Sunday, April 18, 2010
Sunday, December 21, 2008
For those familiar with Longrain Sydney, it's not 'same same but different' - let's face it
It is with that in mind that I hereby shameless promote Longrain.
Longrain Menu sings loudly of chef Martin Boetz influence - with strong Thai/Asian flavours lending itself to balance, harmony and taste - oh boy was there taste! If you're looking for lacklustre, cookie-cutter Thai food then you're at the wrong place. Walking through the door and being confronted with large communal tables and a kitchen humming with activity - you know you're somewhere out of the ordinary.
The tables are all impeccably polished and set with cloth napkins and western cutlery. If you're a couple you sit side by side instead of facing each other. This is a great idea since the food is so good - you want to quietly sigh and whisper to your companion rather than look at them.
My suggestion is to order a cocktail from the brilliant list - I heartily recommend anything with lychee - I think along with mango, cherries and raspberries, lychees are the most delicious, exotic fruit - that translucent lushness, that sweet tartness... oh ...
The food. Well I think people who have been to Longrain (Syd or Melb) know and they are unanimous in their praise and their worship. Rightly so. We wanted to try everything - the menu looks small but it isn't - it is created with intelligence - knowing that people, when face with many choices of pork or beef or fish, will narrow it down to 2 and then 1. When the choice is of 2 completely unctuous dishes it becomes a challenge then you have to talk with your table staff for them to help you. And help they do at Longrain.
Our table staff helped our decision down to Betel Leaf topped with prawn peanuts toasted coconut and ginger, Caramelised Pork Hock with five spice and chilli vinegar (sml), Crisp fried soft shell crab with a green mango salad and a roasted eschalot dressing (sml) and finally crisp fried pork with chilli and basil stir-fry. A word of advice - the dishes are large and ideal for sharing - so if your table staff recommends a small portion - heed their advice.
The Betel Leaf was a mouthful of perfection - prawn meat complimented by the crunch of peanut, toasty goodness of coconut and a combination of sauces - I don't know what sauce or how much - but it was the most amazing single mouthful ever. You sit and think about it a few days after you get home - wondering but never quite getting it. You will never forget it.
Pork Hock - this dish was the best thing I had ever eaten - ever. If I have to have a 'last dish' then this would be it. I would build a Pork Hock Taj Mahal to this dish. You have no idea how good it is unless you go and eat it. If you don't eat anything else next year - make this your pilgrimage. Deeply golden pork hocks - obviously master stocked and deep-fried to a crisp outside, tender meat and that orgasmic gelatinous lip smacking fat - it is the stuff people write poetry about or in my case, a review. These love-at-first-bite pieces of pork are accompanied by two bowls of condiments - a heavenly sweet rich caramel (palm sugar based) and its alter ego, a bowl of clear chilli vinegar with perfect rounds of Christmas-red chilli. You choose how sweet or tart or what balance you like and you go to town on that dish.
After that dish my husband and I were ready to pledge our undying love and leave - but there was more...
Crisp fried soft shell crab with a green mango salad and a roasted eschalot dressing - you've probably had deep fried soft shell crab before, if so then you're about to eat the real thing for the first time at Longrain. Impossibly crisp crabs in a deliciously tart, hot, sour and sweet salad with dressing. Incredibly - there was crab! Real crab in my soft shell crab dish! I tasted crab which was a real surprise - I loved this dish and would order it again in a heartbeat.
Crisp fried pork with chilli and basil stir-fry - this dish we couldn't do justice to - simply because we were already in love and being shown the older, more complex dish to the pork hock. We were full from the other courses so we only mustered a few bites of this dish. I think it was a deep, fragrant, well balanced dish that would set more than a few hearts on fire. From what I tasted the pork was crisp, juicy and completely complimented by the jumble of snake beans, crunchy fried basil, chilli shards and that complex sauce - oh boy, that sauce...
We were sated. We were surprised. We were happy.
Our bill - $123.00 for 2. This included rice for 2 ($6) and $2 for charity. Plus 1 cocktail, 1 soft drink and all that food...
A small price to pay for a dish which now has me in its thrall - a dish I'm off to fantasise of now.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
*we had no fish or seafood because we are travelling in a day. No point taking a risk.
Friday, May 02, 2008
211 La Trobe St, Melbourne Victoria 3000
P 9654 0808 F 9654 1080
Mod Oz Locavorian
Dinner, Thursday 1st May 2008
The website address may be http://www.sosmelbourne.com.au/, but sos is long gone and 100 Mile Cafe has taken its place. Rather than being vego-pescetarian only - no dairy, no meat, no eggs - the new incarnation is omnivorous in its cooking but ecofriendly and locavotarian (is that even a word?) in its ethics. Unfortunately our table didn't come with a natty placemat-like guide to the restaurant, but I had done some prior research (read: studied the menu during my downtime at work) and was impressed by the thought that went into it. I may not have spent quite as much thought deciding what to buy (I should have gotten a chicken dish!) but as I was being ruled by my empty, rumbling stomach, I went with what I thought would be a large meal, rather than going for flavour and intelligence. Which is why I ended up with a plate full of burger (beef-tofu), chips and salad, while my dining partner had the smallest serve I've ever seen for a main dish in a restaurant, of red mullet fillets.
But I get ahead of myself here. The room itself deserves a bit of discussion, as it is a very '00s venue, and very new-Melbourne-Central. It's located in a shopping centre in the city, but on the outskirts of the actual complex, so the escalators we took to reach the front door were the only real reminder of our very mercantile surrounding. A long corridor - with a "fish don't grow on trees" montage of real tree trunks - took us to a room with a central bar, an outside drinkies area, and a simple, slightly echoey space of simple chipboard-looking chairs (though painted a dashing orange or white), small square tables, and a dotted-dashed-cutout plane of more chipboard or something lining the ceiling. VERY '00s. A lot of exposed pale wood rough-hewn beams supporting the ceiling in some form further accentuated the bar. VERY Melbourne Central. VERY cool.
The waiters were sweethearts, too. A bit chatty, a bit joking, and perfectly matching the surprisingly affordable menu. I do suspect that they could do with raising the prices just a few dollars if it meant getting more food on the plate. The "Grilled Red Mullet fillets with fennel, peas and watercress" (which was listed on the menu as containing - and was delivered with - kohlrabi as well) was so small, I made sure to reserve my salad and some chips for my dining partner to eat as well. So I can't report on her dish, nor on my salad, but those chips sure were yum. The burger itself had a curiously quiet flavour, no doubt as a result of the inclusion of silken tofu. But the texture certainly benefited - I ate the entire burger quite happily, but skipped the boring looking white bread roll it was sandwiched in.
We had actually started with house-baked olive oil and salt flat bread that blew my mind. My dining partner told me it was spelt, and I was just in love. It had an echo in the flavour of crispbread crackers, but with a beautifully sensual, clever texture of both crisp and chewiness, with a dusty base that turned one of my pink sleeves a lovely shade of salmon. For $5 for a plate piled high with squares, the bread was reasonably priced and I could have quite happily taken a box home as takeaway.
The desserts were similarly impressive, a strawberry souffle rising almost twice as tall as its dish, and a champagne, lemongrass, and something-else sorbet was delicately flavoured, with each note coming through with perfect clarity. My tall, rectangular rhubarb tart concealed within a veritable swimming pool of liquid custard, so I did get a bit messy. The rich pastry, perfectly cooked rhubarb, and tangy pear compote mousse accompanying went perfectly with the dollop of cream I had requested on the side. At $14 each they were reasonably priced, and I don't think they need any price increase if possible! They were decent sized serves for the cost.
Because the menu is seasonal, it's also a prime candidate for return visits which won't leave me totally bored of eating the same food over and over. Variety in the mains, similarly excellent desserts (all the dishes came with sorbets, so I suspect the winter menu is yet to be fully introduced), and more of that bread, and I'll return time and time again.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I attended Circa ( Circa, The Prince, 2 Acland St, St Kilda, 9536 1122, firstname.lastname@example.org) for the birthday dinner of my best friend, along with her parents, brother, partner, and another friend. We were seated at a round table in a corner with a door to the balcony where we could watch wedding-goers continuing their party which was being pushed into some function room as we arrived for our 6:30pm reservation. It was a tight squeeze but thanks to the billowing white curtain separating the room, behind our backs, there was enough space for the waiters to get their job done.
It was an interesting mix of people – the brother seemed to have forgotten about the dinner entirely, but the staff showed no surprise or frustration when he showed up an hour after the rest of us and told the waiter to start serving him the degustation from where everyone else was up to. The partner was only about one week out of hospital for having her gall bladder removed, and is on a strict no-fat diet as a result. It was a bit disappointing therefore when we asked the waiter if there could be any substitutions in the degustation and were told in no uncertain terms that there couldn’t. I wonder if perhaps we should have been asked why we were inquiring? After a bit of faffing around, we decided on degustation anyway, and ordered two vegetarian degustations, and five meatatarian.
Three hours passed from amuse bouche to the second dessert course, a total of 9 courses. The standard was exceptionally high, with a focus on some seriously fresh and flavourful produce, and beautifully impeccable presentation. Of course. Without the massive white plates, cleverly indented depressions for soup and artistic drizzles covering half the plate, we would all realise that degustation is nothing but a massive tease – a hook to force you to return to order what you would have preferred ten times the amount of. Personally, I would have traded in the Wagyu for the heirloom tomatoes, and skipped some amazingly rich goats cheese for extra olive oil sorbet to eat with the tomatoes. In fact when I was at Ezard a few weeks later, I ordered their heirloom tomato salad with feta and microshoots or something, and was sorely disappointed. But I digress - the masochist in me loves degustations, as does my inability to ever make a decision.
I wrote down my impressions throughout dinner using my brand spanking new Nokia with its clever little Notes function, so here goes a dot point summary of what we ate:
Cauliflower cream, black roe, cucumber foam, globes of cucumber, NSW oyster, smoky strong aftertaste.
White bean soup, tiny cubes of chewy chorizo, tiny cannelini beans, shreds of flavourful crab, tiny sprigs of maybe baby sweetpea shoots, salty bits - sometimes crab sometimes bean, orange oil from the soup, which was poured at the table.
Flat wedge of pale brown smoked eel with a sweet frothy cream, sitting on dill, parsley and maybe baby beetroot leaves, translucent tube of striated potato with more herbs standing in it, about ¼ teaspoon of crumbled maple bacon.
Three small snails, lightly breaded, gently fried, garlic flavour and fried bits, small pool of oil fried in, 2 breaded fried pigs ears I didn’t eat, small squares of iceberg lettuce, vivid green lightly flavoured parsley sauce.
Miniature roma half, two quarter slices of maybe a beefsteak, wedge of purple green skinned and seeded strong almost smoky, half a sweet cheery tomato, sweet liquid olive oil sorbet, black olive oil which was actually oil mixed with balsemic vinegar, large chewy sweet cheesy fruity wafer.
Disc of dense, creamy, mild but with a slowly pungent aftertaste, white goats cheese, long irregular curls of thin cheese cracker announced as wafer.
Mound of small pearl barley sauteed with slippery, soft baby shallots, with small cubes and rectangular wedges of Wagyu beef scattered throughout. The beef appears to be very slowly sauteed, or maybe roasted with a lot of liquid.
Small square of plain dense sponge cake with a lightly aerated, gelled, smooth, subtly tangy yogurt topping about a third as tall as the cake, served with a small melon-baller scoop of lemon-celery sorbet, a very light flavour and texture.
Glass of berry royale – sweet, rich, lingering dark berry juice topped with a moscato wine fluffy cream, served with a rich buttery pastry cracker, with a collection of fresh berries in more juice, and a scoop of beautiful cream. Perhaps the “Petite tartlet of berries, soured cream, moscato and berry royal” described on their website?
Some discrepancies emerged, such as the “black olive oil” listed on the menu in the heirloom tomato dish, which tasted suspiciously like a high quality vinaigrette of EVOO and balsemic vinegar. The maple smoked bacon from the eel was perhaps a quarter of teaspoon in total, and if I had planned to eat it (I went half-heartedly kosher for the night) I suspect I would have been disappointed. The vegetarian “organic carrot salad” was 3 halves of carrots, perhaps slightly roasted, served with yogurt – the recipients were quite let down. One serve was even sent back when it was discovered that at least one carrot piece was so woody, the knife couldn’t cut through it. I felt that the mound of pearl barley served with the Wagyu was a cop-out – it was by far the biggest of the dishes in terms of both sheer volume of food and the filling-ness of the food. And to be filled up by pearl barley in a lackadaisical broth? Meh! However as the first steak I have had since jaw surgery, the Wagyu really did deliver.
And that’s about all I can report on that was negative in any way. A bit of waxing rhapsodic is doubtless in order.
The olive oil sorbet with the heirloom tomatoes was the simplest dish, and yet my favourite. It just goes to show what my slightly less gastronomically inclined other half is starting to point out himself – good quality produce is the most important factor in creating a masterpiece in the kitchen. The tomatoes were beautiful as-is, and coated in the slightest sweetness of creamy EVOO, were just heavenly.
Snails – my goodness, how much fun are snails! I hesitated for a split-split-second and realised that my brain was thinking “snails!” and so I resolved to stop thinking about the word and just eat the small ball of fried yumminess. They were perfect – I couldn’t even tell you exactly what snails tasted like, but as oysters taste of the sea, I’m voting that snails taste of the earth. And garlic. And oil. And parsley. Those French really know what they’re doing. And so chewy! Like oysters, the texture is part and parcel of the experience.
The desserts were both examples of masterful gourmet cooking – I wouldn’t have ordered lemon-celery sorbet, and the sponge cake was fairly bland with only a slight tang to the yogurt topping, but combine them all together, and I thought I was gracefully dancing through a meadow of sunflowers and butterflies. So light and refreshing, all textures combining seamlessly and the celery working perfectly with the sponge. The royale (cue many jokes about royale with cheese) was my first experience with this dish, and while I found the top layer of moscato cream to have a slightly bitter? sour? taste, combined with the mouth-coating berry juice, whipped cream and the crisp of the pastry, a revelation.
At $125 for my non-vegetarian degustation, I think it was very reasonably priced. I wasn’t too full by the end of the meal because I had skipped most of the barley (they got stuck in my braces), and I am a pretty light eater, but I do think the amount of food was sufficient, if not quite indulgent. Excepting that one carrot, the quality of the food was superb, so there was no feeling that we were paying inflated prices for nothing more preparation and presentation – I would happily pay the premium price for what I felt was premium produce. The service was impeccable, if a little standoffish and not quite as friendly as Ezard, but in the staff’s defence, the joint was jumping – I could swear that when we left at 11pm, I saw a table starting on their amuse bouches for their own degustation. I managed to drive home without falling asleep behind the wheel, and slept the fine, leaden sleep of the sated and content.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Location - Crossley St, City
Open - (L) M-F 12pm-2.30pm (D) M-S 6pm-Late
Food - Hawker Inspired with a touch of Sophistication
Saturday, November 17, 2007
11 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
phone: (03) 9866 8569
prices: entrees high teens, mains low to mid 30s
Last week our neighbour-Denis-who-is-moving-to-Hong-Kong said he would take us out for dinner to say thanks for the highly embellished reference I wrote him (we used to work together) and told me I could pick the place...
Last night, we headed off for a slap-up feast a la Mr Creosote at France Soir, home of lovely French waiters (who in my experience are NOT snooty if you ask for condiments), and French-bistroiness. It's one of my fave places to eat, even though they once felt it necessary to point out to me that steak tartare is in fact raw (admittedly I was pretty young at the time, I guess it's possible I might not have known and therefore freaked out at being served a plate of raw mince with a raw egg yolk on top...). To start with, they bring you delicious French bread and unsalted butter. No wanky dishes of oil here. And they offer you more once you guts the first lot, rather than glare at you balefully should you dare to ask, as Oliver did, for more. We followed the silver baskets of bready goodness by sharing a dozen oysters (freshly shucked when you order them), which came on a large dish of crushed ice and were accompanied by a niftily-carved lemon and a small dish of some sort of sauce (it was delicious and I think it had garlic in it, and maybe a bit of soy. Hard to say). Very good oysters. I had a fillet steak with bernaise sauce, which was utterly delicious. My dining companions had veal (poor baby cows) and minute steak. We accompanied the lot with a very nice bottle of red (it was French but I don't have a clue what it was - I will say that the wine list was in length comparable to an Umberto Eco novel) and some shared vegetables - peas & carrots with bacon lardons (which it turns out are lovely fatty cubes of bacon) and mash, and they brought pomme frites (as the French call French fries) to the table which we hadn't even ordered, which was a bonus. Although actually it's possible Denis ordered them sneakily to avoid my disapproval of the ordering of two different sorts of potato. Most of the mains don't come with veg or salad, so you do have to order them seperately.
The veal, which came in a mushroom and white wine sauce was pronounced "exotic" by Denis (although exactly how veal in a mushroom sauce could possibly be exotic I am left wondering), and also "delicious". And the minute steak disappeared (fittingly) in about a minute, accompanied by a red wine sauce, so there didn't seem to be any complaints about that, either. The pomme frites were eaten with the remainder of my bernaise sauce, so there was no need to ask for mayonnaise.
The steak tartare on a previous occasion was delicious - they prepared it "to taste" meaning you can ask for the requisite amount of spiciness and make sure it's not too full of capers (do ask about this as the time I didn't I found there were WAY too many capers). It's not as good as the steak tartare at the Macleay Street Bistro (73a MacLeay St Potts Point, (02) 9358 4891) in Sydney (where I've been told if you're lucky you may spot Paul Keating grabbing a bite of dinner), but it's pretty good. They bring yet more pomme frites with it, but I prefer to ask for some extra bread. There's nothing like steak tartare on some soft white bread with a thick layer of butter (insert Homer-style drooling here), although for anything other than tartare or a bread pudding I'd rather a rye or at least a grainy bread.
Also well worth it are the French onion soup, which is satisfyingly hearty and cheesy, and the salad with blue cheese dressing. I have had blue cheese dressing in other establishments, only to find it either too cheesy or not cheesy enough, but like Goldilocks, I found the blue cheese dressing at France Soir just cheesy enough.
If you're a vegetarian - one of the crazy sort who doesn't eat seafood at any rate (we all know it's okay to eat fish cause they don't have any feelings) - go somewhere else for dinner. You're not going to get any love here. Other than salads, there are not really any vegetarian options on the menu (even the peas have bacon in them, for heaven's sake), and they are not all that likely to be obliging if you ask, as the woman on the next table found out when she did. The waiter went away to confer with the kitchen staff and came back to tell her "We can do you some steamed vegetables" (in snooty French accents). Eventually it seemed they settled the matter of an entree by offering her an asparagus and caviar entree "without the caviar".
The dessert was the crowning glory of the evening. Denis ordered a latte, Mr H had a Cafe Royale (which was delish, I tried it), and I had an Earl Grey tea. Unlike some places that do nice coffee but then give you a tea bag if you want tea, the tea was made with leaves, came in a proper pot, and (as requested) was nice and weak (nothing is more disgusting than strong Earl Grey tea - or even worse, milk in Earl Grey tea. People who drink Earl Grey tea with milk shall die by the sword when I rule the world. But I digress). And then came the Creme Brulee, with three spoons - there was unfortunately no way we were going to be able to fit in a dessert each, much as I was simply longing for the Isles flotant, which consists of floating clouds of soft meringue in a light sky of vanilla. But the Creme Brulee was the King of Creme Brulees, crunchy slightly burnt toffee surface, with light cremey goodness beneath. Despite the fact that we were all so full we were threatening to explode like Mr Creosote the dessert disappeared directly.
I can only say it was lucky they didn't offer us a wafer-thin after dinner mint, or there would have been an incident.