Aquatic Drive, Albert Park (map)
Sorry, vegetarians: very lambflesh-focused post today!
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!
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.
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).
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). :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!