Taste of Melbourne 2010 Review

S and I had been really excited about this for a while and having eaten at some of the restaurants showcasing at the Taste of Melbourne 2010, we were expecting some good stuff to come out of it. So, let the fun begin!

The crowds were manageable, which we were surprised by. Booklets of "crowns" can be purchased in $10 booklets. 1 crown = $1 and most dishes were $8, $10 or $12. They are sample-sized portions of each restaurant's chosen signature dishes. Generally each restaurant showcased 3 different signature dishes to choose from. $12 is the standard price and don't worry if you run out of crowns, there are sellers everywhere with booklets for sale as well as a "bank" counter on each of the 2 different floors. You can pay by card or cash in exchange for crowns. Let's just say you'll probably spend $100 pp if you are a greedy guts like ahem, me.

There are several pics in this post and I did mean to bring my DSLR, which I of course saw 1001 people carrying around their necks, food bloggers no doubt, but I rather enjoy my day and not lug a big old camera around. I did take some shots with the DSLR when I returned home though, although I've put it on low res to have a quicker upload.

The Restaurant Showcase and Signature Dishes

I have to admit there were a couple of places there I felt were over-rated when I had eaten at their restaurants before, so I didn't bother purchasing their stuff. Didn't take pics of every dish we had, although it wasn't because we were worried the food would get cold seeing as most were already displayed and had been sitting there for a bit.

The Palace owned by Luke Mangan
Eye Fillet
The Eye Fillet, Potato Mash with sauce Bordelaise was absolutely delicious, the beef was tender and the traditional combination of the Bordelaise sauce with beef and mash works really well. There is no pretentious peacocking in this dish. The flavours were unabashedly hearty with more subtlety than straight-out country cooking. The richness of the sauce came from the bone marrow obviously but the red wine produced a slight tangy finish that flavours and complements the mash. The beef might be cooked to perfection but for me, the potato mash was the star. The creaminess of the mash coupled with a really smooth texture created a perfect accompaniment to the beef but goodness, it certainly overtook the star by becoming one itself.

We had 2 servings of that, resistance was indeed futile, I ain't sharing!

maze owned by Gordon Ramsay, Head Chef Josh Emmett
Seared Hopkins River Beef, Shitake and Aged Soy Dressing

As expected from most of the premium restaurants, the meats and produce were spectacular in quality. They are pretty similar in terms of that, but what I'm really looking out for were the extras that go beyond the natural attributes of the meat and freshness of the veggies. Quite honestly, good quality meats are the minimum normal expectation from good establishments. Quite like the The Palace, the star of the dish for me was not the meat, although the tataki was spectacular, it was the shitake puree. Goodness, the smoky flavour and the punch of flavour in such small drops were surprising and pleasant to the palette. The aftertaste in the mouth and exhaling from the nose was just something else altogether in terms of sensory experience. Luckily S took a copy of the recipe and we had a good squeeze at it while we were eating, having a Masterchef moment. I actually might attempt it.

Cured Marlborough King Salmon, sweet corn, chorizo and kipfler potato
With the other 2 dishes, the meats have been overtaken in terms of being memorable more for their complements than the actual meat, which by no means reflect the standard of the meat or the way they have been cooked (all excellent by the way). This time, boy oh boy, there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever. The King Salmon was THE king of the dish. The dressing and little sprigs of salad were there purely for decoratively purposes. I mean, come on. The cured salmon was so good, it really needed no company, but I have to say the little cubes of corn and potato did the trick pretty well, for nothing other than to provide a backdrop of distraction to balance the richness of the salmon. It was perfection, just perfection. The taste was a combination of fresh natural omega-oiled goodness and a real melt-in-your-mouth sensation. I'm really impressed by this. In short, a-maze-ing. Yeah I know, had to throw that in.

Longrain Restaurant

I've long heard about Longrain, but for some reason have never tried it. I was skeptical I admit of an Asian restaurant catering to largely Western palettes and had a fear of the sweet and sour pork or tom yum with no kick variety kind. But yesterday, I was really looking forward to trying out their food and in fact was one of the restaurants I knew I would be going for.

The crazy thump upstairs made me think at first that there were just bars up there serving cocktails and beer. However, once we referred to the map, we realised a few restaurants were located above and I made the ultimate sacrifice trudging up the metal stairs to get to Longrain. My morbid phobia of stairs aside (I literally had stairs looming up in my face and the reality of falling off and dying in gourmet heaven), I have to say boy, was it worth the potential risk I might die from climbing up and down stairs.

Yellow Curry of Wagyu Beef with cucumber relish

I love spiciness. The heat of chillies and the hotter the better I love it. For me, curries are meant to be spicy as well as rich, moreish, packed with a punch of flavours from the various spices and thick creamy coconut milk. This dish is none of that. But I just absolutely LOVE it! The meat retained its natural juices and flavour despite the strength of curry in general, and held its own. The spicy factor is mild but the spices used were more than generous but jolly well not overpowering. There is a delicacy about this dish, which is ironic seeing as curry is not something thought of as a middle-ground dish. But you can tell there was restraint in balancing the flavours with the right spices to create a very moreish hearty (that word again) meal. The chef must have the accompaniment of the rice in mind as the richness of that gravy is more about the spices in there than a quick-fix shortcut solution of just more coconut milk. Might I add it goes very well with the blood orange vodka mix we had as we sat and ate right by the Smirnoff stand.

Izakaya Den

Probably not much to report here. It's a basic corn kernel tempura. Deep-fried Asian street snack. It's not particularly different or innovative but it hits the spot for a bit of grease. The green tea salt, is um, just salt.

Sweet Corn Kaki-age, Green Tea Salt

Stokehouse Restaurant

Ahh....the creme de la creme. The Bombe is literally da bomb! With an outer layer of soft toasted meringue, with a centre of white choc parfait and strawberry sorbet, what can go wrong? As suspected, nothing. The execution was brilliant and there was a light sponge base, the perfect touch. When each element was tasted individually, every mouthful was a delight. This dessert offering by the Stokehouse came up in spades because each element works in itself and the composite is perfection. It's not sickeningly sweet as desserts are not meant to be. It's a refined ending to a fine food sampler experience. I, for one have enjoyed every morsel.

Taste of Melbourne - Deli

Yarra Valley Region Produce
Yarra Valley Section
I really was looking forward to this. Except for the Yarra Valley Crumbs Biscuits, the rest were a bit of a disappointment. I did purchase some gorgeous shortbread and Macadamia Florentine with Cream and White Chocolate at $9 and $10 each respectively. Their contact details are in one of the pics below.

We also bought some hydroponic Love-Bite cherry tomatoes that were exceedingly sweet. They can be found in Coles and retail for $4 a pack. I would just slice them in halves or quarters, drizzle some EVVOO and chopped red onion and basil on toast. Some images below might take a while to load.

There were a few deli-type places, but we were taken with the pestos from Alberto's Delicacies. We were told they'll be opening in Carlton in about 3 weeks' time and that people who have tried their pasta and sauces get immediately addicted. They have been to 200 markets around Australia, it's been claimed by the affable owner. I must say the Capsicum and Fetta Pesto was pretty yummy on a small piece of simple white bread. So we bought a tub home.

Then there were the showbags from Barilla ($10) and King Island Dairy ($10):

We also got to try a new range of drinks from Nudie. Coconut Water and Coconut Water with Lychee and Lime. The Coconut Water by itself did not taste like the Coconut juice we drink direct from the Coconut and I actually thought Nudie's version was a bit sour for some reason and a really odd aftertaste. We didn't try the Lychee and Lime Coconut Water version there, but we did on the way home and it did taste better. They were selling 4 bottles for $10, so we bought some anyway.

S had a coffee in the meantime and it was good he said but not as good as the beans we already have at home (I wouldn't have a clue, I'm no coffee-drinkers although my parents are fanatics and Daddy has a penchant for buying commercial machines no less. WHY?). So we didn't buy a pack of the beans, although $2 coffee is pretty good priced and I do admire their effort at supporting fair trade. Sorry Ma and Daddy, we wanted it to be good so we can get you a pack to try but it was alright, not spectacular.

Finally we had to end it on a sweet note with The Chocolate Masters with the last of our remaining crown of $2. Topped up with a measly 50c and bought a hearty treat.


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