Sep 112011

Full disclosure – we were invited to dine at Medusa and try the new spring menu and we were given a reduced price on the menu.  I also apologise for the terrible quality of these pictures – it was quite dim at our end of the table.

Medusa is a new fine dining restaurant in Bardon with an amazing view out over Paddington and South West Brisbane.  Brisbane food blogger’s and media types were offered a chance to try their degustation menu (with or without matching wines) for a reduced price.  J and I decided to head along, with J trying the matching wines and me sticking to a lemon lime and bitters.

The degustation is $95 for 7 courses, and $155 with matching wines.  If J’s meal was anything to go by, the pours of wine are very generous.

Chef Minh Le is passionate about sustainability and sources as much free range, organic and local produce as possible.  Our evening was the launch of his spring menu.

I’ll summarise each dish, and my thoughts, but as an overall review, both J and I agreed that the menu felt a bit…complicated at times.  The food was all beautifully executed and presented, the seafood in particular was gorgeous and fresh.  The kitchen clearly have all the techniques and skills down to a fine art.  But, I felt that certain courses tried to do too much – there was too much on the plate, too many elements to work together as a cohesive whole.  This could also be a taste/style thing – I do tend to prefer dishes that choose a few elements to focus on, and work with the fantastic ingrediants we have at our disposal here in Queensland. I don’t think the issue is a deal breaker.  In fact, I think with a few pretty minor tweaks they could easily fix the issues (assuming of course they want to).

My other gripe on the evening was the fact that we were kept waiting nearly an hour after the start time before beginning.  This wasn’t entirely the restaurant’s fault – there were at least 6 people who didn’t show up, and there were some others who were a bit late.  Obviously the kitchen was holding out in the hope that everyone would arrive.  I understand that they had probably prepared for a certain number of people and were hoping to meet their numbers.  I think when it’s 30 minutes after the start time for an event, it’s time to get people started – after all, you can probably catch any latecomers up no?  The biggest drawback to making us wait was that we didn’t leave until quite late – after 11pm on a school night!

Spring Degustation Menu

Amuse Bouche – White bean and asparagus soup with truffle.  This was a beautiful, smooth, flavoursome soup – I love asparagus and I enjoyed this.  The truffle was a treat also!

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Course 1

White asparagus with roasted nuts, quinoa and quail eggs.  This course had even more going on in it than is listed – it also had truffle, walnuts, wild rice, macademias… The egg was served cold (I believe this was a deliberate choice) but I must admit I found this a bit offputting.

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Course 2

Hervey Bay scallops with veal sweetbread, cauliflower puree, chanterelle mushrooms and truffle jus.  I was very proud of myself for eating the sweetbreads – I am not normally a big fan of offal, but this was quite tasty.  The scallops were absolutely beautiful, but as I said above, we felt there was a lot going on in the dish.  Other’s at the table didn’t agree with us on that point though – several people commented that this dish was their favourite.

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Course 3

Yellowfin tuna marinated in Thai pesto with Mooloolaba prawns, nasturium leaf, asparagus, buckwheat crumble, quinoa, edamame beans and bonito vinaigrette.  My main thought with this course was that the pesto overpowered the tuna flavour, but worked perfectly with the prawns.  So I’d probably either prefer just prawns in this dish, or that the pesto be served more as a sauce, so you can add as little or as much as you wish.  The tuna was beautiful and fresh.

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Course 4

Cured Cape Grim beef carpaccio with morels, baby split peas, quail egg and pommes souffle.  This course was J’s favourite, and probably mine too.  The flavours all worked really well together.

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Course 5

Crispy skin Gooralie pork belly with chilli honey glaze, roasted apple and celeriac puree, sous vide abalone, green papaya crab salad, nuoc cham, edamame beans and salmon roe.  Abalone as an ingredient just doesn’t do it for me – and I was a bit confused about why it was in this dish.  Each of the elements of this dish had very strong and distinct flavours.  They worked better when sampled all together, but on their own were a bit overwhelming.

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Course 6

Buche d’Affinois with lavosh, quince paste, muscatels, apples and beetroot puree.  I’ve yet to meet a cheese platter I didn’t like.

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Course 7

Raspberries with violet curd, raspberry sorbet, brandy snaps and violet crystals.  I really enjoyed this dish – some of the other guests seemed to find it a bit tart, but I enjoyed the combination of raspberries and curd.

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Medusa Dining
Shop 1, 62 MacGregor Terrace

Ph: 0731611858

Aug 012011

It was cold outside, and it was still pretty cold when we got inside SuperButcher at Eagle Farm. I stopped and stared around in awe – I had never been before and its size can be overwhelming.

It is so tempting to stop and look at all the goodies, but I am here for a purpose.  That purpose is to further my appreciation of lamb.

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We spent close to 2 hours watching Les the butcher breakdown a whole lamb carcass. Less you think this sounds too much like a lecture, we were well fed throughout the presentation and sampled various cuts as Les ran us through them.

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Some key things I took away from the experience:

  • lamb, feta, pumpkin and shallot sausages are amazing

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  • it’s hard to go wrong with lamb, mint, rosemary and honey
  • lamb ribs were the surprise hit of the night – so much flavour.  We picked up a pack the following day when we returned to stock the freezer
  • some of those fancier lamb cuts (frenched lamb racks, lamb cutlets etc) result in a lot more waste than their counterparts
  • there are a lot of different cuts of lamb!

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We finished the evening with thick slices of leg roast on top of some of the most flavoursome mashed potatoes I’ve had.

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SuperButcher runs beef and lamb appreciation nights regularly. They are a great way to learn more about your meat, and about the (dying) art of butchering.
SuperButcher has several outlets – we were at Eagle Farm.

Thanks to Les, Andrew and the rest of the team for a great night!

6 EagleView Place
Eagle Farm

Full disclosure – J and I paid our own way for this experience, but I did win a free boning knife!

Dec 032010

[singlepic id=174 w=500 h=333 mode=watermark float=left]  Black Pearl Epicure is one of those names that’s bandied around foodie circles.  So it’s somewhat of a surprise that I had never been there.

Black Pearl Epicure describes itself as “a premium food institute in Queensland comprising of the wholesale distribution business, showroom and cooking school all located in adjoining warehouses in the Fortitude Valley district in Brisbane”.  Attending one of the famous cooking classes has long been on my to-do list, so when the opportunity came up to attend a tasting night I couldn’t pass it up.

Even more exciting was the fact that J was actually able to attend this event as well.  I always feel sorry for him when I come home and regale him with stories of the elaborate meals I’ve eaten, and he tells me he had sausages, or spaghetti for dinner (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

After a brief survey of the items in the shop, a large crowd of Brisbane foodies were ushered upstairs.  For the next 1.5 hours we were educated about gourmet food products.  What resonated the most with me was how passionate Babak is about what he is doing and the food products he is introducing to Brisbane.  I wholeheartedly endorsed many of his ideas – that food should be eaten in season, that the origins of products should be respect, that it is better to pay more for a high quality product, and use it sparingly, then use vast quantities of inferior products…

I sometimes become concerned that my passion for food can come across as pretentious and self-absorbed to some people.  I completely acknowledge that this pre-occupation with gourmet products is a very first world, middle class concern.  But I try to think of the bigger picture.  We live in a world that is increasingly about convenience, speed and instant gratification.  Food is ridiculous cheap and easy to come by (for most people).  Most people eat at least 3 meals a day, and we need have little regard for seasons as products are shipped in from all over the world.  Yet I can’t help but wonder if this lifestyle of convenience and ease is doing us any real favours.  I am concerned when I hear of friends who seldom cook, who don’t see the simple pleasure in cooking something for yourself.  Our taste buds become so accustomed to the taste of salt, sugar and fat that a simple salad seems dull in comparison.  We eat tomatoes year-round, but they are uniform tasteless impostors.

I think we need to come back from the brink, take a step back from industrialisation.  Part of my motivation in writing this blog is to try to convey some of the joy it brings me to cook a meal, no matter how simple.  It is to show people that eating in time with the seasons can be rewarding and eye-opening.  That, in the long run, perhaps it makes more sense to spend more money on a special product that when used sparingly will make your dishes pop.  That there is still value in handmade, homemade, non-industrialised food production.

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I came away from Black Pearl Epicure thinking, if I spend $20 on a bottle of wine, why not spend that on a good vinegar?  As Babak pointed out, it will last much longer than a bottle of wine (certainly in our household!).  If I want a balsamic vinegar, why not hunt out the aged product made in a traditional manner, rather than a supermarket version that adds sugar, rather than use the sweetest grapes, that adds caramel to get that balsamic colour we love.  A comparison of supermarket olive oil and a Joseph’s first run extra virgin olive oil taught me that there is a difference in the taste and smell of these products.  And I know which one I would prefer to dress my salad.

I know we can’t all afford these products and I know the supermarket products have their place.  But there is truth in the saying that a little can go a long way, and that sometimes goods things are worth waiting for.

The evening ended with a lovely fresh meal of chicken in Moroccan seasoning, cous cous and a green salad.  Dessert was a fantastic Roquefort and Comtit Gruyere.

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Thank you to everyone at Black Pearl Epicure for an educational, and delicious evening.  I’ll be back to buy some more products in due course!

Black Pearl Showroom
36 Baxter Street, Fortitude Valley
Ph:  3257 2144

Nov 012010

Dish Bistro is run by Mark and Mary and has only been open for about 4 months.  Mark has a distinguished cooking career behind him, but I believe this is his first venture as a restaurateur.

Our hosts for this latest food blogger dinner were kind enough to put on a special “Mark’s table” tasting menu, focusing on spring produce and fresh flavours.  Apparently the “Mark’s table” concept is something they’ve launched on Wednesday nights as an initiative to get people along.  I believe the cost is $55/head, and you get 7 very generous courses.  Even more impressively, Mark and his team aim to do something different every week – for instance, they’ve done Moroccan, Italian and French.  Mark aims never to repeat the dishes as he gets quite a few repeat customers.  I have to say, this is a lot of time and energy to invest into a project, but you get a clear sense of Mark’s passion when he talks about the concept.

Numbers were slightly below normal at this particular dinner, which I believe is in part attributable to a big night for some bloggers at Conviction the evening before.  However, the crew on hand still had a ball chatting and savouring the food.

Course 1

Paleta de Iberico Bellota – Spanish Iberico ham with cornichons and olives and marinated garlic.  This dish was lovely, a beautiful balance of flavoursome ham, crisp cornichons and salty olives.  Well balanced and all elements were complimentary.  The ham is sourced from Spain and sells at $200/kilo!

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Course 2

Seared Gold Coast Tiger Prawns with Gnocchi, Tomato, Garlic, Basil & Pine Nuts – The gnocchi was light as a feather and the prawns were cooked well without being rubbery.  I really enjoyed this dish, it was probably up there as one of my favourites on the night.

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Course 3

Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Pear & Ginger Salad & Pear Puree -  I have to say, pork belly is not something I’m drawn to on a menu, but I always enjoy it when I try it.  I liked the use of pear with the pork – a bit different from the usual apple pairing.  The crackling was just as it should be – crispy and crunch, and added nice texture to the dish.

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Course 4

Duck Confit with Garlic Potatoes & Caramelised Apple & Rocket Salad -  This was probably my least favourite dish of the night – it is a very salty dish.  Mark did warn us about this at the outset, so I presume it is meant to be this way. However, for me, I felt the salt overpowered the duck flavour a bit much.

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Course 5

Spice Crusted Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Cous Cous, Eggplant & Tomato Relish.  This was probably my favourite dish of the night – the eggplant and tomato relish was smoky and spicy and worked so well with the lamb.  I actually mentioned how much I enjoyed this dish to Mark and he said it was inspired by his time working for Neil Perry.  Colour me impressed.

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Course 6

Lemon Tart with Citrus Salad & Double Cream.  I do like a good lemon tart, and this one was smooth and creamy.  Kudos for the portion size too – after so many courses just a little slice was a good idea!  However, my one criticism is that the tart could have been a bit more, well, tart.  That’s probably a palate preference of course.

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Thanks so much to the Mark, Mary and the staff at Dish for a chance to see what you guys are up to in Teneriffe.

I’m hopefully going to have a few lighter meals to post about in the coming weeks as the weather warms up – to counter my repeated indulgences over the last few weeks!

Dish Bistro
110 Macquarie St
Ph: 3257 3511