Sunday, August 26, 2012

Weekly Menu, 25 August - 31 August 2012

Saturday 25 AugustPork sliders
Sunday 26 AugustSmoked salmon pasta
Monday 27 August: Eggplant wholemeal pasta 
Tuesday 28 AugustBurgers
Wednesday 29 AugustPumpkin and crab soup
Thursday 30 AugustLaksa Wonton noodle soup
Friday 31 August: Chapman Manor

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Weekly Menu, 18 August - 24 August 2012

Saturday 18 AugustDuchess of Spotswood
Sunday 19 August: Casa Beauville
Monday 20 AugustFettuccine puttanesca 
Tuesday 21 AugustChicken and sweet corn soup
Wednesday 22 AugustCheese kransky risotto 
Thursday 23 AugustCongee with pork and century egg
Friday 24 August: Smoked salmon pasta Rose Garden BBQ

Duchess of Spotswood - Spotswood, Victoria

87 Hudsons Road, Spotswood, Victoria, Australia (03) 9391 6016
Open Monday to Friday: 7am - 3pm, Saturday & Sunday: 8am - 4pm and for dinner Thursday to Saturday: 6pm onwards.

The Duchess of Spotswood recently started a dinner service. Like an extended Franco Choo’s, they have four entrees, mains and desserts to select from with a three course dinner set at $55.

The food and service was excellent. If you find yourself in the west and looking for something a little bit special – this is the go.

Bookings are recommended.

Cured salmon, blood orange, sea herbs.

Pig trotter, sauce gribiche, bantom egg.

Barramundi, Spring Bay mussels, spiced cous cous.

Ox cheek, Guinness, cabbage, pancetta.

Coffee poached pear, hazelnut.

Rhubarb, mint.

Meal style: Dinner - 3 course set menu
Cost: $55.00 per person (not including drinks)
Time and date of visit: 6:30pm Saturday 18 August 2012

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pei Modern - Melbourne, Australia

Collins Place, 45 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (03) 9654 8545
Open from early 'til late Monday through to Saturday.

There was a time where I thought to myself that I could be a contestant on Masterchef.  I do all of the cooking at home and somehow I felt that the accumulated experience should eventually manifest itself as some kind of talent in the kitchen.  Maybe it would happen when I was on the show.  I honestly gave some thought to filling out an application and sending it in.  I never had any ideas of seeking fame or anything nor did I think that the show was a path to working in the food industry.  Jesus, dropping out of high school is a path to working in the food industry.  It just takes time and effort.  Ben Shewry didn't become a chef through winning an immunity pin.  Although Scott Fitzgerald did get his start in writing after he got an A for his final Professional Writing assignment. 

Anyway, through being painfully shy and also seeing how much god damn technique the contestants now seem to know before getting on the show, I never actually applied.  I remain however, a constant viewer of the show.

I pride myself on guessing who will be up for elimination based on the structure of the opening scene.  Typically you are introduced to three of the contestants in the opening sequence - four if one has a sob story.  But when there are three you can be certain that at least two of them will be up for elimination.  If there is a direct camera shot of someone saying "I'm definitely going home" then you know they're safe.  The other two are fucked.

Another effect that the show has had on me is that it has introduced me to a lot of Aussie chefs.  The problem is that they are all introduced as literally the most amazing, incredible, show-stopping, whatever cooks of their generation.  Now that can't literally be true for all of them can it? Yeah? As George said in a recent episode "Jonathan, you cease to amaze me". Now George was either being a smartarse or simply forgot that the word 'never' was also supposed to be a part of that sentence.

However a cessation of amazement was also how I was starting to feel about some of the guest chefs they were inviting onto the show. Yes they managed to get people like my secret lover David Chang but when some Sydney chef I'd never heard of gets beaten by a contestant I don't particularly like... I figure that maybe they're running out of guests? Maybe these guys should look for another way of getting their own cooking show? 

A part of me was starting to forget that these Chef guys and girls were only doing this program to advertise their restaurants.  That they weren't like the contestants, vying for momentary celebrity and some fast cash, they just knew that if they were on the show, their tables were going to be pretty solidly booked for the next few months.  If they even do bookings. 

So überjoi tells me that Mark Best is opening a restaurant in Melbourne. In my head I know that he has been awarded best chef and Marque awarded best restaurant in The Age Good Food Guide.  But what immediately comes to mind is when he was angry at one of the finalists in Masterchef.  "Oh the grumpy bald guy" I think. Yup.

überjoi goes there for a mid-week lunch with G and comes away raving to me.  We're on the way to the Kino recently and she points down the side "That's where it is, just so you know." Eventually she gets me there. Flip. Holy flip. 

They're playing Rick Astley as we are seated and I ask the waitress if Rick is actually in the restaurant as I can't think of any other reason for the song being played. She asks if we want it turned off.  This probably isn't how our initial conversation at Pei Modern was supposed to go but there you are. With our consent, Rick continued to not give him/her up and we were introduced to the menu.

They do a set $50 ‘set progressive lunch’ which is what überjoi had the first time she ate at Pei. This time it's a la carte and I have real trouble deciding.  It all sounds pretty amazing.  I eventually ask for a recommendation between two dishes. I ask if should I get the rabbit or the d- "The rabbit." our waitress replies before I can finish. "It's my favourite." 

The photos do not lie. The food is as delicious as it is pretty.

Sour dough made with 14 year old starter.

There are other quirky elements aside from the music – the bread served in a napkin and your special knife which is used throughout the meal.  It is a pretty awesome knife. If they told me it was stained with the blood of the protein I was eating, that would be even better. Neither of these things are actually that quirky but I found they made the atmosphere a little more casual.  That and the fact that there is a bar menu.  You can just go to Pei for drinks and a snack.  Somewhat different from how I imagine an evening at Marque.

The menu changes frequently according to their website.  The bar items we ordered were both so very tasty.  Anchovy and parmesan, wonder-twinning the Umami factor.  It was as if those Shapes adverts were true and you could actually see the flavours on your biscuit.  Their nod to yakitori with the skewered hearts with harrisa were less full flavoured in comparison to the anchovy but yes of course they were.  To be honest we should have eaten the hearts first. They were "cooked to perfection" to steal from the Masterchef.  These hearts sank quickly down into my belly.

Anchovy Shortbread, Parmesan Custard.

Grilled Chicken Heart Brochette & Harissa.

The Thunder Road beer was helping me enjoy the meal as was the steady stream of 80's hits coming from the sound system.  The theme from Beverley Hills Cop accompanied our entrees of steak tartare (originally a Mongolian dish invented by the Tartar tribes, we learned at Dandelion) and the Almond Gaspacho which überjoi was ordering for the second time. The tartare was served with house made salted potato chips.  I have been enjoying steak tartare – to me the texture of the chopped raw meat is actually preferable to eating a cooked steak.  The dish here was pretty classic and did not disappoint.

O'Connor Steak Tartare.

Almond Gazpacho with  Blue Swimmer Crab.

The mains were where it came to a head.  I have never eaten rabbit that tasted like this.  I have cooked rabbit before, mainly in stews and usually for about five to six hours.  I'm used to the rabbit just falling apart as I touch it with some parts tasting like a dry sponge. The rabbit backstraps in this dish had the texture of perfectly a cooked chicken breast.  Slightly firm but completely moist.  The taste was slightly gamey and absolutely delicious.  I do not know how they cooked the meat that well. The dark sweetness of the meat sauce/gravy the rabbit was served with was matched perfectly with the jerusalem artichokes, which were so sweet by themselves and beautifully prepared.  I could eat that dish right now. Simply amazing cooking. It made the meal for me.  überjoi's fish and mussels were also wonderful, with these huge, plump mussels hiding under the seaweed green sauce.  

Roast Rabbit, Saltbush, Wakame  & Mildura J.A’s.

Steamed rockling and mussels in a green sauce.

The desserts rounded the meal off well, with the caramelised tomato stuffed with dried fruit and nuts not feeling savoury at all. The star anise ice cream didn't have that lingering licorice aftertaste and was really made to be eaten with the tomato to add a sweet edge.  I have never had Sauternes before so I don't know if it is usually that liqueur thick and sweet or if it had been reduced to a syrup consistency to top off the custard.  It was a very distinct flavour and I could imagine someone who loved dessert wine coming to Pei just for that dish. überjoi really ordered it for the crustolli I believe and wasn't let down by that aspect of it either.

Caramelised Tomato, Stuffed with Twelve Flavours, Star Anise Ice Cream.

 Sauternes Custard & Crostoli.

Well Pei Modern, this is the end of the review.  It all comes down to your restaurant and the dish you cooked today.  

Ball of fire. Ad break.

Pei Modern you are safe, you can continue cooking. Pisso I'm sorry your rabbit is awful, you're obviously drunk and you will not be Australia's next Masterchef.  Hugs, I spout BS in a car for a bit, Katy Perry plays and the TV is quickly turned off before even a single frame of Lara Bingle is allowed to hit the screen.

- words by pisso | images by überjoi.

Meal style: Lunch of 5 courses
Cost: $145.50 (total between 2 people, not including drinks)
Time and date of visit: 1:30pm Saturday 11 August 2012

Pei Modern on Urbanspoon

Hawk & Hunter - Ripponlea, Victoria

Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea, Victoria, Australia (03) 9528 2719
Open Monday to Sunday, 6.30am - 5pm.

Fresh watermelon juice.

Soft omelette, mushroom, basil, feta and ham.

The San Swirl-Mo' Argentinian steak sandwich with melted cheese, onion jam and garlic aioli.

Smoked salmon and herbed creme fraiche blini stack, capers, pickled red onion and a poached egg.

Meal style: Brunch with coffee and juice
Cost: Approximately $30.00 per person
Time and date of visit: 11:45am Monday 13 August 2012
Verdict: It's always a good sign when everything sounds so good on the menu that you can't decide what to order. Great atmosphere, friendly staff, fresh watermelon juice and deliciously generous portions.

Hawk & Hunter Small Batch on Urbanspoon

Weekly Menu, 11 August - 17 August 2012

Saturday 11 August: Steamed egg and greens
Sunday 12 August: Beef ribs and greens
Monday 13 August: Spicy eggplant and tofu on rice
Tuesday 14 August: Rabbit and mushroom pie
Wednesday 15 August: Chicken cacciatore
Thursday 16 August: Leek and cauliflower soup
Friday 17 August: Chicken pad thai

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dandelion (The Mountains dinner) - Elwood, Victoria

133 Ormond Road, Elwood, Victoria, Australia (03) 9531 4900
Open for lunch Thursday - Sunday, dinner every night from 5.30pm and yum cha 10am - noon on weekends.

Living in Footscray has a lot of benefits for a foodie.  The array of cultures provides an amazing number of specialty items; from dried scallop to injera to cannoli. Having access to all of this food culture has a side-effect of making you feel like you kinda know what you’re talking about (“Actually it’s pronounced ‘fuuah’”, etc). When we first moved to Footscray we set ourselves a challenge to try every single Pho in town.  There was no time limit set on this challenge and at this point we were eating breakfast in Footscray every Saturday, so it seemed like an achievable goal.  Akin to a sedentary 40 year old watching Gymnastics heats at the Olympics, we quickly developed our own opinions on style and technique, what was good and what not-so-good about each restaurant we ate at.   The accompaniments, the noodle, broth, cuts of meat used… we spoke about it like there was right and wrong instead of just our opinions and tastes. 

I think we got through about eight places before we found one that we couldn’t help but go back to.  The broth was really flavoursome, the meat wasn’t just a grey ball at the bottom of the bowl, the bean sprouts and other garnishes were fresh and clean.  This was now the high standard for Pho.  All other Pho would be judged against this and would fail for not being this.  I have now eaten at this restaurant more than any other restaurant in my entire life.  I don’t think that I can objectively judge other Vietnamese restaurants because to me, Pho Tam is what I want all Vietnamese food to be.  I’ve mentioned Pho Tam before and probably will again.  I’ve tried most of their menu and the worst thing I can say about one of their dishes is that it wasn’t quite as good as the rest of their menu.  But they have about 90 items on their menu, so cut them some slack okay?

We spread the love a little bit – we will go to Sapa Hills on occasion or try out any new places that pop up. But at any new place, I’ll order Pho and it will be judged against my favourite dish at my favourite restaurant.  It’s not going to win.  I know that.  Why the hell do I keep ordering it?  Am I really going to stop going to Pho Tam after eating there for three years?  Do I need to validate their food (and more importantly my opinion of it) any further?

I guess you can argue that it’s not really just about that.  I love trying new Vietnamese places and usually I will order Pho but to be honest if there is something that sounds interesting or exciting that I haven’t tried before, that will be my order. 

I understand that I’m not Vietnamese, that I’ve never been to Vietnam and that Footscray isn’t Vietnam (parts of it are though).  I understand that just because I enjoy eating Pho and Banh Mi, this doesn’t give me a cosmic bond with another people.  I do honestly get all that and that my opinions about their food in terms of the authenticity, history, flavours of it all is something I can only read about and regurgitate third-hand. However The commercialisation and re-casting of poor people’s food as something high-class and expensive is something I am relatively iffy about.

Ms. G’s in Sydney was the first time I tried Vietnamese food where my meal cost more than a concession movie ticket.  It made me a bit angry.  Miss Chu’s was next - it isn’t expensive but it’s kind of the McDonalds of Vietnamese food (based on my one experience of eating there).  Golden Fields was good but… when I imagine the feast we could have had back West for the same price….

We most recently went to Dandelion.  They were advertising a series of three themed dinners, encapsulating the food discoveries of their recent travels to Vietnam: ‘The Sea’, ‘The River’ and ‘The Mountain’.  This was the hook.  Watching TV shows about Vietnam – Luke Nguyen’s show and even when Top Gear rode motorbikes the length of Vietnam, whenever I see the hills of Northern Vietnam my mouth just hangs open (well it might be hanging open anyway, but now out of awe rather than me just attempting to utter a complete sentence).  It’s like Thailand without the billboards advertising off-road vehicles and paintball.  It always seems so perfect.  Like the land has healed itself after all that has gone on before it.  It’s what I imagine the rest of the world will return to after we are finally gone. 

The menu was filled with exciting ingredients – heart of palm, pigeon dumpling, truffle… the Pho was the only worry.  “Wagyu” Pho.  We’re at the point where Subway claims their rolls come with wagyu meat inside so it has lost some of its pedigree.  The fact is that wagyu refers to the entire animal rather than a particular cut of meat, so Subway may well be giving you wagyu – whether it is wagyu sinew or scrotum or skin – we will never know.  Dandelion served wagyu sirloin, tail and brisket.  More please.

The Pho at Dandelion was good.  The meat was delicious, the broth was much more of a French stock with hints of Asian spice, but it had body and plenty of flavour. When Chef Geoff Lindsey came around and explained that he felt he couldn’t do the menu justice without creating a version of this ‘ultimate’ Vietnamese dish I gave in.  Fair enough.  Give it a shot.  It’s not Pho Tam’s Pho (pronounced ‘fuuah’ don’t you know) so it’s not my favourite but it was good.

The verdict is that with the upmost respect for the cuisine and the ingredients, you can add technique and experimentation to a dish and come away with something worthwhile.  Labelling something as ‘fusion’ and actively trying to force different cuisines together doesn’t seem to work but gently expanding on an already existing relationship can work.  Enhancing the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine, using French techniques to create clear, rich broths with seemingly true Vietnamese flavours.  In capable hands, this works.  Think Tetsuya’s take on Japanese for instance.

I would be happy eating in Footscray for the rest of my life.  I am more than happy with the food and the atmosphere there.  What Dandelion offers is an experience you will be unlikely to find in many other places.  The key thing was that this was a Vietnamese meal – this time focused on technique and high quality ingredients rather than creative ways to not breaking the $10 price barrier.  Everything worked  –  the dessert being the only real let down with a slightly too gelatinous crème caramel  –  but really it’s a misstep hardly worth mentioning. 

Dandelion served wonderful food and we will be returning at some point to try their regular menu, and we will be eating at Pho Tam this Saturday.

Coconut palm heart spring roll with truffle and chive flowers.

Hmong style spicy beef tartar with artichoke chips, Dalat artichoke soup and pork and prawn dumplings.

Hmong style spicy beef tartar with artichoke chips.

Bun Cha, a Hanoian treasure. A dish of grilled pork neck and patties, bun noodles, sweet golden broth, pickled papaya, crab and pork ‘nem,’ fragrant herb salad.

Pho Bo, Wagyu beef, raw sirloin, braised brisket and tail, black cardamom, cassia and star anise broth, rice noodle, saw tooth coriander, chilli and lemon.

Pho Bo with saw tooth coriander, chilli and lemon.

Steamed pigeon dumpling, fresh green peppercorn, stir fried bamboo shoot with wood ear fungus and beansprouts, preserved snow pear and rice flour baguette.

Steamed pigeon dumpling, fresh green peppercorn, stir fried bamboo shoot with wood ear fungus and beansprouts, preserved snow pear.

Toasted coconut goat curry with confit shallots, potatoes and buddha’s hand pickle, forbidden rice, smoked eggplant with black vinegar.

With moked eggplant with black vinegar.

Consommé of lotus seed and dragons eye.

Viet coffee crème caramel, cashew nut praline, honeycomb.

- words by pisso | images by überjoi.

Meal style: Degustation dinner of 8 courses with matching wines
Cost: $115 per person
Time and date of visit: 7:00pm Wednesday 8 August 2012

Dandelion on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Movida Aqui - Melbourne, Victoria

500 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (03) 9663 3038
Open Monday - Thursday 12pm - 10pm, Friday 12pm - 10:30pm and Saturday 5:30pm - 10:30pm.

Our view for the night.

Sardines Picante.

ANCHOA: Hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on Crouton with Smoked Tomato Sorbet.

BOCADILLO DE CALAMARES: Calamari sandwich with Basque Guindilla and Mayonnaise.

PULPO GALLEGA: Galician Style Octopus with Kipfler Potatoes and Paprika.

ANGUILA: Smoked eel mousse on brik pastry with crispy pancetta, avruga caviar and fresh horseradish.

TORTILLA ESPECIAL: Chanterelle, jamon and truffle tortilla.

CODORNIZ CON KIKOS: Grilled Jumbo Quail Filled with Duck Liver Parfait, Served with Sweet Corn Puree and Toasted Corn.

ENSALADA CITRICA CON ACIETE DE OLIVAS: Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline with Citrus Salad and Olive Oil Sorbet.


Meal style: Dinner of shared plates
Cost: $120.00 total (between 2 people, not including drinks)
Time and date of visit: 9:00pm Saturday 4 August 2012