemates for brunch, we tried every cafe on Domain Rd opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens but none of them used free range eggs.  I am very sensitive when it comes to eggs – not emotionally – but physically.  I can’t eat chicken, and cage eggs make me nauseated.  So it is an issue if the restaurant doesn’t cook lovely GMO-free eggs.

We ended up at The Observatory Cafe next to the gardens, they had free range eggs!  Unfortunately we only made it to the breakfast with 4 minutes to spare before the cut off…

This is an issue if you’re a lover of poached eggs, as I am.  Chef’s add a touch of vinegar to the poaching water to ‘assist in the coagulation of the albumin’, to translate – to make the egg white set.  If you are late to breakfast, the water is so vinegary, that the eggs become unpalatable.

The breakfast was overpriced and nothing special.  I think the highlight was seeing Magda Szubanski walking her dog.

Observatory Café :

Royal Botanic Gardens

Birdwood Ave

South Yarra VIC 3141

(03) 9650 5600

We needed something sweet and amazing to contrast the earlier disappointment of the morning… So it was off to Ganache.  The establishment was opened by the former head chocolatier Koko Black.  This is his brainchild, combining chocolates and chocolate products.  The hot chocolate is made with cream, not milk (order the babychino or you might die).  The quality of the products for sale is incomparable to anywhere else I’ve been in Melbourne.  The front of the shop is for the products, then step into the back section, and straight into a Parisian café.  I had the Raspberry Chocolate Mousse, which was a truly pleasureable experience.  It was a mind-blowing chocolate FOOD-GASM.

Ganache Chocolate: http://www.ganache.com.au

250 Toorak Road

South Yarra  VIC  3141

(03) 9804 7485

Dinner was at Chun Po on Glenferrie Road, overpriced and mostly Anglo culinary fare.  The produce is always good quality, but often a bit bland.  I thought I would search the menu for something new and unusual.  Much to my surprise – I found it –  Steamed golden mushrooms (enoki) with finely sliced beef.  It was served in a little wok, on a fed of finely sliced spring onion, the beef was sliced so thinly you could see through it.  Underneath the beef was a bed of enoki mushrooms that had been steamed in broth.  It was served with a tiny jug of hot dressing, with a light teriyaki flavor.  It was a show stopper!

Chun Po : http://drinkeatweb.com/chunpo/

18 Glenferrie Rd

Malvern VIC 3144

(03) 9509 9624

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