The Super Six at Ocha…

I had heard a lot about this local gem of a restaurant Ocha, in it’s old form in Kew. Now in a shiny new premises on Barker’s Rd Hawthorn, I organised a gang together to do the monthy Mon night degustation. This normally occurs on the last Monday of each month and consists of a 10 course menu at $120 per head. Unfortunately for us, we scheduled in a month where a famous noodle chef decided to visit from Japan and the degustation night got moved to a date we were unable to attend. So rather than reschedule a whole month away, we decided to make the most of the very reasonable $7 per head BYO policy on the Friday night instead.

The menu was very long, so many choices, don’t want to stuff up! So, as per my preferred way of ordering, we let the staff take control. We thought this would deliver the best degustation experience without actually having to spend $120 per head… pretty smart right? Here is a selection of what we ate… Yep, we were very hungry…

Japanese meatball

wasabi infused salmon tartare on homemade potato crisp with flying fish roe

Crunchy prawn dumpling served with green tea salt

Grilled scallop in its shell with Ocha’s hollandaise sauce

Crunchy calamari “legs“ tossed with fresh chilli and garlic

Pork belly special

Sushi & sashimi platter with soft shell crab rolls

Miso marinated black cod, grilled and served on salad

“Would you like dessert?”

Silly question really… The dessert menu is definitely worth a look, once again there are lots of choices! We went with this super crispy banana fritter and a perfect “ooey, gooey, chocolate pudding”.

deep fried crunchy rice flake covered banana with chocolate sauce & green tea icecream

One side of the table also had free entertainment as we watched the SUPER AWKWARD action of a new couple (arguably a first date) unfold. A seriously over the top date, with both participants dressed to the nines, with perfect ringlets and dripping in jewellery. He even reached across and kissed her hand over their meals. Cute right? Or gross! Ha!

One thing we hadn’t accounted for on this Friday night was just how thirsty we would actually be. We brought along 3 bottles of wine but the boys decided it was premium japanese beer night and proceeded to drink 10 steins between them… I am not bringing this up to shame them, us girls ordered at least another bottle (and I think a couple of glasses) of delicious german reisling, but rather to explain the size of the bill; it equated to $125 per person which shocked us until we delved a little deeper into our hydration habits. We were certainly satisfied though by the amount and the quality of food.

I was unsatisfied the next morning however, when I woke up with a humungous hangover, only to be informed by smartypants Ben, that German reisling has a higher sulphur level than most white wines, and should really be drunk in moderation (like all wines obviously)… I informed Ben right back, that this information would have been super handy to have accompanied his wine reccomendations (all German reislings) at the time, the night before…
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Surprise! Tuesday night chef’s table at Attica

Ben had told me we were having dinner with his parents on Tuesday night… Tuesday night was public holiday eve again! Woot! I got home from work and asked where we were going… “Not sure but probably a pizza place on Glenferrie Rd”… Excellent, some pizza and a few glasses of wine with the in-laws to be! 15 minutes later I was ready to go… Ben looked up and said “A bit casual aren’t we?”… Uuummm…. For a pizza place on Glenferrie Rd?? And more to the point… I was dressed perfectly fine! “Excuse me?! I would dress like this for Vu De Monde!”… Wowsers, a fight before we even got out the door… I was seriously grumpy as I drove towards Glenferrie Rd, when Ben started directing me in the opposite direction… I began to think something funny was going on…. and when I parked near the corner of Kooyong Rd and Glen Eira Rd I suddenly understood the irony of my earlier comeback! We weren’t going to Vue De Monde but rather Attica! Melbourne’s best restaurant according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and the location of my favourite meal ever. Good Tuesday night surprise Benny! Especially on a public holiday eve! Double Woot!

butter, whipped olive oil & table decoration

Tuesday night is Chef’s Night at Attica. This is when Ben Shewry and his team test and develop new menu items. It costs $95 a head for five courses and you can match wine for an additional $70. I have added a photo of the evening’s menu.. it’s not very descriptive. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what you will be eating from the list of ingredients describing each course.

That’s the beauty of it! The shiitake broth flavour was INCREDIBLE. I knew I could smell mushrooms cooking when we walked in. They must have been cooking hundreds of them to get the depth of flavour that was happening in this tiny bowl of clear broth with eleven types of basil leaves and a liquorice leaf floating in it. No photo of the first couple of courses as I felt a little funny taking pics for some reason (until I’d had a few wines of course). Each course was very small but blew me away with the flavour combinations. Really hard to describe too. I had to keep telling myself to slow down and really enjoy each little plate of food. For once I was happy to keep nibbling on the delish bread between courses as I wasn’t afraid of getting too full!

Roasted pigeon with thinly sliced turnip and black cabbage

shredded radish & watermelon on granita with liquorice leaf

The dessert was slightly too strange when it first came out but as the granita melted it became more enjoyable. I was really hoping for a final treat like the last time we came and my wish came true when the bird nest arrived with four gorgeous caramel filled eggs to really finish the meal!

caramel filled chocolate eggs

Attica again lived up to the hype as Melbourne’s best… I can’t wait to go again on a Tuesday and see what new dishes are coming out of that genius kitchen!
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2011 part 5 – a super special Sydney lunch

Without giving away too many details of this awesome weekend I will tell you about a couple of amazing meals.

This particular December Friday lunch at Quay, Australia’s number one restaurant according to San Pel’s World’s Best Restaurants. To give you just a little context, we had locked in a long weekend away at Dunkeld to celebrate both of our birthdays. The plan was to stay and have dinner at The Royal Mail. I had initially wanted to go to Quay but when I tried to book, they were full on Fri and Sat nights until January, so Ben had (said we were) booked into Royal Mail…. And then, on the Thursday night before we were meant to leave for our long, long drive…. he proposed…. with a ring… in a frozen yogurt… in the freezer (haha, don’t ask!)… He did very well to surprise me on the only day of the year he probably could… His birthday. So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that he had more up his sleeve. Like when we turned off the freeway a long way before Dunkeld… into the airport.

We arrived in Sydney and checked into our hotel, which had a fabulous view across to the Opera House and down to the Overseas Passenger Terminal, the main event location for the day. Ben had managed to book arguably the best restaurant in Sydney for a long, luxurious lunch. Eight course degustation if I got my way… which I didn’t. Ha! As usual, the thought of sitting through eight courses of me and my conversation was not completely exciting to Benny so we settled on 4 courses each and I got to choose what we were both eating to ensure I got to try as much as possible! See below for some amazing savoury dishes!

Sashimi amuse bouche

Poached native freshwater marron, young almonds, bergamot marmalade, pomelo, green mango, elder, chamomile

Salad of rhubarb, endive, beetroot, purple carrot, rosa radish, kohlrabi, goat's curd, pomegranate molasses, violet

Slow cooked coturnix quail breast, stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farro, walnuts, pumpernickel, malt

Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, shaved scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, juniper, bay

Spring lamb with some pretty flowers

Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil

We sat out on the balcony with a view towards the harbour bridge and felt like we were at our own private lunch. Embarrassingly so actually, as at one point Ben had excused himself and I was checking out my beautiful ring… perhaps taking photos of it…. Seeing the light reflections at different angles… different fingers… no doubt you can imagine. So.. when I got up for a bathroom break, a couple sitting just inside the window congratulated me as I walked past with big smiles on their faces… Aaarrrggghhh! What a dick I must have looked like dammit!

And then came dessert.

Eight texture chocolate cake

The famous white nectarine snow egg

Suitable impressed?! I was certainly full…. or replete as my mother would prefer I said. Completely, repletely, absolutely, incredibly, magnificantly full!

And then came truffles and the best photo ever taken on an iPhone…

Truffles at Quay and check the photography!

The only problem with this lunch was that I had spent 6  months getting over the fact we couldn’t get into Quay and looking forward to The Royal Mail. First anniversary maybe?

Quay on Urbanspoon

The Estelle – another trip over the river

Another trip Northside on another Sunday night. I should say at this point that I love Northside, it’s just that, from St Kilda, it’s a long drive for a meal, worth it though, worth it! Mostly the whinging is just a joke, though Northcote really is pretty far!

And in the case of The Estelle Bar & Kitchen in Northcote, it was well worth it! Our visit to The Estelle came on the recommendation from a long time family friend of Ben’s with many, many years experience in restaurants. We actually all went together to the diner. It really is a diner. We sat at the bar and and ordered the 5 course tasting menu (Ben rolls his eyes) for $70. A friend of mine looked at these photos and said: “Well that meal looked like every cooking cliche in the book” and… my response was as always: “I love that shit!”

polenta, truffle and egg poached at a very low temperature

pepper crusted kangaroo with potato, celeriac & red wine jus

Roast pork loin with spring onion & black garlic

Vanilla rice pudding with passionfruit & puffed rice

Poached rhubarb, musk ice cream (super musky), rosewater meringue & beetroot powder

After this meal, I have invited myself to every other dinner with this couple… EVERY! Even on the Northside!

The Estelle on Urbanspoon

The Brix – A trip to the Northside (darkside)

I think we visited this tiny restaurant in it’s first or second week in existence. A suggestion from a friend who had just moved to Melbourne for a dinner with her and her boyfriend and Ben and I. We found The Brix just off Brunswick St on the side of a real estate office. The restaurant had mistakenly taken our booking for eight peeps instead of four so we sat on a HUGE table under the eye-catching and slightly creepy massive mural (I actually think it might be a massive photograph) but we had a great view of the whole restaurant, through the bar and into the kitchen. The narrow space and ambience created is awesome, with polished concrete floors, a big ropey scuplture thingy, the mural/photograph and perfect mood lighting which does everything to avoid the recent common theme of…. stark…. The food is super techy french. No share plates (dammit) but we had a 5 course set menu which makes me smile as long as the servings are big enough which they were… I was perfectly full! Standout was the lamb belly.  So delicious and crunchy plus juicy and tender meat!

Eel with beetroot, cucumber and horseradish

lamb belly with shallots, capers and almonds

pork with new season asparagus and radish

chocolate pudding with yogurt and figs

I like a set menu as you get to taste what are hopefully the chef’s favourites but we might need to venture back across the river to try some of the rest of the menu! Yummo!

 
[The Brix] Café & Bistrot on Urbanspoon

2011 part 1 – Attica

I kinda lied about it being in 2011, as it was actually Dec 2010 but as it is my favourite meal of all time, it’s fitting to start with it.

Attica, in Ripponlea, Melbourne. Pretty funny location really, out of the city, in the ‘burbs. At the time rated the 4th best restaurant in Australia according to San Pel Best Restaurant Awards. It is now rated number 3 after bumping off Tetsuya’s. We found an unassuming entrance and cool, understated interior. Perfect birthday dinner for Ben and I. We had decided to stay at The Olsen for a super special night, which is pretty funny as Attica is actually closer to our house than the hotel… We started the evening with a glass or two of Roederer at the hotel before a short taxi ride to the restaurant. Remembering now how full of both food and wine we were at the end, it might have been smarter to skip the champagne to start.

We had the 8 course set menu and everything that went into my mouth was unusual and incredible. Nothing was too scary either. The set menu price was extremely reasonable when compared to similar calibre restaurants and the matched wine was said to be excellent by the boy in the know. A really interesting selection from many different regions around the world and matched perfectly.

This meal has stuck in my memory and I cant wait to go back… once I have finished trying every other restaurant in melbourne… hhmmm…

Here’s some piccies and I have sort of remembered what everything was:

Attica, 74 Glen Eira Road  Ripponlea VIC 3185, (03) 9530 0111 www.attica.com.au

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