Archive for February, 2012

Vue De Monde, Melbourne

February 27, 2012

http://www.vuedemonde.com.au

Level 55 Rialto Building, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne

Continuing the brief work/gourmet trip in Melbourne – a ‘working lunch’ at Vue Du Monde. This is certainly a restaurant with a sense of occasion. The views cover the whole of Melbourne. The pictures don’t do it justice, but it’s seriously bright, raising the question whether it’s appropriate to wear sunglasses inside a restaurant. I resist, principally because I don’t own a pair of sunglasses to look stylish in.

Lightness outside, darkness inside – black floor and dark leather tables:

The centrepiece is no doubt to help (re)establish our connection with the ground – lots of chiseled stone and gnarled wood that all play a part in the meal. Someone’s clearly given this a lot of thought.

“Don’t shoot me, I’m only the sommelier”

Unfortunately we don’t have the rest of the afternoon to linger over lunch, I have a 3.30pm flight, so we opt for the a la carte and get a serious move on.

A curious selection of amuses: Oyster, Celeriac, Sunflower seed, Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar

Interesting little bites. The crisps aren’t going to rock anyone’s world, but the eel, white chocolate and caviar is a spectacular bite, covering most of the range of tastes.

Salt cured venison – blood red. Very good.

Continuing the theatre – Bread & butter:

housemade butter with a nice selection of bread served in a leather bag with hot rocks. Cute.

The meal starts proper with “Melbourne club”

A deconstructed melbourne club sandwich (was not sure if I should have heard of one before). The point of deconstruction, to hero every element and help discover new combination and taste sensation. It was wasted on this dish. Some ho-hum ham, anchovy, cheese crisp, mayonnaise etc. Almost nothing to get excited about. Moving swiftly on….

Lamb sweetbreads, prawn, raisin

A cute dish, compressed prawn served with excellent sweetbread – creamy inside, decent exterior crust. Flowers provided some lightness of touch. A hipster surf & turf. Decent.

My dining colleague went native: Kangaroo, beetroot, chocolate

A palate cleaner before the main: Cucumber sorbet, crushed herbs

One of the most memorable parts of the meal (not a slight on the rest of it). Fresh herbs are doused with dry ice which the diner then crushes. It’s served with a refreshing cucumber sorbet. It’s lovely.

The main is excellent: Wagyu beef, onion, mustard

Hi-grade Tenderloin and Brisket. It’s beautiful – great range of flavours and texture. The saucing is the mildest of horseradish creams with contrast provided by deep fried & blanched onion rings. Not heavy at all. A dish to eat all day.

And so onto dessert. Had just over an hour to make my flight, so this may not have got the attention it deserved:

Beer & Nuts – Passionfruit, licorice, coconut

We split a cheese & pud:

Cheese Trolley! A rarity in Australia – a proper cheese selection (with enthusiastic waiter)

I opt for Pavlova

Yet another deconstructed dish- but this works. fresh & dehydrated strawberries, blueberries with cute chewy meringue and mint. Excellent textures that really add to the taste.

The cheese-plate in all it’s glory with more condiments that you can shake a stick at.

Petit fours- We wolf these down

Memories from an Aussie childhood (I’m led to believe). Honourable mention to the Golden Gaytimes & Penny Jellies.

Not a perfect lunch, but worthy of attention and a second visit. Every plate needs to impress at this level and there was inconsistencies in some of the dishes. But there’s more than enough to generate interest and talk-ability. The view and decor can often distract from the main event and the food with it’s inventiveness ensures the correct attention, but exposes some of the dishes that seem bereft of inspiration (I’m looking at you Melbourne Club). The service was excellent- enthusiastic and relaxed staff who were happy to accommodate. See you soon Vue De Monde.

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Jacques Reymond, Melbourne

February 5, 2012

http://www.jacquesreymond.com.au

78 Williams Road  Prahran VIC 3181

An opportunistic meal. You’ve got to grab these chances while you can… I was down in Melbourne on a Tuesday to view focus groups in St.Kilda. Groups were to finish at 8.30pm. I faced the prospect of a few drinks and returning to my shitty Ibis hotel (limited hotel options due to the tennis….). Jacques Reymond was only 5mins drive away. It seemed rude not to go. A table for one it was.

Set in a beautiful colonial townhouse, it was buzzier restaurant than I anticipated with chatter emanating from the three dining rooms. Service was gregarious and helpful. I get offered a Jacques Reymond cookbook to read. Nice thought, but it would make me look more tragic than I already am. As it is, I’m reading Adapt – Why Success Always Starts With Failure. It appears a self-help book, but it’s economics (really)…

The meal starts with two boulder sized Gruyere Gougeres

It’s the pre-dinner snack of any refined French restaurant (not sure why). They’re excellent. A glass of Pouilly Fume really helps as well….

There are two menus – a small plate a la carte that dazzles with combination of ingredients. It kinds of blinds you into submission to order the degustation. There’s also some serious pricing anchoring going on to nudge you to order it. After you opt for the unpriced dessert there’s not much price difference. I resist, knowing that I may have to come back here again with Vanessa. So the a la carte it is, sticking to the three courses of your choice.

Bread is fine. Nothing to really get excited about. Of course the butter is good

A ‘surprise’ from the chef: Moreton Bay bug, fresh soba noodles and salicorne

A fat bug served at room temperature complimenting the soba noodles. Pleasant. Not sure if this is a glorified amuse…

The first course (deep breath): grilled scallops and Japanese dressing, King island rock lobster dumpling and quinoa, caramelised sweetbreads with orange and coriander

Contrary to the menu description, there’s only one scallop (a mild annoyance). It’s more noticeable because it’s excellent. The scallop grilled with miso is lovely and the dumpling is also delightful. Sweetbreads are never going to disappoint. The variety of ingredients create the interest.

Next up: pork fillet with kombu and mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes with hazelnut paste, salad of belly and duck neck, a sauce vin jaune

Cusines du Temps is a descriptor of Jacques Reymond’s culinary ethos, which hardly rings true with a plate straight out of the 80s. But we have foam and a smear, so at least we’re back in 21st century. Sniping aside the pork can’t be faulted – rare and mellow. Something to linger over. The nod to a salad is pretty good with a few shreds of confit pork and duck.

It goes down well with mighty glass of Shiraz. All is good with the world.

The final savoury course  “young pigeon like a peking duck”, sweet purple garlic sauce, corn and potato galette, exotic mushrooms and beetroot bigarade

Pigeon like duck i guess is through a focus on skin. It doesn’t taste a great deal different to normal pigeon, but again the preparation is excellent. A lot of other components get lost, but galette is a nice change to the norm.

Dessert is the recommended: Seven textures of chocolate

A now dish that is doing the rounds in many forms in restaurants. The ingredients are all good, but all textures taste pretty similar and although very agreeable, there’s not a lot of wow.

Dinner finishes with a double espresso, petit fours and pretty cute churros – the meal is bookend-ed pretty well. Just a shame it’s difficult to scoop up all the chocolate.

It was really only a taster of what Jacques Reymond has to offer, so I only got a sense of what it’s all about. Componently the meal was very good. There is skill in abundance, but it wasn’t the most satisfying of meals. At $150 you want to be satisfied, but I wasn’t. Although advised the plates were entree sized, there was very little to get stuck into. The scale of ingredients well put together is the selling point here, but it was all a little piecemeal, when less is more. Berowra Waters Inn has a similar approach, but in my opinion gets the balance right with only 3 or 4 elements. The degustation looked simpler, so maybe it’s only a fault of the a la carte. So in many parts a fine meal, but perhaps trying a little too hard. My judgement is still out. Might need to go again.

 

 

Waku Ghin, Singapore

February 2, 2012

http://www.wakughin.com

10 Bayfront Avenue, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

A business trip to Singapore at the beginning of 2012. It beats having to go back to the office after a very relaxing break in Port Douglas. A tight schedule meant I only had time for one meal and as much as I wanted to do some proper exploring around the hawker centres, it made sense to hit a high-end place. I reason when I come here for an extended time with Vanessa we can do some proper exploring, chilli crab etc

There are a handful of renowned fine dining restaurants that have recently got noticed by international guides with many following the increasingly homogenous trend of molecular, base elements & deconstruction. You can have this French with an Asian twist or Asian with a French twist.

I chose the latter, opting for a simpler style with Waku Ghin. Having dined a couple times at Tetsuyas in Sydney I was keen to see how he had tackled his Singapore venture. Before I get there I had to tackle reservations. Calling from the airport I had a stilted conversation with someone who was asking me to fax a copy of my passport to secure a table….. Apparently a credit card number wouldn’t do, like every other restaurant around the world. A fax, really?! Losing patience I got my hotel to sort it out….

It’s a real destination restaurant being located in the Marina Bay Sands. It’s a sensational building topped off with a suitably extravagant rooftop infinity pool. If you’re looking to be amongst ex-pats this is the place to go.

Being a lure for gamblers, the complex is really confusing, with little sign-posting. But head for the gambling floor with 150+ gaming tables and you’re on the second floor, next to Guy Savoy (next time). It’s still an impressive sight.

The restaurant itself screams sophistication with more slate and grey one can comfortably handle. It only sits 25, with dinners in their own rooms with sleek teppanyaki grills. It’s a table for one tonight, so it’s a little surreal. But there’s wifi and I settle with a Tiger beer and an unsettling ibook about a Facebook psychopath (not recommended).

Anyway, the ingredients for tonight:

The freshest of seafood flown in from around the world (very foodmiles….)

To start: French Royal Oyster with Ginger & Rice Vinegar

Big, clean, meaty. Very well balanced. As good an oyster you’re going to find

Next up: Flan with Hokkaido Salmon Roe

A bit of a classic, but rarely something to get excited about. Flan is eggy and yielding, the salmon roe is excellent with sizeably globules of fishiness.

The signature dish: Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietre Caviar

Worth the entrance fee alone, this truly is a dish to die for – luxurious and harmonious (reads badly I know). It’s a desert island dish and something I’d happily eat for the rest of my days.

The poor dish that had to follow: Grilled Anago with Foie Gras and Zucchini

Saltwater eel with a distinctively sweet taste paired with the rich liver worked well, though texturally it was a little soft.

The meal took on a new theme with my chef now preparing the remaining savoury dishes in front of me. Conversation was stilted, but I like to think we established a good bond…

First up: Japanese Abalone with Fregola and Tomato

A Mediterranean preparation that doesn’t swamp the subtle flavours. The abalone is delightful, cooked briefly, but extremely tender.

Of to Canada next: Braised Canadian Lobster with Tarragon

Again another stand-out dish – braised in butter finished with more butter, light stock and tarragon.

On to the meat courses – interestingly two beef dishes:

1) Charcoal Grill Fillet of Tasmanian (Cape Grim) Beef

It seems a bit odd to travel thousands of miles to eat beef from where I live. Although I’ve eaten the breed several times, I haven’t found this apparently familiar cut. It is stellar, a depth of meatiness so often missing from beef. The accompanying mustard is also excellent.

2) Ohmi Wagyu Roll from Shiga with Maitake Mushroom, wasabi and citrus soy

The next beef course surprisingly swaps depth of flavour for fatty mellowness. I’m offered three pieces, so it’s not a measly dish. Although it’s considered the pinnacle of beef it doesn’t match the Cape Grim. It’s still pretty stunning though. A quick mention for the fresh wasabi – a revelation with no harshness. And then there’s the deep fried garlic slivers. Why?

The meal takes another twist, winding down from the main courses focusing on cleanness and simplicity – Consomme with Rice & Snapper

Chicken stock with raw snapper and erm…rice. The simplicity is really surprising, but the clarity is very pleasant.

The final savoury course: Somen with Myoga and Junsa

The finest of stretched noodles served cold with light herbs. Again not a dish to expect, but clean, toothsome and worth dwelling over.

Gyokuro

Bringing my time at the teppanyaki grill to the end, the exclusive green tea, served lukewarm with great body and no harshness. I’m no expert of tea, so it’s hard to judge, but it’s something I could get used to in my meditative old age…..

There’s a drawing room with a view to take dessert and there’s two to finish:

Granita of Champagne with Japanese Strawberry

Not necessarily a fan of normally inconsequential granita, it’s refreshing with a good alcoholic hit, compounded with fresh strawberries and a rich jammy liqueur. Not bad at all.

The final dessert: Apricot Three Ways

Perfectly pleasant. well made, but nothing to get excited about. It won’t be making my list of memorable desserts…

To finish: Double Espresso with Petit Fours

and more petit fours…

Waku Ghin is a memorable meal from the location, to the dining experience, but mostly it’s about the ingredients. Because of this it’s a restaurant for the purist. Someone with a in-depth appreciation of food (I’m still learning). It’s a very expensive dining occasion with the money not in the flashiness, but the effort in obtaining the finest of produce and so handled with great sensitivity. Some dishes are truly amazing – the sea urchin and caviar of course. Others require a Japanese recognition of subtlety, which is not for everyone. As a result it’s a restaurant that will polarise opinion especially since it jars against the flashy casino. I’m glad I went. It was an education.