Prix Fixe, Melbourne CBD

Phillippa Sibley’s new venture is a fixed price (hence the name), ticketed restaurant – apparently the first of its kind in Melbourne. Places are booked and paid for in advance online, though walk-ins are welcome if there’s space to accommodate. We visited for lunch, which is $49 for 2 courses and a glass of wine. Once at the restaurant, the meal can be upgraded to a 3-course lunch for $65.Their 4-course dinner for $79.Apart from the set menu, this month they were offering freshlyshucked oysters and an optional cheese course.

This month’s menu follows the theme of Vive La France and we squeezed in for the second last lunchtime that this menu is available.

Following on from the delicious bread, our entree of Oeufs Bourguignon was served. The gooey, translucent, red wine-poached egg was a delight to eat and the flavour combinations of the lardons, garlic, escargot, beurre rouge, nettle puree and champignons were amazing. All of this was particularly wonderful on top of the crusty bread. We did wish there was more bread to eat with it, though it may have disrupted the symmetry of the plate.

The main course of Canard A L’Orange consisted of confit duck leg wrapped in brik pastry, roasted duck breast, citrus and green peppercorn sauce, orange segments and caramelised witlof. It was also accompanied by beautifully creamy Paris mash to share. I was glad to find that the sauce wasn’t overly acidic or sweet and didn’t taste too strongly of citrus; it complemented the duck very well. I especially loved the crispy brik pastry and tasty confit contained within.

We did decide to upgrade one of our meals to try the dessert – Laissez-les Manger Gateau (meaning, ‘Let Them Eat Cake’). The simple exterior of the cake was cut open to reveal quite an interesting and exciting multi-layered interior. I forget what all the layers were, but they included ladyfingers, passionfruit and chocolate mousse. This was topped with a very light and refreshing almond milk sorbet then sprinkled with gold dust.

The set menu changes monthly so there’s always something new to try, which is just as well because with food of this standard, return visits would be a most pleasurable adventure.

Prix Fixe
Alfred Place
90 Collins St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
http://www.prixfixe.com.au/

Prix Fixe on Urbanspoon

Izakaya Hachibei, Melbourne CBD

With a wide range of dishes on offer, often sharing plates as a group is the best way to enjoy food at izakayas. Just as well Izakaya Hachibei has plenty of seating for groups! Our order today consisted of:
- Salmon skin roll ($14)
- Wakame salad ($7)
- Small sashimi platter ($17)
- Buta Syogayaki ($14.30) Slices of pork fried in ginger
- Yakitori ($2.80 each)
- Gyutan Shio ($8.2) Braised Ox Tongue

Of what we tried, my favourite was the salmon skin roll. It was tasty and wonderful with the crunchy salmon skin inside, though the roll was too large in diameter to eat neatly. My next favourite of the night was the gyutan shioyaki (thinly sliced beef tongue grilled with salt and pepper), which was well seasoned, smoky and tender. The seaweed salad wasn’t bad, though I was disappointed to see more than half the bowl was made up of lettuce leaves. In fact, the sizes of the servings were generally quite small. Apart from the yakitori (which I didn’t try), the other dishes were tasty thought not stand-out.

The quality of the food here seems to be pretty good, depending on what you pick, and there’s such a wide variety of dishes that there’s likely to to be something to please everyone.

Izakaya Hachibeh
143-145 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
http://www.hachibeh.com.au/
(03) 9078 9909
Izakaya Hachibeh on Urbanspoon

Shimbashi, Melbourne CBD Take 3

Being a cold winter’s day I wanted something to warm me up, but still wanted to enjoy Shimbashi’s wonderful soba. As a compromise, I had the Kamo Seiro Soba, which is cold soba served with a warm broth with duck slices ($19). This is different to Kamonan Soba, which is where soba is served in the warm broth with slices of duck. Also in the broth were some pieces of tofu and mushrooms. Like on my previous visits, the soba noodles were enjoyably nutty with a slightly chewy texture. I did take too long to eat them because I was engrossed in conversation so the soba started to stick together towards the end, but a quick swirl in the tasty broth rectified that.

Kamo Serio Soba ($19)

Kamo Serio Soba ($19)

Shimbashi
17 Liverpool St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9654 6727
http://www.shimbashisobamelbourne.net/#

 

Third Wave, Prahran

Third Wave has been on my list for a while. I was particularly interested in trying out their Russian menu as it’s not something I commonly see. Major facepalm moment when I realised that the Prahran branch doesn’t actually serve the Russian menu – it’s only available in Port Melbourne. I had the Spicy Ratatouille Baked Eggs, described as an ‘addictive’ and ‘slightly spicy mix of eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, tomatoes, Herbes de Provence and other tasty morsels baked with authentic Spanish chorizo and 2 free range eggs. Topped with Asiago cheese and served with toasted Ciabatta bread.’

It was good, though not as tasty (or quite as addictive) as I was expecting, but I do have to say I enjoyed it slightly more than Hardware Societe’s baked eggs and it was certainly a very filling and satisfying meal. Third Wave has an extensive menu and is also known for their American BBQ menu, which is something I’d love to try in the future.

Spicy Ratatouille Baked Eggs – Eggplant, Zucchini, Red Peppers, Tomatoes, Herbes de Provence, Authentic Spanish Chorizo, 2 Eggs, Asiago Cheese, Toasted Ciabatta ($19.90)

 

Third Wave
30 Cato St
Prahran, VIC, 3181
03 9510 2991
http://www.thirdwavecafe.com.au/
Third Wave on Urbanspoon

+39 Pizzeria, Melbourne CBD

I came in a pretty big group, which was a great opportunity to sample a variety of pizzas – in fact, we ordered 8:

+39: Fior Di Latte, Berkshire Sausage, Mascarpone, Gorgonzola Cheese, Tomato Salsa & Prosciutto Di Parma ($27)
Capricciosa Italiana: Italian Tomato Salsa, Fior Di Latte, Leg Ham, Olives, Artichoke Hearts &Mushroom ($19)
Diavola: Italian Tomato Salsa, Fior Di Latte, Hot Salame & Chilli ($19.50)
Gratinata: Fior Di Latte, Italian Tomato Salsa, Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes & Bread Crumb ($19.50)
Crudaiola: Buffalo Mozzarella, Roma Tomato, Garlic, Parsley,Rocket & Prosciutto Di Parma ($25)
Wagyu: Fior Di Latte, Cherry Tomatoes, Air Dried Wagyu Bresaola, Rocket W/ Lemon Juice, Cracked Pepper & Parmesan ($26.50)
Gamberi: Tomato Salsa, Garlic Oil, Prawns, Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Chilli & Coriander ($23.50)
Toscana: Italian Tomato Salsa, Fior Di Latte, Italian Berkshire Sausage, Rocket & Parmesan ($23.50)

I didn’t try all the different pizzas, but the ones I enjoyed the most were the Gratinata and Wagyu, which had a nice and tasty balance of meat and cheese. The bases of the pizzas were not as good as I’d hoped and were a little soggy, even before they’d been sitting there for a while. Having said that, service was very friendly and welcoming making for a very pleasant dinner out.

+39 Pizzeria
362 Little Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9642 0440
http://www.plus39.com.au/
+39 Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

St Ali, South Melbourne

So it’s truffle festival time in Melbourne and I decided to check out one of the more accessible truffle food items available: the truffle toastie. Because I was unable to attend the market at Caulfield Racecourse and try it there, I chose to sample St Ali’s offering.

$18 bought me a toastie with Gruyere and shavings of truffle. (Good Food listed the toastie as being $15 – maybe it was a typo?) It arrived pretty quickly and was accompanied by a mound of tasty salad. With great anticipation I cut into the toastie, expecting to be met with the rich, earthy aroma and flavour of truffle…but there was none. Not a whiff. I slowly worked through the toastie, checking for anything resembling truffle shavings. I did notice a few (barely any) flecks of darkness embedded in the cheese so I carefully excised them, hoping to taste something there, but try as I might, I couldn’t. I was pretty confused and thought that maybe I’d been given a plain toastie by accident, but the only other toastie on the menu was one with prosciutto.

I have to say, it’s been quite a while since I was really disappointed with the food I’ve ordered and I was surprised that this experience happened at one of Melbourne’s most popular cafes.

Truffle Toastie ($18)

Truffle Toastie ($18)

St Ali
12-18 Yarra Pl
South Melbourne, VIC, 3205
(03) 9686 2990
http://www.stali.com.au
St Ali on Urbanspoon

The Grain Store, Melbourne CBD

Filled with simple, clean and homely decor, The Grain Store is serviced by quite a large and busy kitchen. At the time of my visit, there weren’t many sandwiches and sweets available near the counter yet, but as I was waiting for my food to arrive I watched as freshly baked goods made their way to the front.

My breakfast of choice was the smoked salmon omelette & truffle crème fraiche, sweet winter fennel, chipotle romesco salsa, rye crostini and crispy quinoa. The omelette arrived on the table quite quickly and was bigger than anticipated. Enveloped within the egg were chunks of tender fennel and moist salmon. The heady flavour of truffle, tangy salsa and herbs all went surprisingly well together when eaten at once. The satisfying flavours were made even better by the added texture from the crostini and quinoa.

Smoked Salmon Omelette & Truffle Crème Fraiche w. Sweet Winter Fennel, Chipotle Romesco Salsa, Rye Crostini, Crispy Quinoa ($20)

Smoked Salmon Omelette & Truffle Crème Fraiche w. Sweet Winter Fennel, Chipotle Romesco Salsa, Rye Crostini, Crispy Quinoa ($20)

The Grain Store
517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9972 6993
http://www.grainstore.com.au/
The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Arcadia Gastronomique, Ascot Vale

Tonight I undertook a rare adventure to the Western Suburbs to visit Arcadia Gastronomique, where the warm and toasty heating and steamy, mainly Spanish fare was perfect for a cold Winter’s night.

I felt overwhelmed with all the choices on the menu so left the ordering to others on the table who seemed to have previous experience at this restaurant. We ordered a selection of tapas, raciones and main courses to share.

Croquetas were filled with Jamon serrano, chorizo & Manchego and were accompanied by an with an aioli & tomato bravas sauce. The juicy champiònes pesto (whipped cheese & pesto stuffed button mushrooms ) went very well with the flavoursome, textured romesco. The mushrooms were available in both tapas and racione sizes. We ordered the racione instead of having two tapas plates, since it was cheaper that way. The Albondigas Arcadia (beef and pork meatballs with tomato sauce, green peas and almond) weren’t bad – slightly dry when eaten alone, but obviously much better when smothered in sauce.

Our other raciones came next. Tajin de Cordero Al-Andalus (braised lamb in a tagine with dates, dried apricots, fried almonds, honey, cinnamon) was packed with flavour. This was one of my favourites, and I especially liked the contrasting crunch from the almonds. The slow-braised beef cheeks in Pedro Ximenez wine with mashed potatoes & chestnuts was cooked well, though I would have liked a bit more salt.

The four main plates soon followed. Our choice of paella was the paella mixta – chicken, chorizo, calamari, mussels, prawns, fresh fish & scallops. I haven’t had paella for a while, despite it being my favourite Spanish dish, and I was pleased to find it had a lovely socarrat at the bottom. There wasn’t as much as I’d hoped, but it was far, far better than a lot of the soggy-bottomed paellas I’ve had in the past. We also ordered linguine marinara, which came with prawns, mussels, scallops and fish (including salmon).

The pollo harissa (Moroccan chicken harissa served on a sizzling hot plate on a spinach bed with side salad) had a bit of a spicy kick to it, though I didn’t find it particularly outstanding. There was a small bit of salad left so I emptied the bowl and ate what I thought was a big stalk of rejected and unwanted spring onion. It was not spring onion. It actually turned out to be white asparagus – lucky me! hehe.

The serves weren’t huge, but it was nice to see that there was a very generous amount of seafood in the paella and linguine; about half the volume was occupied by ingredients.

Arcadia Gastronomique
152 Union Rd
Ascot Vale, VIC, 3032
(03) 9375 2751
http://www.arcadiadining.com.au/
Arcadia on Urbanspoon

Artusi, Southbank

For its 10th anniversary, owners Luis Pampliega and Tamara Volkoff decided to have Tutto Bene metamorphose into Artusi and I was invited by Fuller PR to attend Artusi’s launch party. Named after Pellegrino Artusi, they have adopted the ethos ‘The Art of Eating and Drinking Well’. Whilst Tutto Bene focused on traditional family meals, head chef Leandro Panza has reworked the menu to serve up modern Italian made with organic produce. Their menu features handmade pasta, Italian tapas and feasts of duck and joints of meat roasted in their wood-fired oven.

Appetisers included prosciutto wrapped around grissini, burrata with slivers of beetroot, crumbed eggplant balls, cheesy meatballs and refreshing flathead carpaccio.

There were two pastas I tried: the first was broccoli-filled potato parcels with parmesan, which I found a bit creamy for my tastes, then smooth pumpkin tortellini topped with sharp parmesan.

Then came the wood-fired meats – succulent and toothsome tomahawk steak, crispy roasted pork belly with a delightful skin crackling (which, to me, had a taste reminiscent of char siu) and duck. Unfortunately I picked up a piece of duck that was almost entirely fat so I can’t comment on how the meat was done, but I did enjoy the flavouring.

Platters of crackers with honey-drizzled blue cheese were circulating the room. I have to admit, the last time I had blue cheese was about 12 years ago in home economics class and I’ve made a particular point of avoiding it ever since. I decided it was time to test the waters once again. This blue cheese was much better than the first; though I still can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, others were groaning with delight.

There was lots of dessert to go around too. The tiramisu were light and delicately flavoured with a nice balance of crunchy biscuit and caramel and the creamy mascarpone. Not being much of a donut person, I found these fresh-out-of-the-fryer bombolini were pretty good. Chocolate sauce was smothered onto the hot, fluffy dough encasing hazelnut praline

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this launch party by Fuller PR and Artusi, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Artusi
Shop UR1, Upper Level, Southgate Complex
3 Southgate Ave,
Southbank, VIC, 3006
(03) 8199 1033
http://www.artusi.net.au/

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.