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Happy eating,
Jon!




Thursday, September 27, 2007
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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