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.
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BLOG OF THE MOMENT: I Eat Therefore I Am
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 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.
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.