Sunday, October 26, 2014

Estelle Bar & Kitchen, Northcote


"Where should we go in the weekend, son? Can we go somewhere that serves truffles? I'd really love to try some," says Mum.

I was more than happy to spoil her Mum when she made this request one Thursday evening when she was here for a visit in September. To be honest, Mum and Dad have dedicated their entire lives to give my brother, sister and I the very best opportunities in life and the tools to achieve all our goals. Now that I am working, I especially love it when they make requests like these because all I want to do is shower them as much as I can because they deserve every bit of it.

It was a bit tricky to find a restaurant that still served truffles at first as truffle season was pretty much over at the time. After ringing around, I was happy to find that The Estelle still served truffles at the time. Great. I've heard so much about the food there so I was glad to use the opportunity to try too.


Off we went one fine Saturday afternoon for lunch. As soon as we sat down and were shown the menu, the waitress asked if we would like some prosecco to start. Umm... YES!!! I thought they'd never ask... What better way to kick start the meal.

We both went for the 5 course for $80 meal option, which I thought was pretty great value to be honest as most fine dining places would charge 3 course for the same price. However, mum opted to add the manjimup truffle for $25 whilst I decided to swap one of my courses with the kangaroo island marron for an extra $20.

Soon after the head FOH guy saw me with my camera, he asked whether or not I was a blogger (a question that still, to this day, makes me feel squirmish to the core). I feel incredibly uncomfortable with any form of attention, even on my birthday. I told him yes as I confessed in slight embarrassment to which he jokingly replied, "well, you've got everyone in their best behaviour now".


The walkway to the newly renovated courtyard dining area. Love the hanging plants


This covered seating area at the back is just stunning. I can imagine how amazing it would be to dine here at night too, just beautiful...


Complimentary Starter:

Veal crackling with caramelised onion foam, mille feuille with olive tapenade with roasted capsicum gel, chickpea soldiers with smoky powder

This was a superb start to the meal. So much better than getting your standard bread basket!! Each starter was interesting and tasty, definitely built a level of excitement for the meal to come. 



Course 1:

Celeriac in burnt hay ash on a bed of whipped Persian cheese, celery and radish salad, burnt chive oil


The texture of the celeriac was lovely. It was soft and collapsed in your mouth but held together by the creaminess of the cheese. There was a zing from the salad and the oil was fragrant. A nice, light and fitting dish for the start of the meal.




Course 2 (a):

Poached marron, Tassie mussels, broad beans and sea microherb, cauliflower puree, dashi stock, pickled cucumber


Everything on the plate was so delicately sweet and subtle. There were a number of flavours going on in the dish, but none of them overpowering but worked silently in harmony with one another. The unctuous dashi was definitely addictive and had a great earthy balance.




Course 2 (b):

Pickled spanner crab, parsnip custard, parsnip chips, avocado and lime, seaweed and tapioca wafer

This dish was simply fantastic. It had all the elements of the sea with notes of sweetness, sourness and saltiness in each mouthful. Such magnificence and beauty on a plate too. Mum and I were just in awe by the presentation and flavours of this dish. So beautiful.




Course 3:

Smoked hen's egg, toasted spaetzle, toasted corn, freeze dried corn, puffed rice, creamed corn broth, iberico ham


It was nice of Head Chef Josh Pelham to come to personally bring this dish out to us, Mum and I couldn't wait for him to reveal what he had under the glass bowl. The dish was bang full of flavour from the first bite. Rich corn and toasted flavour throughout with a nice chewy texture from the spatzel. 




Recommended Italian wine to go with the next pork course... Amazing


Just before we were served our next course, we were asked if we wanted to try this wine as we were told that it would go really well with the dish we were about to eat. So nice of them!




Course 4:

Crispy pork jowl, mustard jus, red cabbage puree, pickled and buttered kohlrabi


Can I just say that this dish was AMAZING! I honestly cannot stand the description "melt in your mouth" but this was exactly what happened when we put the meat in our mouths. The crackling was fantastic too. Thick but felt super thing and crisp with a slight charred flavour to it too. The puree was so velvety and smooth too that it was almost gleaming on the plate. Mum and I were still talking about this dish later that night. As for the wine, it was robust in fragrance but light in flavour, definitely went down a treat with the wine. Loved it.




Course 5 (a): 

12 hour braised Wagyu cheek, red wine jus, dried and shaved bone marrow, king mushroom and truffles



I only had a bite of Mum's dish and found the flavour profile to be very layered and complex, but in a good way. It had lots of similar tones which complemented the wagyu well.



Course 5 (b):

Venison with venison jus, homemade venison sausage, charred pear, creamed onion, cherry and blood sausage jelly

I enjoyed this dish very much too. The venison was tender as it can be and I admired the way they cooked it. The meat was also a great vessel to showcase all the other ingredients on the plate too like the rich blood jelly, creamy onion, salty jus, cherry jelly. Best part was how the sweet, smokey pear finished and completed the dish. So delicious.


Course 6 (a):

Yogurt parfait, jellied frozen and dried rhubarb, mandarin


Because I don't have a sweet tooth, I always prefer for my desserts or cocktails to be more sour than sweet, which this was. The tartness definitely livened our senses but was softened afterwards by the jelly and delicious parfait.


Course 6 (b):

Charred pineapple in caramel, apple cucumber sorbet, white chocolate mousse and green tea crumb

Again, Head Chef John was nice enough to come out of the kitchen to serve and introduce this dish to us too. The caramelised pineapple had a dark note but counter balanced with the slightly sour and refreshing sorbet and also the creaminess of the white chocolate. 




Complimentary petit fours:

Currant marshmallow, hibiscus jelly, raspberry and balsamic chocolate


Complimentary recipe card as a sneak peek to Scott Pickett's upcoming cookbook...

Suffice to say that by the end of this dish, Mum and I were sooooo full but happy from the meal as were truly found it to be an incredible dining experience from start to finish. We've had our fair share of fine dining experiences in the past but must say that this meal at The Estelle is hands down our favourite yet. We later found out that Chef Josh Pelham was recently awarded "Best Young Chef of the Year 2015" by The Age Good Food Guide. Impressive! I'm happy for his recognition as I thought it was a very well deserved accolade.

Overall, I thought that the menu was clearly designed by someone who had an immense understanding of food and flavours, as it really showed in each dish. I also liked how they didn't reveal the entire menu to the diners at the start of the meal, keeping us on our toes as we had no idea what to expect but knew we were in great hands. It was almost like an ethereal dream of a dining experience as we almost felt transported by each dish.

Besides the execution of the food, I just thought the meal was just amazing value for money. Again, 5 courses for $80 and it kinda looked like we had more than that too. Most places would already charge 3 course for $80 and nowhere close to getting this sort of quality and creativity. Mum and I chose to come for lunch and I would definitely recommend it too. The places was not busy at all and you get to dine at a very relaxed pace and environment. They typically focus more on dinners but because the entire team is there during the day to prepare all the food for the evening anyway, they decided to open up the restaurant to public too. 

I'm glad to have tried The Estelle and would highly recommend people coming here to try, especially if they're looking for a place to go for a special occasion without breaking the bank too much. Great meal overall.

Estelle Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Taste by Appointment: An Event by Grey Goose Australia at Saint Crispin

Disclaimer: Winston attended the Taste by Appointment event at Saint Crispin as a guest of Grey Goose Australia and f4 Consulting


Meet Andy...

 Andy Wren is the Victorian Grey Goose Ambassador, also the guy who made me the delicious citrus cocktail after the lunch. Side note: Andy was wearing a very nice looking timepiece that day that I really wanted for myself too hah.


Meet Joe...

Joe McCanta is the Global Grey Goose Ambassador that flew in all the way from London just to host us. An exceptional character. Full of charisma and passion in the way that he speaks, it was a pleasure getting to chat with him that day. Joe flies all around the world to various events to spread the word and goodness of Grey Goose. I want his job. Livin' the dream, I say.


Meet James aka "Dub Dub"

Dub Dub is the Australian Grey Goose Ambassador and also another great chap that we got to meet that day. Not everyday we got to taste truffle infused vodka and the Dubmeister was the man behind it all. He told us that his house smelled like truffle for days, I wasn't sure what he was complaining about =)



"Le Fizz" Cocktail by Joe McCanta
Grey Goose vodka served chilled with St Germain elderflower liqueur, freshly squeezed lime juice and soda water

Absolutely delicious...!! 



AMUSE BOUCHE PLATE

Sweet:
Bannockburn chicken, golden raisin jam
Sour:
Hapuka ceviche, lime, coriander
Bitter:
Ocean trout, blood orange endive, cucumber


Mint and Bitters cocktail that we each created and personalised to our liking at the table...


MAIN COURSE

Wagyu beef cheek and rump, miso eggplant, fricasse of mushrooms, parkesan gel and soil



Grey Goose Martini A La Truffe Maison
Grey Goose vodka stirred with Noilly Prat dry vermouth washed with black truffle butter and plum vinegar


DESSERT

Parfait of hazelnuts, caramelised pear, crispy phyllo pastry, almond gel



Another shot of the beautiful masterpiece...




Now that we've explored our own tastebuds and preferences, we made our way to the bar once again after the meal to have more cocktails again.

This time, there were an array of various ingredients with distinct flavours for people to use if they choose



Andy creating a cocktail based on my flavour profile of choice: Sour!


Almost there... Exciting!


The finished product!
I love citrus in drinks and desserts... Delicious stuff






The boys doing a bit of a taste test... Love this shot of them!


Group photo with Joe, Prue (from Bacardi Lion), Mum (who was in town and joined me for the event) and some new friends that I made that day =)

Photo taken from my Instagram: @winceeee

__________________________________

Blogging is such a fun hobby for me, always giving me opportunities to do certain things, try new places and meet different people. That said, I've admittedly been rather MIA for a while now. For the past few months, I've been feeling so knackered almost everyday that the last thing I want is to rush to get somewhere after work (or on weekends) and then commit to spending hours after that to write up a blog post on the event. I would if I could. Although, I wouldn't mind if it's a casual drop in to a restaurant with my friends or family (because I catchup with them for a meal anyway) but going to events just takes so much more effort. This has definitely made me very selective about how I spend my free time. 

Fortunately, once in a while I'd get an invite to something that really, really grabs my attention. This invitation to the Taste by Appointment event, hosted by Grey Goose Australia at Saint Crispin was honestly one of them. An email that really caught my stood out from the rest IMO. Why???? 

First, it so happened that Grey Goose has actually been my favourite vodka to drink by far for so long, no joke. I've had so much great memories of Grey Goose over the years. Next, I've also actually been meaning to try Saint Crispin for a while now too but never found the opportunity to go. I've heard so many great things about the food there and it's definitely a restaurant that's got many people talking. As if the the stars weren't aligned enough, I was actually taking a very, very rare day off that very same day to run some errands as I was going to be flying overseas the next day. I couldn't go if I were at work because it was a Friday afternoon! Such a coincidence because I NEVER take day offs! Quite the self confessed workaholic. In my mind, I was thinking, "That's it! This is honestly the PERFECT event for me I can't be more excited. I'm there." In fact, I actually felt quite grateful getting the invite to Taste by Appointment because I realised after that they were very, very selective about who to extend the invitations to. The fact that my Mum happened to be in town and I could take her along was just the cherry on the cake too.

Let me just say that the whole event was fantastic from start to finish. I've been to my fair share and don't say this lightly. They chose a fantastic setting, hosts were gracious and lovely people, program was actually very interactive, educational and enjoyable for everyone. Had a great time and so did everyone there.

Taste by Appointment is an event put together to help people discover and understand their own taste buds by exploring all the elements of taste (salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami) by using various ingredients highlighted through food and cocktails. It was great. As I suspected, I do have an inclination towards salty foods and sour drinks/desserts. 

We started off the afternoon by having a light, refreshing cocktail by Joe called "Le Fizz", it was great. Also got to spend a bit of time chatting and hanging out with Joe and Prue (from Bacardi Lion, the parent company of Grey Goose). Fun. Then, we made our way to the lunch in the dining hall next door. Tasting, touching, learning first hand with Joe explaining the theory and processes of taste to us every step of the way.

The meal was great. The 3 different flavours were definitely accentuated in the amuse bouche by the carefully selected ingredients. I really enjoyed the chicken terrine. Next, the wagyu main course was just perfection and bang full of flavour. So many different flavours coming together in harmony with great execution and precision. Finally, I must say that even though I am typically not a dessert person but that parfait in phyllo pastry was definitely the dish of the day. Everyone's eyes lit up as soon as they took their first bite. Everything just worked on the plate. Visually stunning too. I sincerely hope that this parfait is part of the permanent menu because I'd like to come back to have this again. Have I mentioned that we had 3 or 4 cocktails with our meal too? I lost count at this stage.

After that, we made our way to the bar in the adjacent room once again for more drinks. Now that everyone got to know their taste buds better, all we had to do was tell either of the 3 awesome mixologists there that day (Joe, Andy and Dub Dub) what they were so they could custom make a cocktail just for us. What joy and privilege. Andy was responsible for my citrus cocktail with a slightly sweet note and it was great. Couldn't get enough of it.

Overall, I cannot begin to describe how much I enjoyed that afternoon. Many great laughs and conversations were had. Food was great, people were lovely. Not to mention, the drinks.......... There was a LOT of it. Let's just say that by the end of that afternoon, I was reminded once again why Grey Goose is still, hands down, my favourite vodka to drink. The quality is second to none and it is really evident. Also, the best thing about it is how smooth and resilient the vodka is. We must have had them in at least 8 different cocktails all up and the possibilities of what you can do with them are endless. I've gone through a beer phase, then a wine phase and now, I think I am slowly converting to a cocktail phase thanks to this event. 

Thank you once again to Grey Goose Australia and Saint Crispin for being such amazing hosts and also f4 Consulting for getting in touch about the event. It was truly a pleasure. 

Saint Crispin on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 29, 2014

Foxeys Hangout, Red Hill



Wine tasting happening in the restaurant...




Bread, Olive Oil, Pistachio Spice


Atlantic Salmon, Miso Mayo


Mushroom Sausage Rolls, House Chutney


Onion, Silverbeet Fritters


Leek, Blood Orange, Goats Curd, Mint
(my favourite dish of the day!)


BBQ Quail


Celery, Rocket, PX Vinegar


Spiced Meatballs, Yoghurt Dip


Avocado, Walnuts, Pancetta



The chef in blue cooking for everyone in the open kitchen. Respect how she coordinates every table's courses yet consistently produce delicious food at the same time


Lunch with a view...


Just such a relaxed setting


"Hey Winston, have you heard of this place called Foxey's Hangout in Red Hill? It's really interesting. Set at a winery with a view and you can do a chef's lunch with about 8 courses for only $35. Food is pretty good too."

ON.

I made my way to Red Hill that very weekend with my Mum and Sister because I honestly couldn't wait to try after my friend Morgan told me about this place. Sounded so interesting. And man, such a good price! Thank goodness we were blessed with unbeatable weather day too.

We first walked in through an uber tall door to reveal a restaurant with a refined yet rustic decor and bathing in natural light as there was an entire wall made purely of windows. Calming. Soon, we noticed that there was an open kitchen right where there was a woman single-handedly cooking the food for everyone in the restaurant. Amazing. Finally, our breaths were taken away by the majestic view that the entire restaurant was facing. There were little tables and chairs set outside for people to enjoy the view with their meal at the same time. Heck, loads of people opted to just enjoy their meal by sitting on the steps of the balcony too. There was an undeniably relaxed and casual feel throughout the entire restaurant and I don't think I've experienced something quite like this before.

Anyway, we went straight for the chef's lunch for $35 per head, where the chef would serve 8 course of her choosing to the diners. Otherwise, diners have the option of selecting each individual course themselves and pay for what they ordered. We were happy to take it easy and leave it up to the chef.

In general, I really enjoyed the food at Foxey's Hangout. I thought the each dish showcased the essence of honest cooking. Besides that, what I loved most about each dish is the pairing of various ingredients that one might not necessarily think of but worked incredibly well together. I could tell the person that designed this menu had a strong understanding of flavours because it was amazing. 

To start, the bread with the pistachio spiced crumb was downright delicious. The crumb is a signature there and they sell them in bottles at the restaurant too. I also absolutely enjoyed the salmon, mushroom roll and silverbeet fritters -- they were all done perfectly and absolutely tasty. Although, my favourite dish of the day was actually the leek with goats curd. The leek was soft and tender but the creaminess of the cheese against the slightly tart blood orange and finished with the mint was just one of the most clever composition of flavours I had tasted in a while. So simple, but it's all about the right combination. I was telling Morgan about how much I love this dish and it was great to hear it struck a chord with him too, this dish is quite outstanding.

The rest of the meal was pleasant too although if I were to be slightly nitpicky, I'd say that the quail was a little under-seasoned (but there was salt on the table anyway) and the meatballs were spicy but bland and undercooked. That said, everything else that we tasted was superb too.

To sum up, I think Foxey's Hangout is an excellent place for a lunch on the weekend. Excellent. The best and most unique thing about this place is how laid back they are about everything. Your choice of seating (you can sit on a table or on the steps if you wish), how you want to order and best of all, the setting. Plus, the view is impeccable. Not to mention how good the flavour combinations are in the food and also their house wine. Finally, the price! 

Sure, you won't be stuffed to the brim by eating here but personally, I think it's a pleasant and comfortable amount. $35 is honestly amazing value. There really is so much to enjoy about this place. I would highly recommend it especially now that the weather is getting nicer with the change of season. It's a place that is both stunning and relaxing that you can't help but notice everyone there simply enjoys every bit of it. Definitely a great hangout spot.

Foxey's Hangout on Urbanspoon