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Happy eating,
Jon!




Saturday, November 10, 2007
Fenix Restaurant (Richmond)
If I had to describe Fenix in a word I think it would simply be "WOW". It is an incredible restaurant and I cannot believe I waited so long to dine here. Needless to say I will be returning soon. Very soon. The thing that truly puzzled me throughout the evening I dined here was why the place was so empty. I dined here on Thursday night (Oaks Day) and the restaurant had approximately 15 guests at the peak of the night. Admittedly it was probably a quiet night, and I am told Oaks Day is always quiet. That being said I tried to get a late booking at two other restaurants before calling Fenix; both with the standard response "fully booked". So why is it that the punters are not completely embracing this place? I really do not know.

Getting straight to the point here I must proclaim that Fenix is simply incredible. The food, the location, the views, the ambience, the impeccable service, the Riedel stemware, the Villery and Boch cutlery, the stylish servingware and the general commitment to excellence make this restaurant close to perfect in every possible way. Watch out Vue de monde, you may have some real competition here. Fenix seems to be continually evolving and I have a feeling the best may yet to have arrived.

From the outside Fenix is an architectural delight. A stunning, raised building overlooking gardens and the Yarra river. On the inside it is comfortable, modern and stylish after recently undergoing an expensive facelift, that make this one of Melbourne’s most comfortable dining rooms, with large, well spaced tables and uber comfy lounges as seating. It is not just about style here, but absolute comfort, and taking the extra little measures in ensuring guests feel special for the couple of hours they are likely to spend here.


From the moment you step foot into Fenix you are in another world. You are escorted to your table, coats taken, drinks and the menu are offered and a little discussion about the menu concepts begins. Your waiter will explain the preparation of the dishes to you and make you feel completely comfortable before the food arrives. Genuine, professional service with the extra refinement that most of its peers lack.


A customary beginning of bread is as good as anywhere else in Melbourne. Freshly baked ciabatta or multigrain slices, hot from the oven, crunchy outside and soft inside. Really good bread.


Amuse: It is incredible how the meal begins here at Fenix. In front of you the waiters walk out with a bowl full of dry ice and a cylinder containing a sweet, refreshing fruit/ citrus mousse. A small amount is sprayed into the bowl of dry ice and worked with by the waiters who meld it into a round shape. The dry ice helps to work as a setting agent and leads to the creation of this delightful little marshmallow. A wonderful way to activate the palette and get you ready for an amazing meal to follow.


First Course: "Spring/Summer - Cucumber, Yoghurt Mozzerella"
This was a simple, fantastic way to begin the meal. Three large pieces of mozzerella, house made with natural yoghurt sit atop a cucumber gazpacho sauce with some finely diced pieces of cucumber and an assortment of delicate herbs. This is a wonderful range of flavours with a delightful lightness to the dish. The mozzerella is ever so creamy and the cucumber sauce and herbs provide a refreshing backdrop to the centre of the dish. The wine pairing for this dish was a crisp Riesling which went very well, as did my aperitif, Gin and Tonic, surprisingly. The cucumber in the dish matched well with the aromatics of the gin and the fizziness of the tonic water. Who would have thought.
Wine pairing: Riesling - Crisp, citrus, refreshing. Pairs well.


Second Course: "Pork Belly - Coconut noodles, fish coral, laksa"
Another sublime dish. There was so much happening on the plate, but all in good balance. The star of the show is a piece of slow roasted pork belly. Incredibly tender and gelatinous with a perfectly crisp crackling. This sits opposite a mound of 'coconut noodles' - silky white strands of white, coconut scented "noodle" topped with a range of fresh herbs, alongside a sweet, tomato jelly. To finish the plate are three rounds of mousse, atop of which sit some crunchy sea coral pieces. I am told that this is made with some sort of seafood puree which is shaped and fried. The attention to detail in such a dish is impeccable.
Wine pairing: Chardonnay - Great with this dish. Light woodyness without too much sweetness - good choice with the soft pork.


Pallete cleanser: "Lime Pith"
A nice refreshing break after such an incredible dish. This is a simple salad of moist lettuce leaves and shaved radish, sitting atop some warm broad beans and finished with a light drizzling of lime, olive oil and what appear to be some nasturium flowers.


Third course: "Blue eye - Chorizo, re-hydrated potato, citrus pith"
Another sensational dish. On one side of the plate sits a fillet of perfectly cooked fish - completely moist with a nice crispy skin and a slightly sweet jus. On the other side are the elements that make this dish so creative. There are two re-hydrated potatoes: perfectly textured potato spheres that are solid, but as soft as mashed potato, only much more intriguing. Also on the plate is a chorizo sausage dust, a petite grapefruit jelly and a sweet date paste. All these elements work well with the fish and ensure that your palette remains excited throughout the whole course. The plate is finished with some fresh Summer herbs and the interesting elements just work together so well to create an amazing and memorable dish.
Wine pairing: Pinot noir - light and mellow, without overpowering. Good match.


Fourth Course: "Lamb Rump"
The best dish of the night, and with the competition on offer that is not a light statement to make. Sitting on the plate is a perfectly cooked tender piece of lamb, but this barely the beginning of the dish. The lamb sits on top of a mouselline and is sided by some fantastic morsels. Crispy fried sweet breads that are simply yum, some perfect roasted potato wedges, sauteed spring onions, a crumbly black sand for colour and texture finished with a light jus. I just closed my eyes, gazing as I was eating this, being transported to another world. An absolute triumph!!
Wine Pairing: 2001 Shiraz - Smooth, soft tannins that made it easy to drink without being overwhelming. Worked well with the lamb.


Dessert: "Violet Crumble - Chocolate, honeycomb, almond, bubbles"
Here's an interesting dessert if you ever did see one. Fenix' interpretation of the classic violet crumble. Underneath the collection of toffee bubbles sits a creamy slice of chocolate mousse sitting in a sweet, sherry sauce. A very sweet dessert that suits a sweet tooth like myself perfectly. The wine matching with this dish proved to be a little bit of an overload. On its own the sherry was fantatstic but with dessert I think there was just too much sweetness, with the flavours in the sweet sherry sauce and the Pedro Ximenez being so profoundly similar.
Wine pairing: Pedro Ximenez Sherry


Petit Fours: An excellent selection that I have only seen rivalled by Vue de monde and Rockpool (Sydney). The plate contains some pineapple popsicles, a raspberry jelly, salt and vinegar chocolate sticks and a delightful caramel filled, chocolate truffle. Along with a really good Espresso they are the perfect way to end a fine meal.


To top things off I enjoyed this meal at a bargain price. Normally a very fair $100 for 5 courses or $145 with matching wines (other options available), I scored the latter option for just $85. Understanding that fine dining can be too expensive for everyone to enjoy, Raymond Capaldi and the team at Fenix are offering blog readers the 5 course chefs' menu with wines for only $85. Simply mention the "blog offer" and dine between Monday to Thursday throughout November to take advantage of this special. Thanks to Esurientes for posting about this.

======

Fenix received a score of 15.5 out of 20 and was awarded one chefs hat in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide. A classic case of the Age writers not fully appreciating the amazing talent of the chefs and wait staff here, all of whom are professionals of the highest calibre in their fields.

My score: 18/20 - Near perfect in all accounts.
Food: 9/10 - Creative, interesting, sublime! Raymond Capaldi and Stuart McVeigh's delvings into molecular gastronomy have paid off big time.
Service: 4.5/5 - Polite, professional, informed and not at all pretentious. Near perfect.
Ambience: 4.5/5 - Soft music, comfortable setting, great views inside and out.

Special thanks to Christian for a wonderful evening and for your brilliant service and approach.

www.fenix.com.au
======

Unfortunately, Fenix has recently closed its restaurant to concentrate on its events and conferncing business (ie. not enough punters). A sad loss to the Melbourne dining scene. I hope that they will re-open some time in the near future.

Labels: ,


  posted at 6:43 AM  
  7 comments



7 Comments:
At November 13, 2007 at 12:01 AM, Blogger Elliot said...

I think this is an extrmely well constructed review tells areader everything he/sh should want to know. Furthermore I also rate Fenix as competition for Vue and they are both 3 hat restaurants in my book. Politics or poor judgement who knows but most would agree AGF got this one badly wrong

 
At November 13, 2007 at 12:11 AM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thank you Elliot. That means a lot. I definitely feel the same way. They have got it wrong. This is a restuarant that is easily 2 hats, bordering on 3 hats in my opinion. One of Melbourne's best and most creative restaurants. It will be interesting to see how it does in the 2009 guide.

 
At November 16, 2007 at 3:44 AM, Blogger Hungry Hamster said...

Hey Jon! Thanks for starting up this blog! Another place I can read about where to eat! Yay!

 
At November 19, 2007 at 8:09 PM, Blogger Nicky said...

Thankyou for reminding me of this great offer from Fenix. I have yet to try this restaurant ( ?? ) so seeing this offer again has prompted me to finally make a booking for the end of November.

I have a couple of suggestions for you to try.

My fav restaurant is at Pettavel Winery in Waurn Ponds, just out of Geelong. They have a daily changing menu, whereby you get the chef's choice of 3 entrees, then choose your own main and dessert. Always fabulous!

Also worth a look is Campaspe Country House at Woodend. They also have the same sort of changing menus as Pettavel, both were started by the great George Biron. Happy eating! Nicky

 
At November 19, 2007 at 8:21 PM, Blogger John said...

Nice Blog Jon,
I am very envious of you and others with such restaurants in there close vicinity. I will be eating my way through your city one day soon (when I get a Holiday). This is the second blog to review Fenix that I have read, both give it great comments. May I link to it? The restaurant where I work will be totally refurbished and I'm searching for great designs and decor for the new Restaurant and I would like to offer some suggestions.

 
At November 20, 2007 at 8:03 AM, Blogger Ed said...

I reviewed for the Good Food Guide but they didn't take my recomendation although its lost some points for service - it's really annoying to sit there with an empty wine glass and watch your full bottle sitting there on a table at the side.

 
At November 20, 2007 at 2:16 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thanks for your comments all. Thanks for the suggestions Nicky - they are a bit out of my way, but will try and give them a go some time. Of course you can link to me John - I would be honoured. Good to here from you Ed, I must say that my service was brilliant - there was never a moment when the wine and water glasses were empty - perfectly paced too. It was just amazing in all accounts.

 

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