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Happy eating,
Jon!




Thursday, January 10, 2008
Circa the Prince (St. Kilda)
A restaurant which I dined at a few weeks back and must finally post about is Circa the Prince. This is a restaurant which promised so much, but unfortunately didn't quite live up to my (high) expectations. To me it is a good restaurant, but I cannot put it into the same class as most of our other "two hat" venues.

On the night of my dinner I decided to go for the tasting menu ($120), which appears to change very reguarly. I also found it somewhat intriguing that the "tasting menu" was a menu in its own right and only included a couple of the a la carte options, along with several different dishes. A decision which would probably keep the regular punters happy and interested.

Circa is well located in the heart of St. Kilda, on Acland street, and occupies the uppper level of the Price of Wales hotel. It is modern and classy, pumping out "house music", which seems rather strange given the largely older and conservative nature of its patrons. I am told that the restaurant has good views overlooking the bay, but cannot attest to this as the curtains were drawn and nothing was visible. Service was okay, but not as attentive as it ought be. Little things like wine repeatedly being brought out after the food without apology, and having to ask several times for my jacket on departure are all dampeners, which one should not encounter in a restaurant of this caliber. It is the food and wine however that the restaurant is most famous for, but I again felt let down on both accounts. I chose to have matched wines with my deguation (an extra $110 for seven (very) small pours). This is poor value and not something I would advise, given that they have a fabulous wine list, which whilst expensive is better value than the former. The wines were of a good quality, but not worth the suppliment. Do yourself a favour and simply choose a good bottle.

Anyhow, that's enough whinging from me, here is a summary of my meal. Forgive me for its lack of detail - it has been a few weeks.

"Oysters and Caviar"
A lovely way to start the meal. Two freshly shucked, briney oysters - one is a claire de lune and the other an angassi, each topped with a small amount of sterling caviar.

Wine Pairing: Champagne

"Tomato Consomme"
A simple refreshing dish that suits a Summer menu quite well. This is basically a chilled broth of sweet tomatoes with a slightly smoky taste. Inside sit some small cubes of diced green tomato and the dish is finished with a dollop of yoghurt and fresh herbs.

Wine Pairing: Hunter Valley Semillion

"Roasted WA Marron, fennel custard"
This was a rather excellent dish. The star of the show is a beautiful, sweet marron tail that has been gently roasted. This sits ontop of a perfectly textured "fennel custard" and is finished with a parmesan seed crisp, some sauteed fennel, carrots and fresh dill. Another simple, well executed dish with clean flavours that shine through.

Wine Pairing: Burgundy Montrachet

"Jurassic Quail and foie gras terrine"
An interesting interpretation of terrine, strangely served warm. The dish consists of a small slab of lightly pressed quail meat and foie gras topped with a beetroot jus and sided by a simple leaf salad, with almonds and some roasted baby beets. Whilst foie gras is one of those wonderful indulgences this dish didn't do a lot for me. The fact that it was served warm possibly troubled me from the start as I had never had a "terrine" presented in this fashion. I also feel it needed to be more heavily pressed and seasoned.

Wine pairing: Bourgone Gamay

"Endamame Salad"
More of a palette cleanser than a course in itself. This is a small refreshing salad of endamame (green beans), soba noodles, seaweed and a tangy lime dressing.

(No wine pairing)

"Roasted wagyu sirloin, truffled coleslaw"
Possibly the highlight of the savoury courses, although a rather small portion. On the plate sits two small slices of perfectly cooked high-grade wagyu sirloin with a lovely beef jus. The side is a crisp coleslaw covered with sliced truffles. An excellent indulgence that works wonderfully with the coleslaw. Again - a simple dish that is not messed with heavily that ultimately delivers a good result, but again not a mind blowing one.

Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico

Cheese:
A small wedge of soft goats milk cheese, served with a raisin scone and a smearing of fig jam. Nothing exciting.

Wine Pairing: 15 Y.O. Madeira

"Coconut tapioca, mango sorbet, kaffir lime"
A good dessert course but a very small serve. In the bowl sits a wedge of light coconut scented tapioca pudding with a little quenelle of mango sorbet, a slice of fresh mango and a toffee tuille. Refreshing and enjoyable.

Wine Pairing: 2004 Muscat

"Hand dipped Valrhone chocolate"
A raspberry and chocolate slice. Almost rude to term this a course though. More like a petit four to go with coffee, which was quite good.


===============
Overall Circa is a good restaurant, in a lovely location. The food should be sensational, but for me it didn't quite hit the mark on most of the dishes. Service was not 100% and the wine pours in the degustation were "very" small for the amount paid. I am told they are half glasses, but in the most part they were not even close. Too many negatives to be considered a top two hat restaurant for my liking. A solid dining experience, but with the number of great restaurants we have in Melbourne I personally won't be rushing back.

================
Circa received a score of 17.5 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide and was awarded two chefs hats.

My Score: 15/20 - Food 8/10 Service 3.5/5 Ambience 3.5/5


www.circa.com.au

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  posted at 6:18 PM  
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