Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Restaurant Review: Bottega

Location: 74 Bourke St, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9654 2252
Link: bottega.com.au
Cuisine: Modern Italian
Overall Impression: 7/10
Located in the CBD, this little Italian eatery is a gem. Celebrating Modern Italian cuisine, the dishes are contemporary without losing the appeal synonymous with classical Italian robust flavours.
We arrived right on time and were promptly greeted by a lovely Maître d'. The restaurant was not surprisingly empty for a mid-week lunch. We benefited from this as the service we received was impeccable.
The dining menu is separated into 4 sections: Entrée, Pasta, Main and Sides. On this occasion, I decided to order pasta and a main.
High-end Italian restaurants usually serve good olive oil with bread and Bottega is no exception. The extra virgin olive oil was delicious. It made waiting for our dishes to arrive very enjoyable.  
House made ricotta gnocchi, cherry tomatoes, fava beans, burrata & light pesto $24

The ricotta gnocchi had the perfect texture. The ingredients were fresh and tasty. Commendably, the flavours in the dish were very well-balanced. It was a perfect summer dish.
Twelve hour roasted goat, burghul, mandarin, fresh dates, almonds, yoghurt dressing $38

The goat was incredibly tender and moist. The flavours were subtle but very pleasant. The only criticism I would make would be with regards to the condiments that were served with the goat. They were quite sweet and overpowered the subtle flavours of the goat when eaten together.
Bottega means “artist's workshop” in Italian – appropriate, given the culinary artwork produced.
Bottega on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nasi Lemak House

Location: 113 Grattan St, Carlton
Phone: 03 9348 1572
Link: nasilemakhouse.com.au
Cuisine: Malaysian hawker food
Overall Impression: 5.5/10

Mere minutes away from Melbourne Law School, J and I used to be regular customers at Nasi Lemak House. Now that uni life seems like a distant memory, we rarely visit. On our recent visit, it does not look like things have changed, the furniture looks the same and the menu is still heavily nasi lemak focused. The food always comes in more-than-you-can-finish portions and the service is always prompt. Nothing revolutionary but it certainly satisfies.
Right: Malaysian Loh Mein [$9.80] - Hokkien Noodles, Seafood and Chicken in a Rich and Sour Soup.
Left: Penang Char Kuay Teow [$9.80] - Stir Fry Flat Rice Noodles with Prawns, Cockles, and Beanshoots.

Nasi Lemak House on Urbanspoon

Golden Dragon Palace

Location: 363 Manningham Rd, Lower Templestowe
Phone: 03 9852 4086
Link: goldendragonpalace.com.au
Cuisine: Chinese, Yum Cha
Overall Impression: 6/10

I have visited Golden Dragon Palace for dinner on several occasions and have always been impressed with the food. My all-time favourite dish is their chilli crab. 

Last weekend, we all decided to visit Golden Dragon Palace for a yum-cha brunch.
There was a very good variety of yum cha dishes on offer. Everything was of a good standard.
Desserts: Egg Tart and Tau Fu Fah
Overall, this was a pleasant yum cha experience.

Golden Dragon Palace on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Restaurant Review: Fenix

Location: 680 Victoria St, Richmond
Phone: 03 9427 8500
Link: fenix.com.au
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Overall Impression: 4.5/10

Since the success of Master Chef, the "Gary Mehigan" brand is no stranger to the Australian public. Trading under the success of this brand is Fenix, a restaurant located in Richmond with beautiful surrounds. I have had the opportunity to visit Fenix in the past (April 2009) for a function and recall having a pleasant experience. Returning post the success of Master Chef on this occasion, we were interested to see whether the high standards Gary professes to uphold on the reality TV show translated into Fenix's offerings.
Harvey Bay scallops with cauliflower puree and bacon crumble
What we thought was the more aesthetically pleasing entrée turned out to be the disappointing one. The scallops were insipid and uninspiring. It was a far cry from the delicious "Half shell scallops with garlic aioli, panagrata" entrée I was served back in April 2009 (pictured below).
 
Fresh buffalo ricotta with Tempura zucchini flowers and preserved lemon
The tempura zucchini flower was delicious. The beautifully creamy ricotta complimented the tangy preserved lemon. The flavours were well balanced. It was a lovely dish.  
Roast baby snapper with pickled heirloom vegetables
The prosaic concoction of vegetables and snapper sat quite appetisingly on the plate. I was confident it would be quite a good dish. Unfortunately, the fish had not been sufficiently scaled, rendering the entire layer of skin inedible. To make matters worse, the vegetables were incredibly cold. Perhaps they were prepared much too far in advance?  
Sirloin of beef, hand cut chips, béarnaise
The most disconcerting dish of the night was certainly the steak. It was a clear case of how looks can be deceiving. Although the steak appears succulent and delicious, it was neither. Even though it had been cooked medium-rare, it was incredibly tough. I have never tasted such a rare looking steak that somehow managed to taste so dry and chewy. As we looked around the room, we saw that many had left their steaks almost untouched. It was a disaster.  
Chocolate fondant with star anise ice cream
The chocolate fondant was amazing! Decadent and rich, with warm chocolate oozing from the centre, it was a delight.  
Raspberry soufflé with white chocolate mousse
The soufflé was unfortunately far too sweet to be truly enjoyable. Whatever subtlety the raspberries would have given to the soufflé were unfortunately masked by the overpowering sweetness.

As a whole this was a disappointing dining experience. The menu was old-fashioned and unimaginative. As harsh a critic as Gary Mehigan is on Master Chef, it looks like the running of Fenix has not been subjected to his constructive critiques. And if it has, it does not appear like anyone is listening. I'm sorry Gary, but it’s time to leave the masterchef kitchen.

Fenix on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Restaurant Review: Walter's Wine Bar

Location: 12 Southgate St, Southbank
Phone: (03) 9690 9211
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Overall Impression:
After-work drinks (wine and canapes): 9/10
Restaurant dining experience: 6/10

J has become quite a regular at Walter's Wine Bar. Popping by for after work drinks, he is always impressed with the selection of wines they have on offer. The food that we had was unfortunately not as impressive as their wine list.
Glass of Virgin Hills [Cab Sav, Shiraz, Malbec, Merlot, 2000 Kyneton]
Cabernet & Blends Wine Flight 3 x 60ml $23
A half of 3 Cabernet Blends from 3 wonderful regions in Australia
Entree: Olives & bread $12
Entree: Roasted Hervey Bay Scallops with prosciutto, chilli and garlic butter $26
Entree: House made gnocchi with mushroom sauce, parmesan & white truffle oil $25
Entree: Blue swimmer crab omelette with watercress and oyster sauce $32
Main: The wine bar beef & pork burger, gruyere cheese, green tomato pickle, baby cos, fries and aoili $29
Main: Orange and cardomom glazed half roast duck with fondant potato and cherry sauce $42

The highlight of the meal was the duck. Although it was slightly over cooked, the flavour combinations were beautiful. The luscious pieces of sweet cherry contrasted deliciously with the rich and amply salty and tangy glaze. The portion size for this main was incredibly generous. It was literally half of a whole duck so the descriptions on the menu were by no means a spin on the truth.
Fish wrapped with filo pastry on a bed of tabouli $38
The fish was delicious and perfectly cooked.  And that tabouli was simply the best I have ever had. 
300g “Pure South” grass fed porterhouse, hand cut chips, red wine butter, pepper sauce 45
The steak was slightly overcooked. In terms of taste, it was incredibly ordinary. 
Even though there were clear shortcomings, all in all, it was an enjoyable meal. The level of service we received was impeccable and the staff members were particularly knowledgeable in terms of the wines on offer. However, the items on the menu are dear for what they are - with entrées around the $30 mark and mains around $40. I would therefore, enthusiastically recommend this restaurant for drinks (like I said, they have an impressive wine list!) and canapés after work but not for an incredible dining experience.
Walter's Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Restaurant Review: Terminus Hotel

Location: 492 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill
Phone: 03 9481 3182
Link: terminus.com.au
Cuisine: Steak House
Overall Impression: 8/10
The Terminus Hotel is an unassuming little pub that takes its steaks very seriously. The menu boasts an array of high quality meat selections.
Both J and I have been looking high and low for a good steakhouse that would satiate our carnivorous desires and were hopeful that the Terminus Hotel would be “the one”. J's best friend H.R. (known for his doing it live philosophy on life), had recommended the pub to us.
250g sirloin grain fed with pepper sauce cooked medium with beer battered chips $33.90
300g scotch fillet grass fed with horseradish cream cooked medium rare with hand cut chips $36.90
The steaks arrived promptly and they were absolutely perfect. Both the steaks we ordered were cooked to the way we had requested – Medium and Medium Rare. Each steak was perfectly seared on the outside and beautifully juicy and pink on the inside.
It was evident that the meat sourced was of a good standard and there was great pride and care taken in the preparation of the simple-looking but outstanding dishes.
Vanilla pannacotta with passionfruit sorbet $9.90
Eaton Mess $9.90

The desserts were slightly pedestrian but enjoyable nonetheless.
Desserts? Meh.
Steaks? Awesome.

Terminus Hotel on Urbanspoon


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Restaurant Review: Annie Smither's Bistrot & Produce

Location: 72 Piper St, Kyneton,
Phone: 03 5422 2039
Link: http://www.anniesmithers.com.au/
Cuisine: Classic French bistro with a twist
Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Upon entering the restaurant, the bar area is the first sight that greets you. The mood is upbeat and sexy. Within mere seconds, we were greeted by a welcoming Maitre d' who ushered us into the dining area. It is at once a lot warmer and calmer. The exposed brick interior design is natural and rustic, almost homely.
The wine list is not particularly large but there are a good variety of Australian reds on offer. To the restaurant’s credit, there is a lesser than usual mark-up on the wines. Perhaps this is a feature of country restaurants (we experienced the same thing when dining in Rutherglen).
Annie Smithers Bistrot stands out for its garden to table approach on food. We are told that about 90% of the food served is from their garden nearby.
Entree: Mushrooms $19.50
sauteed locally cultivated mushrooms, poached bantam egg, balsamic vinegar

This dish was beautifully simple. It reminds you of how delicious home-grown food can be. The flavours are far more intense and yet natural at the same time. The egg was perfectly poached, with luscious yolk oozing out from the piercing of its albumen by my knife. The mushrooms were palatable and the balsamic vinegar brought just the right hint of acidity to the dish. Simple and to the point.

Main: Fish $36
pan roasted snapper fillet, potato puree, spinach, blue swimmer crab bisque

The snapper was cooked to perfection. The skin was perfectly crisp and the flesh was tender and juicy. The blue swimmer crab bisque was intensely dense in flavour. It was heavenly.
Main: Duck $36
free range corn fed duck, confit leg, spaetzle, spinach, dijon mustard
Main: Lamb $36
slow roasted central highlands lamb leg, bean ragu, potato puree, rosemary

Some pieces of the lamb were unfortunately sinew-ridden. This was forgiven by the fact that the pieces that were not were mouth-wateringly good. It is pertinent to note however that this dish was particularly small compared to the other mains we had ordered, which was disappointing. 
Main: Gnocchi $36
chervil and tarragon, gnocchi parisienne, asparagus, broad beans, creme fraiche, parmesan
Overall, this was a very good dining experience. The calibres of the chefs were clearly on display in every dish we were privileged to devour. There was commendable attention to detail in terms of execution and every dish was well-balanced and full of flavour.

Annie Smither's Bistrot & Produce on Urbanspoon