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Welcome to Melbourne Foodie. The blogspace of a young foodie with a passion for cooking, fine dining and quality food and produce. Melbourne Foodie, along with the other sources I write for is my way of casually expressing and recording some of the experiences I have had for others to enjoy. I always welcome any feedback, comments or restaurant suggestions you may have and would love to hear from you soon.

MUST VISIT SOON: Livingroom, Hare & Grace

MOST RECENT FEASTINGS: Pei Modern, Sarti, PM24, Vue de Monde

BLOG OF THE MOMENT: I Eat Therefore I Am

Happy eating,
Jon!




Friday, September 28, 2007
Mirka at Tolarno (St. Kilda)
It's a Friday afternoon and I have no dinner reservations. I am busy calling all my favourite restaurants trying to get a booking but it seems that unless I want an early or very late booking everywhere is "fully booked". At last I decide to try somewhere new and call Mirka. I and am told they have a table in their side room (the name of which I cannot recall). I specifically ask is this in your restaurant or the adjacent bar: - The restaurant I am told, it is just a side room we have - attached to the restaurant. Excellent - I am excited to try the food at this relatively new restaurant and see what sought of a beast Guy Grossi has created down in St. Kilda. After eating at Grossi Florentino I have high expectations - the food there is brilliant and I expect nothing less here.

As soon as I arrive I am immediately dissapointed - I am seated in the room, which is a separate section next to the bar, not in the same section as the restaurant proper. There are about half a dozen tables here, with two other couples dining. It just does not feel right. Seriously lacking ambience (although it seemed to be buzzing in the restaurant proper), with a couple of "high profile" guests dining in. I came to eat in the restaurant, not a room next to the bar. Oh well, get over it I thought - I'm here now - I might as well try and enjoy it. The decor is very old fashioned style - checkboard napkins and picnic style cuttlery - very nice though, just not one what would normally associate with a fine dining establishment. After making my intial judgements the menu arrives, and it is the full restaurant menu and pricing, good- at least the food should be really good I think.

Well, the menu reads nicely and I am very enticed by a number of dishes. I decide on ordering the cured salmon gravlax as an entree and the roast duck as a main, with a side of potatoes.

The entree ($22) arrives and I am excited to try it. The dish looks lovely - the thin salmon slices are neatly presented with a deconstrcuted egg - horseradish egg white cream topped with and crumbled yolk on top - presented as if it is an egg with a few rocket/ mitzuna leaves surrounding it. A novel idea. The taste though, average. The salmon tastes good - it is fresh, but not seasoned and thus a little bland and the egg idea - well it just tasted like egg - bland and unseasoned, the horseradish barely apparent. I was very dissapointed. A dish that promised so much and delivered so little. More seasoning would have made it better.



The main arrives and again it looks fairly good. The duck al'orange ($34) is roasted nicely. It is a generous serving and is extremely tender and falling apart. This dish is marred by the sauce though. A super intense orange sauce that was far too strong and took away from the taste of the duck. I really like oranges, but have never tasted an orange sauce that was this strong and bitter, and the duck was swimming in it - why did you have to fill my bowl up with this?




The roseamary and garlic potatoes as a side were OK, but for $8, you only get a very small dish and they are nothing above the norm.

At this point I could not stand any more dissapointment and opt to forgo dessert.

Coffee was however very good - possibly the highlight of the night!



Overall Mirka was an acceptable dining experience. I had high expectations, given strong reviews and knowing how good Grossi's food can be, but in this instance I was underwhelmed. Maybe I just chose poorly - either way it was OK but nothing particualry exciting or special as I was hoping for. That being said I look forward to going back and dining in the restaurant proper, and trying some other dishes. Can anyone reccomend something great?

Mirka was awarded One Chefs Hat and received a score of 15 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide.

My rating for Mirka is: 13/20
Reasonable Food (6/10), Traditional surroundings, not much going on (in side room) (3/5), Attentive Service (4/5)

www.mirkatolarno.com

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  posted at 4:32 PM  
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Thursday, September 27, 2007
Number 8 Restaurant and Wine Bar (Southbank)
Number 8 at Crown is one one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne. I eat here very reguarly, and their fantastic value unrestricted menu at lunchtime is part of the reason for this. To get any three courses plus a side dish for only $43.90 is exceptional value for the quality of food on offer. I think this would rival just about any other lunch special in Melbourne. They also have a similar priced pre-theatre menu with restricted choices.

I must say that Number 8 has copped it a bit hard in the mainstream reviews recently, scoring only modestly and often being described as an uninteresting or faceless hotel restaurant (AGFG & Epicure reviews). I think this is quite harsh though as the ambience of the place is great, the views are excellent and the staff are always friendly, proffesional and efficient. Reading consumer reviews at places like Eatability clearly show that this is a popular restaurant that is well loved by the Melbourne dining public.

The food at Number 8 is described as modern Australian, but I think this is a term which is being used too loosely these days - Contemporary would be a better way of describing it. On offer you will always find a great range of fresh seafood, poultry, game and fantastic steaks, and there is always a pasta and risotto available as well as a couple of Vegetarian options. The philosophy behind the food at Number 8 is simplicity, using fresh ingredients to create a quality meal, which is not over powered or fussed about with. As such meals are generally not served with many accompaniments, making the fantastic side dishes almost mandatory, which ultimately bumps up the true cost of your meal.

I enjoy most of the food at Number 8 - it is rare that you will get a dish that is not very good. That being said some dishes are just that: good to very good, whereas others are exceptional. Hence choosing the right dishes can lead to an amazing dining experience. It seems to be the case that the dishes which are less succesful are simply lacking basic seasoning, in fairness - salt and pepper mills are on all tables.

I will share a couple of examples of the great dishes with you.

Calamari - One of the fantastic entrees at Number 8 is the salt and pepper calamari, a menu stalwart. This dish is served in a rather interesting way, three or four pieces of the amazingly tender meat sit inside an iceberg lettuce cup atop a tomato & lime compote. Siding the dish is an exceptional herbed aïoli . This is an excellent entree, my favourite calamari anywhere - and all of my friends who have tried it agree.



Other great entrees at the moment include: Slow roasted pork belly with crackling and a green bean salad, Hervey Bay scallops, and the intense Porcini and field mushroom risotto (tip - you are better off ordering this dish as a side dish for $6.90 - its the same risotto at a fraction of the price).

For mains I can highly reccomend the steaks: particuraly the Rib Eye & the Tenderloin. They are cooked perfectly to your liking and served with an exceptional onion compote and simple red wine jus. I also very much enjoy the roasted duck, lamb rack (I'm not a big lamb eater but this is excellent) and most other offerings. The fish on offer is also generally very good, but on some occasions I have noticed it to be lacking texture and even somewhat soggy (the barramundi), but on most occasions it has been very good. I really love the seared tuna, which appears to be off the menu at the moment.

The side dishes on offer are also of very good quality. There's a big list of about 15 with a huge variety including: fries, roasted potatoes, salads, sauteed greens, roasted seasonal vegies and other more interesting offerings including porcini risotto. They are also good value, priced at $6.90 each.

Desserts at Number 8 are also fairly solid with a number of simple dishes like an apple, rhubarb and macadamia crumble served with Leatherwood honey ice-cream or a simple (huge) creme brulee. Other more interesting offerings such as a rich and delicious chocolate and coffee ganache, or a wonderful semifreddo are even more succesful options. Pictured below: creme brulee which is served with a cinamon grissini stick.



Coffee is also very good, albeit expensive at $4.60 - for this price though, your coffee is acompanied by an excellent chocolate truffle, which sweetens the deal.

===

I recently celebrated my 21st Birthday @ Number 8 with a large group of friends and everyone had a good night and enjoyed the food. We received excellent service, and meals were served promptly and all together, even in a group situation. This is a restaurant that constantly excels, even under pressure

===

Number 8 received a score of 13 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide, dropping from 14 the last two years, and 15 prior to this.

My rating for Number 8 is: 15.5/20
Good quality, well prepared food (7.5/10), Good ambience & design, soft jazz music (4/5), Friendly, attentive service (4/5)

www.number8atcrown.com.au

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  posted at 4:53 PM  
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Pearl Restaurant (Richmond)
Last night myself, and friends Robert & Kat enjoyed a fantastic dining experience at Pearl in Richmond. Rob & Kat have recently got engaged and this dinner was my engagement present to them.

After getting lost on our way to the restaurant, due to my bad directions, we arrived at approximately 7:45P.M., a little late. Upon entering we were escorted to our tables, coats taken and seated. Drinks were brought over promptly. A good start.

We then grazed the menus and were ready to order: I decided on a new entrée of octopus and rockling with a thai influenced salad, Robert had the Gnocchi with crushed peas, hazelnut and gorgonzola and Kat had the delightful beef tartare.

After ordering we received an amuse bouche which contained a crispy fried taro chip with a shitake mushroom salad and a sweet thai dressing. I really liked this – my guests not so much. Shortly after our entrees arrived.

My entrée – Perfectly cooked tentacles and strips of octopus with a sweet bite and slightly acidic aftertaste. A perfect combination. Sided to these were two small pieces of rockling fillet topped with a coriander salad with some intense olive specks on the plate. A well balanced and generous starter.



Gnocchi – Robert’s gnocchi was also very good. The pasta was light and fluffy and didn’t have a sticky or flowery texture at all which is sometimes associated with gnocchi. This was served with some simple and well balanced flavours of crushed peas, roasted hazelnuts, lemon oil, mint and a soft gorgonzola cheese. A wonderful combination, but not the same intensity of flavour that we noticed with the other dishes. Very successful nonetheless.



Tartare of Hopkins River beef – This is a fantastic dish. What you get here is a nice sized mound of excellent quality beef, mixed with a number of condiments including shallots, cornichons, egg yolk and spicing. This is rolled in some micro beetroot shoots and topped with a pretty little quail egg yolk. I must say this is one of the best tartare dishes I have tried – a wonderful smooth texture with a creaminess to the dish – like a subtle mayonnaise taste. Served with toast soldiers, this is a complete dish and once again is quite generous.



For the mains Robert and Kat go for the signature roast red duck curry, and whilst I desperately want to order this again I resist the urge and go for the one-side only seared tuna, on the condition that my companions would share their duck with me. The tuna was good, but believe me – you have to order the duck – oh my god!!

Tuna – What you get here is a beautifully presented fillet of thin sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna which has been just seared and served on top of an incredible smoked fish salad with galangal and some other thai herbs – this had a wonderful sweetness to it and accompanied the tuna perfectly, along with a wedge of lime for acidity. This really is a great dish but I personally thought the tuna fillet was a little too thin – more of a light style dish, as opposed to something like the duck, which is the total opposite.



Duck – This is definitely one of my favourite dishes anywhere, and I dare say it is the best duck dish in Melbourne. It is such a complete dish too – you get a plate containing three bowls – one contains the duck – approximately half a duck cut into pieces in a rich brown curry sauce. Another contains a good serve of lightly flavoured coconut rice, and the third bowl contains the sauce that makes this dish – a combination of fish sauce, with palm sugar served with a deep fried poached egg, a little chilli, mint and a half lime so you can adjust the sweet/sour ratio of the dish to suit your taste preference. The idea here is that you break the egg yolk into this sauce, mix through and pour this over the unbelievably tender duck meat before serving. The taste is incredible – something you simply have to taste to understand. Luckily for me I got to eat a fair bit of this as Kat could not finish her serving. This dish definitely satisfied all of our needs and we were so full – its rich and generous – deceivingly so – absolutely brilliant.



To go with our mains we also ordered a side of cauliflower cheese with a smokey bacon (barely present) and sour dough crust which was creamy and delicious, though not really necessary, but it sounded so tempting that we just had to try it.



After our mains we were stuffed, but I made the executive decision that we had to order some dessert. We opted to share desert and ordered the taro dumplings and some of the sesame vanilla fairy floss, as well as a couple of Pearl’s famous hot chocolates.

Unfortunately we dug into the dumplings and drunk the hot chocolate before taking photos but I can still summarise these items.

Dumplings: A great dessert. What your receive is a plate with three large dumplings; these are encrusted with taro and filled with valhrona chocolate. One with dark, one with milk and the other with white chocolate. They are presented sitting atop some dollops of custard and finished with gold leaf on top for presentation. This is a wonderful dessert. I recommend eating them the way I did – not the way of my friends - by putting the whole dumpling into your mouth, biting in and letting the explosion of warm oozing chocolate erupt. A sensational way to end a meal.



The hot chocolate is also great. Its made with real Valhrona chocolate and served as a glass of hot chocolate, along with a jug of milk and a bowl of chocolate pieces so you can adjust the strength and creaminess - or basically make another hot chocolate when you are done - a great idea.

Pearl also has many other great desserts which I have tried on other occasions, and I particuarly reccomend the signature rose petal and turkish delight ice-cream topped with persian fairy floss, or simply order some persian fairy floss as we did - sesame vanilla - just one of the available offerings (yum)!!



Pearl was awarded Two Chefs Hats and received a score of 17 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide.

My rating for Pearl is: 17.5/20
Excellent Food (9/10), Modern, plush surroundings, although can be very noisy (4/5), Exemplary Service (4.5/5)

www.pearlrestaurant.com.au

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  posted at 11:49 AM  
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