Saturday, August 22, 2009

Best Mushroom Risotto in the world


3kg of Swiss Browns to be converted to black stock goodness

***Update - Recipe for the Mushroom Stock is now online***

Well about time I post something out of my kitchen!

So no point beating about the bush, I might as well kick off my first cooking post with my A-game - Mushroom Risotto.

It is quite interesting, most people think they do a "good" mushroom risotto in the same way everyone seems to know how to make good bolognese and know where the best chicken parma in town is.

Well I hate to say it, they are ALL wrong, especially on the risotto front.

Why do I claim mine as the best? Well it comes from good heritage, let me explain.

A few years ago I went to a well known restaurant called Vue du Monde which is arguably the best restaurant in Melbourne. After my trip to Vue I purchased Shannon Bennet's My Vue which is an insightful tome on what you actually get when you go to a place like vue, layer upon layer upon layer of flavours. To make a typical dish requires 30+ ingredients and has several basis of separate recipes to come together as the final product.

So how does this lead to world's best risotto? One simple recipe on page 109 for mushroom stock. Until reading this I never understood why my risotto was missing the mark and it is simple, I was using an inferior stock. Now it would be unfair for me to post the recipe for Shannon's mushroom stock recipe, but I will say that the results are outstanding and will make a HUGE difference. In fact with this alone, good carnaroli rice, some cooked mushrooms for texture a dash of cream and truffle oil at the end (and use the truffle oil sparingly, it should lift, not overpower the dish) you too can have the worlds best mushroom risotto.


Jason's Mushroom Risotto with swiss, field and enoki mushroom
(now I know why photographers HATE brown food)


By the way, the 3kg box of mushrooms reduced to 1kg of solid waste, that means there are 2kg of mushroom flavour in the stock which explains why this packs such a mushroom-y punch.

After my initial experimentation's a few years ago I was pleasantly surprised that my rendition of this dish stood up very well next to Vue's version which is why I claim mine as (one of) the Mushroom Risotto's in the world since it can stand in company with Shannon's.

To finish dinner the night I made this, I went with the french classic, Creme Caramel.
crème caramel

Simple, uncomplicated and delicious. If you have never made one, try it, you will be impressed.

BTW - The mushroom stock is a great basis for pasta sauces such as Mushroom Linguine and if you want to WOW people at your next dinner party, mix some stock, cream and milk, foam with a coffee machine and serve as a mushroom soup cappuccino sprinkled with ground porcini to imitate the cocoa dusting.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Grange (failure)



Armadale Cellars
813-817 High St
Armadale, VIC 3143


Along with food, I do appreciate my wine. I also appreciate my beer and whisky too.

Over the years I have managed to have a sample of almost all there is to offer, but one thing that I have yet to try and that is the "iconic" Penfolds Grange.

I have eyed off the '96 in my wine cellar a few times, but the ad for the Shiraz challenge at Armadale Cellars got my attention and a quick phone call and credit card number got me booked in.

The host of the challenge was owner Phil Hude who could talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles and provided an entertaining commentry as we blind tasted our way through 12 Shiraz.

I was able to pick/guess a few shiraz correctly, but did I pick the Grange? Nope! It was in the final bracket of 3 wines which were all good, but it didn't stand out at 5 times the price of the next most expensive shiraz, let alone 15 times the other. Nice red yes, worth $550 a bottle? better value elsewhere.

But I can say I have broken my Grange duck!

As for the night, I can definately recommend it, but don't get too excited over the Armadale Cellars dining experience which was a Boscastle pie + salad at the end of the tastings. They are nice pies, but not the unique dining experience I expected based on the ad.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Point


Aquatic Drive
Albert Park VIC 3206


If you listen to the average restaurateur on TV, the general claim is that 99.999 out of 100 restaurants close within the first day of trading and that 99% in fact have the half life of Roentgenium. Not good odds, not good odds at all.

I pondered this as I arrived for our booking at The Point, a restaurant that seems to have been around forever. With a great view over Albert Park Lake and St Kilda Rd, The Point does not suffer from a lack of scenery and the dining room with its recent makeover is a nice comfortable place to be seated. I have to respect the that The Point has continued to keep going on and seems quite comfortable with it's place in the Melbourne restaurant scene.

The Point isn't likely to be high on the list of the trend followers, it is a long way from being the latest trendy restaurant, it is no Vue, Rockpool, Momo or Hellenic Republic and doesn't feature any sort of eco-concept that is saving children in Africa. In many respects The Point is the antithesis of this, the main concept at The Point is beef. Not very trendy at all and I like it!

To say The Point is a steak restaurant though is a bit of an insult, head chef Scott Pickett trained in some very good European kitchens including the 3 michelin starred The Square in London. Scott's appointment wasn't flagged with a huge amount of fanfare, but his profile has steadily risen and with good reason.



Before I dive in to the critiquing of the food though, there was a small bone to pick with the waiting staff. As the first to arrive, I enjoyed the view with a nice glass of Knappstein Lager (Best lager in Australia by a long way), upon my wife's arrival she was asked if she cared for a drink. Upon asking for a glass of champagne, the waiter poured a glass of Yarrabank, a big no no. Yarrabank is all good, but it is no Gosset either.


Pithivier of quail and king brown mushrooms
hazelnut and Pedro Ximinez vinaigrette




Mud crab and basil croustillant, seared scallop,
Jerusalem artichokes and sauce bois boudran


Despite the temptation to try the degustation menu, the table of four decided a more traditional 3 course affair was the way to go. The menu is quite ambitious and diverse for a restaurant that is known mainly for steak, apart from usual beef-grill dishes there was a wide range of seafood and light meat dishes for both entree and main.

The table went 4 ways with entree selection and each of us were suitably impressed, a light Tagliatelle of seafood and a macaroni with carbonara foam and jamon comsomme impressed the ladies of the table. The Mud Crab & Scallop entree was exquisitely plated, it looked like it would fit in a Vue while the Pithivier of quail was a nice understated dish that made good use of the quail and liver.



Pasture fed Eye fillet from Cape Grim Tasmania
and The Point garnish




BEEF TASTING PLATE
Individual portions of Sher Wagyu,
Clare Valley grain and Cape Grim pasture fed beef


Mains on the other hand were a bit more predictable, while on any given night I would go for any of the regular mains, it is hard to go past the steak that is amongst the first picks from Tasman's lots. The ladies selected Pasture fed eye fillet upon the restaurant managers recommendation, the guys however couldn't go past the Beef Tasting Plate and why not, it answers the age old question of grain vs grass fed and eye fillet vs porterhouse. All steaks were cooked exactly to the request of each of member of the table and was simply delicious. I have to say the opportunity to enjoy five different kinds of steak was something I couldn't pass up and would say that upon return it would either be Wagyu or Grain Porterhouse!


Black forest soufflé, cherry jellies and griottines

After all that meat, we were glad for a lengthy break to desert, after being sold on glasses of "the special port" which our sommelier assured us was not normally opened (I suspect not normally opened would be when they run out but will let that slide) we ordered desert. The decision here was unanimous, it was the Black forest souffle. Personally I have always been a sucker for anything Black Forest including the demand for about 5 years straight of the same black forest Birthday cake, but I digress.

If The Point were Attica, this would have been called a "Black Forest De-Construction" where the chef has "Deconstructed the elements of a traditional black forest desert for the diner to define their own balance of flavours". Fortunately we are spared such pretentiousness and discover it for ourselves. The desert was one of the best I have had, while it is hard to disappoint me with a souffle, at the same time it is hard to make it stand out and it certainly did here.

So how do I sum up The Point? I was very impressed, the table were very impressed and given the reasonable prices and lack of fuss getting in think it is a bit of a hidden gem. Presentation to match Vue, Steaks to beat Vlado's and understated delivery with pricing to shame both. If young Scott Pickett keeps pushing out food this good, the secret won't stay secret for too long.

The Point - 15.5/20
The Point Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kun Ming


212 Little Bourke Street

Melbourne, Vic, 3000

Chinatown on a Friday night is a somewhat busy place to be and after some rather indulgent occasions of late, a more low key dinner with friends was in order. One of the great things about Chinatown is that turnover is such that waiting for a table is normally not an issue and BYO is perfectly acceptable.

Now of course picking a restaurant in Chinatown can be a bit of a roll of the dice, in fact the cynic in me thinks that strips like Chinatown and Lygon St could have a big common communal kitchen with different fronts given that all restaurants tend to have the same menu at identical prices.

Tonight the choice was Kun Ming which is my "regular" for a piece of aus-canto Chinese food. Given the number of Chinese patrons though, my choice is probably a well founded one.

The interior of Kun Ming is bright and open and thankfully post 80's red and jade, it is perhaps a touch cramped but noise isn't an issue. Given it was my friends first time there we played it safe with the banquet which was a bit of a greatest hits, but at a meagre $39 is a great deal. Things kick off with a seafood san choi bow, well presented but we all suffered from the structural integrity of the lettuce, it was too fresh and quite crisp.



SEAFOOD SAN CHOI

Things moved on to the crab claw which was nice and light and had distinguishable pieces of prawn meat. Perhaps it could have been fried a fraction crispier for my liking, but was not too oily and quite enjoyable. Peking duck was next, nice duck, shame about the pancake which was a bit soggy.


HOT AND SOUR SOUP

The next course was perhaps the highlight and my must have at Kun Ming, hot and sour soup. As the name suggests, it has heat, it has a nice sourness on the finish and textured well with shrimp, tofu and egg.


FRIED RICE AND BLACK PEPPER CANTONESE STEAK

The courses kept flowing at a good pace, Singapore chilli prawns, fish with snowpeas finishing with Cantonese pepper steak with fried rice. All of the courses were exactly as you would expect, no surprises, no disappointments. In fact the fried rice falls in the shade a bit here, it is very nice, light and not too oily.

The $39 banquet also includes desert, 3 of us went the banana fritter, 1 fried ice cream. Again, no surprises, but the banana was well cooked and came with a nice slice of ice cream. I did take a photo but opted against posting since for some reason it looks like a prop from a zombie porno.

This brings me to my conclusion on Kun Ming, it serves good food in a pleasent environment at a very cheap price. As I kept reminding one of our party members, we are getting 8 courses for the same price as 1 main at Gingerboy. Yes it is a bit of an unfair comparison, but the difference is I know I'll go back to Kun Ming, can't say I am planning a return to the other any time soon. The only difficulty we had was getting small enough denominations to pay, it really has been a long time since we have eaten out and required change from a $50.

In fact we all agreed to go back soon and try the more adventurous chinese "off menu" items.

Kun Ming - 12/20 (value boosts this, in fact value is 19/20)
Kun Ming Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gingerboy


27-29 Crossley St
Melbourne VIC 3000

Well it is going to be a tough act to follow on as the next review from Iggy's. Something like an El Bulli might succeed in surpassing Iggy's, but instead Gingerboy is thrown in to the path, but will it be trampled?

Gingerboy is the spin off of Teague Ezard who is a bit of a local legend in the restaurant scene with his famous restaurant Ezard's which I am still yet to try. Gingerboy opened to much fanfare in 2006, I always found it hard to take a restaurant promoting "Hawker" style food at $13.5 for a small plate (think 3 dumplings - a bargain at $4.50 a dumpling) too seriously.

Gingerboy is of course a bit more upmarket than a cockroach ridden market in Kuala Lumpur, In fact the fit out is from the clever folk that fitted out Vue de Monde, making the restaurant very different in feel to the old Madam Fang's.

The visit for lunch was a walk in, the GFC i guess means the need for waiting staff to ask if you have a reservation almost redundant. Seated along the wall on a table for two, the options were expensive dumplings or expensive share plates. We opted for the latter and were sold on to the Fried Corn Cakes which at $8.50 for a bowl of 6 which made me think the waiters all have a sides quota.


SEARED OCEAN TROUT
with crystal bay prawns and tumeric curry


The first share plate arrived, a seared ocean trout that was quite nice, well cooked and immaculately presented, but when this arrived I was starting to have a concern, big "share plate" plus dining plates, plus water glasses, plus lemon lime & bitter glasses, plus the corn cakes was making the tiny table for two a rather cosy place to be.


CARAMELISED OX CHEEKS
with hot and sour salad and spiced peanut paste


When the ox cheeks arrived, it was a bit like the parking attendant juggling the cars in the already full lot to fit in an SUV, after a lot of backwards and forwards all plates were parked. I don't mind the concept of shared plates, but the poor table was resembling a peak hour train.
The Ox cheeks were interesting, mainly because the saltiness and spice of the sauce masked the flavour of the meat, a lighter meat such as pork would have worked better. I guess it is a sign of the times though, Ox cheeks are very cheffy and seem to be the winter '09 must have for any self respecting menu.


MARGIN COUNTRY
(oops I mean fried corn cakes)


The food is all perfectly acceptable, well flavoured and well presented, but I sense that Teague Ezard has an accountant on his shoulder calculating how much to serve and how much to (over)charge. The most hawker-style experience to be had here however is how quickly you are turned around, seat, eat and go.

Gingerboy - 11.5/20
Gingerboy on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Iggy's


The Regent
1 Cuscaden Road
Singapore
(From 11/07/2009)

I don't plan on spending a lot of time revisiting/reviewing restaurants of the past, however, since my last visit to Iggy's was less than a month ago I'll make an exception.

This is our (as in myself and my wonderful wife Carolyn's) second visit to Iggy's, the previous one being almost a year to the day and was a self-gift for my birthday. I was looking forward to my return trip because a) it was very good last time and b) it recently jumped well in to San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants list at 45 from 77 the year before and wanted to see if there was a noticeable difference.

First impressions were the same, hidden up on Level 3 in the Regent with a concealed entrance that takes you in to a 12 seat counter with a windowed view in to the kitchen. Lighting, spacing, noise are all spot on, not so quite that it is awkward, not too noisy to be too difficult to communicate. There are some non-counter tables, however, watching the kitchen in operation makes it the must-have seat for the dinner.

The restaurant manager Paolo greets us, shows us to our table runs through the menu and asks about any variations/challenges which is always nice for a restaurant at this level to do. It is all good to have a set menu, but if one has a particular dislike it isn't doing anyone any favours mandating this is what you must have. As an individual who is not in to clams, my request was for "Something with some Foie Gras perhaps?" to replace the razor clam dish, when offered a "Trio of Foie Gras" I simply replied with "How could I refuse since it is after all my birthday tomorrow". Similarly my wife declined upon the Snapper with aubergine and was offered their signature dish of Ebi Cappelini. I kind of screwed up my face as if to say "not fair" which Paolo picked up on and said "I will give this to you as an extra course if you wish sir?" response - one word "absolutely".

Upon finalising the menu and taking up the option for matching wines we could now settle in and enjoy. By the way, I did qualify to ensure that Iggy's did not indulge in a pet hate of mine with matching wines, which is only pouring a thimble full of wine which is gone in two sips let alone lasting the courses to match.


BLACK TRUFFLE
potato, onion, avacado, frisee, truffle jus

Everything was off to a great start, when the first course is presented with a nice big sliver of Truffle on top, light delicate and flavoursome. This was followed with a nice piece of seared sashimi tuna and next was a Foie Gras fanatics fantasy - Trio of Foie Gras

TRIO OF FOIE GRAS
foie gras brulee, pan fried foie gras, deep fried foie gras

This is not very PC, but quite possibly the best dish I have ever had, the crumbed deep fried foie gras simply melted and oozed in my mouth. The pan fried foie gras an example of something so good needs little done to shine and the brulee where the sweet complements the richness is about as good as it gets.

Ebi Cappelini

Next was a piece of sous vide snapper that was spot on and then came the signature dish of ebi cappelini. This is appears to be a simple dish, but what makes it so great is the mix of japanese, italian and the use of whole baby shrimp, the dish is simply cappelini, scampi oil, baby shrimp and little flecks of konbu. No real luxury ingredients, no molecular gastronomy or sous vide trickery, but inventiveness and a great mix of flavour and texture.

The courses kept coming, a wonderful slow cooked suckling pork with crackling that broke like a piece of glass and a perfectly cooked slide of top grade Wagyu rounded off the savoury courses.

Suckling Pig
asparagus, apple, potato, turmeric


Wagyu
carrot, beetroot, mushroom

The obligatory palate cleansers broke things up, a clear tomato soup and tempura tomato was served mid course, then the little Soursop dish below was served to break up savoury and sweet. Nice, clean and nowhere near as pretentious as some other restaurants (hmm I am thinking of Attica's Terroir but will cover that in future posts)

SOURSOP
gin, lime

Deserts were quite good, a mango mille-feuille for me and a chocolate bar for my wife and being a birthday I scored a bonus - cake, eggy bread and a mini-malteser milk shake!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

The deserts had the right levels of sugar and butter to be delicious, the trend of being light simply results in blandness in my opinion. Deserts should always be slightly decadent or more, here they hit there mark spot on.


PETITS FOUR
lemon, banana

Last but not least was a clever little petit four to finish with Lemon and Banana, the lemon was a spherical lemon ball in a light sugar syrup that popped, the banana was a cream served in a candy casing that had pop rocks. very clever.

This wraps thing up, but what are my parting thoughts? I felt that Iggy's has certainly lifted up a step from an already impressive benchmark set the year before. If the Michelin guide were to cover Singapore, I am comfortable saying that this would certainly pass for 3 stars, in fact it would probably my second best restaurant experience after our trip to San Sebastian's Restaurant Arzak.

Every course was impeccable, there was creativity with great flavour combinations and presentation. Further to this, you feel as if you are really in Ignatius "Iggy" Chan's own little world, the service from the small team was exceptional and carried a certain level of pride, something they are certainly entitled to feel. 18.5/20

Monday, August 3, 2009

Yet another food blog.....

Just what the world needs, another food blog. So if I already recognise the fact that there is already an ample supply of amateur food writers, why add to them?

Well I guess answering my own question in the self interviewing style of Kevin Rudd, I guess it is because I have already half started this with some other blogs I have written over the year that are food blogs thinly disguised as travel!

Like most other blogs of this ilk, there will food reviews, some of my own cooking faves and general opinion.

Along with eating out, I am a big cooking program junkie that started off with Iron Chef and has included all manner of programs over the years, the title of my blog is a sanitised version of Gordon Ramsay's "F*** off out of my kitchen"

All very tragic, but my travels have seen me travel to the doors of 3 Iron Chefs (4 if you include Bobby Flay) and Gordon's New York Restaurant. Over time i'll add some retrospective reviews, but will kick off my first post over the next few days with a Best & Worst to date.