Friday, March 30, 2012

RESTAURANT: Momofuku Seiobo (lunch)

Been keen to try Sydney's Momofuku Seiobo, but scared off by the price tag of ~$170 for food and ~$90 for matching wine? Then maybe Momofuku Seiobo is a good alternative.

That's right. Starting last week, Seiobo launched a Friday and Saturday lunch menu, full of new dishes, that will only set you back $100 for food and either $60 for matching wines or $30 for a spectrum of matching juices (that's right, matching juices!) (other beverages of course are still on offer).

The pork bun? Yep, still there.

The meal is pretty similar to the normal, epic, dinner menu, but with a a few less dishes (you'll still get 8 dishes plus cheese plus dessert) and maybe with a slightly less intensive elements on the plate. So you won't get the crazy egg pudding, but you'll still get great produce like mud crab (with miso pudding and panko crumbs, excellent) and marron (in probably the dish of the day with tripe, deep fried tripe, orecchiette and szechuan chilli, though I hope they return to the earlier version where fried rice cakes replace the orecchiette and make for a classic, classic dish).

The main dish for the dinner menu has been either lamb neck or pork neck with various accompaniments, but the short rib main here may just take the pick of the bunch. The ultra fatty meat is slow cooked into submission, seared to give a great crust and put alongside some really awesome, complimentary flavours like burnt eggplant and pickled kohlrabi. It's stupid tender and a great reflection of Seiobo's main flavours of smoke and pickle.

Lunch is a lighter affair than dinner, with no pork petit four to be seen, and only one, lighter dessert. It leaves you ready to get on with your day, rather than head home and sleep.

I was expecting a much paler imitation of dinner for the price, but nearby every dish was a killer and nearly every dish was different to the dinner menu. Value is upped, time is dropped but standards remain.

I didn't have the matching wines or juices on this occasion, instead opting for an awesome bottle of orange wine, but I have no doubt that the matches are as good as they are with the dinner menu.

Service is, as usual, superb. Music is, as usual, an awesome and eclectic mix of the likes of Bright Eyes, Bowie, Smashing Pumpkins, Prodigy (smack my bitch up at a fine-diner? yes!) and Built to Spill.

RATING: Will constantly return to [?] (unchanged)

Momofuku Seiƍbo on Urbanspoon

RESTAURANT: Rockpool Bar & Grill

I've been to the bar at Rockpool B+G before to sample their epic burger (yes, it's worth the hype), but have long held the desire to hit the restaurant proper and go nuts on the ridiculously good-looking menu and wine list. With a dinner with friends cancelled, the opportunity presented itself.

The restaurant is handsome as all hell, but you probably know that already. High ceilings, wine glass chandeliers, waiters in white coats, green marble pillars, black tables and seats.

The wine list is a somewhat depressing affair, with so many good options in every category that you're bound to feel disappointed when you settle on a bottle or two. I go for my favourite champagne producer, Jacques Selosse, but immediately feel the tinge of regret from not getting a super pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula. WHY DO YOU ALWAYS FAIL, BEN?!?!?

The menu is as sprawling as it is tempting. Starters range from raw seafood to quasi salads to hot items. I over order and start with the "raw tastes of the sea" dish, which is clean, fresh sashimi with some nice dressings, and the brioche with bone marrow, shallots and a slow-cooked hens egg, which is as good as it sounds.

With Neil Perry flagging that he'll be opening an Italian restaurant in the not-to-distant future, I also opt for a bowl of his pasta. Duck ragu with pappardelle is exactly the sort of pasta dish that I order wherever I go, and this one doesn't disappoint. Huge chunks of duck, rich sauce and silky pasta all combine well.

Calling the restaurant Bar and Grill hides the fact that this restaurant is really only about one thing: being a banker with a corporate card and a suit. But it's also about the grilled meats. Serious, serious time, effort and money is put into their dry-ageing program with the aim of taking the best produce and making it even better.

David Blackmore's 9+ grade wagyu fillet is a testament to this. Easily the best steak I've ever eaten, which you'd want with a $115 price tag. Charcoally and caramelised out the outside, stupidly tender on the inside and flavour absolutely hiding everywhere. They give you your own jug of bearnaise sauce and a selection of others, but all you really need is a few drops from the lemon wedge on the plate.

A side of creamed corn is surprisingly huge, probably isn't designed for a solo diner that has already eaten a lot, and takes me a while to get through. It's nice though, which is about as much as you can say for creamed corn, never a dish to really change one's perspective on life.

I can't fit it in, but in the interests of research and being a champion I give the black forest trifle a go for dessert. Rich (didn't need that) and generously portioned (or that), it's a top way to end the meal.

A tremendously enjoyable meal, made more enjoyable by the fact that I went in with the view of not having to stick to any sort of budget when ordering. This is a place that can seriously burn you if you're hoping for a reasonable meal, with entrees around $30, mains have some cheaper options but the majority start at $40 and go way up, and desserts around $20 from memory. You can get a top meal going for the cheaper options, but to sample the best of the place and get great seafood starters, great meat on the grill and great wine, you might be up for Sydney's most expensive meal.

The white coats swoop around, providing great service all night. Though it's hard to feel like you're getting bad service from someone in a white coat.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WINE: LARMANDIER-BERNIER Terre de Vertus Brut Non-Dose NV

With my travelling out of the way, it's time to chill out at home for a while before returning. And what better way to spend non-working time by getting stuck into some grower champagne? <--rhetorical question, there is no better way

Larmandier-Bernier holds around 15 hectares of vines spread across grand cru and premier cru plots, with the majority being bio-dynamically farmed. This wine is 100% chardonnay from a vineyard in Vertus and, despite it being listed as a non-vintage, all grapes are from the same vintage (06 in this case). No sugar is added to the wine, making it an excellent expression of the grapes.

A lively bead really pushes the flavours along here. Being non dosage, the minerality and slight savoury saltiness is a key feature of this wine, rounding out all of the flavours and adding a strong body.

It's big on grapefruit and lime, with just a little bit of yeast to beef it up.

A lovely wine and a tremendous expression of the soil and the grapes. It will delight lovers of low dosage blanc de blancs, and impress other champagne drinkers.


Saturday, March 24, 2012


Final dinner in Melbourne honours go to Fitzroy's Huxtable, with the "bites" section on their mod-Asian-inspired menu being the deciding factor. When it comes to eating, I love bites.

XO flavoured bun with crab and thai basil mayo is a very delicious item, with the combo of mayo and XO being a big favourite of mine.

Bread is on the table too, and their bread is actually really good. Light and airy in the middle, with an awesome crust packed with heaps of flavour.

Filo pastry wrapped lamb with lemon yoghurt is my other favourite "bite", with the combo of pastry, soft lamb and yoghurt being a bit of a no-brainer.

Apart from bites, the rest of the menu is a sharing plate setup. AKA entrees.

The day's special of sauteed mushrooms with a poached egg and fried garlic is a great dish, meaty and rich.

A salad of corn, black bean and a chipotle/lime creme fraiche is a great combo of flavours.

The corn is grilled, giving the dish a smokey flavour, which works well with the chipotle chilli.

Quite a beefy "vegetarian" dish.

The flavours are clear and well matched in the togarashi flavoured tuna tartare with avocado puree.

The spice and citrus in the togarashi are obvious friends with avocado, making a kind of quasi guacamole to go with the salty, juicy tuna.

Dessert was delicious with some caramelised figs getting down with ice cream, honey and nuts.

All up, the food is extremely solid. The bites and sharing concept is a great way to try heaps of stuff, to the detriment of the bill. That said, with bits just under $5 and shared plates at the mid $20s, you'll get a good feed for the $50 mark before you add on any booze from the small but interesting list.

The food might just lack that next level of refinement that you'd see at a place like Cumulus or Movida for mine, but not by much and pound for pound I found it a really good meal, well worth your time. Service is pretty strong too, with the girls on the floor being more than friendly in the middle of a typically busy Saturday night.

Huxtable on Urbanspoon

RESTAURANT: Dainty Sichuan

As I said before, restaurant choices for this trip were basically made to tick off long-standing items on the wishlist. Dainty Sichuan is a place that has always been on the radar when in Melbourne, but I could never muster the motivation needed to travel all the way to South Yarra to cross it off the list. Especially with nothing else to see there. At least Fitzroy has lots of Melbourne Girls (TM) to look at.

Anyway, it probably would have been another trip that ended in a lack of rectal burn if it weren't for a bunch of Big Time Chefs (TM) basically losing their shit (in many ways) over Dainty Sichuan during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival earlier this month, as well as Bourdain heaping praise on it during the recent No Reservations episode on Melbourne. So I had to go, if only to see how it measured up to my beloved Red Chilli outlets in Sydney.

This sort of restaurant isn't designed for a solo diner, so I knew I was going to have to over order and over eat, a worrying prospect when szechuan food is involved.

First to hit the table is the lunch special size of mapo tofu, which is thankfully probably half the size of the normal.

I'm a big fan of mapo tofu, and this is probably the best rendition of it I have ever had the pleasure to eat. And by probably, I mean definitely. The tofu is the perfect firmness: soft enough to be silky on the tongue with the sauce, but firm enough to pick up with chopsticks. Mapo tofu is all about the chilli out and hot bean sauce. Dainty Sichuan's is so good it breaks your heart. There's depth to the heat (which isn't over the top), distinction to the hot beans. Fermented black beans stud the dish every now and then, adding a burst of salty, mealy goodness. Fresh szechuan pepper and finely chopped shallots are added too, and stand on their own instead of falling in line with the other flavours, like many mapo tofus tend to do.

I didn't think Dainty Sichuan was going to match the hype, but eating that mapo tofu makes me feel like Jack Black in High Fidelity, in that scene where they get the demo tape of the skaters. "It's... really fucking good..."

At around $10 for the lunch special, this has to be one of the best meals in Melbourne, and on a normal day enough for a big, satisfying meal.

But I've been so absorbed in the mapo tofu that I've neglected the two other dishes I ordered that are sitting on the table.

Smoked pork with bamboo shoot is one of my favourite dishes of all time, and one that Red Chilli NAILS. Here, though, it's not as good. The smoked pork is packed with flavour, but is sliced thin and fried like bacon, with a similarly huge saltiness. Red Chilli's version has the pork being steamed I think), which allows the beautifully flavourful pork fat to come out and play. The bamboo here is also a bit of a non-event, with it being a bit dry. Red Chilli's is fresh, crunchy, sweet and the perfect partner for the smokey, fatty pork.

At this stage it's 1 dish apiece for each restaurant, with the deciding vote going to century egg with chilli capsicums. Red Chilli does century egg with either tofu or chopped green chilli, Dainty does it with either the aforementioned capsicums or tofu. There are differences to the dish, like Dainty's century egg being milder than Red Chilli's, and the spicy capsicums providing a nice smokey, vinegary shield to the potent egg, where the chillis in Red Chilli's dish are there to add heat and the earthy flavour of raw chilli. Overall though, I call it a draw. Both versions are excellent, Dainty's for it's piquant, milder flavours, Red Chilli's for it's relentless heat and earthy flavour.

I can see what the fuss is about with Dainty Sichuan: this is some damn fine, authentic Szechuan food.

For those chefs that went to MFWF and loved it: when you're in Sydney, hit up Red Chilli, it's just as good.

Dainty Sichuan on Urbanspoon


Being a huge fan of Sydney's Marque, I was extremely pleased that Mark Best's venture into upmarket bistros was going to be open in time for visit south of Albury Wodonga.

There have been a fair few examples of fine dining chefs launching fancy bistro style joints (and a few more said to be in the works) and all have been quite enjoyable, generally filled with super produce that isn't overly fussed over. They're all kind of the same though: similar vibes to the menu, similar prices, similar levels of service. I was looking for a differetiator at Pei.

I was expecting a fairly quick, 3 course meal with a nice bottle of wine and to be hit with fine dining prices. I got basically none of that.

While you can do the 3 courses and you can get a really nice bottle from the slightly obscure, naturally focused wine list and you can pay around $45 for mains, they also offer a set menu of 6 courses plus cheese plus dessert with matching wines by the glass.

With no immediate plans to return to Melbourne, the camel inside tells me that I should eat as many different things as possible and store it up for the next time.

Not that it's a hard choice. At only $90, the set menu (you get 5 of the entrees, a main, cheese and a dessert, all of which they choose) is stupidly good value for this level of cooking.

But that can wait. I pick up the enthusiasm when a martini was offered is start off and run with that. Made with 50 Pound gin, it's bloody good and feels like the right drink to start on in this dark and lively dining room.

Before the set menu starts, there was also a special appetiser of the day of scallop sashimi, tomato and pear that I couldn't pass up. The sommelier comes over and matches it with a fairly unique sauvignon blanc grown near Chablis. All of the wines that followed would be similarly interesting, packed with a lot of character.

And what of the scallop? Beautiful, simple, clean, fresh.

Interestingly, they don't clear the knife from the table. It stays with you for the duration of your savoury meal and you can't help but build an attachment to it, in a sort of Full Metal Jacket this-is-my-knife-there-are-many-like-it-but-this-one-is-mine way.

With pre-dinner out of the way, we commence the menu proper. Crab in an almond gaspacho with grape and parsley. So good. Like a more relaxed version of the dish at Marque that always seems to be on the menu. It's simple, but with so much class. The almond gaspacho is rich, but less so with the grape. The crab is there to add texture, sweetness and, of course, flavour, and the parsley gives a nice hum of earthiness. It's matched perfectly to a cava that has been given no added sugar dosage, but with sherry added in.

Bread (sourdough made with the same 14 year old starter as at Marque) arrives in a sack, without a side bread plate. I like it. It feels more organic and saves precious real estate with the absence of individual bread plates.

Star of the show has to be the humble potato dish. Dutch cream potatoes get tossed with bone marrow and sit under a blanket of creamy potato foam, with some added coffee and mojama. I could eat this dish So rich, so satisfying. Thankfully, our trusty somm comes out of left field with a sparkling rose which tames the richness and convinces you that you can eat more. and more.

Ox heart (I think it was an ox) comes with a roasted capsicum. It's the sort of low-rent dish that makes this place (and these prices) possible. Oh, and it's delicious, filled with big smokey, steaky flavours.

The main that comes with the set menu is pork jowl with raddichio, burnt raddichio puree and meyer lemon puree. Full disclosure: I don't have a lot of time for the intense bitterness of raddichio. Here though, I'm enjoying it. The bitterness is a good match to the rich, sweetness of the pork and the intensely sour meyer lemon puree adds a middle flavour to bind the two extremes.

The cheese course is an excellently simple affair of some big pieces of lavosh, topped with big shavings of the cheese of choice (I forget the name, it was a semi-hard sheep's cheese) and rounds of pear. the young sauternes that comes with it beefs up the pear flavour, but gives the fairly subtle cheese plenty of room to work.

Dessert isn't overly complicated either, and it benefits greatly by it. Milk meringue, vanilla ice cream and whole raspberries. Really clear, pure flavours. Delicious. It gets matched to the Friends of Punch noble riesling, which has a fascinating story behind it. Importantly, it also compliments the dish by having an excellent gap in the mid-palate that leaves you feeling swamped with raspberries.

The wines have all been sensational, matched to every dish with a generous glass, chosen and poured by a sommelier with stacks of enthusiasm for what he does. You'd easily be up for $100 at any other restaurant. Here, only $60. Yep.

But the sommelier is only one member of a team that is already kicking big goals in the service stakes, when logic tells you that it should be anarchy with only two weeks open under their belt.

I really don't know what else to say about this place. The value is outstanding, the food uncomplicatedly great, the wine great, the service excellent, the room is packed with happy diners.

I just hope that Mark Best brings this concept to Sydney.

Pei Modern on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 23, 2012


The theme for this trip to Melbourne has definitely been the crossing off of long-desired restaurants from my hitlist. With the exception of my beloved Chatime beverages, nearly everything that crosses these lips for the week will be foreign and terribly exciting.

While I've managed to hit (and really dig) Cumulus Inc on both of my previous visits to the sunshine state, I felt somewhat incomplete and a failure of a man as a result of not giving Andrew McConnell's flagship place a whirl.

So, what up, Andrew McConnell's flagship place?

I go for my usual: tasting menu with premium matching wines and we kick off with a selection of snacks.

Paired with a ridiculously good 15 year old manzanilla, my table creaks under the weight of some olives, a delicious Coffin Bay oyster (served natural), beautifully salty and creamy pickled octopus with aioli, the (deservedly) famed foie gras cigar (foie gras in a filo cylinder) and some bread.

First course proper is cured kingfish with avocado puree, sesame, bonito and pickled cucumber. Bright and sharp, it's a refreshing way to kick things off.

Influences have shifted from Spanish to Japanese. Now we're off to China with a crab and mushroom congee that may have abalone in it (I was half asleep today; note to self: coffee first). A bit different to the crab congee at Quay, though equally delicious.

Now to Italy. I love a good tomato salad, and the heirloom tomatoes with smoked goats curd here are delicious. The sweetness of the tomatoes, the herbaceous basil, the crunch of the bread and the smokey, smooth curd all play well together.

I don't want to mention every dish on the tasting menu, but the smoked and fried duck with beetroot was just stupidly delicious. Incredible flavour packed into the duck, mellowed out with some earthy beetroot and paired well to a rich, fruity grenache.

Pictured above is the main course. Two cuts of Cape Grim beef, fatty, meaty strip loin, seared and full of flavour, next to slow-braised short rib that is expectedly delicious and fatty, but not to the detriment of the beautiful flavour of the meat.

I unashamedly love cheese and aged comte has to be in my top 5 favourite cheeses (yeah I've got a list).

Shaved, with shaved Tasmanian truffles, lavosh bread and I think what was lemon butter. Obviously sensational.

Dessert of sheeps milk yoghurt, rhubarb granita, mascerated strawberries and a pine nut granola was, like everything else, quite tasty. I was maybe hoping for a more of a "wow" factor, but admittedly it kept with the pared-back/good-cooking philosophy of the rest of the meal.

Last night, Vue de Monde was over in an hour forty. Cutler kept things bubbling along for three and a half excellent hours. Perhaps just missing out on the very upper echelon of Australian restaurants I've been to, but only by the finest of margins. Every course was excellent and the matching wines were both well-chosen and interesting. Pretty good value too for fine-dining, with around $300 getting you over three hours of great food, wine and service.

Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 22, 2012

RESTAURANT: Vue de Monde

"We need to talk."
*sigh* "Look, when we started this thing, we both knew that it wouldn't last forever."
"What are you trying to say?"
"Ben... please..."
"I... I don't understand."
"At the beginning, I told you. I told you that I wasn't the sort of girl that could be in a relationship forever."
"I know what you said then, but..."
"But what?"
"But I'd kind of hoped that things had changed between us; that we might... last. We've had fun, haven't we?"
"We have, Ben. We've had fun but that's what it was and now it has to finish. I told you that I was the sort of girl that you could only be with until 7:45... Baby, look at me... it's 7:45..."
"I suppose I should leave now..."
"Look. Take this with you."
"What is it?"
"It's a brioche. The scent of decaying bread will remind you of me. If you need it."

Above, poached duck egg with celeriac puree, lamb sweetbread, sourdough, onion and shaved truffle.

Along with last night's Flower Drum, Vue de Monde is another restaurant that has been on my wishlist for ages but never quite got realised.

With their website not allowing bookings for just one, I called up to get a table and was told that the table has to be cleared in 1 hour 45 minutes. Precise. I wondered how they were going to deliver their 10 course tasting menu is such a short time. Short answer is they weren't. I take a seat, get smashed with a delivery of various snacks and get told that since the clock is ticking, it will only be 6 courses plus dessert. Right.

On to the first course. It's all happening so quick it's hard to keep up. Crab with rockmelon and roe and something else. It's nice, refreshing. A flurry, everything is cleared, the sticks and stones that were on the table at my arrival are rearranged for the next course, everything is set.

A totally killer dish. A perfect piece of marron with 2 small round discs and a tarragon sauce. Sandwich the marron with the discs, dip it into the sauce and eat with your hands. Amazing.

The stones on the table keep on moving. A circle is cleared so a waitress with a yum cha trolley can come over and put a warmed kangaroo pouch filled with bread on the table, with a healthy quinelle of butter. I raid the pouch for some bread. I remember reading that the table is topped with kangaroo leather, in lieu of linen. It would be a nice touch if it wasn't starting to look a bit ragged with the seems barely hanging on in places and other scrapes and scuffs in other places.

Next, the pictured dish. It's everything you're expecting. The egg oozes around the plate, encompassing all of the rich flavours together. It's excellent. For some relief on the palate, a match to the extremely interesting 95 Blanc de Noirs from Yarra Yering.

Staff are rushing everywhere. I think everyone in the first sitting has the same hourfourtyfive time limit, which is only do-able if the staff execute everything perfectly so there are no delays. I feel tired just seeing their partial reflection in the window as I enjoy the sunset.

A DIY palate cleanser. Some herbs go into a bowl, get topped with liquid nitrogen and you're given a grinder and told to go to work. Once you get it t the right size, they add a quinelle of cucumber sorbet. Extremely refreshing.

Ling, beautifully pan-seared comes with a sheet of pressed prawn, young shoots and a tarragon (I think) emulsion. Straight forward, good flavours.

We're an hour in and things are starting to wrap up. Main course time. Sous vide and BBQd chunks of Blackmore's 9+ wagyu, with pear discs and a caramelised ring of pear. It's an oddly sweet dish and an interesting use of sweet/savoury for the main course.

A pre dessert of "beer and nuts" isn't even finished before dessert arrives. A deconstructed lemon meringue pie. It's superb, if extremely rich.

I've been slamming food into my mouth like a champ and my time isn't quite up, so they offer cheese. And let me tell you, they're legit about their cheese. A cheese trolley is a hard thing to do in Australia where cheese isn't eaten with every meal (unlike Europe). But here, all of the cheeses are in spectacular condition. Make your choices and try them with various jams, purees, breads and wines. A great end to the meal, improved further when a few petit fours arrive out of nowhere. And it's definitely the end: I'm over my allocated time.

All up, superb food and excellent wine in an amazing setting, ruined by such an unachievable time limit. Such tremendous thought has gone into every aspect of the restaurant: the way the stones and sticks move about the table, the aesthetics of the the black leather tabletops and the fur on the back of the chairs, the numerous courses where the guests get involved by eating with their hands or grinding their own palate cleanser, the gift bag on exit filled with treats for the next day's breakfast. So it's such a shame that it's all undone by such an overarching vibe of "get the fuck out we have to do two sittings."

I get that it's hard for restaurants to make money these days and the rent for level 55 of the Rialto must be insane, but come on. People don't want to pay $300-400 a head to feel like a liability that you'd sooner see the back of. I'm totally down with being rushed out at a cheaper place when the bill hits the table before I even finish chewing the last mouthful, not here.

I could be wrong, but I think the time limit only applies to the first sitting of dinner (before 8 perhaps), not lunch or late evening. I have no doubt that lunch or second sitting dinner are delightful, relaxing experiences, where the staff aren't rushing around to shoo away the vermin on time. So by all means check out Vue at one of those times because the food and wine is excellent. But avoid the first dinner sitting like the plague. Even if you don't care about the rush and only want to sample the food, go to one of the other sittings where you won't be given a cut-down menu.

Vue de Monde on Urbanspoon

RESTAURANT: Huxtaburger

Who doesn't love a good burger?

Snakes. Probably. It's so hard to find a snake with anything in common to me.

I headed to Fitzroy to brave all of the haircuts and themed outfits and Melbourne Girls (TM) to get in on some of the action at Huxtaburger, which has become the hipster burger of choice since it opened last year.


I opted for the title track burger, since the best test of a place has to be the core menu item. It's a straight forward burger with a nicely charred beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and mustard. You add any other sauce you so wish yourself. You can also add other ingredients like eggs and bacon and all that, but I'm not God so I don't bother.

Heaps of flavour in the patty. Perfectly seasoned and good quality meat. It's thiner than a lot of other places trying to make good burgers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It definitely feels like a good thing as the grease drips down your hand. Get chips if only to catch the runoff. Sweet, sweet runoff.

A good burger is all about balance. Balance between the size and amount of eat ingredient, balance between a bun being soft and being structurally sound, balance between flavour of the meat and the condiments. The huxtaburger has that balance. It's tops.

Best burger I've ever had? I dunno, probably not. It doesn't have that ethereal quality that some burgers have. It's just a bloody nice burger.

The burgers aren't massive so a side of chips is also a good bet. They're nice chips, not some haute reimagining, slathered with truffle oil. Just good chips.

Huxtaburger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I don't have the foggiest about what started--or even if it's true--but, for some reason, I think Flower Drum has been on my restaurant wishlist for longer than anything. I think it even pre-dates my love of Chinese food. Maybe I saw a story on Sydney Weekender or something and thought "oh, that would be nice."

Regardless, I've made a few visits to Melbourne since the commencement of my pining, but my travelling companions never really seemed fussed about it enough to want to go there. On this trip though, I'm flying solo so nothing was going to keep me from finally ticking the box.

Full disclosure aside, I'm not sure how I feel about my meal at Flower Drum.

The wine list is definitely good. A bottle of Henri Germain hits the spot and then some.

But the food? I dunno.

Stir fried pearl meat with shallots and asparagus is soft, sweet and one of those very enjoyable Cantonese dishes that are packed with delicate flavours.

So too the live scallop dumplings. A delicious and simple preparation for good produce.

I think that reveals a pattern. Crayfish stir fried with my favourite sauce: ginger and shallot. Nothing too complicated, but good produce and well shelled crayfish.

Again the kobe beef. Cooked, sliced thinly, over a mound of Chinese spinach and sauce. Good produce, fairly simply done.

There are some dishes that they seem to regard as something more modern. Like the lamb pockets, pictured above, which are pretty much a more clearly flavoured presentation of the awesome Northern Chinese buns which come filled with cumin flavoured lamb and onion.

Peking duck pancakes are good, though the duck is slightly dry. I'm willing to chalk this down to the perils of dining solo in a place designed more for large groups. And, come on, they're peking duck pancakes, they're always bloody great.

Desserts are pretty old-school. I opt for the fried ice cream, which I don't think I've had since I was a kid in a dodgy suburban Chinese place some 20 years ago. It's definitely better than that version, but, at $17, you'd definitely want it to be.

But what does it all mean? I think it means that what we have is good produce done in a fairly traditional manner, with some slight leanings to please western palates. The dishes I enjoyed most were the seafood dishes where little had been done to them; just solid, well-versed Cantonese flavours complimenting good produce that you still want to taste a lot of.

Apart from the produce (which is definitely a differentiator, don't get me wrong), I didn't see a staggering difference between other "good" Cantonese restaurants that don't have the same critical acclaim as Flower Drum. I think I could even see how this sort of thing could be executed better, in a similar vein as Neil Perry's Spice Temple restaurants.

But for what it is, Flower Drum is a damn enjoyable restaurant to go hard at. Get lots of good wine, get lots of good food and enjoy the place and the awesome service.

Flower Drum on Urbanspoon


What up Melbourne? (please don't answer all at once because it will be loud)

The two days spent back at home in Sydney, post Singapore, were certainly nice and filled with awkward weather. My time was spent recovering from a top case of food poisoning that hit me pre-flight during my last night in Singapore, as well as washing things (clothes, money) and having a totally killer meal at Momofuku Seiobo, which seems to just keep on getting better (great use of smoked, sour and bitter flavours).

But all good things must come to an end, in order to experience more good things. Such a Melbourne. Melbourne is a good thing.

I managed to make my flight with a good 2 minutes to spare (after a week in Singapore, I forgot how useless CityRail can be), which had the added benefit of jumping all queues and taking my checked baggage on as carry-on luggage (I SMUGGLED SO MANY LIQUIDS!). Luckily, I'm not ethnic so security didn't stop me at any stage.

But I digress quite significantly. This is a food blog.

As per my usual strategy, I took a midday flight which got me to Melbourne at the exact time I needed to be able to check into my hotel and then hit a slightly late lunch which would be late enough to make me miss the normal lunchtime rush.

As this trip is planned around places that I haven't been to down here before, I hit up EARL Canteen, which escaped my grasp last time I was here.

Hungry (what's new) I go for two of their rolls: corned wagyu beef and duck confit. Unfortunately, their famed pork belly was sold out.

The wagyu beef roll is a legit corned beef roll, with a tops creamy horseradish sauce, pickled carrot and of course delicious corned beef.

The duck too is nicely eaten. Confit duck is a thing of beauty, so I wholeheartedly agree to it appearing in roll form. Here, with some sultanas, nuts, figs and lettuce, it's one of those delicious sweet, savoury combos.

Prices are pretty reasonably too, compared to Sydney CBD prices.

EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 19, 2012

RESTAURANT: The Tippling Club

I was totally taken with my visit to Melbourne's Der Raum bar last year, so I was super hyped for this trip to The Tippling Club, a fine-diner with dishes matched to Der Raum-esque cocktails (Der Raum creator Matthew Bax is also behind this place).

Kick things off with a cocktail, obviously. Superb balance of flavours, every single one of them.

I opt for the longer "gourmand" menu, which begins with a parade of snacks. There's vichyssoise in a sort of tube/spoon you drink from, a pot plant filled with truffle mousse and truffle salt, a deconstructed curry puff, a couple more, we haven't even hit the first course yet. They're all delicious and packed with flavour.

The food is unapologetically modernist, with chef's background at Vue de Monde showing, as well as a strong influence from the likes of WD-50 and El Bulli. A lot of people saw this style of food as a bit of a passing fad and moved on to the next fad of local/natural ingredients, but that completely ignores the simple fact that this food is ridiculously fun. I can't remember the last time I grinned like an idiot when I was given a sheer plate with nothing but an edible leaf that the chef found down the road.

A piece of scampi is served with noodles made out of dashi and some sea grapes. Like a rich bowl of ramen. Nice. The matched cocktail of sake, plum wine, citrus and honey is insanely refreshing and smooth.

Everything is served in the bar/kaiseki style, with the chefs coming out to the counter present dishes, closely followed by the bartender with the drinks. The kitchen is open, so you sit at the counter and watch it all unfold.

Foie gras beer is the sort of dish I was hoping for. A cylinder of foie gras contains a beer syrup and gets served with a crumble and some meringue. A nod to their friends at Sydney's Bentley, who have a similar dish. The dish wins because of the cocktail pairing, which is to the "fake blonde", a drink that looks like a white beer, tastes a like a white beer beer, but also includes tequila, ginger and lime.

A few more dishes follow and it's getting impossible to ignore the size of the flavours in each dish. Carrot gnocchi comes with a carrot broth that is intensely carroty and vinegared. Wagyu from Kagoshima is matched with spicey, tart umeboshi. But it's the main course, pork with milk skin and truffle puree that is the big finale. The fat of the pork only helps to carry the flavour of the hugely truffley, salty flavour of the puree.

While the flavours may be huge, the dishes work. Every element on the plate comes through and plays a roll.

The first dessert, though, is a real tester of your tolerance level. Poorly pictures above, is pretty much a huge, deconstructed licorice allsort, with the flavours all turned way up. Truly mammoth anise bombards the palate, egged on by sharp citrus. The puree on the plate is no relief: more anise. A sip of the cocktail to dilute the flavour? Forget about it. The van gogh is big on flavour too, combining absinthe, honey and rosemary. Thankfully, it all tastes awesome so the upped flavours are welcomed.

Still, I was happy that the final dessert of textured milk was a more relaxing affair.

All up, a top meal full of great drinks, great food and great service. As big on the flavour as it was on the fun.

The Tippling Club
8D Dempsey Rd

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Misc Singapore Eats

When the heat gets too much around here, cooling off quickly is a must. This cendol ice from Mei Heong Yuen in Chinatown was outstanding for both cooling off with and eating. It comes with a squirt bottle of palm sugar syrup so you can get the perfect level of sweetness with every bite.

Kaya, the thick, coconut egg jam, is a great way to start the day if you want to immediately feel sleepy again.

I headed to a nearby Ya Kun (a chain that specialises in kaya toast) to get my fix. Too add a bit of luxury/fat, I got it spread on french toast.

Speaking of things that are sweet and bready, this abomination is a fried hot dog bun, filled with matcha flavoured soft serve. Fantastic, basically. Should you too wish to embrace an early death, follow the sweet smell near Food Opera in the basement of the ION Orchard shopping centre.

Before coming to Singapore, you'll no doubt do a google search for "best hawker stalls" and/or "best chicken rice in Singapore". The results of said search will almost definitely include the hugely popular Tian Tian Chicken Rice in the Maxwell Food Centre. While the jury is still on out where the best chicken rice is in Singapore, the long lines (studded with tourists, since this place is popular with said lot) at this place every lunch time are a good indication of it's quality. Get there early and you won't need to wait long.

The skin is glossy and smooth, the meat tender, the soup and rice both deliciously fragrant. Mix it with the dark soy, chilli and ginger and you've got a damn fine meal. Just don't be a greedy fool like me and eat half a chicken all on your own as the entree to a lunchtime feast.

A few stalls down from Tian Tian is Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake. This is a must buy. $2 gets you a sensationally crisp and flavoursome fritter, stuffed with oyster and prawn. The filling is soft and smooth, the skin is perfectly crisp and a couple of nuts on top add a nice crunch.

Tastes great with a lime drink from the drinks stall opposite.

Also nice at Maxwell was the char kway teow at Marina South, the sardine and chicken curry puffs from Tanglin Crispy Curry Puffs and the drinks from the iced tea stand at the entrance.

Not too far away from Maxwell Food Centre, surrounded by a bevy of shit tourist shops, is the Chinatown Complex food centre. It's far bigger than Maxwell, with around 250 stalls offering up a massive selection of tasty things. It's almost overwhelming how much stuff is here.

Slightly overwhelming too is the general dinge of the place. With a roof over the head, disparate smells slam into eachother, strange puddles lurk around every bend, bowls are cleaned in water that has been used countless times and many surfaces appear highly questionable.

But get past that by telling yourself that it can get much worse in other places and there are some awesome choices on offer in a mostly tourist free environment. The old rule still holds true: the longer the line the better the food. That said, some of the longest lines are for some stuff that marginally adventurous white boys like me don't really want to go near.

In the midst of all of this, it's a little surprising to find a stall selling really bloody decent craft beer. Wash down whatever you're having with something from Rochefort, Rogue or Stone.

Or do what I did and opt for a beer made with delicious, delicious honeydew:

Finally a honeydew I can get fucked up on.

They also have some offerings from Jungle Beer, Singapore's own craft brewer. This stout is huge on the malt and would go great with some of the nearby food.

I'm a sucker for a steamed bun, so this one filled with otah (a paste/cake made from minced horse mackerel) captured my eye. Pungent and oddly pleasing. I got this from a stall at the basement of the Takasinaya shopping centre.


After a day spent eating and returning to the hotel room to digest, the prospect of dinner didn't sound too inviting, even if the venue was going to be Iggy's, perhaps Singapore's best regarded restaurant.

But I'm a trooper, so I sucked it up, showered off the shame (mental note: bring steel wool next time) and headed up Orchard Road to the Hilton.

I'm beginning to enjoy the heat of Singapore. A humid day in Sydney sticks out and makes you feel uncomfortable as the city layout forces you to walk long distances. Here, the constant heat is like a cross between an embrace from nature and a never-ending class of bikram yoga. But if you get tired of it, just head indoors and enjoy some air conditioning somewhere.

(there's an egg under there, somewhere)

So, Iggy's, right.

My old pal sea urchin is up first, paired with a cauliflower puree and ponzu jelly. Refreshing, cooling, smooth and rich all at once.

A couple of other snacks follow. Sushi, wagyu tartare, vacherin cheese on bread with a slice of truffle, a deboned chicken wing (nuts; so good). All are delicious and come matched with a sparkling sake.

The main courses are pretty much modern French with some Asian influences. Smeared sauces rule supreme.

Tomato with a gazpacho jelly is ridiculously clean in flavour and cooling right down to the soul (even washing away the remaining shame).

The foie gras dish is probably the only dish that is just "good". A poached section sits on a cube of deep fried tofu with sauteed rocket, a sherry reduction and some yuzu zest. It kind of reminds me of lemon chicken.

The next course is the one pictured above. A poached egg with some poultry jus and mushrooms is buried hitchhiker-like in a shallow grave of black truffle from Alba.

The main course of pigeon with lentils and an orangey beetroot puree/smear is well executed too.

Desserts are excellent. First is a dish of flowers with raspberry, yoghurt, lychee sorbet and lime. Super floral and tropical, it's paired brilliantly to a tokaji.

Then to a combination of a chocolate tart, hazelnut biscuit, coconut ice cream and some sort of meringue that may have had a helping hand from liquid nitrogen (the dish is presented still smoking).

Overall, a very high quality meal. It never gets too "modern" and leans more to just getting good produce and cooking it well with very strong, clear flavours.

Service is as expected for this sort of level of dining.

Food and wine will set you back around SPD$450, which is pretty reasonable considering the quality of the produce and how big the wine pours are (pretty much full glasses with every course).

L3, The Hilton
581 Orchard Road

Friday, March 16, 2012


Bang. Probably the most expensive meal I've ever had. By the time you add in decent booze, service, tax, etc, etc, you're up for around SPD$1k. Per person.

I've been super curious about this place since it opened. There are probably two commonly and mutually inclusive opinions held regarding Tetsuya's in Sydney:
1. There's no denying it was one of the most influential restaurants in terms of Sydney/Australian fine dining.
2. It's probably slipped a bit in recent years as its peers have pushed on from strength to strength.

So I find myself in the bullshit exorbitant casino cum hotel cum tourist-dollar-draining destination that is the Marina Bay Sands "facility" for Tets' omakase cum tepanyaki joint.

We start with two perfect oysters with finger limes, then move on to the above, sea urchin with marinated shrimp and osetra caviar. The signature dish of sorts. It's exactly as incredible as you think.

The restaurant is split into quasi private rooms that seat 4-6 people and have a dedicated chef that presents the food, cooks it, explains it, etc.

Our personal chef is first involved with the Alaskan king crab, steamed on a bed of rice with a simple lemon and olive oil dressing. Incredibly good crab, cooked perfectly.

Chef also smashes the Canadian lobster dish out of the park before we're presented with some squab (pigeon) with foie gras and black truffle risotto. Ridiculous combination of flavours, let down slightly by the temperature of the squab, which is starting to cool a little.

Wagyu heralds the return of chef, who cooks up the ridiculously marbled beef very quickly over the grill with a little seasoning. There's no real surprise that it melts in the mouth and freakin' explodes with flavour.

We finish with a chicken consomme with rice and snapper (great) and a glass of gyokuro green tea, which is served luke warm to emphasise the texture and flavour of the tea (also great).

With savoury out of the way we move into the sitting room for desserts of a blueberry cheesecake and a chocolate mousse cake.

Service is very good throughout, finding the balance between chatty and formal, depending on what the guest wanted.

Prices, as I mentioned above, are insane. It's $450 (I think) just for food, excluding tax, service charge and beverages. Without a matching wine offering you also have the opportunity to overorder on the booze, with a decent sake list offering significant temptation (the wine list I found a bit dull and in need of some more obscure/interesting choices).

My only gripe was that the meal felt a bit quick. Despite being in the chef's room for most of the meal, the chef only prepared 4 of the 10 courses in front of us and once it got going, it stopped. I left feeling quite full, but I think that perhaps a bit more time in the chef's room with an additional two or three courses would have been perfect.

Overall though, this dining concept absolutely smashes Tetsuya's Sydney offering. The experience is more visceral and engaging, whereas the Sydney restaurant is just one of many offering a similar thing. I understand that there are barriers to delivering something similar in Sydney, but perhaps there is a middle ground that can be found.

Waku Ghin
L2, Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Ave

Thursday, March 15, 2012


No culinary visit to Singapore can be completed without a serve of crab.

Along with Jumbo and No Signpost, Long Beach is held up as one of the best known seafood restaurants in Singapore specialising in Singapore chilli crab. All have multiple branches across the city. I choose the Long Beach at Dempsey, purely because it's closest. It's certainly not for the decor.

I couldn't decide between getting a black pepper crab or a chilli crab, so I decided to get both being the hungry/greedy guy that I am.

But first an appetiser. The very phallic geoduck clam, flown in live from Canada, sliced and stirfried with XO sauce. Delicious.

The crabs arrive and the staff are on hand to help out with extracting the meat from the shell, given that seeing someone struggle so badly with a crab is a somewhat saddening experience for them.

There's a rumour around these parts that the crabs get so big and fat because they eat the bodies that are ceremoniously buried in the river in Sri Lanka, where they come from. The system must work, because these crabs rock. Forget cremation. The future is CRABmation.

The black pepper crab is the first to be extracted. The crab is stir fried in a Sri Lankan black pepper sauce. Peppery, spicey, salty, slightly sour. And the crab is covered in it. Said crab is packed with sweet meat and matches perfectly with the sauce. It's excellent.

Next up, the famous Singapore chilli crab. One of the 432 national dishes of Singapore. This time the crab is every sweeter and more succulent. It bathes in huge bowl of tomatoey, eggy, spicey sauce. It's almost so good you could eat it on it's own. But you'd probably die, given how rich it is. Still, smash the crab, drown the side of fried mantou (bread sticks) and eat as much sauce as you need to clog your arteries and see God.

Wash it down with beer. Thank God for such an epic meal. Don't walk towards the light.

Long Beach @ Dempsey
25 Dempsey Road

BAR: JiBiru

I didn't want to be one of those lame tourists that uses Singapore's humidity as an excuse to down a beer every excuse he gets.

But across the road from the hotel I found a bar that specialises in Japanese craft beer. Sold.

JiBiru offers up a few beers on tap, as well as around 20 bottles in the fridge. It ranges from a few Japanese names (they're big on Hitachino Nest) to some other selections from the rest of the world.

This is the Nagoya Red Miso Ale from the Kinshachi brewery. Quite tasty. And, yes, containing red miso as the name suggests.

I was also quite excited to see this in the fridge (not on the menu):

It's the 3 Day beer from Hitachino Nest. Limited to 8000 bottles. During last years earthquake in Japan, the brewery got hit and had to be closed for 3 days. There was a beer that had already started brewing in that time, which meant the mashing period extended to 3 days, with the beer sitting inside a tank that had tilted. It caused a lactic reaction inside, which gives the beer a unique, fruity, sour flavour.

They also do food at JiBiru (yakitori sort of stuff), but I didn't give it a try.

I still have a few more days in Singapore. No doubt I'll be returning a few times.

JiBiru Craft Beer Bar
313 Orchard Road


Part of a franchise that has outlets around the world. Handily, located in the shopping mall out the front of my hotel.

Most people come here for the tonkatsu ramen.

It's not bad. Nice, porky broth, noodles with a good bite to them. Only one piece of pork that isn't quite fatty enough. Sydney's Gumshara slays it though.

They also have pork buns and shrimp buns that have a good wrap, so I gave them a go too.

Again, not bad. The buns are perfect, but both are a bit light on filling.

L4, Mandarin Gallery
333 Orchard Road

RESTAURANT: Shinji by Kanesaka

In some ways, Shinji by Kanesaka is the eponymous fine-dining restaurant in Singapore. Want stupidly good ingredients? Fly them in from Tokyo every day. Want a 2 starred chef to open a place? Fly him in. Just make sure it's all shiok because these locals are a picky lot.

While it may be located in the upmarket Raffles Hotel, you walk in an Shinji transports you to a small omakase den in Japan. You sit at the bench with a dozen or so other people in front of one of the sushi chefs and order one of the set menus. Of course, you have to go for the ultimate: the omakase shin menu. $450 just for food. Countless tastes and some fairly exotic stuff.

I was expecting a somewhat subdued and respectable feel to the place, but everyone is having fun, shouting across the room, drinking sake with the sushi chef.

The parade begins. Amazing, pristine sushi. One after the other. First sashimi, then nigiri.

Different cuts of the best tuna I've ever had in my life, including fatty tuna that just melts in the mouth. Two different types of sea urchin, arc shell clam, hairy crab, mackeral, lobster, codfish liver (insane. Similar to foie gras), abalone, prawns, insane blue prawn roe, sea eel, on and on and on.

One dish was just ridiculous. Earlier, chef served two types of sea urchin, from different coasts of Japan, and asked which I preferred. Here, he brings back my favourite, mixes it with rice, tops with tuna (I think) minced with daikon and tops that with salmon roe. Borderline tears.

It all concludes with a big wedge of the stupidly expensive Japanese musk melon. Similar to a honeydew, but impossibly ripe and juicy.

A tremendously memorable and enjoyable experience. Staggeringly good seafood. I'll be sure to return if I come back to Singapore.

Around $600 with sake.

Shinji by Kanesaka
L2, Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RESTAURANT: Restaurant Andre

As the date of departure grew closer, I was spending increasing amounts of my time thinking of how to describe what everyone had assured me would be the punishing heat an humidity of Singapore.

To arrive and find it only marginally irritating caused much confusion. I wasn't sweating out of strange places, I wasn't melting from within and I wasn't asking street vendors for water by pointing with a shakey, dehydrated arm.

Instead of suffering, I mostly spent my first day walking around, trying to put my finger on the smell that permeates much of the surrounds and wondering how my appetite would be on this trip.

The first night was spent at one of Singapore's well-known fine dining restaurants: Restaurant Andre.

You initially want to hate Restaurant Andre when you sit down and get bombarded with "The Octophilosophy", which is used as the basis to dictate the entire evening. 8 vague buzz words like "salt" and "artisan" frame each dish but the jury is out as to whether explaining the philosophy of a dish adds anything to it.

Nevertheless, you're told that there is only one set menu and get hit with a selection of appetisers sitting in an edible soil (garlic and chocolate), matched to a biodynamic, natural wine. The latter sets the tone for the meal, with all matching wines coming from small, natural producers in France.

The appetisers are, as expected, a bit of a riff on common dishes like fish and chips (a small piece of fish wrapped in potato), butter chicken (chicken skin with marsala spices) and patatas bravas (a small roasted potato topped with 2 sauces).

Then the first proper dish arrives and we get tentacle deep in the octophilosophy.

The dish is presented, the philosophy is explained, and the waiter adds "I hope you enjoy [buzz word]" before leaving.

As with most Singaporean restaurants, ingredients are pretty much entirely imported. One dish ("terroir") all comes from France.

Smoked eggplant with duck's tongues, fried salsify and smoked eggplant finally reveals what the smell of Singapore is. It's also a cracking dish.

It's later slightly amended with the eggs in the foie gras pudding with truffle sauce (a bloody good dish).

Seafood features heavily on the menu and one dish is a glorious presentation of the sea, with cured fish, roasted bass (?) and peach sorbet providing a nice hot/cold, sweet/savoury contrast, next to another plate with a sea urchin rice that comes topped with more seafood.

The chef's French learnings are reflected best in a dish focusing on artichoke, with an artichoke sauce, young barramundi, confit tomato, onion and oyster flower. The Japanese influence is also strong, with the dish an interesting balance between the richness of French food and the more pure flavours of Japanese cuisine.

Pictured above as a dish of a risotto made with finely chopped squid, cauliflower puree and crisps made with rice and dehydrated, charred vegetables. Great flavours and texture.

Wine matches work well for the whole meal and service is excellent throughout.

I wouldn't rate the food amongst the best I've had in the world, but it's certainly a good meal. The majority of dishes are very good, but I wasn't astounded much during the meal.

Cost is around $500 a head with the matching wines.

Restaurant Andre
41 Bukit Pasoh Road

Friday, March 09, 2012


Today is my second day of leave, of around 4 weeks. It's my first proper break from work since my European sojourn around 18 months ago. What am I going to do with my free time? Eat. Why did you even bother asking.

After using yesterday as a day to do nothing and get into the leave mode, I wanted to kick things off with an awesome lunch in Sydney. Where better than Sydney's most beautiful restaurant?

I've only visited Quay once, around 2-3 years ago. It is a meal I still consider to be one of my favourite of all time, but one that I haven't repeated because of how freakin busy the restaurant has gotten in the past 2-3 years as it rose up the ranks of the world's best restaurants.

Once again there is a massive cruise ship docked, getting between myself and the Opera House. But, again, it didn't matter: the view across a sparkling harbour on a crystal clear day was beautiful, calming, quietly thrilling.

The first dish was pretty puzzling. Raw marron sitting on a bed of grapefruit and green mango with a bergamot marmalade. Beautiful ingredients, but heavy on bitter citrus flavours. The matching wine is sweet and juicy, but still doesn't quite overcome the bitterness. It's not inedible by any means, but it's not a standout for my tastes.

From then on, it was simply mind-blowing. Every dish and every wine just got better and better and better.

The mud crab congee with palm hearts? It's different to how it was last time I visited, but it's still a dish of staggering depth and wholesomeness.

Lobster with squid, tapioca and lobster velvet? Beautiful to look at, better to eat. So many soft, silky flavours. It's one texture, split into multiple sub-textures.

Smoked and confit pig cheek with shitake, shaved scallop and crispy jerusalem artichoke? The best dish I've eaten in AGES. The pork is cut with the spoon and gloriously sweet. The shitake and scallop complement the flavours perfectly and the crisp artichoke adds some texture. It's made even better with the salty, oxidised flavours of the matched Or'Norm Sauvignon.

The slow-cooked quail breast with semolina and grains is glorious, rich, and a huge improvement on what I remember being an awesome dish last time.

The main of wagyu, bitter chocolate black pudding and oxtail consomme is perfectly executed, simple, rich, clean and stupidly good.

The snow egg is here to please the fans, and it definitely doesn't disappoint. But it's the other dessert--ewe's milk ice cream with caramel, prune, chocolate and vanilla milk skin--that is the dessert highlight for me. It's like a deconstructed Street's Vienetta or something, different crisp textures and a rounded group of flavours.

The food has evolved since I was here last. There's less on the plate, which only helps emphasise what's left. Everything feels more comforting and nourishing somehow. More natural, perhaps.

Service is pretty much what you'd expect from a place like this, but are a little more casual to match the feel of the place. People are happy to sit back, relax, have a laugh and take their meal slowly.

Since that first meal at Quay I've put it in the upper, upper echelon of fine dining in Australia. One of the top 3-5. This meal has changed none of that, Quay is still an absolute treat; a joy.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Quay on Urbanspoon