Thursday, November 26, 2009

Esposito at Toofey's

Name: Esposito at Toofey's
162 Elgin St
Carlton 3053 VIC

Phone: (03) 9347 9838

Food: Italian, ModOz, Seafood
Average price: Entree: $19-$26, Mains: $26-$39, Dessert: $5-$18

Complimentary: 4 pieces of sour dough bread with olive oil and salt.

The bread was fine, cold but spongy enough.

Salad of seaweed, mint, parsley, dill and mustard dressing.

This got our taste buds jumping out of their chairs in excitement. The herbs, seaweed, dressing and chilli offered a multitude of flavours and was fun to eat.

We ordered dinner(I had the $35 for two courses, $15 for an additional course deal:

Entree: Mud crab, avocado and green apple salad, young spinach and spinach essence - $26

Ryan was more than a little shocked at the petite size of this entree. The strongest flavour was the apple, which he also felt made it a little runny due to the juice. He ordered it in anticipation of savouring the crab and avocado, but as the apple washed everything in it's tartness, he was left disappointed. He also felt the stale bread chips were superfluous.

Roasted pumpkin gyoza, burnt butter and sage with red and yellow tear drop tomatoes - $19 (part of deal)

As soon as my fork sunk into the doughy pasta I felt myself deflate, after having been excited by the complimentary appetiser. The pasta was stretchy and gluggy gooey, I couldn't eat it. I scraped the sweet pumpkin puree out and that was tasty. I couldn't really taste the sage though, just the tomatoes and pumpkin. Had the pasta been cooked I probably would have really liked it.

Mains: Quail wrapped with pancetta, caramelised pear tart, raddichio, vincotto - $24

This was an entree that Ryan ate as his main coupled with a side dish to beef it up. He quite liked it. The quail was well cooked (although he was a little put off by its little arms) and he loved the tart and vincotto. He said he felt like something was missing that would elevate it from a good dish to a great dish.

Salmon, battered zucchini flower with ligurian olive paste (part of deal)

This, sadly, was boring. The olive was the only flavour that leapt out to me. The salmon was cooked well (to medium) and I think it was wrapped in seaweed although I couldn't taste it. The few components didn't really add anything.

Side: Potatoes - $9

Some of the potatoes were good, others were bland and not completely cooked inside.

Drinks: Orange juice - $5.50
Ryan raved about this and even asked what type of oranges they used (navel). It was much sweeter and smoother than any orange juice I have had, and I found it a little artificial tasting because of that.

Dessert: Hot date tart with frangipane and vanilla bean ice cream - $18 (part of deal)

I'd heard good things about this, and after waiting 1hour+ for it I was hoping it was worth the wait, it wasn't. Overall the tart was dry and the date left a weird feeling in my mouth. The ice cream was half melted when it was placed in front of me, as there was no other decoration that made it seem even more sad looking. I couldn't really taste the fragrant vanilla in the ice cream either, which just turned to water almost in my mouth.

Corella pear tart with custard and blood orange sorbet - $17

This was pretty horrible. The pears were still too firm and devoid of any other spicing or flavouring. They were swallowed up in the cold plain custard, also devoid of flavouring, the one at the supermarket poured from cardboard cartons had more depth. The crust was thin, and flavourless. The sorbet had flavour but was also quite melted when it came, it also didn't work with the cold tart at all.

Cost: $131.50 for two entrees, two mains, 1 side, 1 drink and two desserts.

Service: OK. At first we found the wait staff really friendly, easy going and great. The starter, entree and main came out in lightning speed within 30minutes of ordering, we were gobsmacked and very happy as we didn't want a long evening out. Unfortunately it went downhill from there. The restaurant became full, including an upstairs function, and our desserts that we pre-ordered with the rest of the food just over an hour to arrive. After the first 30minutes the waitress told us our desserts would be out soon, they still took another 30mins after that. We were offered a free drink after 45mins which we declined. In the end they offered us 2 complimentary desserts at our NEXT visit which was nice but the wait was just too long when compared the the quickness with which the first three dishes came out.

Atmosphere: Wonderful. As soon as we walked in we felt comfortable and relaxed despite the small room and a table so close to the door. The waiters made us feel at ease and were very friendly. The decor is a mixture of woods and mustard against white, it has the ease of a beach side estate without being too sea side. It does get very noisy though. One thing we
have to mention, there seems to be a certain ethnic majority out of the patrons, practically everyone in the restaurant, bar us and two people of Asian decent, all looked like Anglo-Saxon Aussies - absolutely everyone. And most were 30+, I can't describe it, but almost everyone looked the same, it was a little weird.

Parking: Ample street parking.


Hours: Mon-Fri noon-3pm, Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm

Would I return: No.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel - Southbank - Crown

Name: The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel
Crown Casino Complex
8 Whiteman St
Southbank 3006 VIC

Phone: (03) 9292 7808

Food: French
Average price: Entree: $17.50-$22, Mains: $25-$39, Dessert: $16.50-$18.50, Set menu: 3 courses, $75

Complimentary: Bread with olive oil and dukkah.

The bread was so tough that I had to get my husband to tear it in half for me lest I elbow the person next to me with the force it would have taken to rip it apart. As a result it was fairly chewy, the lovely oil and the flavoursome dukkah made it a little more enjoyable though.

We ordered dinner:

Entree: King salmon gravlax - $20.00
dill and yuzu mayonnaise, egg condiment, toasted sourdough

This was one dimensional in flavour for Ryan, all he got was salmon and more salmon, the mayonnaise and egg condiment weren't enough to cut through the oily, fishy salmon.

Vegetable confit/tempura - $16.80
eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, tomato, free-range egg

I barely ate a mouthful of this. The vegetables tasted like any marinated vegetables you can buy from your supermarket deli, but with less flavour. This whole dish was cold, included the poached egg, which I found bizarre and unappetising. The tempura veggies were unseasoned, cold, greasy and a touch soggy.

Mains: Humpty Doo barramundi - $35.45
asparagus and broad bean nage

This was boring for me. Some of the asparagus were really ragged in their shaved form and the broad beans were black/brown in colour, I am not familiar with cooked broad beans, but I was expecting green beans, so I chose not to eat them. For some reason I thought the nage would be thicker, but it was water thin, and it didn't add anything to the dish. The fish was cooked well, slightly on the raw-er side, but overall it lacked dimension and flavour.

Porterhouse (280gr) - $35.45
pan-fried served with French fries

The chips were good, Ryan had his steak served with a herbed butter. Ryan thought this was actually rather bland, and the meat a little chewy, he didn't eat much.

Dessert: French crêpe filled with lemon curd and raspberry - $15.90
with lemon sorbet

Aside from the fact it was practically cold when brought out, Ryan enjoyed this somewhat. For me however, the raspberry filling tasted a little too artificial, like raspberry powder and icing sugar.

Chocolate and caramel tart with passionfruit - $15.90

It took me until halfway through the tart to realise that the bottom of it was caramel - the caramel and chocolate ganache were the same texture. The chocolate was dark and just pure chocolate, whilst the caramel had a slight bitterness to it, but not one bit of the chewy, stringiness I love. The shell was a touch dry. It was served with some passionfruit, caramel splodges and a passion fruit whipped cream, which tasted like a passionfruit whipped cream, surprisingly the cream didn't go so well with the tart. Overall it was OK, but nothing memorable.

Cost: $153 - for 2 entrees, 2 mains and 2 desserts.

Service: Great. The first dish, as mentioned before, was out in a flash, as were the subsequent dishes. The wait staff were also prompt in taking orders, clearing plates and giving us the bill.

Atmosphere: Lively. Having a restaurant in Crown means being packed. The seats were well spaced however, and we were in the top section which is separated from the main floor that has doors that open onto the boulevard outside, and therefore is much noisier than the upstairs room. I really loved the Christmas ornament-esque decoration on the table and the booth was comfortable. The seats are a little long and I found myself having to lean over to talk to my husband.

Parking: Crown has three huge car parks, we went on a Saturday night however and the first two car parks were full, with the third already filled to the fifth level.


Hours: Daily noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm

Would I return: No - it isn't worth going to Crown for.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MoMo - Melbourne - Grand Hyatt

Name: MoMo
Lower Plaza Level (Grand Hyatt Hotel)
123 Collins St
Melbourne 3000 VIC

Phone: (03) 9650 0660

Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Average price: They have $100 and $140 degustation menus. Entree: $17-$26, Mains: $30-$40, Dessert: $16-$20

Complimentary: 4 pieces of bread with crudites and a pomegranate molasses oil.

We were not expecting yet another dish, as we were already worried about fitting it all in. The bread was generous, and at room temperature, perfect for tearing and dipping. The vegetables were carrots, baby fennel, cucumber, capsicum and radicchio. The pomegranate molasses gave the oil a lovely tart sweetness that my husband finished up quickly and then asked for a refill (they obliged).

We ordered the $140pp Moorish menu for two, one vegetarian:

Entrees: Kingfish ceviche, smoky baba ganoush, lambs lettuce, sugar-dried olives and hazelnuts - $28

My husband loved this. I tried the baba ganoush, and oh my goodness, it was divine. The smokiness is absolutely perfect, right on the edge of being too smoky and not imparting enough depth, it really turned an ordinary dip into something wonderful and tantalising on the taste buds.

Crunch zucchini blossoms with house made haloumy on tomato & white anchovy salad - $26

My husband enjoyed these. I had a non-anchovy version. The tomato, with all of its juiciness, does tend to monopolise the subtle crunchy blossom with salty haloumy, so I ate them separately. Lovely, light and with clean, fresh flavours.

Eden bay sardine fillets in brik pastry, chermoula. egg, epinach and chive labneh - $27 (pictured below)

Hubby loved everything except the large sardine fillet that overpowered all other flavours.

Veiled quail covered in leaves, house made chorizo-pine nut stuffing, feta whipped with mustard - $30

This won best dish of the year. Although it wasn't Ryan's best dish of the year, it certainly scored in his top 10. He particularly loved the unusual, crunchy leaves.

Silky hummus, artichokes a la grecque & green olive toast

The hummus was the silkiest I have had, but after tasting the awesome smoky baba ganoush, I found it a little boring. The artichoke mix with slivered almonds was lovely (however, I find parsley leaves a little strong and domineering so I tend to leave those out). I really enjoyed the chewy mini olive toasts.

Hazelnut falafel with gyspy salad and sesame yoghurt sauce

Unfortunately the falafel was a little burnt and therefore a little too crunchy and a tad dry, thankfully the generous portions of luscious sauces helped disguise that and I enjoyed the dish.

Medly of vegetables with an egg

This came wrapped in paper, which just reminded me of McDonald's packaging, so I wasn't too keen on the presentation. This was fine, nothing wrong with it, but nothing fabulous either.

Drinks: Turkish Delight Martini - $20

Mains: Malouf’s pigeon bistayeea with Lebanese-style white cabbage salad

Ryan could not rave about this enough - he was moaning with every mouthful. The pastry was perfectly crispy and broke away under Ryan's eager spoon to reveal a pie jam packed with flavour. The best pie Ryan has ever had. Normally, with two meat eaters, this is split between two for the main, so Ryan didn't eat much of the salad as he wanted to make sure he got down every morsel of the pie.

Grilled devilled lamb loin, beetroot, sakleesh cheese & whipped parsnip - $50

Ryan enjoyed this - lamb was cooked perfectly, the puree was silky smooth, and the salad was lovely, although we barely ate it as we needed to leave room for dessert.

Long Hungarian peppers with sticky rice-currant stuffing and shankleesh che
ese salad

These were nice, definitely on the sweet side, with tangy peppers. Although I didn't care for the bitter radicchio - I'm not one for bitter tastes.

Couscous 'Royale' - seven vegetable couscous with labneh and green harissa broth

I can't say much about this, as unfortunately the broth contained coriander leaves, and as the waiter poured it over the whole dish, I had trouble digging for unadulterated portions.

Sides: Warm potato salad, smoky paprika and almond tarator dressing - $14

Nice salad, with an interesting dressing, a little similar to tahini. Once again I avoided the bitter lettuce leaves.

MoMo chilled tomato salad, tarragon, sumac & soft goat's cheese - $19

Lovely, simple salad. Sumac adds a wonderful note.

Leek, currant and aged feta spanokpita with pear & prosciutto salad - $16

My favourite of the side dishes - really gorgeous, flaky pastry with the creamiest and tastiest feta I have had, punctuated with soft leeks and sweet currants with fresh pear batons to lighten it up. I would have loved this as one of my mains. Ryan's also had the prosciutto.

Baby ice berg and asparagus salad, soft cooked egg and preserved lime-Caesar dressing - $17

Nice, perfectly poached egg with baby asparagus.

Dessert: Canteloupe, strawberries, pistachio halva, pineapple and orange blossom sorbet - $20

The sorbet was lovely and refreshingly acidic. I particularly liked the chewy pistachio halva.

Cinnamon and banana ice cream, black currant jelly and leatherwood honey wafer - $37 for the next three

This wasn't like an ice cream for me. In terms of taste and texture it reminded me of rice pudding (rizogalo) just minus the rice, nice though. I don't really care much for jelly, but Ryan said the flavour was good. The wafer was just barely perfumed with honey and the dish also came with spearmint pashka.

Medjool date and chocolate tart, cardamom, kataifi and crème fraiche

I liked the crunchy (like rice bubbles crunchy) kataifi tube filled with tangy creme fraiche, but Ryan didn't. The tart had a nice chocolate taste, although I couldn't really get the date, just a lingering sweetness from it.

Orange and lemon verbena delicious bistayeea with pistachio sugar

My favourite of the desserts, and Ryan's too. Ryan fell in love with the pistachio sugar before he even tasted it, the smell alone made him drool. What I loved was the luscious, tongue coating orange and lemon verbena custard/curd beneath, wonderful stuff.

Cost: $300 for two Moorish menus and one cocktail.

Service: Great - our water was never more than half empty, the waiters were proficient and courteous, the food came out rather quickly and everything went smoothly.

Atmosphere: Calm luxury. The decor is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous - hubby and I were picking out which features we'd love to put in our own home. From the dazzling Swarovski crystals hanging like stalactites from the ceiling to the lattice work windows and etched glass and velour walls - even the large pink peony's were a gorgeous touch. The lighting strikes that perfect balance with dark moodiness and enough light to see your food clearly without falling asleep. The temperature was absolutely perfect (it was 30C outside at 8pm) and you are given a generous amount of room so the noise was always fairly low but not to the point that the place felt dead. My husband at one stage, so relaxed in the surroundings, asked if we could live here. Really, really gorgeous.

Parking: Hotel carpark - the hotel has a large underground carpark at a flat rate of $10 - otherwise you can chance a limited street park.


Hours: Tue-Sat 6pm-10.30pm

Would I return: Yes - my husband was already planning on coming back half way through dinner.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The European - Melbourne

Name: The European
161 Spring St
Melbourne 3000 VIC

Phone: (03) 9654 0811

Average price: Entree: $9.50-26, Mains: $19.50-72, Dessert: $11-15.50

Complimentary: Slices of bread with garlic aioli.

The bread was cold but soft and the garlic aioli was a nice accompaniment.

We ordered dinner (there was a large group of us):

Entree: Salad of beetroot, marinated feta & pomegranate molasses - $19.50

From what I could see this looked nice. I thought it would lean towards the sweet side with the molasses and beetroot but there was only a touch of sweetness. It was quite citrusy, perhaps lemon juice? The feta was the strongest tasting feta I have had, not mild and creamy, more pungent and crumbly. There was something extremely crunchy, akin to uncooked cous cous but larger, we couldn't tell what it was as we could not for the life of us see what was in the salad. Overall it was nice, but I was expecting more pomegranate and less citrus.

Drinks: 6 Schofferhofer beers.

Mains: Seasonal mushroom risotto with truffle oil -$26.0

Once again it was so dark that I couldn't see what the seasonal mushrooms were. This was more like a mushroom rice than risotto - it wasn't creamy or cohesive. I could smell truffle but I couldn't taste it. The mushrooms and parsley were the only two flavours. I didn't eat much of this. Risotto seems to be the dish that has the highest failure rate for me.

Spaghettini alla marinara - $29.0

Gnocchetti with prawns, fennel & saffron sugo -$28.5

Henry ordered this, I overhead him saying it was a little chewy.

BEEF WELLINGTON with mushrooms & foie gras - $38.00

CHATEAUBRIAND : Salt roasted for two with pommes purée
sauce bourguignonne, endive & blue cheese salad - $72.00

Hubby loved this. The salad and bourguignonne vegetables were served separately in generous proportions. The dish came with three large slices of meat for each eater, as well as a large smear of pommes puree (more like mash in texture) and half a bone with some bone marrow in it. The boys ordered theirs medium rare and that's how it came. They enjoyed all of the components but had trouble finishing the sides.

Dessert: Banana soufflé, cinnamon doughnuts & ice cream - $15.50

A well executed souffle. It billowed high above the ramekins rim with a firm, sugary chewy skin keeping it upright. The souffle was feather light with the faint sweetness of banana, very light but lovely none the less. The vanilla ice cream was a little icy and flavourless, it sat on some yummy, crunchy biscuit crumbs. The cinnamon doughnuts were warm with a lovely sugary coating and a sticky doughy centre, I wish they had been a bit bigger. Overall both hubby and I enjoyed it, it wasn't overpoweringly sweet or heavy. Just enough to keep you satisfied.

Selection of fruit sorbets - $11.00

Cost: Around $297 for 2 entrees, 7 mains, 2 desserts - we also ordered around 6 Schofferhofer beers (don't know the price).

Service: Good. The entrees arrived at our tables before the ink had even dried on the waitresses' notepad. The mains however took a little longer, but not long. All of our orders came out correctly, and the birthday boy was even given a candle without us having to ask. Our glasses of water did remain empty a few times during the night though, the small 250ml glass probably didn't help that.

Atmosphere: Old charm. The decor reminded me of old European cigar bars - the chequered tiles have seen better days as have the well-worn wooden tables that wobble at the slightest touch with remnants of lacquer cluttered around the edges. The lighting is incredibly low, so low in fact the waiters had to use mini torches to check the bills, no exaggeration. The noise level, whilst not as high as Pearl in Richmond, was still loud enough to warrant raising the voice a few notches for the person next to you, and having to yell to the person 3 seats away. The crowd was generally older and mostly couples, I'd say it would be full of theatre goers mostly. The noise level does tend to make it feel more like a bar.

Parking: Street - at 7pm on a Sunday night there was some street parking, otherwise there are paid underground car parks.


Hours: Daily 7.30am-3.30am

Would I return: Maybe - whilst the food was good, the lighting made me sleepy and the noise was a little boisterous, my throat is aching today.