Friday, November 18, 2011

The Point

Aquatic Drive
Albert Park VIC 3206

The Point in Albert Park has become one of my favorite restaurants over the past few years. The combination of location, service and above all else the cooking of Scott Pickett has made it a place I've enjoyed going to again and again.

So when I heard that Scott had left The Point to go to The Estelle two questions stood out. Who would take over? and what impact would it have?

The answer to the first question is Justin Wise who has a detailed bio on The Point web site. Head chef at Press Club and Sous Chef at Maze amongst other positions are impressive credentials to bring to the role.

Roasted quail, braised leek, black garlic and truffle dressing
As for the food? The overall menu feels the same with some tweaks. The entree of roasted quail & braised leek had lots of things going on and most importantly the star of the dish, the quail, was perfect. Crispy skin, tender meat and perfectly presented quail paired with the braised leeks showed plenty of finesse and clever combination of flavours.

Things were off to a good start, but there was a major delay between entree and main. I am generally patient preferring a longer rather than shorter gap, but getting close to an hour it left the table wondering if our order went missing. Just as we had asked main course arrived, funny how it always seems to end up that way......

Individual portions of Sher F1 Wagyu,  
Hopkins River grain and Cape Grim pasture fed beef
The Point has built a healthy reputation as a leader in steak and I am yet to be disappointed in my dining there, however, there was a small disconnect between what we had thought we ordered and what was presented. The table had all ordered the beef tasting plate expecting five different portions steaks. Under Justin Wise this has now become three larger portions of steak.

Once we got over the disconnect it was business as usual, the perfectly cooked steak was presented nicely on one of those new "trendy" stone style plates. Whilst they look nice, I still feel the knife passing over the surface akin to fingernails down a blackboard. After the initial surprise of the change, I think the new three steak format works better, the winner hands down was the Hopkins river grain fed.

Banana souffle, caramel fudge 
and condensed milk ice cream
Desert's which have always been good at The Point again were not a let down. The banana souffle was a surprise in that the dense, heavy texture of a banana translated well in to a souffle.

Overall I think The Point is in safe hands, the front of house was as solid as always and assuming that the lag between entree and main was an off moment should continue it's two hat reign.

The Point - 15/20
The Point Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St

If memory serves me correct, Koko opened up at Crown as one of the launch restaurants way back in 1994. At 17 years old, it would have to be the equivalent of 70 in restaurant years, especially considering the way restaurants come and go in the Crown complex.

Hidden away on level 3 of Crown, perhaps one of the clues to its true age is the elaborate stone garden water feature. There is no way a restaurant today would sacrifice so much space for aesthetics, the beancounters would forbid it.

Thankfully the beancounters haven't concreted this in to make room for more tables so Koko continues to have a serenity unlike anything else in Crown and possibly the CBD. The other thing that seems to giveaway the age of Koko are it's prices. $60 for Teppanyaki, including Sashimi, Tempura, Teppanyaki prawn, scallops and beef? That is pretty good value when you consider $60 doesn't go far at many other places at Crown, surely a sign that this place doesn't need to recover the cost of an expensive fitout like The Atlantic.

As for the food? One could argue that Teppanyaki is the same no matter where you go. In some respects that is true, in others false. The quality of the produce is hard to hide in Teppenyaki and Koko's is pretty good. The prawns and scallops in particular stood out as fresh. Our chef cooked everything perfectly and the appetiser courses of Sashimi and Tempura also hit the mark.

So while Koko doesn't have the same buzz about it now as some of the other restaurants at Crown, it certainly holds it own. Reasonable prices, great service and imported Japanese beer offers a good alternative to the trendier Crown restaurants.

Koko - 13.5/20
Koko on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Atlantic

Crown Entertainment Complex 
Melbourne, VIC 3006

Rolling Stones? Nirvana? Hendrix? When you ask a music fan who they would loved to have seen in their prime, quite often you get the performers aforementioned. If you were to ask a foodie, or more specifically a Melbourne foodie where would they loved to have dined in the past, you would get perhaps Vue du Monde in Carlton, maybe a Stephanie's but chances are you would get Est Est Est or Ondine.

The common factor in both Est Est Est and Ondine was the leadership of Donovan Cooke who worked with Marco Pierre White and came to Australia with a similar level of drive and obsessiveness. The question is, his latest venture - The Atlantic? Is it the culinary equivalent of the 60's Stones, frenetic and full of energy? Or the older stadium performers that are selling out stadiums based on hits from the past rather than the present?

I could continue the analogy's here, but the fact I never made it to Est Est Est or Ondine is still one of the things I feel a tad regretful of today. So it was only a matter of time before I ventured in to the sombre interior of The Atlantic which seems a universe away from the decor described recently in Gourmet Traveller's piece on Est Est Est.

Caramalised Crispy Skin Berkshire Pork Belly
Straying from The Atlantic's seafood bias for my first course, I opted for the very non-pescatarian selection of Pork Belly. The pork belly was all upside. Crispy skin, melting pork and complimented with pineapple cumberland sauce this was very solid start.

Snapper - Radicchio

Main course of Snapper Fillet with radicchio offered a generous fillet of snapper cooked perfectly that didn't state wood fired in the menu, yet I somehow think this had some wood fired treatment and was all the better for it. While I am normally a red meat diner, I would happily change teams for fish this good any day of the week.

Panna Cotta

Desert was nice, if not less than spectacular. The pannacotta, pina colada salad and granita was both light and refreshing, but really was nothing spectacular for the price asked. Had it been around $14 instead of $19 I wouldn't object, but this is no Quay snow egg.

So overall the food was solid but didn't deliver a true OMG moment, the atmosphere pleasant but confirmed my initial reservations. The Atlantic is Donovan Cooke's stadium show pleasing a much bigger audience and doing a good job of it. Somehow though I don't think Gourmet Traveller 2021 will reminisce over The Atlantic with the same nostalgia as Est Est Est.

The Atlantic - 13/20
The Atlantic on Urbanspoon
The Atlantic on Urbanspoon

Prawn Star