Sunday, 25 October 2009

King / Bourke Quest Part 25: Espressino

Espressino Coffee and Pizza Bar
68-70 King Street (Rialto), Melbourne (map)
9620 4774

Time to resurrect the King/Bourke Quest, my search for good lunch food walking distance from my office building on the corner of King and Bourke streets.


Remo Nicolini (one of the original Italian Stallions from Carlton Espresso, he who also owns Little Bourke Street pizzeria +39) finally opened the doors of his new coffee and pizza bar on Thursday. It's at the Rialto site on the level below the New York Tavern, and it's called Espressino. I'd been pestering Remo by popping down a few times to see if it was open yet, so I had lunch there on opening day.

This Espressino is not to be confused with the cafe at the other end of town formerly known as Espressino and operated by Remo, but now run by others and known as Babbo.


Indoor and outdoor seating at Espressino. The outdoor tables are made from trees that were damaged in the Black Saturday, and carry sombre inscriptions describing the bushfires.


Inside, the panini, piadine, pizzette and dolci are all displayed in big cabinets. Remo is brewing up is his +39 artisan coffee, as well as single origin (Cuban): there are two coffee machines, one solely dedicated to making espressi.


The high ceilings of the interior are adorned with spotlit bicycles.


Housemate DJ and our friend Miss B both ventured to my end of the city to join me for lunch. Miss B had the pizzetta with eggplant and cherry tomatoes. I had the one with tartufata and rocket. Simple, tasty, good. They were about $8 each, and were served on little wooden boards that had the Espressino logo stamped in the corner. Wish the knives had been a bit sharper though.

Pizzetta melanzanePizzetta tartufata

DJ announced it would be a multiple course meal. He chased up his roasted pumpkin piadina with a slice of berry-topped cake we assumed would be cheesecakey but turned out to be rather more spongy. He liked it though, and we liked the look of the strawberry pieces and extravagant swirls of whipped cream - they made the cake look like a red-legged cheerleader holding pom-poms.

Piadina alla zuccaBerry sponge

Miss B and I ordered coffees and decided to share a bombolone filled with Italian custard. DJ had never tasted Italian custard before so we gave him a bite - he was suitably impressed and overwhelmed by the sugar rush. I had my own caffeine rush for the next hour - yes my tolerance is low but those coffees were strong.

Custard bomboloneEspressino caffe latte

Very happy to have Espressino only a stone's throw from the office!


Thursday, 22 October 2009

Taste of Spain at MoVida

1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne (map)
9663 3038


Through the magic of twitter, I found out about an event being held by Rathdowne Cellars in conjunction with MoVida and Scott Wasley from The Spanish Acquisition: lunch at MoVida accompanied by 13 rather special Spanish wines, $120 per person. I took along my father Rumpole as a birthday present, which he loved - the wine tasting notes in this post are his. :)

MoVida CavaMoVida

The restaurant was completely booked out (in record time too - I had to go on the waiting list to score two seats, but luckily they were able to fit us in). We were seated on a table with Eatnik and her +2, and we had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Kate from the blog Eating Melbourne.

I'd previously only visited MoVida at night... I like the way the sunlight filters in from Hosier Lane.


We started off with two cavas. Both 2006 Raventos i Blanc (D.O. Cava Vinos Espumosos (Penedes)): 'L'Heuru' Reserva Brut (light bodied; pale; limey nose; lacks acidity; flinty dry; pleasant hot weather wine (for breakfast?!!), 15) and then its tinted sibling, 'L'Heuru de Nit' Rosé (pale salmon; strong bead; again a limey nose; ow acid, easy drinking - more mouth-filling, 15.5).

The first tapa was the bouqueron, a pickled white imported anchovy skewered on a pincho with flat leaf parsley, a crouton and a slice of raw garlic. HELLO.


From D.O. Sanlucar de Barrameda, the Delgado Zuletta 'La Goya' Manzanilla (dry and nutty as a manzanilla should be; more mouth-filling than in the past, 16+), which Rumpole and I last tasted at the MFWF Cumulus Inc Oyster Class.

La trucha del océano: ocean trout cured in salt and sugar, served with juniper berry, beetroot cocotte and horseradish cream. One of my very favourite dishes - it was bursting with flavour.

La Trucha del Oceano

Three wines that arrived at once were the 2008 Orden Tercera Verdejo (D.O. Rueda, nice gold; slightly sauvignon nose; so-so palate, 15-), the 2008 Pazo San Mauro Albariño (D.O. Rías Baixas (Condado de Tea), v. clean (austere); bone dry; some acidity; improved once it warmed slightly, 16) and my favourite, the 2008 Capçanes 'Mas Donis' Rosat de Garnacha (D.O. Montsant, lovely pink; floral; light but good grunt; very drinkable; happy to justify price, 17+).

I hadn't had this sensational anchoa dish at MoVida before: a hand filleted Cantabrian artisan anchovy splayed on a crouton with capers and - wait for it - smoked tomato sorbet. Yep. Wouldn't have thought it would work, but it totally did. The soft pulpo (octopus) was slow cooked sous vide, for 90 minutes at 62 degrees, and placed on a kipfler potato pedestal.


Here we have the two slow cooked meats: the one on the left was the last of the tapas, the one on the right was one of the raciones. De tenera con atún (left) was veal cheek that had been braised for two hours, served with cubes of yellow fin tuna and piquillo pepper. It may look a little dry but the meat was wonderfully moist and threaded with generous ribbons of fat.

The cabrito, baby goat, had been slow roasted for six hours until it was just falling off the bone. Served with carrot, celery, onion.

De Tenera Con AtunCabrito

My favourite of the raciones was probably the espárragos, which was gorgeous in its freshness and simplicity. Confit green asparagus with jamon serrano and slooooow cooked eggs (four hours at 62 degrees).


Teamed with the cabrito and espárragos were the first three reds: the 2008 Artazuri Garnacha (D.O. Navarra, lovely perfumed nose; crystal clear garnet colour; mouth filling blackberry fruit; very good wine at this price, 17), the 2007 Telmo Rodriguez 'Gaba do Zil' Mencia (D.O. Valdeorras, rather flat, bland wine; lacks acidity; finishes rather dull; stewed prunes on nose, 15) and the 2008 Telmo Rodriguez 'LZ' Tempranillo (D.O. Rioja (Rioja Alavesa), barnyard nose; quite flat on palate; nice balance of briary/blackberry fruit and acidity, 15.5).


I liked that the two "vegetable" dishes, the espárragos and the menestra, both came with jamon serrano. The latter dish was fairly simple, consisting of spring vegetables braised in tomato. And the final savoury dish was yet another slow cooked one: carne de wagyu (9+), intercostal, braised, served with Jerusalem artichokes.

MenestraCarne de wagyu

Three more wines from Rioja: the 2005 Remelluri Reserva Tempranillo (Rioja Alavesa, single estate pioneer in Rioja, highest vineyard in Rioja, minimal handling, French oak, elegant; sweetish nose of blackberries and raspberries; traces of leathery tempranillo characteristics; beautiful wine, 17), the 2006 Artadi 'Vinas de Gain' Tempranillo (Rioja Alavesa again, unfiltered, unfined, aged in new French oack, modern style, utterly elegant; "like a Prada frock"; lovely balance of fruit and acidity; terrific wine, 18.5+) and the 2005 Roda '1' Reserva Tempranillo (Rioja Alta, blue-black; liquorice; tannic; mouth-filling; elegant; aristocratic; superb wine; some capsicum on the nose - but what a nose! 18.5).

After our meal, executive chef Frank Camorra came out of the kitchen to introduce us to new MoVida head chef Dave Roberts (former head chef at Movida Next Door - I understand the chef rotation is due to the imminent opening of Bourke Street restaurant MoVida Aqui). Dave talked us through the menu. Scotty from Spanish Acquisition rounded off the event by talking us through the final wines.

MoVidaScotty at MoVida

The pan con chocolate was a fudge-like block topped with a fennel biscotto and an unusual olive oil sorbet. It was matched with the final wine, a sherry: Sanchez Romate Moscatel 'Ambrosia' (D.O. Jerez, toffee nose, with delicious prunes; big style; dried berry undertones; quite acidic undertones - but needed for forward sweet fruit; not as cloying as PX - finishes slightly dry).

Pan con chocolateMoVida

A wonderful combination of food and wine. The wines we tasted were of course all available for us to order (at special prices): contact Rathdowne Cellars if you like the sound of any of them for yourselves...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Beast on a Block at The Point

The Point Albert Park
Aquatic Drive, Albert Park (map)
9682 5566

Sorry, vegetarians: very lambflesh-focused post today!

Beast on the Block - the menu

I'm afraid I'm not the first (or the second) to get around to writing up this event, but despite my tardiness and the interwebs duplication I couldn't resist writing up the AMAZING dinner I was invited to the other week, along with a small group of other Melbourne food bloggers.

The venue was The Point on Albert Park Lake, our host was The Point's executive chef Scott Pickett and on the evening in question Scotty broke down a whole side of lamb before our eyes, talking us through each cut of lamb and how it should be prepared. We then took turns popping into the kitchen to watch Scotty's team plate up one of the courses, and we tried to flesh out the deliberately minimalist menu above by guessing all the ingredients in each dish. So much fun!

Beast on the Block

I was running late because of a rental inspection that started behind schedule and a Swan Street discretionary taxi FAIL, but the others very politely waited for me to arrive (whilst sipping glasses of bubbly) before we went on a tour through the elegantly-appointed restaurant, behind the scenes into the kitchen and downstairs to one of the meat fridges. Those small red beasties hanging in the photo above are hares.


As Scotty took to the "stage" at the head of the table, we each yummed down a few Kumamoto oysters, freshly shucked and served natural.

Beast on the BlockBeast on the Block

The lamb Scotty was breaking down (using a very impressive Swedish steel Mizuno UX10 knife from Japan that had his name engraved on the side in katakana - !!!) was about 6-8 weeks old. It arrives weighing about 6.5-7kg (8-10kg when it was alive).

Beast on the BlockBeast on the Block

Scotty took us on a tour through the hindquarters, the forequarters, the rack, the saddle, the neck, etc etc. I loved how, when preparing a crown roast, he peeled back the flesh halfway off the ribs then sat the rack flat so that it looked like a prickly stegosaurus (above left photo). :)

Beast on the BlockBeast on the Block

The first official course on the menu was the king salmon: confit New Zealand chinook salmon posed on a dollop of goats curd, accompanied by a Chinese Lantern petal and three types of egg, each more decadent than the last: a quail egg cooked for 2 mins 15 seconds, salmon roe and Osetra black caviar. A potage Parmentier (warm Vichyssoise) was poured over the top. Spec-tac-ular.

King SalmonKing Salmon

I got to sneak into the kitchen to watch as the next course was cooked and plated. Unlike some other bloggers I've never worked in a restaurant (if you don't count the six months of lacklustre waitressing I did at the age of 16 in a rather dreary eastern suburbs French restaurant - I don't), so going behind the scenes was a rare treat for me. The huge vats of stock bubbling away had to be seen to be believed.

StockCooking the chicken

Finishing off the chicken in a pan and plating it up. Scotty said that he was inspirated for this dish by his local charcoal chicken joint.

Plating the chicken

It was a centre cut of roasted chicken wing, stuffed and caramelised with shallots and cream and an emulsion of potato and black truffle. Served on a crispy pumpkin gnocco and topped with a trompette (black death) mushroom. The swoosh of field mushroom and butter puree was stained with squid ink. A flavour EXPLOSION, I tell you.


Next up was butter poached Western Australian marron, fois gras parfait, sprinklings of salmon roe and black Cyprian salt, Chinese Lantern petals, cubes of apple jelly and a drizzled Sauternes reduction. It was a sort of richly-flavoured, "glammed up surf n turf".


Such cute Chinese Lanterns! I should also point out that the charming French sommelier was treating us to some truly lovely wines: the De Bortoli Yarra Vally Reserve Release 2007 Chardonnay was a great match for the food, and I lingered over this Haut-Médoc Bordeaux - the Chateau Tour du Haut-Moulin Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, 2001. Another very, very honourable mention goes to the Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer 2007 Riesling.

Chinese LanternBordeaux

And now for the most important dish of the night - the lamb! On her blog, Sarah included a fantastic annotated photograph of this dish, with all of the parts labelled. From left to right, we have the kidney wrapped in jamón ibérico; a single clove of organic garlic confit and topped with a cherry tomato on (off) the vine; pomme fondant topped with glazed shank and an asparagus spear; half a globe artichoke topped with ramp/cannon/cutlet; a single broad bean; crumbed lambs brain sitting on a sauce gribiche; and finally the braised lamb neck in a ras-el-hanout spiced brik pastry spring roll, with curly whirly potato blanched, wrapped around it and deep fried. Modestly titled "a taste of new season lamb" on the menu, this dish was a show-stopper.


Mercifully, our palates were given a chance to breathe then refresh with the pre-dessert: a small tumbler of vodka and cranberry jelly, topped with basil foam and granita made from San Pellegrino blood orange aranciata and limonata. Loved it, particularly the basil vs cranberry and the foam vs ice textures.


Two different desserts were brought out for alternating guests, but Jack and I wisely decided to share two between us. For the pineapple dish, some of the pieces had been charred with a blowtorch, the others had been done sous-vide with chilli and their natural juices, then caramelised. There was also yoghurt ice cream, sprinkled bikky crumbs, colourless ginger jelly, baby lemon balm shoots and decadent coconut cream in tuille rolls. Tiny liquorice dots on the edge of the plate finished it off beautifully.


The other dessert was soft Valrhona chocolate and chestnut tortellini filled with ganache, served with coffee ice cream, chocolate and chestnut mousse (hidden under the ice cream in the photo below), caramelised pear and a foam made from French-imported tonka beans. Of the two I preferred the pineapple - the contrast between the two types of pineapple rocked my socks. Plus I was a complete sucker for the matching Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.

To well and truly finish us off a range of petits fours were brought out: salted caramel chocs, plum jellies and little musk marshmallows.

ChocolateSalted caramel, plum jellies

Once the banquet was finally at an end, several of us kicked back for a further few hours with the chef, laughing and talking food and knocking back stout (I liked the one I had from the Bellarine Brewing Company, brewed with Portarlington Blue Mussels). Scotty, himself an occasional blogger, is completely passionate about food and the sharing of food knowledge. Thanks a million Scotty for hosting us!

Mussel Stout

The other food bloggers and I dined compliments of the house on this occasion, but you'll be glad to know that many of the dishes we had are available on the current "Tasting Point" menu, $95 per person or $155 per person with matching wines. Do yourself a favour and try some of these amazing dishes while they're still in season!