Thursday, 12 January 2012

Cutler & Co - Melbourne - 55-57 Gertude Street, Fitzroy

This is my 3rd visit to Cutler & Co.

I have had a longstanding love affair with Andrew McConnell. We have had many blind dates at Mrs Jones, Dining Room 211, Three, One, Two, Cumulus Inc and Golden Fields - shame though that he was not on the other end of the table. Secretly I was also not so upset when my bible, the Gourmet Traveller, mentioned he had split with his wife. I am a bad person. More secretly, I think I now have a chance. If I eat at his restaurants often enough he will notice and will come and say hello and cook for me for the rest of his life.

Ok, back to Cutler & Co. I did really love the 3rd visit. It was one of the best work dos I have been to.  Set menu, degustation style but not the full degustation menu. When you go, you must have the degustation, everything is a taste sensation. The a la carte is good but it won't wow you.

Duck and beef here are done so well and the desserts are some of the best around Melbourne.

I love the architecture and design of this place, including the freaky ferns.

Wine is also excellent.

Expect to drop a mild bomb here, about $160.

Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon



Mister Bianco - Melbourne, 285 High Street, Kew - Melbourne

The First Date:

Everyone, there is a new man in my life.  His name is Mister Bianco and he has filled my empty heart broken by Mr Svago after he abandoned me.

He also hits the same spot as Svago ... in Kew.
He is a modern Italian with an extensive menu on offer and followed by the same old Kew groupies as Mr Svago.

He likes shared dishes. We had a pescatarian on the table, unfortunate in the minds of some, but no issue with Mister Bianco. 

He said we should start with some arancini with spinach, provolone cheese and chilli (soft and sensuous), followed by zucchini flowers fried with basil, carrot, almond salad and saffron cream (the carrot was an interesting twist), then baccala and potato croquettes with lemon and parsley sauce (moist). Good choices Mister!

The best dish, however, and although this is wanky thing to say, perhaps my 'fave' of the moment, was burrata with a roasted butternut pumpkin salad, black rice fritters, candied walnuts and rocket. The burrata melted like my heart in the centre; boy does this man knows how to swoon a woman.

Next was tuna capaccio which my friend says is one of the best she has ever had. Some big statements all round for my new fella.

We finised with cavatelli which is a semolina gnocchi with prawns, mussels, peas, lemon and basil sauce - delicate and tasty.

Desserts were also really lush and lovely.

This man does not expect a lot of money, only around $65 for a night and it is over in a few hours.

Can't wait to go home and tell my dad about this one - he is a winner.
Mister Bianco on Urbanspoon


The Second Date:

My second date with Mr Bianco faired quite well but he did not perform as well as the first time.

His dishes lacked the va va voom of the burrata and pasta of last time

His wagyu meatballs were good. But his pork did not really turn me on.



Sunday, 8 January 2012

Da Noi - Melbourne - 95 Toorak Road, Toorak

OK, so this is my favourite restaurant in Melboure - hands down below zero.

I can't tell you how many times I have been here and I should earn a commission for recommending it to so many people.

It is Sardinian and is cooky and knooky like the village restaurants in Italy.

Around 12 years ago a work colleague said to me "I bet you haven't been to Da Noi". Not only had I not been, I had not heard of it - I was mortified by this actually. So I went the next day for a client lunch. But I was with a triathelete (who as a rule do not appreciate good food) and a girl who doesn't eat and it was also at a time when some Aussies were less adventurous. We had a choice of the chef's menu or a la carte. I so desperately wanted the chef's menu (where the chef cooks whatever) and tried hard to get my way (which I usually do) but the client had the final say - a la carte it was. Yes, it was excellent (I still remember the seafood with fregola) but I had a feeling the chef's menu would be fanfriggintastic. So I spoke to my parents and a booking was made for Saturday that week. Dad said it was "not bad" which means "oh my god, this is the most senfrigginsational Italian I have ever had in Melbourne". Ok, enough with the history lesson.

The menu starts with lots of small tasty dishes of anything from pickled octopus to eggplant parmagiana and zucchini with goats cheese.

Although, the waiters will deny it, there used to be a soup course after starters which for me was the best and most interesting - there is nothing like a bone marrow in your soup. While I am always mildly annoyed that soup was dropped, I do let it go by the time I hit pasta. If you score the rabbit fettucine, you have hit the jackpot. But there are others almost as perfect - crab mousse in tortellini or ravioli with snapper, saffron sauce and broccolini.

The main can be rabbit with fregola, spatchcock or suckling pig (I am not a big pig lover but I do like this).

And for dessert, there is a selection but you gotta have the panna cotta, I think it is made with goats milk. Ask for this at the beginning so they can save you some.

The wine list is great. Can't tell you the name of one wine but rely on the waiters and they will recommend well.

The prices is more expensive than the $60 we paid 12 years ago, around $93 (exlcuding alcohol) today but it is worth it.

Da Noi on Urbanspoon

9/10. Enough said.


Ablas - Melbourne - 109 Elgin Street, Carlton

I do like the fact that this restaurant has not changed one bit since the 80s.

There are no big suprises but there is always a buzz before going and I know I am going to have a fun night.

We went in a largish group and got the set menu. Always included is a hello from Nonna (what is a matronly lady called in Lebanese?).

It starts with dips then proceeds with dolmades, sausage, beef and pine nut koupes, zesty chicken, rice with chicken and almonds and followed by meats.  Dessert is baklava etc.

Look, it is not the best Lebanese I have had (the best is in Beirut called Le Chef if you are ever in Beirut which I highly recommend for the food, scenery and shopping) but it is predictably good.

And best of all you can BYO and corkage is cheap.

Cost is around $60.

Abla's on Urbanspoon


Izakaya Den - Melbourne - Basement, 114 Russell Street, Melbourne

I feel that there could be better Japanese going on in Melbourne and I am praying that there is more to come in future. I still think Sydney is better but only for Japanese and nothing else.

But I am thankful to the God of Food that Izakaya Den did arrive. 

It is dark, it is secret and I feel like a movie star as I swipe the curtain away upon entering.

I love it, I love it, I love it!

Lunch is great - a set menu with about 3 courses.  The barramundi is superbly cooked as are the wagyu and seared raw tuna.

But dinner is the best!  It is work waiting in the queue on Friday or Saturday night but try and go on another night during the week.

A lot of it is about the sake - hot, cold, warm, sweet, strong - it is a big menu decision in itself. For those who are not lovers of sake, there are quirky Japanesy style cocktails too.

Favourites for dinner are the quail, grilled barramundi (again with the barra), umaki japanese omelette, spicy tuna tataki, daikon salad, wagyu - hang on, is that almost the entire menu?

But then you also have to try the specials - surprises like crumbed fried sardine with a splash of lemon and some Japanese sauce or the duck liver parfait with deep fried wonton skin are trully exceptional.

Desserts are for me just "ok", but don't respect me with any decisions here, as I am not a big fan of Asian desserts. But you can always go across the road to Il Bacaro for a pannacotta and sauterne - a perfect solution I think.

The service is impeccable.

Price is around $65 per head but it really depends on how much you eat. I am a guts so it can cost up to $80 or $100 with some good sake.

Excellent - and my folks love it too - even better.

Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon