A visit in Nov 2014.
Vue De Monde
3 and 1/2 stars of out 5
In terms of pure quiddity of experience, Vue De Monde is a superb example of the modern Australian restaurant. You check in at the plush lobby on the ground floor and the lady guides you towards a dedicated lift- futuristic and gleaming black with white lighted lines - that ascends 55 floors up into the Rialto Tower. The lift doors open directly to staff who welcome and guide you to the airy vantage location of your table. The view makes Melbourne city slowly melt into the great Australian outdoors on a wide horizon. The room’s air-borne corporate slickness atones for it not being a Palace of Versailles-like Louis XV. Half a dozen snacks arrive in quick succession and perch on sculpted polished rocks, all sitting on a leather-skin tabletop. Australian specialty produce, like marron, barramundi and even wallaby (you don’t count your karmic meter here) form part of the menu that lines up 12 legitimate courses served to you by black-suit-clad gracious ladies and gents, with a serious cheese cart thrown in ,or more correctly rolled in by a French-accented young man with a blond twirled moustache. Chef and businessman Shannon Bennett makes Noma & the New Nordic wave splash into the Australian high-life. Liquid nitrogen canoodles with the caveman practice of holding up meat and bone with your bare hands and taking it apart with excited mouth. You can’t blame them for not trying.
"Wallaby" - exceedingly gentle texture , otherwise unremarkable.
Lamb heart - - 'smelt' of the hearth particularly - the texture did not suggest offal at all.
Duck tongue - 'caramel slips of meat'.
"Wagyu"- roasted by finishing touch table-side. Ultra-soft - a toddler (outside Mumbai) could safely chew on this.
The opener of Barramundi , however, is a brilliant inspiration. A fried hunk of the said fish is placed in front of you without cutlery, and use of hands and directly applied mouth is suggested. French upper-class sophistry drowns in the Australian mines and beaches as you lift the torched meat and bite past the crisp crust into soft flesh. You can gnaw to the bone - the culinary equivalent of making love in a elegant public park. Matters get further down and dirty when the hostess draws up, takes the cheek (of the fish) - and carves it out tableside - not a pretty sight but viscerally important matters are often not. The cheek meat (underwhelming) goes into a small lettuce roll.
Herbs in bowl are first frozen by liquid nitrogen , then they ask you to powder it with a pestle , then a cucumber sorbet is added - interesting theater which ends by tasting beautifully refreshing.
Desserts were a let-down.
3 and 1/4 stars out of 5
Passing through Crowne Street, near Sydney downtown where Marque is situated, I was struck singularly by how similar it looked to certain suburban roads of Bangalore before the latter city went to the dogs.
Mark Best showed splendid and innovative technique but taste was not always empyrean.
Chunk of octopus tentacle fried with chilli - one of the few seafoods on this entire Australia trip that I enjoyed.
"Fish scales" (dehydrated thin slices of scallop) atop NZ bass grouper - nice stunts but middling gustatory impact.
Quail - looked fantastic but tasted ho-hum.
Intriguing technique followed with “Honeycomb with cultured cream”. To sugar syrup and honey, soda bicarbonate had been added to create the bubbled out pockets that simulate a honey-comb.
3 stars out of 5 (what a disappointment!)
The most awarded restaurant in Australia in the last 10 years, let me down. Depth of flavour was often a phantom and Peter Gilmore's choices sometimes flummoxed me.
Calling two months ahead instead of earlier , I was lucky to get a reservation but unfortunate at the same time because a massive cruise-liner, the staff forewarned, would be docked right beside the restaurant windows thus blocking off views of those landmarks. Rescheduling my whole trip to get around the timetable of this obliterating behemoth , or plotting nefariously to get that ship’s ass out of my way on that afternoon, were both unappealing to me, so I accepted my lot , hoping for food and top-class service to call all the shots.
Quay’s first overture ( never mind that the Opera House was blocked from view) was the kind of syncytium that I had expected from Peter Gilmore. A jelly of smoked eel neatly conveyed its intended flavour, tenderness distinguished saltwater poached chicken , but the greenlip abalone you could barely taste. Still at the end of it, the cultured soft symphony of it all, minimized my gripes.
Smoked and confited pig jowl had an agreeably tender bacon-like flavour but Gilmore’s choice to blanket it with crunchy, sometimes hard bits of sesame and roasted koji rice nearly destroyed the dish. Some of those hard grains lodged firmly in my teeth and I , in the interests of savoir-faire, had to repair to the bathroom to extricate them rather than risking the same procedure at the table with a fork’s teeth.
The menu’s last offering before dessert had broad-bean pods sitting on top. Flicking off one specimen, I tasted it with high hopes. Resonant vegetal zip remained a phantom, as was the sauce, and the thin, meager cut of lamb underneath was tender but nearly tasteless, as though both meat and vegetable had been thoroughly washed off most of their essence. Putting extra words in the menu description “Flinders Island Grass Fed Lamb” had alas not succeeded in putting extra taste into that slice. This “dish”, especially in light of what had come before it, flummoxed me - was this really the great Quay of stunning food that I’d heard and read so much about? Gilmore for some reason will not let a cut of plated meat expose itself to the harsh outside world, so tender slices of duck that came next were totally shrouded by toasted rice and barley. That unpleasantly crunchy coating, no great shakes and surely not a suitable nor a superior replacement to a well-roasted natural exterior, stifled the already delicate taste of the duck.
Peter Gilmore’s desserts have become more popular in the public eye, than have his savory creations and my meal justified why that was so. His famous “Snow Egg” - the first offering from the sweets that afternoon - is no doubt a special and wonderfully balanced dessert though its novelty was precluded for me as I’d eaten an excellent version of it years ago in Wellington’s White House. Your spoon cuts through a crisp caramel coat, slices past an egg custard and reaches a sweet nippy core of nectarine ice cream. Go through all the way to the bed of the glass and you scoop up good ol’ vanilla - all this is gheraoed by refreshing nectarine granita.
Flower Drum - The best-rated Chinese restaurant in Australia and a fine-dining one to boot!
3 and 1/4 stars out of 5
The staff, suit-clad Chinese gentlemen, speak good minimally-accented grammatically correct English!
The highlight was a surf and turf beauty - "pearl meat" - the adductor muscle of pearl oyster , was wonderfully slow-cooked till it became the exquisite savoury counterpart of a top-class litchi. Paired with excellent asparagus.
Peking duck was lusciously flavoured - a fact which becomes more obvious when you compare it to many other Australia-NZ versions. But their diced pork rendition had very limited charms, fried rice was unspectacular, and dessert was downright clunky.