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. Sweetbreads...is 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 lunch...trust 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