438 Church Street, Richmond (map)
Pictured from left to right: Ben Shewry (an instant classic!), Death in the Afternoon and, from the new menu, PB & J.
Every three months those clever alcohol alchemists at Der Raum create a new cocktail menu (though classics such as the Pharmacy, the Latin Threesome and the El Moroccan Blazer are still available). One hot Saturday a few weeks ago b-f-K and I had a dinner reservation that wasn't until 9pm, so we decided we'd meet up a few hours earlier and work our way through the five new Der Raum cocktails while we waited.
I've written before about how much I love my local cocktail bar and their fancy, inventive but perfectly balanced liquid creations. Der Raum is the first bar in Australia to use a rotary evaporator, an elaborate distillation device whose vacuum system lowers the pressure and the boiling point of liquid over several hours (as used to great effect with food at Attica). The rotovap is a recently acquired toy that Matt and others have been using to distill various elements for the new cocktails.
The palate-cleansing drink served on arrival was the 'Chamomile Chroming', a sous vide infusion of French vermouth and chamomile emitting wisps of dry ice vapour. When I popped in for a drink two nights ago with the lovely H, the drink on arrival came in a ridiculously skinny glass and was infused with rooibos tea.
The first of the Summer 2011 cocktails is the 'Gomashio Kanpai' ($22), made with sesame spirit, lime, cucumber juice, bittersweet orange oil and a hint of ginger, salt and pepper to fill out the palate. It's served with a stick of cucumber pressed with gomashio (a Japanese condiment made from sesame seeds and black salt). It is refreshing and salty and ENTIRELY delicious - probably my favourite on the menu.
The second cocktail (with a price of $20) has one of the longer cocktail names I've heard in recent memory:
'No blossoms and no moon,
and he is drinking sake
For simplicity's sake, it gets shortened to No Blossoms. Perhaps it's best if I just let Der Raum explain the origins of this one: "While the name may be the work of Haiku master, Matsuo Bashō, the most famous poet of the Edo period, the drink itself is the work of our friend and former Der Raum alumni, Joel Fraser, a self proclaimed Bashō of the bar."
It's made with sake, French vermouth, pressed citrus and orange blossom, and a lemon verbena distillate is sprayed over the top just prior to serving. I was less enamored of this one due to my dislike of lemon verbena, even in trace amounts (to me it always tastes like an aromatherapy candle).
We both loved the 'PB & J' ($25) though. It's made with Makers Mark, crème de framboise, strawberry vermouth and sparkling rosé. Into the jam jar containing the liquid is poured the pinenut fog (made with liquid nitrogen). The lid of the jar is then closed to allow the flavoured fog to infuse the drink for a while. I love the flavour fog cocktails at Der Raum - last summer's Mel Tormé-inspired 'Velvet Fog' was my all-time favourite.
The penultimate cocktail was the 'Life on Mars?' ($25). I love that the cocktail named after my favourite Bowie song is written properly (with a question mark), and that the menu exhorts guests to raise a glass to "my mother, my dog, and clowns"!
I completely geeked out over this cocktail - the contrasting textures (neither of which are liquids) and temperatures reminded me strongly of the Snow Crab at Attica. The base is an icy, crunchy liquid nitrogen granita made with Matusalem Platino white rum, capsicum, lime and agave. The crunchy texture is quite extraordinary. On top of that is a luscious, gooey cocoa butter and soy emulsion, heated sous vide and served warm (similar to the '+/- Piña Colada' they were doing last year) . It's finished off with a sprinkling of minuscule flowers and Sichuan pepper.
And last of all, the 'Tzatziki Sour' ($22): "a summer tribute to Richmond's Greek heritage". It's made with muddled cucumber, mint, lemon, a spoon of yoghurt, Martin Miller's and absinthe. I approached this drink frankly dubious about the yoghurt factor, but it turned out to be much lighter and less viscous than I'd anticipated (and I loved the oodles of mint). Miller's and cucumber go so well together.
I've booked my ticket to go along to Reinterpreting Dessert, the dessert and cocktail degustation Der Raum will be doing with Burch and Purchese at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. During MFWF, Der Raum are also hosting a Bar Food, Not As You Know It evening with Ryan Flaherty, the chef recently returned from stints at Fat Duck and El Bulli. If you're quick you may still be able to book tickets!