Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Matteo's - Fitzroy - Raymond Capaldi- Portuguese

Name: Matteo's

Address: 533 Brunswick St
Fitzroy 3068 VIC
Phone: (03) 9481 1177

Food: ModOz, European (Portuguese for tonight only)
Average price: Entree: $15-$20, Mains: $32-$39, Dessert: $16
Degustation menu: 7 courses, $85
Set menu: 3 courses, $78

We enjoyed ourselves so much the last time that we couldn't resist coming back for the second round of the Extended Vacation with Raymond Capaldi - tonight's theme was Portuguese.

Complimentary: Bread with butter.

The bread was soft with a chewy crust, although the butter was a little cold and I tore a hole in my bread, so I just cut thick a slice of butter and chewed away happily.

We ordered the 3 course set menu ($60 pp - I had vegetarian one) plus 3 starters and 2 sides :

Starters: Char-grilled eggplant, chilli, olive oil - $10

I have to start off by saying that myself and my family are hopeless when it comes to spicy food, we can't hack much at all before our eyes are watering and our mouths are on fire. I had to mention our very low 'heat tolerance' as tonight's menu was indeed spicy and had a helluva kick, so what we might think hot, others might think is mildly pleasant.

The eggplant had a lovely firm but tender texture and was delightfully tangy - it was also super hot/spicy. We scraped off the actual chilli slices and it was still a little spicy, but we all enjoyed them and finished them off, mouths on fire or not.

Pickled octopus, potato, tomato, red wine - $12

I should have remembered that no one really likes octopus in my family before ordering this for them. The said it was nice, but as they aren't octopus fans they didn't love it.

Braised pork ribs, orange sauce, bay leaves - $16

This looked yum. My family was hesitant to pick them up and eat the ribs with their hands, so they didn't get much meat off with their forks. My dad actually raved the most about the orange, he really liked the orange slices. The proportion was very generous, even for four people.

Entree: Sopa de Pedra - Red kidney beans, ham hock, choriouco, onion, coriander and a piece of 'stone':

The meat eaters on my table all enjoyed this. I love the take on 'stone soup' - the stone in question was actually a potato cooked in squid ink(?). My husband said the soup was full of flavour and thought that the choriuco went superbly with the soup, he didn't love the ham hock as much - my dad was also hesitant about the ham hock, perhaps because he doesn't tend to go for meat he can't identify. This was a great way to get my husband to eat some veggies.

Caramelised cos lettuce with mayonnaise, cheese (Parmesan?) and baby broad beans (?)

I must try to get more information out of the waiters regarding my veggie dishes that aren't on the menu as I am shocking when it comes to identifying food (there's a lot I have never had before, tiny green broad beans being just one example).
As I said to my husband when he made a smart arse remark about my 'lettuce' - this has to be the tastiest lettuce dish I have ever had. I have eaten a few cooked lettuce dishes before and none of them were as tasty as this. The lettuce had a mild sweet bitterness which gave way to
the salty cheese and then the creamy, tangy mayonnaise before the little green beans came though at the end with their mushy sweetness. The flavours and textures were well balanced and it was creamy and tangy and sweet - and not at all greasy.

Sides: Squashed potatoes baked with piri piri seasoning - $8

These potatoes weren't so much 'squashed' - but they did have a lovely, spicy crunchy skin with a soft, fluffy potato centre. Once again I had to scrape off the bits of chilli otherwise they would have been too spicy for me and I wouldn't have tasted the salty, flavourful seasoning and enjoyed them as much as I did. Unfortunately dad missed a piece of chilli and ended up with it hitting the back of his throat - he was too scared to try another after downing two glasses of
water to cool his mouth off (we really are hopeless with the hot and spicy food variety).

Steamed clams, beef and pepper sauce - $8

These were the cutest little things (I don't eat seafood though, apart from the occasional fish fillet). I was told they were hot, but pepper hot, not chilli hot. Everybody was holding their bellies at this stage so not many of these little suckers got eaten.

Mains: 'Bife a Lisbon' - Braised ox, garlic confit, parsnip puree, coffee jus

My husband was a little disappointed at first as he has eaten braised ox a few times recently and he wanted to try something else. However - as soon as he tasted the dish his former complaints of 'more braised ox' were quickly forgotten. As can be expected the meat was succulent 'fall off
the fork' tender. The garlic was soft and sweet and he loved the parsnip puree so much he mistook it for his favourite vegetable, the potato (his palate is easily confused). He couldn't taste the coffee but once again, everyone at the table enjoyed the dish - my dad literally devoured his in seconds despite being 'full' from the previous courses.

Vegetables with malt soil

The vegetables were perfectly cooked - there were potatoes, courgettes, carrots, celery leaves, onions, leeks - a lovely selection. They were covered in a creamy, herb emulsion with a generous dusting of coffee-like (but less bitter) crunchy malt soil. Tasty, interesting and light.

Dessert: Dates, figs, almonds & meringue 'Sighs'

We were all clueless as to what this dessert would be, but when we caught a glimpse of the neighbouring table's plates we suddenly forgot how 'full' we were and rubbed our hands with glee.
As I've mentioned before I find some fruits and vegetables too sweet for me, dates are in that category. The date's sweetness was counterbalanced by the ground almonds, crunchy, chewy meringues and soft cream. I did prefer the figs to the dates though. They weren't as sweet and they had this deep 'redwine-ness'
about them. Ryan professed his love of the 'caramel; sauce about a million times. The dessert was well balanced in terms of flavour and differing textures, everybody thoroughly enjoyed this dessert.

Cost: $329 - four 3 set course meals, 3 starters, 2 sides, 1 Pilsener beer ($8), 2 sweet white wines ($27).

Service: Good - our mains lingered a little long on our table and some didn't say what the dishes were but apart from that everything went smoothly. We were lucky enough to have a little chat with the chef himself, Raymond Capaldi before leaving. He's quite charming and funny, twas a lovely little chat (and who doesn't love listening to a Scottish accent).

Atmosphere: Relaxed. The restaurant is quite dark with wood panelling, Asian gold wallpaper, and dim lighting. There was some colourful artwork behind us which complimented the red lampshades and large light hangings. The atmosphere was quite chilled, with minimal noise and wells paced tables. The main room was a little on the cold side though, perhaps because of the big storm that preceded our night (30 or so people cancelled because of the atrocious weather).

Parking: Ample. We went on a Tuesday night at 7pm, there was plenty of unlimited parking right in front of the restaurant.

Website: http://www.matteos.com.au/

Hours: Sun-Fri noon-3pm, daily 6pm-10pm

Would I return: Yes - to yet another Raymond Capaldi evening held at this restaurant.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Persimmon - Melbourne - NGV

Name: Persimmon at the National Gallery of Victoria

Address: Ground Level, NGV
180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Call NGV and follow prompts - 8620 2222

Food: ModOz
Average price: Entree - $16, Main - $27, Dessert - $15.

Complimentary: 4 pieces of bread with butter.

I absolutely loved the chewy, salty bread with a little brioche-like sweetness. The seeded one was there again as well as a new salty one, not sure what was in it but Ryan loved it.

Apple & quince mousse layered pastry with cinnamon ice cream, caramel & honey foam

Beautifully presented in golden hues with soft pink quince mousse. The pastry was flaky yet sweetly crisp whilst the mousse was feather light and gave way to the sticky caramel and cinnamon ice cream which dissolved to the crisp tart apple. The foam fills your mouth with the faint sweetness of honey. It was light, sweet with tart overtones and a mixture of textures.

We ordered:

Entree: Salt cod, smoked salmon, apple, radish, lemon & dates - $16

Ryan ordered this and was drooling at the sight of it. The salt cod was accompanied with shave salmon, sliced, crisp apple and radish, plump salmon roe, lemon and date puree and basil oil.

Salad of pumpkin ribbons, blue cheese, compressed pear, hazelnut dressing - $15

Soft pumpkin ribbons and cubes with hazelnut emulsion underneath roasted hazelnuts, with punchy blue cheese and pear. Sebastian enjoyed this but found that the blue cheese overwhelmed the other flavours for him.

Tart tatin of Jerusalem artichokes, beetroot bavarois, lentils, sherry vinegar caramel - $16

Once again chef Terry has knocked me off my feet with amazing visual presentation - the colours alone are gorgeous, that fuchsia just sings to my girlish heart. The beetroot bavarois was lusciously airy with soft earthy sweetness filled by the the nutty caramelised artichokes and pastry. The earthy salty lentils with carrots then kick in followed by the sweet beetroot slices (the waiter said there was a grape chutney but I don't think I tasted grape) and finished with a hint of bitter, tangy sherry caramel. The violet flower also contributed a grassy note. Fan-bloody-tastic dish, not sure whether I love this or his previous watercress bavarois dish more, tough choice.

Mains: Potato & herb gnocchi, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and pecorino crumble - $23

Gnocchi is always hard to get right - this nailed it on the head. The gnocchi was soft yet had a crunchy outer coating, the soft potato with a hint of herbs gave way to the smooth, sweet brussel sprout puree and gently wilted leaves followed by the strong and crunchy pecorino cauliflower crumble. My husband who is/was an adamant brussel sporuts hater asked for two mouthfuls, after which I told him he had just eaten brussel sprouts - I don't think this will be the last time he eats brussel sprouts now.

18 hour braised lambs neck, smoked hay, celeriac chips, broccolini, tarragon
emulsion - $27

Sebastian ordered this expecting tough meat which he is sued to, imagine his surprise to find the lamb's neck flaking away at mere prods of his fork. The meat was tender and rich which was lightened by the airy tarragon emulsion. It had a broccolini/onion(?) gremolata sprinkled on top with fat celeriac chips underneath. The well-informed waiter told us that the lamb had been cooked for 20hours at 90C and that the hay was organic and pesticide free.

Pigeon & Manchego Empanada, pickled carot puree, quince and almond - $28

Ryan raved about this. It had dutch carrot puree, the empanada was also stuffed with the quince and almond and well as an almond dust and quince puree(?) on the plate. The filling was plentiful and full of flavour.

Desserts: Chestnut ginger cake, millet porridge, roast pear, ginger sorbet - $15

I wish I hadn't eaten so much as by this stage my belt was on it's last loop and I was moaning away. However, when presented which such a sweet looking dessert I let out a few burps to make room and tasted away. This to me was Winter personified in a dessert - heavy, rich, warm, filling. The cake was moist but dense and tended to monopolise the other gentler flavours. The millet porridge was silky and chewy, with a soft milky sweetness and a touch of saltiness. After that the juicy, crunchy pear came through followed by a mere hint of ginger from the incredibly soft, almost like a snowball ginger sorbet. There was also two cloyingly thick purees, perhaps pear and chestnut that reminded me of baby food (I must admit that I continued to buy the custard and purees long into my teenage years) they were nice but not needed amongst the other flavours. The flowers were too overpowering so I left one aside. Overall it was lovely but much too much for me after eating so many meals, definitely not a 'light' dessert.

Chocolate brownie, pistachio cream, griotte cherry gel - $15

Adapted from last season's brownie this is not as fudgy with a light pistachio cream and tiny splodges of cherry gel, I cannot remember what the crushed dust was. Sebastian enjoyed this and as someone who doesn't like overly chocolaty desserts he ate it all.

Caramelised orange brulee, burnt orange ice cream, marmalade - $15

Ryan really enjoyed this, even though he doesn't like custard type dishes. The custard was light but perfectly smooth with a soft orange flavour and the ice cream was also softly bitter, which I liked but Ryan was hoping for more bitter marmalade like the lemon tart I had previously. Ryan really felt this dish came into its own when eaten with the fresh citrus segments which spurted fresh juice when eaten and cut through and livened up the orange flavours in the custard and ice cream.

Cost: $150 for 3 entrees, 3 mains, 3 desserts and 1 complimentary dish. There was a special that had two courses for $35, which we did plus the full cost of each dessert.

Service: Perfect. The service is always flawless aside from one waitress, the staff knew every detail about the dishes.

Atmosphere: Great. The window seats are lovely as the booth seating is very comfy and the view of the gardens is really calming. It can get a little noisy when full but the tables are well spaced. The dark interior helps to frame the gorgeous outside surroundings.

Parking: Limited as car spots are generally taken - although a tram runs along St Kilda rd, and Flinders station is not far down the road. We managed to get a car park a block down the road and there are side streets you might get lucky with. There is also underground gallery parking which is $12 for non-members.

Website: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/ngvinternational/persimmon.html

Hours: Daily 11am to 4pm (except Tuesdays).

Would I return: Yes. Our 6th trip and still counting.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Deanery - CBD

Name: The Deanery

Address: 13 Bligh Pl
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Phone: (03) 9629 5599

Food: ModOz,
Average prices: Entree: $8-$21, Mains: $39-$42, Dessert: $16-$17
Set menu: 2 courses - $45, 6 course degustation - $95, dessert degustation - $35 for 3 courses, $50 for 5

Chef: Robin Wickens
Dessert chef: Pierre Roelofs

Complimentary: 2 slices pumpkin & hazelnut, rye & caraway(?) and sage & pancetta.

The bread was gorgeous, especially the pumpkin. They were quite dark on the edges but I like the flavour it lent the soft, fresh bread. Very flavourful. They came with a small quinelle of super soft butter.

We ordered the 6 course degustation (one vegetarian):

Minestrone soup

Mine was made with a mushroom stock and was darker in colour. The soup was poured over the minuscule vegetables hidden underneath a Parmesan gel which dissolved in the broth. The soup was quite salty but in a good way. Mine had a deep, earthiness to it from the broth whilst the vegetables added a nice crunchy texture and lighter flavours. Overall Ryan and I drank every last drop.

Blue swimmer crab, variations of sweetcorn

The crab sat below extremely tender pasta(?). Ryan said this was a light, fresh dish which he enjoyed.

Cheddar veloute

Both Ryan and I loved this. It was bursting with flavour and once again was overall salty like the minestrone. It had cherry jellies and pressed apple and a multitude of over things. I found the apple cubes were best eaten at the end as they cleanses the palate of all things cheesy and creamy. The veloute was whisper light and simple dissolved on the tongue immediately, allowing the other flavours to come through. This was my favourite dish of the night.

Squab, chestnut, pear, rosemary

As Ryan tends to eat with his eyes he was a little disappointed in the serving size of this dish and felt it was difficult to feel satisfied with the small mouth fulls of meat, he wish there had been more meat to stuff onto his fork. Other than that the meat was tender and he enjoyed the dish.

Roasted beets, bitter chocolate, parsnips

When this dish came out it had me smiling at its beauty and I was eager to dive in. Unfortunately it didn't really appeal to me. It was quite sweet and bitter and earthy, there wasn't any acidity or anything to liven it up a bit. The chocolate cake was bitter and the texture enveloped everything in my mouth so I couldn't taste the other ingredients. I then tried the ingredients individually. The small beets were lovely but the parsnip chips were a little bitter and soft (in a old chip kind of way) and the ribbons didn't lend much flavour. Coupled with the cake it wasn't that great.

Mutton, parsnip, tonka bean, balsamic, salsify

Once again Ryan thought the serving a tad small. He did like this though and once again the meat was very tender.

Roasted tofu, smoked gratin, onions

The overall flavours of this dish are sweet and smoky. The leek/spring onion(?) did help to cut through the other heavy flavours but it wasn't enough. The textures are also all soft, apart from the battered onions which only come through with their sweetness at the end. The tofu was crunchy on the outside and spongy on the inside. The potatoes only hit me with their smokiness halfway through which offered a weird but pleasant tang of smoke, the potatoes were a touch firm and therefore watery/bland. I cannot remember what puree was inside the middle onion but it was sweet with a mousse like texture and was the first flavour on the palate. Overall this dish was nice but just a touch too sweet - would have loved a different taste in there.

Blackberry, eucalyptus, yoghurt

This was colourful and visually pleasing to look at. The meringues were a good texture and made it interesting to eat along with the spongy cake, icy blackberry yoghurt and sticky blackberry compote(?). The first flavour is the sponge which is quite sweet followed by the crunchy meringue and sweet blackberry compote then the tangy yoghurt sorbet followed at last by the cool eucalyptus. The eucalyptus stays with you for a while. Ryan loved the tiny violet rocks, they reminded him of Nerds. Overall I found this dish reminded of sweet cough drops with eucalyptus. I didn't love it but it was light and unobtrusive.

Coffee, treacle, banana, basil

This wasn't as loud in appearance as the previous dessert but was heavier in flavour. The banana soon disappeared as the heavy coffee and treacle stomped through with hints of chicory(?) which completely overwhelmed the basil foam and basil shoots. The cake was really really spongy, like an actual cleaning sponge and I don't think I liked that texture. I think perhaps there was also a caramel which I liked. Overall it was nice but a little heavy on the coffee and sweet flavours which had me drinking a lot of water.

Tea/coffee, petit fours

First I had the roasted almond chocolate which began to melt as soon as it was touched, really velvety and lovely.
The cherry kirsch griotte was nice, too much alcohol for me though, but it was hubby's favourite.
My favourite was the salted chocolate licorice caramel. My God I could eat a million of these. Super smooth and they just melt in your mouth - the sweet chocolate, and deep licorice and spikes of salt - yum.

Cost: $190 for one meat and one vegetarian degustation.

Service: Perfect. Our water was filled, waiters were knowledgeable on the menu and everything went well. There was a bit of a wait between the first two meals and the third but after that everything went smoothly.

Atmosphere: Refined. The upstairs mezzanine restaurant looks down onto the bar area as well as through to the wine cellars. The chairs are rich reds and brown leather with real wooden tables - it has a slightly masculine, English blue blood feel. The tables were accented with green champagne bottles filled with real, papery fuchsia blossoms. Overall the tables are generously spaced apart in the 40seat dining room. The openness and cool temperatures coming from the glass separating the wine from us did make it feel a little bare and lacking in something. When we went and until 9pm there were still only three tables full, so the atmosphere was very quiet.

Parking: Ample. Mostly street which is unlimited after 6:30PM or paid undercover parking.

Website: http://www.thedeanery.com.au/

Hours: Mon-Fri noon-10pm, Sat 6pm-10pm

Would I return: Yes. The flavours were interesting, although we would most likely order al a carte next time for bigger portions.