131 Smith St.
About 10 years ago I worked in Smith St at the Father Flanaghan's end and back then you would describe Smith St as a place where food varied from mediocre to downright dodgy. Wind the clock forward and there is a whole new world of interesting places that makes Brunswick St and Gertrude St look pretty plain.
The latest "darling" of Smith St is the oddly named Huxtable. Why Huxtable? who knows, based on location though, I can only assume it is a bit of an in-joke designed to make white Melburnians think the are part of it and outsiders (i.e. people from the other side of the Yarra) aren't. Either way it doesn't particularly concern me as I am there to sample the much raved about food.
Being a Tuesday night and without reservation, it wasn't too hard to get a table, the dining space of Huxtable is a bit cramped with what feels a haphazard layout and whilst the table of four isn't small there isn't a lot of space for their shared plates. Throw in wine glasses, water glasses and cutlery and it all feels a bit cramped.
Food wise, there is a lengthy list which reads as a global pick & mix of eating, mostly interesting and a few dishes that offer the opportunity to surprise.
WIN - Korean bbq pork ribs, spicy slaw. Off to a good start, the ribs are served crispy, yielding to a soft inside, with a generous amount of fat. For some at the table though, the level of fat was too generous. Spicy Slaw and gherkin both add to the dish, helping to break up the fattiness of the ribs. Unfortunately Huxtable follows the annoying trend of serving an odd numbered portion to an even number of diners.
EPIC WIN - togarashi spiced tuna tartare, avocado, crisp nori. I loved this dish, I am a sucker for Japanese influenced food and this was delicious. Juicy chunks of the tuna mixed well with the avocado and the nori providing a great crunch. Would order this again in a flash.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD - warm salad of sweetcorn, black beans w chipotle & lime crème fraiche. Maybe I am being a bit harsh, but black bean and corn isn't going to get me excited on the best of days. While I didn't think this was a fail, I wouldn't race to order it again.
WIN - roasted duck breast, quinoa, hazelnut, pickled cherries, goats cheese. Another great dish here, perfectly cooked duck and the textural addition of the quinoa and and goats cheese make it an interesting dish . Really the only thing holding it back from an epic win was the quantity of duck. Four to five small slices for $27 is a tad stingy for my liking.
WIN - wagyu & pea eggplant curry, coconut, shallot & lime leaf salad. Another enjoyable dish, leaning towards aromatic rather than hot. The beef was tender and clever use of texture once again makes it far from one dimensional. The only thing I would question is the use of wagyu. Using wagyu is just silly in my opinion and doesn't add anything appreciable to the dish other than the price that can be charged.
Unfortunately by the time we got through the plates which came out with good cadence, we were asked to vacate for another group who did have a booking which saw us come up short for desert. That said, I think we had enough food and the bill was reasonable for the amount of food and wine consumed and the quality. I am still not a convert to shared dining, however, Huxtable does make a pretty good case for it.
Huxtable - Win