Sunday, April 17, 2011
86 Ford St
Beechworth, Vic, 3747
Coincidence is a funny thing isn't it? This is what I thought to myself during dinner at Provenance. In a week where I was meant to be in Japan, I instead find myself in Beechworth enjoying a harmoniously balanced dining experience that has a large inspiration of Japan while taking in some of the best produce the region has to offer.
Situated in the town of Beechworth, Provenance has established itself as one of the finest country restaurants in Victoria and when the events of the recent earthquake near Tokyo led to a cancellation of a long planned trip, a referral to Provenance stood out as a good last minute alternative to get away for a break.
Upon entering the dining room at Provenance, the first impression is that it is a good balance that is smart but not too formal, a very comfortable environment.
We were greeted by one of the waiters and went through the options, Provenance offers a choice of à la carte and degustation with matching wine options. The $140 option for à la carte with matching wine was an offer too good to refuse
L: Poached octopus, sake infused cucumber, umeboshi, soy beans, avacdo, ponzu
R: Pickled, raw & cooked vegetables, puffed rice, congee sauce
The first plate arrived and it was a smart arrangement of octopus, cucumber and soy beans. The umeboshi reminded me of my first trip to Japan and trying the "pickled plum" which is more or less what umeboshi is, in the wrong amount it is unpleasant, but in the right amount it offers a lift. One of the things you notice with this dish is individually the components are all fine, but combined is when it all makes sense and really impresses.
Next was a small plate of pickled and raw vegetables, not the kind of plate that gets a carnivore like me excited, but just like the first course the little details in the dish when combined have you thinking that if all vegetarian dishes were this good it wouldn't such a bad fate. The sourness of the pickled vegetables, the sweetness of the cooked and the crunch of the raw all combine harmoniously in a very Japanese way, balanced, perfectly balanced.
Sweetcorn chawan mushi, confit chicken wings, spring onion dressing
Chawan mushi is another Japanese classic, a steaming hot & silky smooth egg custard matches perfectly with the sweetcorn and the side of confit chicken wing brings an element of saltiness that balances the dish out. The clear winner for my wife.
Roasted Milawa duck breast, silverbeet and confit duck leg, polenta, pickled cherries
The winner for me though was next, the duck breast & duck confit. The perfectly cooked duck breast perched on polenta next to shredded confit duck breast wrapped in a silverbeet leaf is brought together with the pickled cherry.
Dry aged grass fed Wagyu flat iron steak, braised short rib, grilled spring onion, smoked tofu dressing, konbu no tsukudani
Our final savoury course of Wagyu flat iron steak and braised short rib was also quite enjoyable, the braised short rib in particular stood out and it matched very well with the Golden Ball Shiraz. In fact every wine pair was a great match and showcases the region of Beechworth and nearby Rutherglen rather well.
Alpine green tea and white chocolate mousse, Wooragee strawberries-fresh & pickled, rhubarb, shiso sugar, scorched pistachios
The dessert course stayed in theme with the previous courses. The small collection of strawberries and rhubarb covered with crunchy scorched pistachios all combine in such a way that you are left to marvel over how much greater the sum of the dish is over the parts. A light mousse of green tea and white chocolate brings a creamy element to the dish and is definately not your usual Japanese cafe green tea ice cream shocker but rather a delicate balance that finishes the degustation in the same manner in the way it starts, simple, balanced, elegant, delicious.
Cooked breakfast - Provenance style
So what are my concluding thoughts of Provenance? Brilliant food in a great dining room with very good front of house that were engaging but never intruding. The only thing I don't like about Provenance is that it is 3 hours from home. I guess that means I have to go back and stay in the great suites that also include breakfast cooked by Provenance chef/owner Michael Ryan and if you are lucky enough will also include a bit of conversation with Michael as well.
Provenance - 16/20
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