Sunday, August 29, 2010

Taste of Melbourne

I am certain there will be a thousand and one posts about the Taste of Melbourne this year. I may as well be the 1002. As a patron of the 2010 one, my expectations were high. As in 2010, some of Melbourne's highest profile restaurants had stalls. But this year, the offering was slightly different.

I am not sure if the organisers couldn't entice the two and/or three hat restaurants this year, or whether or not they wanted it to be more of a reflection of the gamut of good eats that Melbourne has to offer. Irrespective of the reason, expectations remained high, despite the list of restaurants and menus being announced weeks prior.

Scallops from Stokehouse
Wagyu Burger from The Palace
Spicy Meatballs from European
Smoked Duck Rillettes from Libertine
Paella from Comida Bebe
Raspberry and Rosella Flower Cannelloni from Charcoal Lane
Exotic Fruit Vacherin from Maze

I started off really excited and really looking forward to getting the ultra sugary Mojito from some popup bar that was there last year, but unfortunately they weren't there this time around. The one from Longrain tasted like mint water and I'm glad I wasn't the only one who thought so, because that would mean I'm imagining things.

Verdict? Good mix of restaurants, not so high profile, but generally "good eats". Compared to last year, a little lack lustre.

Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton, Over for 2010.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MoVida Aqui

I can't believe I haven't actually written a proper post on MoVida. I can't believe it. I really don't know how something so terrible could have occurred.

Tonight, I will right a wrong. MoVida Aqui. Like my previous post about Mamasita, it is with a heavy heart that I post about MoVida. Not because it isn't one of my favourite places in Melbourne to eat, drink and be happy, but because it is one of those places that is already so so busy, that if it gets any more busy, I may never have another opportunity to eat there!! Luckily MoVida Aqui is a much bigger space than its original, MoVida. Make no mistake though, Fridays and Saturdays are insanely difficult. I don't know how many times I tried, albeit without reservations, and failed.

It is not often I take photos of the restaurant's space, but tonight, I was compelled to do so as after all, this is the place where the amazing flan exists. It doubles almost as a bar, but make no mistake, people come here for the amazing food.

We started off with a couple of bombas, which are basically mashed potato balls filled with chorizo (like a croqueta, but so so much better). Just wanted to also note that it rained so heavily that people were staring outside the windows from the restaurant, so fried potato balls really was the perfect start to dinner, warm and silky smooth.

Perhaps one of my all time favourites, the bocadillo. MoVida's take is a bit more refined than a traditional bocadillo, but shit is it good. Amazing calamari with an unbelievably tangy mayonnaise. I mean...anything that is fried and has mayonnaise can't really fail, it's just that this feels stratospherically gluttonous (esp after having vegetable soup for lunch..)

Pork and pepper sausages. Need I say more? Are you cold? Is it winter? I still stand by my position that you can't get good sausages very often. Even at farmer's markets, they are often a disappointment. Either overly salty and fatty, or way too dry. I don't really care if this is Spanish, Mexican, Australian. This is comfort.

To continue the theme of comfort food, we also ordered slow braised beef cheeks in pedro ximenez on cauliflower puree. Soft, warming and yielding. Three words. That is all
I haven't had potatos for so long...we HAD to order some patatas bravas....HAD to. Deceptively, the amount of food we ordered was incredibly filling. Although only 4-5 dishes to share, they were solid meaty dishes, that were really substantial. The potatos, served at the dangerous end of dinner, were still good. But as I have alluded, the dangerous end of dinner, where gluttony takes over and all common sense fails. I almost was too full for dessert. Note, almost, it will never be the case though.


You know it's something special when I introduce special ASCII effects into my blog. You know it's going to be amazing. I've raved about the MoVida flan for as long as I can remember. I've posted a dodgy photo, but finally, here is a clearer picture for your visual enjoyment.

My dear friend had the churros. She indicated that it was ultra soft and delicious and not dense like others. I'm not quite sure what else to write, as I don't think I will ever get the opportunity to review any other desserts at MoVida...I only have one thing and one thing only.

But I've always wondered whether or not if I hype something up to people and in part, in my own mind, the outcome/result will often result in a let down. I've also wondered whether or not my expectations will gradually exceed  achievable reality. I've also wondered if I had inadvertenly put myself in a situation where I would be underwhelmed by this creme caramel. This, which I am elated to report, is not, and never will be the case for this creme caramel. It is still as f****** good as ever. Keeping in mind, after the bravas, I was >< close to munting.  If you haven't had it...just f******* go and have it.

MoVida Aqui, 500 Bourke St (enter via Lt Bourke St), Melbourne CBD

MoVida Aqui and Terraza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I'm not sure if I should talk about Mamasita. The logic goes like this, if less people know about it, the greater the chance of getting a seat immediately.

To be honest, I am not quite sure what draws in the crowd at Mamasita, but I suppose it is one of those places where you do indeed think WTF, but still consider revisiting...again and again. I really don't know.

Mamasita, a convival mexican restaurant / bar that is so loud that you really need to shout to have any sort of conversation with your fellow diners.To give you some indication of how freaken busy this place is, I arrived at around 5.40PM and the place was full. In fact it was so damn full, there was a queue right down the stairs, and funnily, I was right at the bottom.It wasn't even 6pm yet!!!, and by 6pm, we were told there was going to be a 20-25 minute wait (they weren't exaggerating). I was partially hoping that they would tell us "give me your number and we'll call you", in which case, I would have had no hesitation in popping down to bar lourinha to try my luck! ha ha !

Anyway, when we were finally ushered to the bar, the waiter said "order a drink at the bar and we'll move you to a table"...mind you, we were sort of standing behind other diners...who were actually eating at the bar. I this a restaurant or is this a bar? Because I'm not going to edge my way in whilst people are eating to order my booze...if they weren't eating, then it's on for young on old...don't you agree?

Notwithstanding ALL my ranting, this place isn't that bad. It's just so so damn busy. When we were finally given a table, we decided that we would not repeat our mistakes from our last visit where, lets just say, we were a bit over tortillas. There is only so much tortillas anyone can eat.

Like almost everyone else, we ordered some tacos (they're real tacos) with salsa and guacamole. The salsa and guacamole really are that good! Next were tostadillas, with crab meat and stuff...and habanero chillis which we asked to be separated. I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen, I'm not that brave to stuff my face with habanero. They're one of the hottest chillis out there (2 x hotter than the birds eye on the Scoville scale!).

We continued on with a chicken quesadilla which was good, but as I said, only so much tortillas anyone can eat. We ordered some more substantial dishes such as a chicken mole, and a braised goat of some sort. The chicken mole was good, different. The goat was a miss..a little too dry and not really braised at all.

We also ordered a side of plantains which I expected to be far sweeter. To me, it was a little starchy, and much more of an acquired taste than expected. The first mouthful was good, the second tolerable, by the third I decided I had enough.

Overall, I would go back to mamasita, not because it's blown me away, but just for the novelty of actually getting a in reality, because there isn't anywhere else that I know of that would serve mexican besides cheese, tacos and corn (although, if you're into that stuff, they have that there too...).

We didn't try for desserts because the waitress asked twice if we were still going...*hint, get out, we want the table*. So we tried luck. I really don't love end of week dining because every single place is just so busy. About an hour of walking later, we found ourselves at Aria at the Langham. Nice quiet and relaxing finish to the week. A surprise in desserts too, as expectations weren't high...

Mamasita, 11 Collins St, Melbourne CBD
Langham Hotel, Southbank

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Embrasse, Dinner

Often a degustation dinner makes you feel a a little gluttonous and over indulgent as the food is often a showcase of what the restaurant is capable of. Don't get me wrong, degustation dinners are my favourite type of dinners, as I can't imagine a better way to enjoy food.

I have been wanting to visit Embrasse for dinner for quite sometime, and it finally happened. The menu was not extensive, but the menu selection was quite interesting. We nevertheless opted for the 8 course degustation, with the request to change the sweetbreads to something else. a very very deceptive name for something FAR more insidious!! Can you tell I am not a fan of offal? Sweetbreads are of course the thymus gland of an animal (in this case...lamb)

For being a french restaurant, the food was surprisingly light, and dare I say, almost healthy.

The procession of food started with a meli melo of garden vegetables, herbs and emulsions. It was an incredibly light dish, with interesting interpretations of vegetables, colours and textures. For those that know me and know what I've been having for me...this is a real step up.

The second course was steamed "for a little bit" kingfish. Almost sashimi style, the fish was delicate. Incredibly delicate and almost devoid of much seasoning. Of course, the freshness of ingredients goes without saying. The "crumb" was the only strong component providing the textural element of what would otherwise be quite a delicate dish overall..

Neither of us enjoyed the mackerel with steam bread, radish and parsley water. To be fair, there was nothing wrong with the dish. In true Embrasse style it was intricately plated, delicate and subtle. It was because Mackerel is generally a very oily fish and quite strong (think sardines) that was a bit much. You really need to love sardines to love this dish.

We were offered an interlude of apple and celery granita as a cleanser prior to the more substantial meatier dishes. Interesting... definitely refreshing. Hit of sweetness and then ...celery....yeh.

As a substitute for the sweetbreads, we were offered the pigeon or heirloom carrots. We opted for the pigeon. If you've had pigeon (I can show you how to set a net for the backyard if you want), it is quite strong and gamey. The garnishes however, were brilliant. The spiced chickpeas...were unbelievable. Unbelievable.

The final savoury course was a meltingly soft duck which is apparently cooked at a much lower temperature to allow it to be much more delicate. Simple things, such as the carrot puree were a surprise. Touted as "super fine", it definitely lived up to the name as being super fine. Apparently your tongue can't distinguish distinct granules below 30microns (or was it 50 microns??), I think the carrot puree was definitely below detectable limits!! (NERD ALERT).

That is why, some chocolates are better than others.

The start the dessert dishes, we were provided with. 3 cheeses. Not a fan of cheeses. So no discussion points here as I would provide an inaccurate recollection of the course.

The first of the sweet desserts was a soft meringue, sugar pastry, persimmon and chantilly cream with some fresh blood orange. I generally hate meringue, but the cloud like texture was too good to resist or fault. The persimmon provided an element of tropical to an otherwise wintery night.

The star of the degustation had to be the signature chocolate mushrooms on a forest floor. A gateaux crumbed, with sorrel mint representing the forest floor. Whilst a tuille-like biscuit, a discarded log and twig. A merginue and hazelnut parfait constructed as a mushroom.

Sometimes, restaurants try so hard, yet they fail so miserably (read my Hobart posts). Some restaurants don't even try. But occasionally, you find a restaurant that has the balance just right. Is this the best degustation dinner in Melbourne? Probably not, but is this restaurant worthy of a visit again? Definitely. Service was effortless and friendly. Not too polished where it starts to feel a little too mechanical and not too clumsy where you just think WTF?.

I'm already looking forward to devouring my next mushroom dessert!!

Embrasse, 312 Drummond St, Carlton

Embrasse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pier, Zumbo and stuff.

Well, what a day of disappointments, and you know when I start a post with a negative note, it ain't going to be PRETTY!

Well today, I went back to this Adriano Zumbo's cake shop or whatever you call it and again, there was a freaken queue. I suspected it was so damn busy and the demand was so high that they just couldn't cope. It is kind of funny in retrospect, as I wondered why no one was coming out...well, when I got far enough into the store - I realised. ONE staff was all they had. Ok, maybe TWO, but one person was just stocking up stuff so he doesn't count. But ONE? I mean...after the success of  Masterchef? ONE? I now understand why there is a queue....

I suppose you are wondering, was it worth it? If it was your local, yeah probably. But if say, you were from Melbourne and you were in Sydney, should you bother detouring? Probably not. With food, there are times, when the place is a destination in itself (think Quay), but those times and places are rare.

However, since I was already there, how could I not buy macarons? They are good...but then again, macarons are macarons are macarons....

The weather in Sydney must've known I was coming as it was miserable for most of the day until the afternoon when I was about to leave! I decided to try out Pier in Rosebay.

Well, Pier, is a restaurant that overhangs onto the water...funnily, just like a Pier. With the shimmering light, the view is mesmerising, a place that could let you dream the day away. Notwithstanding the fact that it was a nice location, there are better. Even in Melbourne, sitting at Donovans right on St Kilda beach is just as, if not more, relaxing. Service was good, a little casual, but I suppose that is the direction they are taking. But with a restaurant like this, the balance between casual and just being too casual is a very fine line.

I noticed the wait staff made mistakes on other tables on a number of occasions...that's a no no. No no indeed. I started with a cauliflower and mushroom agedashi. This was a very interesting dish indeed. The cauliflower is pureed and deep fried to mimick tofu - brilliance! The consomme was deep and complex, but where it lacked finnesse in my opinion was that it was just a little over salted. Just a little, but then again, these tiny tiny things make all the difference.

I progressed onto a steamed trumpeter with onions, peas and mushroom consomme. I over did the mushroom theme, but I didn't read the menu properly, so my fault. I was so excited that trumpeter was on the menu as it is not often offered in restaurants (or not that I have seen anyway) - but I really REALLY want to make one thing clear. If I didn't order Sashimi, don't serve me fish that is raw. I am sure the fish was sashimi grade and it was fine, but it was like my experience having snapper sashimi - not quite the same as salmon or tuna.AND I'm sure I'm not meant to be chewing until tomorrow!

I also had a bone - Matt Preston would have been LIVID! This was a fail.

Overall, Pier didn't hit the mark. Neither did Adriano Zumbo's. I really just need to figure out parking in Sydney and find myself a baguette.

P.S, Toby's Estate in Sydney is just as good as the one in Melbourne.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 296 Darling St, Balmain, NSW
Pier Restaurant, 504 New South Head Road, Rose Bay, NSW

Pier on Urbanspoon