Foodiefile

Independant Foodie reviews from Melbourne

Cutler and Co – Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant of the year 2010! September 5, 2010

Filed under: Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 7:09 pm

Before Cutler and Co was awarded Gourmet Travellers’ Restaurant of the year I had the fortunate opportunity to dine there with a few friends on a Friday night… For many months I’d wanted to be able to sample Andrew McConnell’s food, and although we lacked an excuse 2 friends and I were able to score a 6pm booking (although I am sure that has changed now)…

I arrived early and sat in the bar for a drink… A Campari and Blood Orange arrived, beaker and chopstick and all, and I sat back and enjoyed. It was a bottled juice unfortunately, and considering blood oranges were in season, I expected fresh juice… But it was certainly a good drink..

The restaurant has a style of modern art deco, with well turned wooden chairs and bar stools, contrasted with some amazing cloud lamps… The lighting in the restaurant is quite sublime and amazing… And it was a refreshing memory to see the floor staff having their scrum at the start of the evening, a good 20 minutes of tasting and discussion. And it turns out that they even knew I was coming from my email address…

My friends arrived and we took a seat at our table – Amazingly located with a clear view into the Kitchen. Iittala glassware (I also collect Iittala glass), silver cutlery and warm bread arrived – sourdough or rye mini loafs that were to die for…

We decided to partake in the Selection of Entrees as a starter which we expected to be a mezze plate of the dishes described by our amazing waitress, however turned out to be 3 full sized entrees!

We started with Cured kingfish, smoked onion, seaweed vinegar, beetroot and rye

A subtle dish of cured fish with Beetroot jelly, a crème fraiche quinelle, caviar and sticks of rye this dish was wondrous! The smoked onion puree was piquant and tasty. Overall a dish that worked very well for me…

Next arrived a small nibble of Chorizo with octopus on crostini – a lovely little bite with fresh flavours.

The second and third entrée’s arrived together – Mandarin Duck with a Carrot Salad.

The Mandarin duck was a plate of fast food delight in 3 parts! A piece of deep fried crisp duck leg – crisp and delicious on a bed of celeriac puree, a piece of very well smoked duck breast with a bed of puy lentils and a divine crispy foie gras cigar. This was one of my favourite dishes of the night

Raw, cooked and pickled carrot salad, walnut cream and skanklish was full of colour with orange, purple and yellow carrots in different stages with a crumbling of skanklish – which is an herbed dried and aged cheese from turkey made from cows or sheep’s milk. There were also little crunchy bits throughout the salad that we couldn’t work out what they were! They were fregula pasta that had been overcooked, dehydrated then deep fried! And they were awesome!

The selection of Entrée’s cost a modest $39.00 per person, and was worth every penny – however the whole table must partake.

Onto the mains!

Only two here as my friend Lisa and I had the same main, but Pip ordered the Confit ocean trout, wood grilled smoked bacon, mussels and leek.

This tasted like a soft hunk of warm smoked trout and was sublime. It appeared barely cooked with a big piece of shiny skin on top. The bacon was amazing, and the mussels and leek was a side casserole of fregula pasta with a creamy leek and mussel sauce – a dish on its own!

Lisa and I ordered the Slow Roasted Pheasant, Brussels sprouts, chestnuts and quince. A huge plate and worth every cent of the $48.00 I spent on it… A crisp crumbed drumstick, amazingly tender pheasant breast and little sausages made out of thigh fillet wrapped in bacon… This was a plate of utter delight; I love pheasant and wish I had better access to it here in Melbourne.

Now… By this time all three of us were well and truly full, we had enjoyed some lovely wine – a Rose from Bendigo, and I had just polished off a glass of Chablis from France which is delightfully available by the glass (HATE chardonnay, LOVE Chablis – who would have guessed)

So… even though all 3 of us were so full we still went for dessert. We couldn’t decide which ones, so decided to share 3 different ones…

Firstly – Violet ice cream, chocolate ganache, sour cherry and clove meringue.

I have never tasted a violet ice-cream, and to have the experience of eating a flower and then breathing out through your nose and smelling the flower is quite a thrill. The sour cherry was sour and jammy, and the puffs of soft walnut “foam” contrasted, but felt un-necessary for the fulfilment of the dish…

Yogurt Cream, hazelnut, mandarin & carrot granita was next with brightly flavoured carrot ice, mandarin segments, shaved carrots were contrasted by a yogurt “junket” and hazelnut crumbs… A lovely light dish that cleansed all of our palates.

Friends had advised me to try the Chocolate Ice-cream sandwich, vanilla parfait and salted caramel. Appearing like a piece of dense hazelnut cake with a scoop of chocolate ice-cream on top it turned out to be the most sublime vanilla ice-cream encased in dark rich chocolate cake and a quinelle of chocolate ganache on top – A fantastic dish but the violet ice-cream was still my favourite.

To end the evening, Pendro Ximenez sherry each and a piece of fudge – with dehydrated passionfruit and black salt – a lovely ending.

How do I rate the meal? Well it was definitely one of the best meals I have had ever… And it cost less than I expected! Exemplary service – a special note for the bar staff, and Gadijah on the floor. Will I be back??? I booked again the day after for Sunday lunch at the end of October…

A deserved restaurant for Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant of the year and highly recommended, however, please note they book out on Friday and Saturday nights up to 2 months in advance.

Cutler and Co
55 – 57 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC

P: 03 9419 4888
W: http://www.cutlerandco.com.au

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Warung Agus – A Balinese paradise in West Melbourne July 19, 2010

Filed under: Places to Visit,Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 8:36 pm
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I have long been a fan of Warung Agus in West Melbourne from a school trip in Year 10 where we all went to this gorgeous little restaurant as part of our Indonesian class. Although I have been back many time, I decided that I would go and have a banquet as part of my Birthday celebrations.

Warung Agus is a family owned and operated restaurant that has been open since 1989 and is traditional Balinese cuisine – and some of the best I have ever tasted, and that includes the “warungs”  I have personally visited in Bali!

The Banquet comes under 3 options – vegetarian, with meat or with seafood. Starting at a very reasonable $40 a head, this six course meal really captures the smells, flavours and textures of the island of Bali.

Now a forewarning… Warung Agus is a low light environment, so the photo’s, unfortunately, are not up to my usual standards.

Dish 1 – Krupuk Sinkong and Krupuk Udang – Shrimp and Cassava crackers served with peanut sauce. These were so yummy – not over oily, but crisp, fresh and very good with the satay sauce. Served also with a yummy lemongrass and shallot sambal, and a very firey chilli sauce! Both house made!

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Dish 2 – Apokat Mebasa Santen – Avocado with a Mushroom and Coconut sauce.
I have never tried anything like this in my life. Raw Avocado (the best way to ruin avocado is to cook it) with a delicious, rich crème over the top = this dish was amazing!
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Dish 3 – Sate Ayam – Chicken Satay
Everyone must have tried satay at some time.. My favourite has always been BlokM in Commercial Road –  however  these satays were to die for!! I could have eaten 2 plates myself – but alas I had to share and also had more food coming…
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Dish 4 – Mie Goreng – Vegetarian Noodles
A lovely tart/sour  version of a classic Mie Goreng… Went very well with Dish 5 – and they were served together
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Dish 5 – Be Pasih Asem Manis – Pan fried Flathead
The tables favourite dish of the night, a yummy curry like sauce over firm, perfectly cooked flathead fillets… none of this dish was left by anyone… it was amazing
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Dish 6 – Babi Guling – Roast Pork
My hands down favourite of Warung Agus (see my review of the Hawkers Market)  and it as usual didn’t disapoint except that I was too full and had to leave some on the dish! Served with a lemongrass sauce, this crispy skinned pork is the bomb… with a small salad of green vegetables and coconut.. Next time – I just want a plate of this!!!
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What did we drink? Bintang of course – just to take me back to swimming pools in bad resorts in Seminyak and Kuta – but the food took my mind to the hills, to memories of lunches in village homes or eggs and sambal, to kopi susu – strong mud like coffee served with sweetened condensed milk, that is strangely so yummy.

I would recommend Warung Agus anytime… They are only open Thursday to Sunday nights, but make sure you book as they get busy!

Also – in August they are also offering cooking classes on a Tuesday – I am unsure of the cost, but if you have a love for spicy but not hot food – this may be the class for you! Call them quick to enquire, as I am sure they will be a sellout!!! Or at least get a good Indonesian Book like Sri Owens “Indonesian Food” here

Warung Agus
305 Victoria Street
West Melbourne
Phone 03 9329 1737
Website: http://www.warungagus.com.au

 

Noodle Kingdom – High Street Preston July 18, 2010

Filed under: Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 7:27 pm
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So I’ll set the scene. I read Epicure every Tuesday from front to back, and I am one of those readers that go “Oh there is another restaurant I need to try” when there is a review that is good…

Well… March comes by and there is a review by Nina Rousseau of a noodle place around the corner from home (seriously…. A 4 minute walk) and that just was too good an opportunity to miss…
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Arriving, the restaurant was fairly quiet and we started with some dumplings. We decided to go for the pan fried pork dumplings – one of my favourites. I should have become concerned when the menu’s included photographs for every single dish…
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They were fried beautifully on one side – the other sides had no browning on them, and were tasteless… There was no punch of ginger, or shallots… just pork that was slightly dry… thank god for the vinegar.

Moving on, we ordered a soup with Ma Po pork. The bowl was enormous… It was big enough for 3 people! While the sauce had a great balance of sweet, sour and chilli, it was just way too big!
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I think I ended up only eating about 1/5th of the dish!
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My partner ordered a stir fried noodle dish with beef. I am not sure how this dish was cold since it arrived last, but it was! The noodles were only half cooked, and the dish quite cold!
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Maybe we got them on a bad day, but for a restaurant reviewed in Melbourne premiere weekly food magazine – I don’t understand how they deserved the review! Sorry folks – not a restaurant I would recommend nor return to. The service was sloppy, the hygiene in the noodle area appeared to be poor, and cold noodles indeed!

Noodle Kingdom
469 High Street
Preston VIC 3072
Phone: 03 9478 8885

 

A Melbourne Foodie in Sydney – Part 3 – Surry Hills and Waterloo

Filed under: Places to Visit,Restaurant Reviews,Travel — foodiefile @ 3:37 pm
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Part 3 of my trip to Sydney, not forgetting a trip with a shocker of a cold… I had to at least breeze past the windows of foodie mecca’s I would have loved to visit if I had actually any taste buds…

Starting from Oxford street I started a walking tour of restaurants I would want to visit… Walking down Crown street, Billy Kwong, Marque and Bills Food form an impressive trio in what would otherwise be a very boring and ordinary building.

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Billy Kwong was closed for lunch, but impressive to at least wander past, and I pulled up for brunch at Bills Food. As much as I find Bill Granger intolerable as a TV Chef, (he smiles way too much) his simple recipes and food are amazing. I was amazed that his brunch menu, however, was so focused on carbohydrate and very little protein. I sat down to Toasted Apple, dried cherry and almond loaf with fresh ricotta and a coffee. Well toasted, sweet bread with a perfect combination of textures and flavours, and the ricotta with honey gave that little bit of sour and sweet that the bread needed to not be too dry. The only downside was that the toast was served on a serviette, which I have never really understood, as I never like wiping my hand with a slightly damp, warm serviette.
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I would go back to bills in 5 seconds, however the clientele was quite right wing and conservative and as it was a Tuesday morning, the majority of people were either ladies who lunch or business men. Bill Grangers new cookbook – “Bill’s Basics” is also about to be released – pre order it here

Bills Food
359 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW
02 9360 4762
Website

Next on my walking tour – Fratelli Fresh in Danks Street, Waterloo. Just down the road from the Danks Street Depot, it is a warehouse style shop, similar to many shops in Melbourne.
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I walked into this warehouse, which was poorly signposted with forklifts gliding through. Not only did I think I was in the wrong place, I was concerned for my safety! After asking someone where it was, I was told it was down the back of the warehouse! (Why not the front??). As soon as I walked in, rather than being presented with a “Hello” or “Welcome” the girl that seemed to be the manager on duty just came over and clearly said “We are a no photo premises”.

I felt majorly unwelcome. So suffice to say, I don’t have any photo’s, nor a good experience from Fratelli Fresh. The store was average – most things I can usually buy from other shops in Melbourne with the only stand outs in Finger Limes and Clementine Mandarins. Whilst this store showed so much promise, I could not believe they would be so rude to a prospective customer as soon as they walked in the store!

Fratelli Fresh
7 Danks Street
Waterloo
Website

I moved on quickly from this poor experience up Bourke street to one of my Mecca visits – The Bourke Street Bakery!
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Whilst Bourke Street Bakery is one of the smallest shopfronts I have ever seen for a bakery, I opted for two tartlets – the Rhubarb and Almond Tart ($4.00), and the Strawberry Crème Brulee tart ($4.40). Both tats were amazing, but the stand out was the Crème Brulee tart was absolutely amazing, with a hard crusty top and a delicate filling – worth every single penny! See my previous review of the Bourke Street Bakery Cook book here and you can buy the cookbook here at a bargain price
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Bourke Street Bakery
Bourke Street
Waterloo

Next blog… my travels in Woollahra…

 

A Melbourne Foodie in Sydney – Part 1 – Chinatown May 29, 2010

Filed under: Places to Visit,Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 5:46 pm

I have long been a pessimist regarding the food scene in Sydney, however I am willing to be proven wrong. I have been told that Melbourne’s amazing strips of restaurants don’t exist in Sydney, nor does affordable food… Well, I went up wishing to prove these points wrong.

Although I was bestowed with a shocker of a cold, I was determined that nothing was going to stop me at least trying to prove these points wrong, and to visit some points of joy… I had my intentions set – to visit a Bill Granger Restaurant, Bistro Môncur, Donna Hay, and possibly Christine Manfield. Some things had to be dropped due to my snotty nose and lack of taste, so I dropped Bistro Môncur and Christine Manfield for my next visit later in the year.

I spend a lot of time trawling Chinatown in Melbourne – we are very spoilt. Sydney has a much smaller presentation in the city, however some good food could still be found… One morning I was walking through wondering what to have for breakfast at 8am in the morning, and found a Yum Cha restaurant open! Never one to turn down pork or yum cha no matter what the time – I visited and enjoyed every second…

Moist Siu Mai, Bean Curd rolls filled with prawn and mushroom, and prawn dumplings were selected, and although this was a $20 breakfast, it filled me for the rest of my day wondering the streets of the city…

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Another great area was a food court across the light rail from Chinatown in “Market City” – this is above Paddy’s market – a vile tourist experience like Sundays at the Queen Victoria Market. The food court has some great little noodle houses offering a wide range of food that reminds me of the food court that used to be in the basement of the Welcome Stranger hotel in the city in Melbourne. I will definitely be visiting here next time I visit!!!

 

La Luna Bistro Coldstream Hills Restaurant Express March 28, 2010

Filed under: Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 8:11 pm

I have already reviewed my $35.00 lunch at taxi, and now for the other restaurant I couldn’t resist for the Restaurant Express – La Luna. La Luna is easily my favourite restaurant at the moment in Melbourne, and every time I have been we have had a wonderful experience both food and service wise.

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Firstly it is great to be remembered at a restaurant, and as we sat down to wait for our booking time we drank our usual glass (bottle) or Ormarine and sucked in the sun. La Luna was busy offering 3 options for both Entree, Main and Desert. As there were 3 of us we decided to have one of each dish on the Entrees and the Mains, but opted to skip desert just this once!

So onto the prize – the food… The entree choices were:

Cottechino with white bean puree, olive oil and garlic,
Smoked Salmon Salad with Apple and Horseradish cream, or
Lentil Soup (ok we opted to skip this as I eat it all through winter, and we thought that with Cottechino being on offer, we needed two of them!)

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The Cottechino was amazing. I have heard Adrian talk of saving his pigs heads to make this sausage, which features a boned out pigs head with 2 pigs tongues. It was a decent single slice of sausage, served on creamy bean mash and excellent oil drizzled. I could have eaten many of these as they were so yummy and not as rich as black pudding.

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The other entree we had was a Salmon Salad. On a bed of horseradish cream, this salad was out of this world! No dressing, just Salmon, julienned apple with flat leaf parsley, chives and baby capers, it was light and delicious!

Main courses on offer were:
Bull boar sausages
Lamb and pine nut filo pie, or
Gnocchi with Mushroom cream

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The Bull Boar Sausages were three densely packed sausages with delicious mash, jus and a simple salad of flat leaf parsley with sweated red onion. Amazing sausages with a good kick of fennel. The Jus was very light and well clarified. These are on the usual menu, and they are far more than bangers and mash!

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The Lamb pie was intensely fragrant, wrapped in icing sugar dusted filo pastry was slow cooked lamb shoulder (I think) , spinach, pine nuts and a good kick of cinnamon. It was served on Labne with coriander shoots (which I had never seen before). My fellow diners thought that the pie was a little light on flavour, however I loved it and would make it for my work lunches anytime (and I will but maybe as empanadas)

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The gnocchi was my first disappointing dish I have had at La Luna. The plate contained 6 luscious soft gnocchi with a runny cream sauce, mushrooms and a truffle pecorino. I couldn’t taste the truffle (but I am also a dirty smoker) and I thought the dish needed more salt. The cream was too runny for me, and felt a little like a soup with gnocchi.. It was an ok dish, however could have been better.

The deserts included a Brulee, a Panacotta or a piece of Petit Livarot (one of my favourite cheeses) however we practised self control and left very happy.

 

Taxi Dining Room and a $35 2 course lunch experience…

Filed under: Restaurant Reviews — foodiefile @ 7:09 pm

I would be a fool to think I wasn’t lucky to live in Melbourne. Sunday is never sleepy in Melbourne and as I sit outside Transport at Federation Square to have a pre-lunch drink I am surrounded by the Thai Celebration Festival with food stalls all along the Yarra River, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival is on across the square at ACMI and there is wine tasting and a craft market just on the other side of the bridge. A 2 course lunch inside with views of all this action for only $35 including a glass of wine was an exciting thought…

So as I said we met at Transport downstairs from Taxi Dining Room. Transport is a pub and it used to be a fun place to hang out. I was greeted when I arrived by a bar tender who seemed to be bothered by my existence. I asked for a wine list (not expecting too much) and joked with him that he couldn’t get the wine list opened as it was so sticky – his response was a deadpan “Its sticky from last night” – he could have bothered to go get a not so sticky one! He handed me a dirty glass with wine in it, took my money and return my change without a word, nor any eye contact.

All I can say when Paul Mathis owned this joint – the staff were friendly. I won’t be back to Transport… but onto Taxi Dining Room…

So we went upstairs, were greeted warmly at the door, and placed at our window seat table (almost every table has a window seat with the format – which works really well!

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We started with Campari and Soda’s and the hottest darkest Bloody Mary I have ever seen! (It was also really good – just needed Horseradish root for my palate). There were 2 choices for each course. Entree was either Country Terrine with Foie Gras and peach compote. The plate was well presented, and the Terrine was moist, flavoursome and had a good chunk of Foie in the middle. To the side was the peach compote and a Rabbit Rillettes. It was a perfect size, but didn’t come with any bread or toast.
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The Rillettes was great, but mine had a knuckle joint in it. I commented to our waiter, who already through our order taking had said he was both deaf and dumb – although he wasn’t either, that the knuckle was there. I said it wasn’t a problem for me, as I know where meat comes from but that the rillettes tasted as good as mine – but don’t tell the kitchen. The waiter returned from the kitchen saying that the chef said “Meat comes from an animal and animals have bones” and that he “invited me to bring my rillettes’ in if I thought it was as good as his”. 2 points – I am a huge foodie and I also worked as a chef many years ago… Uncalled for.

The other entree offered was Brandade filled Zucchini flowers with a green papaya salad. I didn’t get to try this but photo below! It looked great!

Ok onto the main courses. I ordered the Crispy Szechwan duck with lime pickle, Vietnamese salad and Sesame Tamarind and my friend Carolyn ordered the other option of Fillet of Atlantic Salmon with Sorrell and King Prawn salad and a shellfish dressing, and our intention was to share them together.

The duck first. It was an amazing dish – the lime pickle was phenomonel however the duck was rabidly overcooked, unless the chef serves this dish Well Done, which would suprise me.

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The salmon, served Medium when we ordered Medium Rare, was the dish to chose. The mash underneath the salmon what shellfish heaven and the Sorrell salad worked very well to break the oil in the fish. An awesome dish that I would eat anytime!


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Desert time. Choice of two, but we all chose one of them. The dish we didn’t choose was a chocolate tain with passionfruit foam. Great dish, but the other choice was a Layered pannacotta with Raspberry Coulis and Vanilla foam – this won us all over.

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The Pannacotta was perfect, the bottom layer was rich raspberry coulis, rich and tart, followed by a very plain, rich pannacotta – which was perfect. Next a layer of firm jelly, followed by crumbs and foam. The foam was supposed to be Vanilla foam; however we are sure it was the passionfruit foam! The crumbs were perfect and the dish as a whole – I wanted two more!!!

The service on this day left a little to be desired. Humour is great from a waiter when it is humour, but when humour doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work when it is at the expense of the guests. We all enjoyed our meal despite the food being over cooked and the service poor. Michael Lambie and the team obviously have great talent putting together the menu, however the team today were obviously either past the point of caring about the Coldstream Hills Restaurant Express menu, as it was the last day the special was offered, or we caught them on a bad day. Either way, I will definitely be back!