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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ezard at Adelphi - Lunch of Luxury

I've been trying to get around to writing up my luxury birthday lunch for a long time now, but keep putting it off thinking it'll be too much work and that nobody will be interested in a restaruant review without pictures. You see, Ezard is one of Melbourne's top restaurants, regularly receiving 3 'hats' in The Age Good Food Guide, and definitely a destination restaurant for foodies visiting Melbourne. Because it was quite posh, and I'm not terribly comfortable with taking photos of my dishes in restaurants (particularly quiet, expensive ones) I can only give you the menu descriptions and my own words to describe what we ate.
Mum offered to take me there for my birthday lunch to try the 8 course tasting menu I've heard so much about. It's not cheap - at $115 per person ($195 if you want matching wines with each course - but who on earth could cope with 8 glasses of wine over one lunch???), but it's definitely been the highlight of my foodie existence so far.
Find out why - read on!

The restaurant is located underground - under a very nice boutique hotel in one of Melbourne's city laneways called The Adelphi, which is popular with travellers with money, but also with a sense of style. It has a narrow swimming pool on the roof which overhangs the laneway, with a glass bottom. You can look up to see people's feet as they do a tumble turn! Sitting slightly underground, with the windows at the level of passing people's ankles gives a very New York feel to the place.
Mum and I walked in and immediately were discomforted to notice we were the only women in the whole place that day! It's quite a small restaurant - about 50 seats, I'd say. Our waitress made us very comfortable and expressed her relief that we had arrived to break up the male-ness of the day. The men there all seemed to be doing the business-entertaining thing, so I think Teague Ezard was pretty pleased to have 2 women for whom he could prepare a tasting menu. Yes, Teague was there and prepared his meals ourselves, which I loved! So often you hear about these expensive restaurants with well-known chefs who are never actually there - but on their latest book tour or shooting a TV series. But, Teague was there and he said a polite hello to me as I went to the toilet later on. Unfortunately I may have given the impression that I was totally drunk and incoherent, as I was wearing stupid new girly shoes with stupid little pointy heels that I couldn't balance in. I was wobbling all over the place. He probably thought I was one step away from vomiting in his pot plants. Hmmm.
But anyway, the menu! Mum and I started off with a glass of celebratory Veuve Clicquot, at a breezy little price of $24 a glass (I know!!! What??!). That glass lastest for our first three courses (I made it last that long!). We were brought out fantastic bread with the most wonderful tasting olive oil - I think it was infused with parmesan and truffles. I was hungry and nearly made the mistake of filling myself up on this fantastic stuff. There was also a dish of 3 flavoured salts on the table. We actually didn't need to use any of them through the meal, but that didn't stop us tasting them all; a Szechaun pepper salt; a herbed salt; and a sweet chili salt!

Now, in looking at the menu you may notice a distinct Asian flavour to the meal. You are correct. Ezard has adopted a significantly Japanese/Asian approach to his dishes and mixed it with the style of food in Australia. It creates a very fusion style of cuisine, that is really popular in Australia at the moment. My mother thought that a few of the dishes we were served in the tasting menu started to taste the same - built on the same master stock and using the same types of Japanese flavourings, but I think that may have been his intention. I heard that the courses in a tasting menu are often linked by a theme, and in this course the theme was a certain Japanese taste. Although I have to admit that I found a few courses a tad heavy on the use of sugar. I thought the balance wasn't quite right between savoury and sweet, but that is a very minor detail in what was a really spectacular meal.

The first course came out:
1st course: Oyster shooter with ginger, mirin and soy dressing and wasabi flying fish roe.
This is a signature dish for the restaurant and was an incredible way to start. An oyster in a shot glass with a Japanese inspired dressing surrounding it and topped with salty fish roe. The oyster was very cold and tasted just like the sea. It slipped down and the taste was followed by the savoury notes of the dressing and heat of the ginger. It was just incredible. Thinking about it, I'd kill for another one of these.

The second course followed quickly:
2nd course: Hiramasa kingfish tataki with ginger and black bean dressing, cucumber oil and baby asian cresses.
This is what you would call a ceviche in another style of cuisine, I think. It was a mound of raw marinated kingfish served on an Asian soup spoon with a salty, gingery topping, Asian greens and a small mound of thin, deep fried noodles. The combination of flavours, temperatures and textures in this made it perfection-on-a-spoon. The fish had been 'cooked' in lemon or lime, and then topped with this incredible dressing. It would have been spectacular without the crispy noodles on top, but with those added it created a textural contrast that was incredible against the soft fish. It was designed to eat as one mouthful, which I achieved by accommodating widely ;-) but my mum had a bit of trouble and had to do it in a few bites. I think this was my favourite dish of the whole meal.

3rd course: Demi tasse of tom yum broth with steamed salmon dumpling and crispy asian herb salad.
This was a tiny little soup in an espresso cup that I think was mainly to serve as a palate cleanser. The broth tasted authentically Thai flavoured, with lots of lime and a significant amount of chili (I was taken by surprise and started to cough). The salmon dumpling was found a the bottom of the cup, and obviously made from home-made dough which was so tender. This worked well to clear the palate.

It was at this point I started to worry that there wouldn't be enough food. I mean, I'd just had 3 of the 8 courses, and yet I was still starving! Surely we wouldn't be paying $115 each to come out at the end and search out the nearest McDonalds to fill us up, would we? Where was the bread?? Could I have more bread please?!
Mum and I ordered another glass of wine each from the extensive wine list. She had a 2002 Stonier Reserve chardonnay from the Mornington Peninsula here in Victoria, and I went for a red: a 2002 Robert Chevillon Bourgogne pinot noir from Burgundy in France, as I knew we would be having duck later on in the meal - duck and pinot noir are a perfect match.

Then the next course came out.
4th course: Mushroom and herb tortelli, seared spinach, crispy taro, parmesan and truffle oil.
Interestingly, this was the only non-Asian dish on the tasting menu. We appreciated the the change of flavours and obvious Italianess of this dish. We received one large filled tortelli, sitting in a light sauce with truffle oil, and topped with the seared spinach, crispy taro (a starchy vegetable used a lot by Pacific Islanders) and shavings of excellent parmesan. Mum and I both really enjoyed this course and ate it up quickly.

Now we were getting into the real meat and potatoes of the deal:
5th course: Bangalow crispy pork belly with a salad of apple, spring onion, baby watercress, spiced blood plum caramel.
Yum, yum, yum. Mmmmm! I LOVE crispy pork belly. Bangalow is a type of pork being produced in Austrlia for export and top restaurants, in the traditional old-style of pork raising. You know - the type of pork that is celebrated for its fat, rather than bred lean and dry like they do commercially today. These black pigs roam the paddocks, eat good food and produce excellent, tasty, juicy meat (I happened to catch a Landline segment about these pigs not long after my meal, which is why I know all this. I would have had no idea about it before that!). The pork in this dish wasn't nearly as fatty as other belly pork I've had in Asian restaruants, but it had a better flavour without being obviously soaked in many marinades. Yes, this dish was as good as it sounds - the plum caramel was great. Quite a decent serving too of 3 pieces of pork on an artistically big plate. (Incidentally, the dish for which Ezard's is most famous and has always been on the menu is a cripsy pork trotter with chili caramel and Thai basil. I really want to come back to try that)

6th course: Suzuki seabass with stir fried asian mushrooms, soy mirin broth and ezard XO sauce.
I really should eat more fish. Especially if it tastes as good as this course. We had a good chunk of seabass, with asian flavours and a thick chili sauce on top. I actually found this dish to be a little on the sweet side for me, but I heard an Asian businessman at a nearby table, eating the same dish, note that he thought the chili sauce was too salty. Oh well - horses for courses. The quality of the fish in this course was excellent, and it was perfectly cooked so it was still juicy and almost translucent. Excelllent.

Our final savoury course, was no. 7: Chinese style roast duck with shaosang wine dressing, pickled shitake mushrooms and steamed rice noodle roll.
I love duck and order it often when I'm out, partly because I've had bad experiences trying to cook it myself. Restaurants just do it better than I do, so I'll enjoy it cooked by them. This was the largest dish on our menu, crispy pieces of duck on steamed rice, and quite filling. I had gone from starving hungry after the 3rd course to feeling quite replete by the end of the 6th. The 7th course filled me completely; it was wonderful, but we were pleased to know there weren't any more coming. I think the number and flavour of courses was very well judged. Any more and we would have felt overwhelmed by flavours and quantity.

After this we had a little rest, and I performed my drunken idiot routine going to the toilet. I really should have stopped to watch a little of what Teague Ezard was doing, as the kitchen is open (with a view to the toilet doors - not so exciting for them). Strangely the kitchen was very quiet considering it was a busy day (they had lots of walk-ins from a conference at the hotel, and were unprepared with staff and ingredients. But everything was handled very calmly). But, we were pretty much the only people left in the restaurant by this stage - it had taken nearly 2 hours to get to course 8, and I was a little shy to approach him. I don't know why. I'm not usually!

After all our previous courses, they had made a wise decision with the dessert. It was very light, almost another palate cleanser to leave us feeling refreshed.
Grape and pomegranate sorbet with pomegranate molasses and pistachio tuille
This was the first time I've tasted pomegranate molasses, and I have to say I was very impressed. Yummy stuff - perfectly paired with the sorbet.
We followed dessert with some espresso coffees and excellent bitter chocolate truffles. I even stole an extra truffle from an uncleared table next door. I mean, I'm sure they hadn't spat on it or anything. Few of the men hadn't tried their chocolate truffles, but they should have; they were bitter enough to appeal to male palates. I was almost ready to get up and start collecting them from the empty tables!

So there - after 2.5 hours, and a hefty wad of cash later I had experienced the most memorable and exciting (and expensive) meal of my life so far. I'm so glad I finally made it to Ezard; it was some place I had always wanted to go with my father, and he would have thoroughly enjoyed the experience with us, but we remembered him in our thoughts (particularly when I was eating the pork belly; he would have loved that!). I have to thank my mum for indulging me in this wonderful meal, especially just after having given my my present of my new Global knives! Thank you, mum. xo.

Ezard at Adelphi
187 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Ph. +613 9639 6811


  • Sounds like you had a wonderful meal Niki! And while photos would have been grand, descriptions and my own imagination is a good thing too! I think it's good to not always have photos, but to try to conjure up images of what you read. Visualizing is something we should teach our kids! I have the same thing with cookbooks - I love the ones with pictures, but lately have bought quite a lot without, just to be able to get a feel of what a dish should be like for me, without having someone tell me how it is supposed to end up.

    And you know, the chocolate-grabbing from the next table happens a lot in the business, believe me!:-)

    By Blogger Zarah Maria, at 5/02/2005 06:36:00 am  

  • Don't you love meals like this? Someone else does all the work, and you can try so many different dishes??

    I got to do that in San Francisco a few years ago, at Fleur de Lys; I had the vegetarian tasting menu. Again, really expensive, and I too thought "is this all I get" until the end, when I realized the amounts were just perfect.

    Hooray for luxury dinners! (and there's a reason we don't eat them too often...)

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5/02/2005 07:40:00 am  

  • Oh yeah, it was great!
    Zarah Maria - The highest selling Australian cookbook is a really big encyclopaedic sort of thing that has hundreds of recipes, but no photos! The author didn't want to intimidate people, especially novice cooks, with photos of what it 'should' look like. The publishers never expected such a big book without photos would sell. It's now the highest selling Australian non-fiction book!
    Good to know I'm not the only greedy, truffle grabbing person!
    Stephanie - I love the *idea* of luxury dinners, but sometimes it can get all a bit overwhelming. By the end of this one I was looking forward to going home and collapsing on the couch from tiredness! Mum wanted to go shopping, but I insisted I had to go straight home!

    By Blogger Niki, at 5/02/2005 09:14:00 pm  

  • Wow! you are a lucky lucky girl! I ate at Ezard once in 2000 and always wanted to go back, but never managed it before I left. Your meal sounds spectacular. No need for photos at all as your writing was excellent.

    And kudos to you for the truffle grab. I know my self well enough to know I would want to with all my heart, but would be too afraid to!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/20/2005 09:08:00 am  

  • Pomegranate molasses is available in some delis around town (usually on shelves with the rose water and orange flower water). Mine's made by Chtaura and imported from Lebanon, I think. It's in a 300ml glass bottle, about $5.00 each. Not having anything special to use it for I've only marinated some chicken with it, but was most impressed. Pomegranate also goes really well with duck (as I found in an old Beates Boathouse dish).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/29/2005 01:40:00 am  

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