Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Green Refectory

I have a secret.

I really like Green. It is quintiessentially Brunswick. The food is simple, good, hearty food. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing fancy about it.

I disagree with their use of "illy" coffee however, as there are so so many good local roasters (such as Toby Estate whose Melbourne HQ are down the road).

Anyway, Green is always packed. The fight to get in, the fight to line up is a challenge in itself, and it is order at the counter style cafe, so sometimes also the fight to get your food! But at the end of the experience (trauma) , you'll find great value pastries ($2 spinach triangles for example salads and rif raf.

Special mention goes to their muffins as they are unbelievably good. The savoury muffins are better than Phillipa's Bakery in Armadale. Oh yeah, I made the comparison alright. A cheap and nasty (or in this case not so nasty) muffin in Brunswick kicks Armadale's ass!

The down side is that service is slow slow slow. Seriously slow. It could be a 15 minute wait for them to get you your takeaway...which is already on display (I know wtf?).

Oh by the way, if you try and look for it, there's no signage. Just look for the Illy sign - it's opposite Weston St (near the traffic lights).

Green Refectory, 115 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Green Refectory on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ezard & Margaret Xu

Man, I so wanted to love this dinner. I so so wanted to love this dinner. Margaret Xu does everything I love, the notion of farm to plate, of slow food and of doing things from scratch. This is how I roll. I repeat, I so so wanted to love this dinner.

But I didn't love it. 

The dinner was part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and for a 6 course tasting menu with matched wines was held at Ezard for $295pax (so it wasn't a budget experience).

The menu was basically:

1. Tofu Blue Water
2. Sung Dynasty Crab
3. Hong Kong Style Sampan Custard
4. Fish on Heat
5. Red Hot
6. Men are Red and Women Are Green

The first dish was tofu, made from scratch (with nigari as opposed to gymsum) with red cabbage and mussel(s). The dish was served san "blue water", with it being poured at the table by the wait staff. The two layer tofu having had an incredible subtle flavour but the blue water was a bit over powering given the subtleness of the tofu.

Next was the sung dynasty crab. It was a served as a carved orange with swimmer crab meat, with shaosing wine, ginger, black vinegar and limoncello. Nice delicate flavour, sweetness well matched with a citrus undertone. The wine that went with thios dish, the 2008 rippon gerwurztraminer from central otago NZ, was unbelievably amazing - UNBELIEVABLY amazing. 
Third  was the hong kong style sampan custard which was particularly good, with ultra soft custard which was explained to us that there was a higher % of consomme in the mix to give it the ethereal texture.Similar to a brilliant chawanmushi.

However, you will note, the servings at this stage as still very much in bite sized.
Fish on Heat - the fish was great but we were slightly disappointed with the overall composition - "crispy glass noodles" that were incredibly hard to eat and "organic vegetables" which was really - just a piece of daikon (just one). With the abundance of produce available in Melbourne, including organic and biodynamic produce, it was just disappointing. The fish however, was amazinging cooked and flavoured.

The hero of the night, was the roasted pig with homemade cumquat marmalade and braised bok choy. The crispy pork was excellent with the deep citrus flavour of the cumquat marmalade being perfectly balanced. I loved it (even the white rice, and I rarely eat white rice). The bok choy was...however, a bit of an odd match. It was a whole bok choy...seriously a whole one.

The final dish was perhaps the biggest disappointment, and looking at the table next to us, was also a disappointment to them too. The red and green bean yokan way too bland, and flavourless. The ice cream however, was...bitter. This was a major let down, but perhaps it is the style of cooking that I am not used to. I don't want to be too critical, but I just didn't like this at all.

I was hoping the dinner would be a memorable experience, but for the price point, and the servings, and perhaps even the style, it didn't feel like it was that memorable. The wines however, were brilliant - but I did get a little drunk and had to lay in my car for a bit...just to "recover". It was indeed, a shame.

Having said all that, I would still totally eat at Margaret Xu's Yin Yang when I'm in Hong Kong (if I could even get reservations!) - because what she stands far outweighs a single isolated experience.

Ezard, the restaurant, however, is a brilliant occasion restaurant. Prior to this dinner, I had eaten at Ezard on several occasions, including their degustation, (albeit, quite some time ago!) so to compensate for the other poor photos, below is a picture for your enjoyment from my last visit. A real freaken dessert plate. This is for you, my friends!

Ezard @ the Adelphi, 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Ezard on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Waiting Room

Another one of Neil Perry's eateries (or in this case, cocktail bar). The Waiting Room is in the atrium/foyer area of Crown. It is a slick space, as you would expect, in a similar vein to Aria @ at the Langham.

Given its claim to being a cocktail bar, I expected a little more finesse in the drinks department (or perhaps, its just me). I won't rant too much, but I have to say this - the rancio martini was just freaken potent. I mean...more potent than I would have expected  and was almost undrinkable (note the almost...it still didn't stop me). Gin, Sherry, Absinth. I'll stick to something more standard next time...rather than their "modern prescriptions".

The food, was ok but not spectacular. We had montaditos (skewers, to the left) which were nice. Probably more suitable with a beer in a different environment - but thats me. I like to eat certain things in certain situations. On the right, was an empanada of chorizo and something else. It was your typical empanada, but nothing stand out.

Roasted eggplant sandwich with peppers and hummus to the left was a massive toasted sandwich. It was massive and it was toasted. That is all. On the right, garlic prawns were flavourful, but as you can probably gather by now, it wasn't anything that went BANG! It just helped the potent booze go down.

The moorish lamb shoulder, was way over seasoned. WAY over seasoned. And I like salt. This was just WAY too much salt.

Overall, the waiting room provides a nice space at Crown (esp if you're waiting for seats at a restaurant because you didn't book), but the drinks, perhaps the ones I had, weren't that great. Maybe it's me...but seriously I think I've got a bit of a clue as to what is drinkable/edible and what isn't!! Worth a try..but that's probably it...just once.

The Waiting Room, Crown, Melbourne

The Waiting Room on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mr Wolf

 Well , this blog is incredibly late. It was only when I was reminded that I hadn't blogged the witty comments that we came up with during the night that I realised I totally forgot to post.

As you can imagine, I can't remember what the witty comments were so...yeh you get shitty photos and not so much wit.

Anyway, Mr Wolf, a pizza joint, that does wood oven pizzas. Good joint if you're a local. But shit, I absolutely hate driving and parking around St Kilda. Shit I really hate it. Do you know how much I hate it? THIS much > lots <. We couldn't get a table at the "proper" restaurant, but was offered seats at the bar section, which they indicated had the same menu. It was a nice warmish night (except for when it rained like hell), so neither of us minded sitting right next to the door.

Look, it was that long ago that I can't remember a whole lot about what it was all about other than what the pictures show. Some fried eggplant with aioli, but as you would know anything fried with mayo is a winner. You know that right?

We had a pizza each, one margherita and one mushroom. Both good. Thin crust, nice quality toppings. The booze was also good too.

Oh, and the damn waiter kept kicking my chair everytime he passed my seat. Seriously dude , it does get irritating even though I didn't say anything!!!

Otherwise, good pizza joint...but there's so many around less "hostile" suburbs.

By the way Betty, if you remember the witty comments, can you post them in the comments section so the world can also relish in your wit?

Mr Wolf, 9-15 Inkerman St, St Kilda

Mr Wolf on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Growing Tomatillos and Soy Beans (Edamame)

Well, it is incredibly late in the season for tomatillos and soy beans, but my plants have started to produce some fruit / pods.

The tomatillos are finally setting fruit and I was getting a bit concerned that I put them in too late. Lets hope we get some warm March weather to help them along, but I am optimistic I will get a small harvest!

The soy plants, to my surprise, have also started to produce pods as I had overcrowded them with my tomatoes. Although only 3 plants survived from the original 5 or 6,  they have produced a few pods which seem to grow by the day. Lets hope they reach maturity. I am excited about next year's crop as I will definitely be ready for an awesome crop!

So what do you think? I'd love to hear from those of you that have your own patch as I'm looking for as many tips as I can get!

My backyard

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Raw pistachios (Fresh from the tree).

I found some raw raw pistachios at the market this morning.

In Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma", in tracing the origins of food from seed to plate (in the case of the book, it was the corn), it was interesting to see how far removed we have become to our food. We don't know where it comes from...or even what it looks like. * I do note that there were other points in the book ( basically you will rethink industrial agriculture after reading it). I didn't even know what a raw pistachio looked like until this morning. So it goes without saying that when I saw a peculiar looking "seed" at the market this morning, I had to get some.

The pistachio is covered by a soft skin which is easily peeled off to reveal a "wet" creamy white shell. Most of them are already split revealing a seed with accents of pink, yellow and green. The seed however, when eaten is jade green with a lighter centre. Mild in taste, great for salads or simply with a beer and chilled beats. Perfect 28°C Sunday.