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,

Friday, December 14, 2007
Longrain (City)
It is really quite a difficult task to review a restaurant that you have only been to once. Especially when you have only tried a few dishes and haven’t really gotten a complete feel of the place. I however am going to give it a go with Longrain, Melbourne’s hottest Thai restaurant and sister establishment of the much acclaimed Sydney institution.

Longrain is located on the Paris end of Little Bourke Street amidst, the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. It’s a fairly large sized establishment with a long bar towards the front, separated into two sides – one for eating and the other for drinking/ waiting. In the evenings Longrain has a no bookings policy, except for groups of six or more, which is probably a very clever strategy for them, allowing large turnover and more sittings. I dined on Tuesday night and the place was completely full throughout my leisurely three hour sitting.

The no bookings policy at Longrain can be seen as a positive, or a negative depending on your perspective. It consequently makes time planning difficult as you may have to wait a long while for a table (and consume more cocktails), but also has the advantage of allowing those who have not made reservations to simply rock up and wait. Luckily for me, as a solo diner, I was immediately seated at the bar. This is a great spot to eat with views across the restaurant and in to the kitchen. It also enables one to observe the expert bar staff perform their work. This arrangement however does have its disadvantages, as service may not be as attentive as it ought be. On the evening of my visit the bar staff (just two of them) were constantly worked off their feet, shaking up drinks, as well as servicing the needs of diners at the bar, all with a smile – they do a damn fine job. I must grumble though that despite my best attempts at trying to attract some attention, it took over 20 minutes before I had my drinks order taken (I was on the verge of leaving), but from there in things were mostly better, aside from a hiccup with my side order. It never arrived.

Inside, Longrain is a funky place with pumping music, low lighting and an informal feel to the space. It consists of the large rectangular bar, as well as banquet seating around the restaurant edges, large round tables for group bookings and communal tables, where diners may be placed amongst others. The restaurant is well decorated and it just feels like the sort of place you want to be at, with a diverse crowd of punters who all seem to embrace the place for what it is.

The food:
The menu lists a few small dishes to start with, but consists predominately of large plates, which are designed to share. You will find things like crisp skin plum chicken, green curry of swordfish, salt and pepper barramundi or an interpretation of caramelised pork hock, my dish of choice. Judging by the presentation, along with the comments from diners around me who were ordering such items they all appear to be very good.

To start with I order some of the signature betel leaves. There are two varieties available: a smoked trout version, and a prawn and peanut variety ($5.50 each). Sitting inside the trout version is a sensational mix of fresh herbs, chilli, garlic and galangal, finished with some smoked trout meat and a dollop of trout roe. Nearly as good is the prawn version, which contains a fresh prawn along with coriander, ginger, peanuts and roasted coconut. The idea is that you roll the leaves up and eat them straight out of your hand. The taste experience is a truly delicious one. I couldn’t imagine starting a meal here any other way, and as it seems neither could anyone else around me. These things were selling like hotcakes.

MAIN: Pork Hock – This was so good and is the perfect example of a dish that is “more than meets the eye”. What you are presented with is a large bowl of cubed pieces of pork hock, which appear to be dry and crunchy. Well on the outside they certainly are crisp, but inside they are meltingly tender – incredibly good, and gelatinous – OK they were fatty and delicious, with added flavour from some fried shallots and the excellent condiments. Served with the pork are two sauces – a sweet five-spice caramel, which words cannot describe, and a spicy chilli vinegar – an interesting condiment that is very good as long as you don’t consume too many of the chilli slices in one mouthful. You’ve been warmed.

A bowl of perfect rice is $2.50 extra, and is huge. It will probably be enough for three or four people with a course – or a very hungry one, who manages to savour a solitary dish for a good half an hour enjoying his main, and hoping that the ordered vegetables will soon arrive, as promised. Nearing the end of my meal with no sign of the vegies I politely tell the waiter not to worry about it, and receive an apology as well as a complimentary glass of wine. A good way of putting a smile back on ones face.

Dessert: Coconut and durian pancakes with passionfruit ice-cream and a coconut anglaise - The pancakes were insanely good. They were nothing like anything I have ever eaten before. They quite literally melted away in your mouth and were fluffy, creamy and delicious. Coconut and durian –probably not something everyone could handle – but for me the combination was heavenly, and the fresh passionfruit ice-cream was really good as well. Rarely am I so impressed by a dessert that I actually give the food score a higher mark because of it, but I think that this one was good enough to justify a bonus half a point. I certainly made a really good choice and don’t know whether I will bother trying any of the others in the future, when I know an option this good is available.

Another reason to come to Longrain is for the damn fine cocktails. These are the real deal. I started off with a “Red Dragon” as an aperitif, and whilst enjoying wine with the food (Gewürztraminer) I simply couldn’t resist a couple more after dinner. A little excessive I know, but its all for a good cause. My readers deserve to know about some of the available options.

My pre-dinner choice:
Red Dragon: An insane combination of chilli vodka, peach liqueur, strawberries, coriander and cranberry juice. This gave quite a punch and the chilli, coriander and other elements were all in the spotlight and melded together well.

After dinner:
Sticky Lips: One of the flavoured martinis, which is recommended to me as a good after dinner drink. It is. The combination of honey vodka, vanilla liqueur, amaretto, dom benedictine and cracked black cassia bark (rather like cinnamon) worked well. This was a wonderful, slightly sweet, aromatic combination, which I slowly sipped and savoured. Unlike many cocktails, which are a bit of a blur, each of the ingredients in this beverage were identifiable and enjoyed. It is a standout selection like nothing I have tried before.

Instead of coffee:
Espresso Martini: A simple and tasty combination including a shot of espresso, along with vanilla vodka and kahlua. Perfectly executed and presented, I very much enjoyed this, and it was a good way to conclude the meal.

Price: Not cheap, but you do get value for money. All up my bill was under $120 and that was for starter, main, dessert, a glass of wine and three cocktails (which comprised about $50 alone).

Needless to say my Longrain experience was greatly enjoyed and I look forward to returning soon with friends and enjoying Longrain’s food in its intended fashion, as shared dishes amongst friends. Longrain is excellent; if only there were a couple more staff behind the bar the whole operation would probably have run a little bit smoother.

With a typical main in the $30-40 mark the pricing is appropriate for the fare on offer and serves are very generous, being truly designed for sharing. Great food served in a hip, buzzing environment. What more could you want?

Longrain received a score of 15 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide and was awarded one chefs hat.

My Score: 16/20 - Food (9/10) Ambience (4/5) Service: strong, but limited (3/5)

An outstanding dining experience. Highly recommended.


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  posted at 7:07 AM  

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Ezard (City)
I recently had the opportunity to have dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. A place which I had somehow managed to neglect for a number of months and was seriously starting to crave. That restaurant is none other than Teague Ezard’s first child, the aptly named Ezard.

Ezard is snugly located at the base of the Adelphi hotel on Flinders Lane, and is the classic example of a Modern Australian restaurant, showcasing fresh produce cooked with flair. The food is inspiring and always intrigues the taste buds thanks to the use of ingredients such as coriander, lime and chilli, along with many other South-east Asian influences, which lead to the creation of truly memorable dishes with big flavours. The whole experience is undoubtedly one of Melbourne’s finest: amazing food, coupled with seamless service and a comfortable atmosphere to match it. The setting is sophisticated with comfortable seating and banquettes, thick white tablecloths, high quality serving-ware and a modern classy feel displayed throughout.

Tonight I choose to order from the a la carte menu, forgoing my usual degustation experience, which I must add is always a fabulous option here. I am sure I will return soon and blog about it.

The evening begins with my aperitif of choice, Lilet Blanc and whilst I ponder the menu I enjoy the bread and fabulous condiments, all of which are house-made. Three dishes sit on the table for one’s enjoyment: chilli-rock sugar, nori-flecked salt, and prickly ash (a house ground blend of toasted salt and Szechuan pepper). Along with Ezard’s incredible garlic, parmesan and rosemary oil (almost a good enough reason to return in itself), the condiments are greatly enjoyed and give you an insight into the tastes to come.

Before moving on to the food proper one simply has to order the signature shooters. Throughout most of the year a freshly shucked oyster shooter is offered, but as oysters are spawning at the moment and not at their best, I am told, Ezard has a variation for a short time – a kingfish shooter. At $4.50 each they are simply not to be missed. A lovely mound of freshly minced kingfish tartare, sits in a reduced mirin broth, and is served along with a nori roll to refresh the palate afterwards. A great flavour combination and a must-try taste experience. I am lucky enough to be offered “guinea pig” status and also receive a new interpretation of the shooter with frozen granita on the bottom and foam on top – WOW! – It needs a little refinement in regards to the granita placement and timing to ensure the fish does not freeze, but it’s a novel idea and is pretty special nonetheless. As well as this an amuse bouche of smoked salmon with sterling caviar sits on the plate, compliments of the chef. A rather classy way to start the meal.

Entrée: “Salt and pepper squid on iceberg salad ” $21 – I go for an entrée special, which my waiter highly recommends. The bowl contains about six strips of lightly coated salt and pepper squid tubes sitting atop a tangy Thai inspired iceberg lettuce and micro herb salad with a sweet, tangy, chilli broth. An excellent combination of flavours and a delicious moorish way to start the meal. The squid is perfectly tender and the salt and pepper in the batter is prevalent but not so over the top as to result in a sodium overload. A very well-conceived starter that is of a totally different class to what you may expect at you local Asian restaurant.
To drink: 2005 Donhoff Riesling

Main: “Master stock fried pork hock” $40 - This dish is a menu stalwart at Ezard, which has gradually been refined, and remains one of those amazing dishes you find on a menu. Sitting on a plate is a large hock of pork, which has been slowly poached in master stock, then fried until the skin is crisp and finished with a chilli-caramel top. The pork is extremely tender and falls apart inside. The skin is wafer thin and unbelievably crisp and sweet, coated in a crisp chilli caramel, and in between there is a wonderful gelatinous layer that just dissolves in your mouth. All the layers of the pork work well together, to create a sublime taste experience. The accompanying salad adds creativity and Asian elements to the dish consisting largely of bean shoots, mint, herbs and chilli along with a well-conceived dressing that balances sweet, sour and spicy elements to make the dish exciting and memorable. On a whole this is probably one of the best pork dishes you will likely find anywhere, and the combination of flavours ensure that every last mouthful is savoured. The pork is also accompanied with a bowl of fragrant Jasmine rice, which I opt to substitute for the creamed coconut rice. This rice is astoundingly good and will always keep me coming back for more. It is like no other rice I have ever tried, and is another reason in itself to return.

Side Dish. “Heirloom Tomato Salad” $10.50 - A simple fresh salad of sliced heirloom (open-pollinated) tomatoes with micro cresses, and some creamy Persian fetta. The waiter recommends sprinkling the tomatoes with the nori-flecked salt from the condiments tray, which works wonderfully and adds a peppery element to the salad, without overwhelming or distracting from the sweetness of the tomatoes. So simple and clever.

Having eaten at Ezard many times I can also thoroughly recommend the duck, wagyu beef, sea bass and just about everything else on the menu. Every dish is special in its own right and proves to be a cut above the typical fare that you might find at most suburban restaurants.

Dessert: “Caramel parfait with peanut and chocolate crunch, apple confit and blackberry jam” $21 – On one side of the plate sits the parfait, which is more or less a good creamy caramel ice-cream, sandwiched in between two crunchy bitter-sweet rectangles of peanut and chocolate brittle/ crunch. On the other is a deconstructed confit apple, which has been thinly sliced and re-assembled with some sweet sultanas. Finishing touches include fresh blackberries and a smooth blackberry “jam”. To be honest I didn’t quite see the connection between all of the elements in this dessert. Some parts were sweet and other bitter – perhaps slightly mismatched. It was a good dessert, but not exceptional. It should be noted though that most of the desserts I have had here at Ezard have been exceptional, such as a clever artichoke and truffle crème brulee or the delectable honey crunch ice-cream. As a whole though, this dessert was not one of the best options, although the parfait itself was well enjoyed.

Ezard is an excellent dining experience suitable for all occasions. With amazing food, top class service and all the little touches that ensure your night is perfect, why wouldn’t you want to keep coming back?

Ezard received a score of 17 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide and was awarded two chefs hats.

My Score: 18.5/20 – Highly Recommended – One of Melbourne’s best!
Food: 9/10 (Creative, stimulating Asian-influenced modern food)
Service: 5/5 (Possibly Melbourne’s best and most professional service)
Ambience: 4.5/5 (Comfortable, cosy – some may like tables to be a little wider spaced).

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  posted at 10:55 AM  

Monday, December 10, 2007
The Pub at Crown ($10 Parma and Pot)
A couple of Tuesday’s back I met up with friends Robert & Kat and we decided to have a casual lunch in the city. The venue of choice was the Pub at Crown, which has good value daily specials, and on Tuesday it’s a particularly enticing one, offering a “Traditional Parma and Pot” for just $10. Coupled with free parking as a Crown member (dare I say it) this was an offer to good to miss out on.

The Pub at Crown is a relaxed establishment with comfortable banquet seating and a nice ambience to the place. At lunchtime there is always a decent crowd of people here, but it is not too busy or noisy. The evenings can be quite different though and can go right off, becomming insanely busy and noisy, with resident DJs ensuring the venue stays alive until the early hours of the morning.

We however came to take advantage of the special at lunchtime, which is an absolute bargain. For a mere $10 you get a good sized parma served with shoestring chips and a nicely dressed salad. The parma is a good size and of a decent quality, with a chunky napoli sauce, shaved ham and mozzarella cheese. Included in the price is a pot of draught beer, or a soft drink.

The menu is full of typical pub/ bistro offerings and is reasonably priced with most main meals at around $18. There is also a daily special which is published on their website.

After enjoying our parmas we order a dessert to share, after reading the simple, but tempting dessert list. We decide to go with the warm chocolate mud cake with chocolate sauce ($7.50), which is very good. We receive a generous portion of moist, rich cake smothered in chocolate sauce, served alongside a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and fresh strawberries, finished with a couple of fresh mint leaves. This was greatly enjoyed and proved to be a nice way to end the meal.

The Pub at Crown is a good spot to enjoy an informal lunch or dinner, or to catch up with friends for a casual meal or a few drinks.

Food: 6/10 – Tasty and good value for money, especially the daily specials. Recommended.


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  posted at 12:04 PM  

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