Friday, September 30, 2011

Bob Harrison's Reserve Viognier - McLaren Flats

While on the phone to Bob Harrison ordering more Red and I asked if he would recommend something else. I ‘tend to swing both ways when it come to wine: Red and White. Bob said he would send me a bottle of his Reserve Viognier 2006. This would not be a wine I would order or purchase in general but one I may try if offered and recommended.

I chilled the bottle for two hours in the door of the bar fridge. Generally I would have my whites colder. On first pour I was struck by the colour, yellow. Usually when whites age they exhibit a straw/sable colour. This five year old was yellow and bright (high clarity). On first sip I found myself lining up food to enjoy with this well aged $22 a bottle clean wine. Veal and Cod sprung to mind but then (strangely) I could see of sponge cake and light cheese (maybe a cheddar). Could this be the perfect partner at the dinner table across all three courses?

The bouquet is light, tantalising and beguiles the light citrus flavours to follow. I found the wine on the dry side and with a long dry finish. Also a light waxy feel remains at the back of the tongue for sometime after. The yellow colour should alert you that this wine has bite with only medium body. If you like your dry to light fruity wines this one maybe for you. If you like the heavier sweeter whites try this one with a meal or even a light desserts. Be prepared to be surprised. I’d be surprised if you wasn’t.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lobster Cave - Beaumaris

I was born and raised in Beaumaris. I went to Beauy State and High school so the Concourse shopping centre is familiar stomping ground. As far back as I can remember the Lobster Cave restaurant has existed on the Concourse. I always remember the restaurant as a dark place, not one which is bright, open and airy. I have eaten here a number of times in the past both with my parents and friends.

On a recent visit to this long established fine dinning house I got a pleasant surprised. It is a deep restaurant with little to no natural light entering but entering the Lobster Cave this time I got the feeling I was in for something special. It is not like I remember and is now totally modern inside. You can eat on the street but moving inside has you looking at the modern decor. Large original art works adorn the walls and a huge fish tank help divide the eating areas in two.

The wait staff and smartly dressed, very friendly and wait you hand and foot. BYO wine can be take and there is no corkage. We went for the $20 lunch special. I was not expecting much for my "20" and though a salad entree does not have me salivating it was quite nice. The Linguini with Atlantic Salmon and lemon caper butter which followed though was delicious. A big plate of soft linguini and a generous amount of tender salmon throughout. Chef knows what he is doing here. The White Wine & Apple Sorbet and berry coulis which followed was excellent. With coffee came a complimentary coffee (alcohol free - I think) shot.

I could not fault the whole experience. What I was served for my "20" was excellent value. I couldn't image any way to improve this lunch-time fine-dining "deal". The fact you can take your own wine and get full service for what I believe must be the best value anywhere makes this a no-brainer. Don't think about it-do it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Verde - Mount Eliza Mornington Peninsula

The beauty of being a restaurant commentator is you do not need an excuse to dine out. It is perfectly justified to eat out whenever you feel. What is a crime is repeatedly visiting the same restaurant and therefore not able to add to your list of experiences. I found myself in Mount Eliza to pickup a parcel and decided to lunch at Verde. This delightful big open restaurant is on the very end of the main drag in "The Village" shopping center Mount Eliza. Easy parking across the road.

Verde has outdoor and indoor dining. I chose indoors and took my magazine for a wine, dine and read. I ordered the Black Angus "Certified" Steak and garlic butter source. I have eaten here a few times in the past and on both occasions the food and service have been good.

If you read my review of Benitos you will read where I found the Angus steak wanting. It really did not live up to its reputation as a juicy, flavoursome, tender steak . It was dry, over-cooked for medium and lacked flavour. The same can be said for the steak Verde served up over lunch. It looked like it had been tenderised (tenderise an Agnus?), it was dry and over-cooked for medium. The garlic butter source was only just OK also but the salad was good, A $35 salad with a side of Angus!!

Something is very wrong with Benitos and Verde that they are unable to prepare a steak of the quality of the Black Angus. I have to ask then are they really Black Angus and "Certified" or are they just steaks. Quick call the Steak Police. Or are they cryovaced Angus and no amount of careful grilling will bring them back to life. Go to Verde just stay shy of the steak. Pasta's good.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

King Yuen - Chinese at Mentone

King Yuen is a Chinese restaurant situated in Mentone on Balcombe Road at the rear of a small mall. Hard to find if you don’t have some good directions. You can also park around the back and walk straight into the restaurant. There is plenty of parking on hand no matter when you go.

The restaurant is medium is size but tables are packed in. On busy nights it can get a little squeezy and noisy. Not so bad that you wish you were elsewhere. Go mid-week for a romantic meal over dim sims or for just a quieter time. The service is quick and the wait staff know their menu. The place is a good spot to drop in for a quick meal. Being located in the general Mentone shopping area a meal here after a hard nights shopping is the way to go.

We were a table of six and all had different meals. There was positive comments all round for the food and the drinks list is sufficient. We all had entrees and main with drinks. For $226.00 it was a night of cheap eats. King Yuen managed quality Asian style food with good portions and fast friendly service. Hard to beat, when dinning out at better places can require a small bank loan and you don’t always get quality and service. King Yuen may not be King of the heap but it’s an honest restaurant at an honest price. Drop in after the family shop.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mitre Tavern - Bank Place Melbourne

There are a number of pubs in Melbourne which have been around since Captain Cook sailed our shores. Some are well know like Young and Jacksons other less so. Most have a good selection of beers, wines etc. and most server meals. From a food quality perspective the meals are what I would class as "pub food". Nothing special but generally big portions and hearty. Just what the hard working beer drinker wants. But this post is not about pubs, beer or even pub food, it is about the best place in Melbourne CBD to buy a steak meal. Not just any steak meal but a Black Angus Premium Steak meal. The best steak Australia has to offer.

An ex-work colleague and I catch-up regularly through the year and enjoy a big steak meal, chips and a bottle of red. We have bashed some of the better steak houses in the CBD. But after a few visits find discontent and look for better "stakes". The Mitre Tavern, hidden in Bank Place, has an upstairs steak restaurant which has become our favourite haunt over the last few years. Down stairs you have your usual pub and even an outdoor eats and drinks area. Great place to be on a warm summer's night after work. I know this from too much experience. Meals are also served down stairs but its upstairs where the better food and fine dinning experience can be found.

The term "Black Angus Premium" takes on a whole new meaning when you are served a steak rich in flavour, fine in texture, cuts perfectly and cooked to absolute perfection. You must be severed the highest grade Black Angus and the chef must be on the ball to get the best from this gorgeous meat. When you order medium, as I do, you get a true medium with a touch of flame charring on the outside. Your steak is juicy and bloody-red/pink in the middle. Yum! There is also a fine selection of sources for you to choose from.

The meals are of fair size but ordering the steak chips and a mustard or two will round out the meal. The chips are excellent. The Mitre Tavern wine selection is select and extensive and we have supped many a fine bottle and at a reasonable price. Start with the house sparkling white to cleans the palette. The surrounds are fine indeed and service warm and friendly. The wait staff really want you to enjoy your meal and to come back. Come back? Try and keep us away.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Benito’s Ristorante Italiano - Mount Eliza Victoria

What may have been a house at one time, on a large deep block of land on Nepean Highway Mount Eliza, is now Benito's Italian Restaurant. The restaurant is large and spacious with a high ceiling and timber floors. In the area we ate (next to a window) there is a large fire place and serving bar. Though the place does not ooze Italy or even Mediterranean decor it is pleasantly appointed. Our table waiter was definitely European; smartly dressed and dark looks.

There are a few other sections to this good looking establishment apart from plenty of parking. The reception area is out the back and caters for weddings etc. Even a small stage for band or DJ is provided. Another large dinning area is opposite the one we sat in with even a large outdoor deck area for the warmer weather. I am informed this is a family restaurant. Not sure about that and not sure if it matters. Service was professional and reasonably timely. One on duty for or Friday lunch.

The bruschetta was excellent. Mine was smothered in hot olives and large in portion. I was probably meant to share it but it was far to nice for that. By the way it is BYO. If you don't bring your own there is good selections from the drinks list. Back to the food: Most at my table of four ordered steak and for me the Black Angus. The steaks were large in proportion and well topped with seafood in my case. The meal looked tremendous and so did all that were served at our table. The steak though was dry and where I had ordered medium expecting a bloody pink centre it was dry right through. I wondered if my serve was cryovaced. The porter house steak to left look super yummy and next time I may just try it. Once more a big portion. No skimping on size in this eat house.

I could not fault the toppings of seafood and source which was lavish, very tasty and thick. You did not need chips with this meal. It was filling just by itself. Of course I had downed a couple of large bruschettas to start with. If you are a big eater and want to go somewhere local with easy parking, pleasant surrounds, big portioned meals and generous, delicious toppings and veggies, then Benito's maybe your best pick. And it is reasonably priced. Gratzi!

Revisit: A revisit to Benitos for the wife’s birthday certainly made for a very pleasant evening. We had booked the smaller restaurant area for twenty-two on one long table and had the area to ourselves. Though service was a little slow when the meals arrived all were in awe of the size and presentation of each meal. This was Italian eating on a very grand scale. Not only was there more than you can eat but the food was absolutely top class.

From the fish of my Benitos Fish and Chips to the two inch thick steaks every meal was delicious and perfect. Not easy when you have to roll out twenty-two meals all at once. Benitos bent over forwards to accommodate our every whim and just could not be more helpful. Well done Benitos and thanks for a truly great night.