Yes, I meant Next Door and mistakenly referred to Edibles. Indy, thanks for catching that.
I rarely if ever get sushi in Rochester, but my family who still live there all recommend Plum House.
Believe it or not, there was (maybe still is) a restaurant in NYC that sold their version of a garbage plate. I believe the owner being a Rochester transplant...
I feel that Rochester has many sentimental favorites. Everybody has their favorite burger, wing, pizza or garbage plate.
Funny you should mention Tom Wahl's. One of my sister lives in Avon and I'll stop by the original location (can't speak on behalf of any of the food court locations) from time to time. My go-to order is a Wahl burger, fries with a side of gravy and a frosted mug of root beer. It's not great, far from actually, but usually fills that nostalgic craving.
Will eventually try Char out if craving a burger. Good Luck's is fine but massive and better for sharing.
Josephnl - were you able to visit the Warfield's at High Point in Victor? I found the menus to be vastly different, especially in terms of their ambitions. I'd love for Rochester to be able to support at least one fine dining restaurant but so far I've been proven wrong. Even Suzanne's Fine Dining (James Beard Award nominee) was far from what I'd consider "fine dining."
That said, it seems more restaurants that are in a similar vein of Good Luck are doing well in Rochester. The Revelry with their focus on cocktails and low country food seems very popular. The same group's second restaurant, Branca, offers Neapolitan style pizzas and some antipasti and pastas.
I have not tried Trata (appears to be a bit of a scene) or Edibles (connected with Wegman's). IMO, even the steakhouses are weak comparatively speaking. At least until two years ago I remember being told from a representative at Black and Blue that not all of their beef served was even USDA Prime. It appears that Char touts its beef as being such, but why no intense dry aging program which is prominent among the best steakhouses throughout the country? I can only hope the Rochester scene improves, until then I save fine dining for other cities.
Indy67 - thanks for heads up on Shui Asian Fusion. I have no issues with ambiance or a lack thereof so long as the food is good. However, coming from the New York area I generally don't seek out ethnic foods in Western NY. We are spoiled for a number of good Thai options in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. Still, a much appreciated recommendation should we be in the mood for Thai.
It's amazing that Rochester lacks any signature burgers, but I will take your word about the one at The Gate House.
I have eaten at Tony D's twice, both times for pizza and found it decent. Unlike many locals, I didn't mind the char on my crust.
Growing up in the Rochester area, I'm always looking for new and exciting restaurant openings. I was a big fan of the early food at Warfield's in Victor until it eventually closed. Looks like Rochester is not ready to sustain a fine dining restaurant. Sad, but in the alternative I hope for more openings in the casual/mid-tier market that focuses more on ingredient quality and technique than catchy concepts.
Like josephnl, I often struggle finding new or exciting dining options whenever I return to visit family. Even rarer, is anything I'd consider "great." Not trying to be argumentative but compared to restaurants where I live (NYC area) there are few restaurants that warrant excitement.
If you are a coffee fan like me, these are a few third wave options that I'm excited to try:
Other places I plan on visiting soon:
Additionally here are a few of my personal favorites:
Alternatively, if you have a car and don't mind a day trip you could try Buffalo for wings and a beef on weck or a trip to the Finger Lakes for wine and lunch at Dano's during the warmer months.
Rochester hounds, I'd love to hear your thoughts about these or other places I've neglected.
Hi Sneedy, will gladly provide some mid-range NYC suggestions.
Feel free to email at roseUNDERSCOREswp @ hotmail dot com and let me know what you are looking for.
Thanks for the advice, especially from a local. Archetype looks good and I was unaware that chef Zetts had left Solbar.
Additionally, I was wondering if anyone had heard much about Press in St. Helena. Trevor Kunk formally of Blue Hill in Manhattan left to Napa and I was wondering if anyone had recent experiences about the menu.
goldangI95 thanks for the suggestion. We like Indian food, especially chaat, but I don't think it is a priority for this visit. However, we will give it consideration for our next visit.
Btw, saw you discussing Indian food or the lack thereof in NYC. Not totally arguing with you but if you want chaat, make a trip to Floral Park at Mumbai Xpress.
Yeah, I imagine the lines at many of the popular vendors are always pretty long at the Ferry building. Considering we want to visit some bakeries in Mission for breakfast anyways would you suggest visiting the Blue Bottle location instead of the Ferry building location?
We were planning on splitting a porchetta sandwich as well as a burger but I appreciate the warning, especially if we wanted to stop at Humphrey Slocombe afterwards.
Thanks for the comments. I think Tadich was a great option for the exact same reasons that you mentioned. Unfortunately, it looks as if I'm going to have to pass this time around and heed the advice of the other hounds regarding Friday traffic.
Looks like I'll try to get to Chez Panisse for a early lunch at the Cafe.
Just personal preference. As I said upthread, I meant no offense and it wasn't meant as a slight to San Francisco as a pizza city.
I also missed Mangieri when he was in NYC and have heard that his pies are only getting better. Even though NYC may be overrated as a pizza city we still have lots of very good options and considering the limited amount of meals I have on this trip I'd just prefer his pies due to his craftsmanship and excellent ingredients.
Hi barleywino, hope I wasn't confusing but re Saison my question was about whether a party of two could split a beverage pairing, not the menu.
Thanks for the heads up about Friday traffic. Still looking for any other good early lunch alternatives for Friday before heading up to Napa.
Thanks for your comments. Re Cotogna we are much more interested in the non-pizza options. No offense towards pizza in San Francisco but the only one that interested me was the Neopolitan pies from Una Pizzeria Neopolitana. Unfortunately they are open for dinner only.
Thanks for the heads up about the lines for Roli Roti. Their porchetta sandwiches look amazing. Between grabbing a New Orleans cold brew from Blue Bottle, a canalé from Boulette's Larder, a porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti, burger from 4505 Meats and ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe we hoped to eat well around the Ferry building.
Thanks Robert. Already booked a 1 PM lunch reservation at Cotogna. It was my understanding that lunch is much easier to book than dinner, perhaps even more so now that Tusk will close Quince for the revamp.
From his twitter account it seems Bright is in Europe but I'll most likely reach out to the restaurant directly about beverage pairing options. I know certain restaurants in NYC (Jean Georges) offer half pours which is very nice.
Wife and I will be visiting San Francisco and Napa in early August for a wedding. We are from New York but have visited both areas five years ago. Will be staying in Nob Hill and Yountville respectively but will only have a car for the Napa portion of the trip. Interested in hearing comments from fellow hounds regarding our preliminary itinerary. Thanks in advance for your comments and look forward to reporting back.
Dinner - Bar Tartine
Dinner - Saison
For breakfast we planned on visiting as many of the following bakeries: Tartine Bakery, Craftmans & Wolves, b.Patisserie, Knead Patisserie and Boulette's Larder for a canalé. I know many of the popular items tend to sell out early but am interested in hearing people's suggestions.
Coffee includes: Blue Bottle, Ritual, Four Barrel, Philz, Sightglass. Suggestions appreciated.
We also like ice cream and plan on trying both Humphrey Slocombe and Bi-Rite.
Friday & Saturday plan on being tied up with the wedding. Will be staying at a B&B but might try to get to Oxbow for an espresso at Ritual or some oyster at Hog Island as a snack.
Dinner - Bouchon/Bottega/Mustards?
Thanks for all of your help answering my questions and helping me form my itinerary. Without the help from hounds like you, PhilD, kersizm and others on this board I would've had much more trouble. I had a wonderful time visiting and wish I could return more frequently. Please feel free to reach out if visiting New York as I'd like to repay the favor should you need advice.
Brae was easily my favorite meal of the year (so far, as we will be visiting Saison in August). I think Dan Hunter is doing something very special between the local product he can obtain combined with his technical skill. I feel that along with Attica and Quay, Brae should be included on the shortlist as Australia's best restaurant.
As for VdM, I feel the meal was a bit more style than substance. I made the EMP comparisons because it was a calculated move by Humm and Guidara to rise in the S. Pellegrino rankings even at the risk of alienating many of their regulars. The interesting thing is from the conversation we had with our captain, the restaurant's abrupt change of pace was more Cory Campell's decision that Shannon Bennett agreed to. IMO, the problem with telling such a narrative (kangaroo hide chairs, dried Penfold vines, Australian ingredients, iconic Australian foods) is that its success is predicated upon the quality of the food. Without such reinforcement, the narrative becomes weak at best and to many tourist (such as us) becomes lost.
That said, taste is subjective and I'll be the first to admit I've eaten only a single meal there. Hardly fair to make a sweeping statement about a restaurant. But I was disappointed, especially compared to similar restaurants we've visited throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and the US. Hope my experience was an outlier and I'd still suggest people visit if they're interested.
Re: my comments about the quality (or my perception of a lack thereof world class) Japanese food in Australia wasn't meant as an insult but rather an observation. All cities, even world class cities such as New York or London or Paris or insert whatever city, has their culinary strengths and weaknesses. I also don't take my descriptor of world class lightly. Europe, which has historically been lacking even quality sushi restaurants improved significantly with Sushi Tetsu in London (I don't consider Zuma anywhere near world class).
For me, having lived and worked in Tokyo for a period of time, the lack of Japanese seasonal ingredients (especially when it comes imported seafood and produce) in many Australian restaurants is particularly telling. Again, considering Australia's love for Asian cuisine coupled with the relative close proximity to Japan makes the absence of a world class Japanese restaurant even more surprising. Hong Kong of example has significantly upped its Japanese restaurants with the recent additions of Sushi Shikon and RyuGin, plus the more fushiony likes of Yard Bird and Ronin.
This is no slight to Australia. New York is very conservative compared to Chicago (Alinea, EL Ideas, Schwa, Moto) and lacks the Thai/Malaysian/Vietnamese food other cities have. Many European cities lack good pizza, all if not most cities don't do everything well and I was just commenting as to this fact.
Phil, I was referring to Australia. Aside from Tempura Hajime which I read was good but not on the level of Kondo, I hadn't read about any notable Japanese restaurants. In the US what we lack in tempura restaurants we more than make up for in quality sushi (Masa, Urasawa) as well as a few decent Kaiseki, Yakitori and Izakayas.
In your opinion did I miss something worth visiting?
Our final day in Australia was spent packing and eating. Lunch was at Lee Ho Fook. We had a booking but probably didn't need one for Sunday lunch and were seated at a small elevated two top when plenty of tables were available (annoying). Staff was informative and answered most questions without any issues.
Started with Warm Scallop with Silken Tofu and Soy Butter. This was more interesting than good. The scallop and tofu were fine but the dish lacked texture and wasn't seasoned enough as the soy butter failed to register.
Better was the Milk Bun with Braised Pork Belly, Salted Cucumber, Fermented Chili and Peanut Sugar. Interestingly enough the chef chose to use a milk bun instead of the overused steamed bao. But despite this decision, we preferred this version since it closest resembled the classic Taiwanese Gua Bao.
The Crispy Eggplant with Spiced Red Vinegar was their take on the popular Fish Flavored Eggplant. Another dish that's not popular in the USA, we enjoyed the crispy eggplant with the sweet and tart sauce.
White Pepper Spanner Crab and Taro Mille Feuille was sadly a deconstructed version. No stack as we initially imagined, but still tasty, instead we used the taro chips to scoop the crab.
We ate the Moreton Bay Bug Tails with Leeks and Fragrant Sichuan Chili Oil with the House Fried
Already planning on revisiting Messina for a final gelato we couldn't leave the restaurant without splitting a Jasmine Tea Custard with Burnt Caramel. Having previously worked at Marque this seemed like the obvious choice and we weren't disappointed. As advertised the custard had a subtle but present Jasmine flavor which paired beautifully with the complex burnt caramel.
Compared to Northern Light we enjoyed Lee Ho Fook more. Perhaps we are biased, Chinese background and my Korean heritage but the execution seemed slightly better here when comparing the two meals. Lee Ho Fook won't be for everyone, while it's not particularly expensive it's certainly not cheap but after chatting with the Chef, we both agreed that hopefully restaurants like this will dispel the notion that Chinese food needs to be inherently cheap.
One final trip to Gelato Messina. Our final selections were: Breakfast of Champions II - Yogurt Gelato with Housemade Croissants and Plum Jam and Salted Caramel and White Chocolate.
Dinner was at Rumi. Lacking many notable Turkish restaurants in NYC, I chose this for a nice change of pace. After getting lost (thanks Google Maps) we arrived and were immediately seated. Started with the Labne house made from organic milk and was served with flatbread.
Spiced School Prawns with Tahini was good. We liked how the tahini's nuttiness paired with the crunchy prawns.
Fried Cauliflower with Caramalized Onions, Currants and Pine Nuts was fantastic. Sweet, nutty with plenty of texture, this was a great side with our mains.
We shared the Quail "Joojeh" Kebab with Pickled Grapes and Oregano and an off menu Chicken Kebab. Unfortunately, we passed on the Lamb Shoulder since we were still a bit full from lunch. That being said, both kebabs were good with the quail being a highlight.
To finish we shared a Almond Milk Pudding with Raisins and Pistachio. We weren't particularly fond of the lumpy texture, but it was a fine dessert taste wise. Had we been hungrier or with a larger group I'm sure we could've sampled more of the menu which looked great, but we managed to enjoy our visit.
I'm not about to make any statement on whether Sydney or Melbourne is better. Instead, I find them both great for different reasons. My one regret during our time in Melbourne was that it was so short and became so fine dining oriented. While Melbourne has some excellent fine dining, I'm confident it's strength is actually the mid-range restaurants serving excellent food in a casual setting. I really enjoyed my time here and hope these reports are entertaining (agree or not) and helpful to others.
Sorry to backtrack a bit but I recently realized I forgot to write up my report on Northern Light and Gelato Messina.
We had a 9 PM reservation at Northern Light. Billed as a riff on a Japanese Izakaya I was intrigued and booked a reservation after reading Yuki's (dining without borders) blog post. We arrived to a packed restaurant. Our seats weren't quite ready and had to wait but was politely offered complimentary glasses of sparkling wine which we accepted. A few minutes later and we were seated at the far end of the bar and eventually left the ordering to the manager who I had been in correspondence with. We stuck with mostly draft Sapporo beers but were given complimentary tastes of Yuzu sake.
We began with Charred Shishito Peppers with Togarashi. A twist on the classic izakaya staple, these were good. We enjoyed the Togarashi since none of the peppers were spicy.
Sichuan Spiced School Prawns with Curry Mayonnaise was a great beer snack. I cannot help wondering why these haven't caught on in NYC restaurants but aside from a non-existent Sichuan flavor, these were excellent.
Air Dried Blackmore Beef with Wasabi, Yolk and Fried Potato was one of the restaurant's signatures and for good reason. The fatiness of the beef was excellent in dried form and enhanced with the rich yolk and sharp wasabi which we mixed-in with the tangle of fried potato threads.
Another item we "had to try" was the Unagi with Squid Sauce, Salted Grapes and Mojama. Another well comprised dish. The eel had been lightly smoked and the rich glaze complimented the grapes and the salty mojama.
Things veered off-course a bit with the Kurobuta Pork Belly with Kimchi and Smoked Cauliflower. The dish was just too heavy. The kimchi wasn't pungent enough to balance the dish.
The Chicken Skewer with Honey and Katsuo Soy was much better. Grilled over Japanese charcoal the chicken thighs remained perfectly moist with a subtle sweetness from the honey.
The final dish was unfortunately, the weakest. Bo Ssam with house Kimchi, Lettuce, Red Pepper Jang and Duck was the most disappointing for multiple reasons. First being the duck was far too dry which was unsalvagable even with the additions of both kimchi. The other problem was with the kimchi with was proudly advertised as being house made. Being Korean I've eaten my fair share of kimchi and this was just not good. I applaud the thought but not the execution.
Northern Light was good but nothing I'd regularly seek out. That said, in a country that lacks world class Japanese food (yakitori, sushi, tempura, kushiage, etc.) perhaps this is a fine alternative. Staff was very nice and informative and due to the tight spaces between tables, I would recommend eating at the bar if possible.
We passed on dessert and instead walked down the street to Gelato Messina. Another two scoops in cups: Chocolate Fondant and Vanilla Manjar - Vanilla Gelato with Dulche de Leche filled Doughnuts and Salted Roasted Almond Flakes were both perfect ending to a serious day of eating and drinking.
One thing I may for forgotten to mention about Nomad was that despite knowing the restaurant's two turn table policy, were not informed that we could order as we go and incorrectly assumed we didn't have to order at once. Most small plate restaurants in NYC require taking your complete order which is yet another annoying practice.
Seeing how a number if NYC restaurants are now charging for bread I don't mind so long as it's good. Otherwise I wish the restaurant did away with it altogether and pass the savings along to the customers.
Re credit card transaction fee, I feel this outrageous. Quay in particular is an expensive restaurant which is assume few pay with cash and benefit directly from this practice. I hope this does not spread to NYC.
Hope any/all of my comments relating to price doesn't come off as uninformed. I was and still am aware of prices in Sydney restaurants but hopefully framed those comments in the context of comparative value.
Just remembers I forgot to post from a late dinner at Northern Light (will report later). Anyways, we slept in and decided to skip the brunch queues and instead, join the lines at D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella. Having skipped Lucio's in Sydney and craving pizza we arrived hungry and looking forward to these hyped Neapolitan pies. We arrived to a busy but by no means slammed lunch service. Service seemed scatter-brained as the entire staff ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. Charming? Maybe to some but for us it seemed frustratingly inefficient. Regardless, we were eventually seated and ordered: Farro and Spelt Salad with Rocket, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin, Toasted Pine Nuts, Goat's Cheese and Vincotto. Expecting the salad to appear before the pizza we were a little surprised when delivered simultaneously. Admittedly we didn't ask the order, my real issue with this practice is that you ultimately run the risk of some food going cold. The salad was good, hearty from the grains with sweet and creamy bites from the roasted veg and cheese. We ordered and split the following two pizzas: Pizza San Daniele - San Marzano Tomato, DOP Buffalo Mozz, DOP San Daniele Prosciutto and the Pizza ai Porcini - Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Oil and Mozz in Bianco with grated DOP Pecorino. Both pies used high quality ingredients with nice ratios maintaining balance, however, our complaint was with the crust which we felt wasn't chewy enough and too blonde, though this just our preference. Most Neapolitan style pizzas in NYC have superior char on them affectionately known as "leopard-spotting" and imparts a smokey and complex flavor. Overall, we thought DOC P&M to produce good but not great pizza that is very popular.
On our way back to the CBD we exited the tram for dessert at Spring Street Grocer to visit Gelato Primavera. Heeding the advice from fellow hounds on this board we came in with high expectations but left a disappointed. We ordered just two scoops: Pistachio and Fior di Latte. Texture of both were nice but the flavor intensity (more so in the pistachio) seemed lacking.
Dinner was another marathon, this time at Vue de Monde. From the private elevator to the views and open kitchen, the restaurant makes quite an initial impression. We were led to our large two top overlooking downtown Melbourne and a flurry of snacks started arriving.
Salt and Vinegar Chips with Macadamia Nut Purée and Compressed Apple was a fun starter. Truffle Marshmallows were good, reminded me a bit of the savory marshmallows Eleven Madison Park used to serve. An oyster poached in its natural juices and served in its shell was fair but lacking it's liquor. Salt cured Wallaby with Wasabi was rolled table side from a large block of Himalayan Pink Salt. This was tasty but lacked any gaminess to make it distinctive from beef or other proteins. Smoked Eel with White Chocolate and Caviar was very good. Loved the savory-sweet interplay. Finally, two BBQ skewers: Duck Tongue and Lamb Heart with Pineapple. Both very good.
First course was Barramundi with Potato, Chicken Liver and Caviar finished table side with an Apple Cider Chicken Jus. The barramundi was bolstered with chicken liver and potato with the caviar acting as seasoning. Fine but a tad interesting to start with a cooked fish course. When asked, our server explained the current chef de cuisine wanted to digress from the usual degustation progression. I've experienced this once before and had mixed feelings about it, we left this meal unconvinced of its superiority.
Next was Flinders Island Lamb with Apple, Sun Flower Seed Purée and Mustard Foam. This was the second course in a row with a table side finishing element. The mustard foam in this case was fine by itself but took away from the lamb which we thought was very good.
Third was Blackmore Wagyu with Smoked Bone Marrow and Salt Bush with grated slices of Frozen Beef Fat. This was simply ill-conceived. Far too little meat to make any impression and severely under seasoned (a tartare pet peeve of mine). The combo of smoked bone marrow (didn't detect smokiness) and unmelted beef fat (disgusting) made the dish too rich. Finally, the dish being served in a small marrowbone sans spoon made eating difficult.
Fortunately, a palate cleanser arrived next. Cucumber and Wood Sorrel Sorbet with Herbs we crushed with the help of a mortar and pestle and liquid nitrogen was smart and delicious.
Bread service included a sack of warm Fennel Sourdough and served with Hand Churned Salted Butter made from organic cream from Victoria. We were told the chef previously worked at Noma and made it a point of emphasis to craft the menu around Australian-centric foods and ingredients. The restaurant previously used French Butter. I wished they never switched. Similar to Eleven Madison Park (a restaurant we've visited multiple times and enjoy) the proliferation of chefs coming out from the kitchen to serve or finish a course, a theme (NYC vs Australian ingredients) has a difficult task IMO of toeing the fine line between being well executed and becoming kitsch. In a way to differentiate itself and climb the S. Pellegrino rankings we feel EMP has fallen hard into the kitsch and frankly felt similarly about Vue de Monde. Rant over, aside from being served warm, the bread was merely average and lacked a crusty exterior or any discernible fennel flavor.
Bread was served alongside Duck Yolk cooked 63 degrees a la sous vide with Pear and Truffle. The egg was good. The sweetness and crunch of the pear and earthiness from the truffle paired well with the runny egg yolk.
Marron from Western Australia was served with a Pine Mushroom Cream. We were instructed to eat this course with our hands. Another very good course. Hand towels were provided afterwards.
Another utensil-less course was Fried Soft Shell Crab with a Tarragon Cream. The body, claws and sandwich were served a bit overseasoned and lacking any acid to help cut through the oil.
Ox Tongue with Bone Marrow, Beetroot and finished with a Crème Fraîche Snow (table side) was the final savory course. Unlike some of the other elements served table side, the Crème Fraîche snow worked here and made complete sense within the dish. Sweet, tangy and beefy, this was a nicely executed course.
Cheese was to be served next but the trolley had a three table queue and we were asked if we would allow them to serve us cheese at the end of the meal. We agreed. A palate cleanser of Candied Celery wrapped around Coconut Sorbet was a nice transition to the sweet side of the menu.
Fresh Milk Ice Cream rolled in Mandarin Biscuit and Gel with Malt Snow was fine but we felt the course didn't need the malt snow.
Tonka Bean Soufflé with Valrhona Chocolate Ganache and a Smoked Ice Cream was very good. Extremely light, this was a textbook soufflé.
The cheese trolley eventually arrived and we were given a nice selection of: Epoisse, Cheddar (Tazmania), Goat Cheese (France), Brie and a Roquefort. All were ripe and served with a bevy of accoutrements that I cannot fully remember. A truffled honey was especially nice.
Petits fours included: One Penny Orange Jellies, Lamingtons - delicious, White Chocolate with Olive Oil and Sea Salt and Eucalyptus Ice Cream Bon Bons.
As with our meal at Attica, we were the last to leave and were given a tour of the kitchen. Service was good but opened up much more after some conversation. One puzzling aspect was the upsell of a truffle supplement. Truffles were from Western Australia and were offered at $60 pp/three courses...their choice. Considering no menu was provided ahead of time and the fact that they weren't particularly fragrant, especially compared to the black truffles from Perigord, we passed. We were pleased when we saw the kitchen use truffles for the dessert (soufflé) course and an IMO would've been a waste of truffle. As with all other tables we were given a nice take home bag that included: tea, brioche, honey and cookies/biscuits.
Overall, our experience at Vue de Monde was a relatively mixed. This, coupled with their prices resulted in a disappointing experience. There is no doubt that the restaurant sources great product but we were out off by the theatrical presentations which IMO seemed to overcompensate for a lack of flavor. With one exception none of the food was bad per se, but compared to other meals during our trip, should not be held in the same category as our meals at Brae, Quay, Rockpool, Sixpenny, etc.
Yeah, thanks for pointing out my mistake. Been busy retracing notes and typing up these reports so apologizes in advance for typos/errors.
Yeah, long meal. We've done longer or ones about the same (Eleven Madison Park) but the kitchen's timing wasn't as off as it was here. Hopefully it wasn't a result of Shewry not being in the kitchen, regardless good food but painfully slow.
After a late dinner from the previous evening we were up early to pick up a rental car for an early lunch reservation at Dan Hunter's Brae. Thanks to useful advice from this board we chose to rent a car and make the 1.5 hour drive instead of taking the train and staying the night. Accordingly, breakfast was light, consisting of coffee and croissants. After a scenic drive through the countryside we arrived early for our reservation. Under the staff's advice we took a stroll through the garden and eventually made our way inside for lunch. I should disclose that we were known to the house and were greeted by name upon arrival. Having learned that we were to lunch at Brae the following day, our server at Attica was sure to mention his partner worked at Brae. Having said this, we paid the full price for all of our food and drink and were served nothing additional from the kitchen. Having decided to drive we were pleased to hear that half pours of the menu's beverage pairings could be accommodated.
After being asked for dietary restrictions the meal began with a series of snacks. Beef Tendon with Mountain Pepper was fried and resembled a beef tendon prep at Mugaritz, a holdover from Chef Hunter's days as chef de cuisine no doubt. Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips were seasoned better than the version at Vue de Monde and were pleasant with our Sparkling Wine. Fresh Ricotta with Dried Figs were also nice. The snacks really became exciting with the Burnt Pretzel with Treacle and Pork that paired wonderfully with an Australian microbrew. Short Fin Eel with Sea Urchin, Zucchini and Chicory was also very nice. Turnips were braised then hollowed and filled with Brook Trout Roe was an excellent combination that literally burst with flavor. Finally, the Prawns with Nasturtium and Finger Lime was served as two bites. The tails were dressed but IMO the best of all of the bites were the heads which we were encouraged to eat whole filled with that amazing head fat.
Our first course was Calamari and Pickles. The knife skills of the kitchen were on full display as the squid (from Port Phillips) had been immaculately scored, then lightly poached. The combination of sweet squid and pickles was a promising start.
Next was Southern Rock Lobster with a sauce made from Carrots, White Onion and Sea Butter. The morsels of lobster meat were cooked just until tender and enhanced from the sauce containing strong lobster coral flavor. Excellent, especially considering how disappointing lobster is usually prepared.
At this point we were offered bread which is all baked in house in a special brick oven located just outside the restaurant. By far, this was the best bread we ate in all of Australia and could rival the excellent sourdough from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Thick slices of Whole Wheat Sourdough were served with Fresh Jersey Cream Butter. This was incredible with a complex whole structure and dark and crusty exterior. Needless to say, we had several pieces throughout the meal.
The bread was aptly served with Egg Yolk, Potato, Jerusalem Artichoke and a sauce of Gruyere and Vin Jaune. Rich and savory, this tasted like the wonderfully haute version of breakfast that just begged to be cleaned with that great bread.
Raw Wallaby with Wattle and Lemon Myrtle was a nice play on beef tartare. The lemon myrtle was a nice touch as was the wattle which provided some necessary texture.
This being autumn Chef Hunter mentioned the abundance of mushrooms and so the following course of Wild Mushrooms and Milk Curd with Chicken Liver and a Chicken Broth was a homage to his foraging trips. The rich liver and medley of raw and cooked mushrooms were came together with the chicken broth.
I was saddened to see the local lamb removed from our menu. However, as far as beef courses go the Grass Fed Wagyu Short Ribs with Leek, Cauliflower and Kale was good.
Dessert took an interesting turn as we were first presented with Simmered Plums with Onions, Honey and Cultured Milk. The onion in the simmering liquid helped restrain the honey's sweetness while the plums acidity was balanced from the cultured milk.
The last course is fast becoming the restaurant's signature dessert: Parsnip and Apple is a deceptive name. Apple and vanilla pastry cream was housed inside dehydrated and candied parsnip skin. For parsnip fans like me, I found the synergy between the nutty parsnip and sweetness of vanilla and apple outstanding. A truly inventive and delicious combination.
Finally a petits four in the form of a Pistachio, Blood and Quince Tart was a great parting bite while we sipped a double espresso.
Before leaving we had a pleasant chat with Chef Hunter and I can honestly say service was the best of our trip. Brae was easily the best meal on our trip, Sydney included, and I hope more people make the trip out to his restaurant now that it's even more accessible from Melbourne. The food is highly technical but like Attica, conveys a strong sense of place with surroundings to match. This is destination dining at its pinnacle and hope to be able to experience Hunter's food again at some point.
For out first breakfast in Melbourne we visited Auction Rooms. Flat Whites ordered we were disappointed to see many of the more popular items missing from the breakfast menu. We split the following dishes: Brûlée Brioche with Devils on Horseback and Grapefruit, Chilaquiles with Pulled Pork Shoulder, Toasted Corn Tortillas, Salsa Verde, Queso Blanco, Black Beans and Fried Eggs and Potato and Ham Stack. The French toast was excellent, with a nice caramelized flavor. The devils on horseback, bacon wrapped dates, were salty and sweet and the grapefruit helped temper the sweetness. The chilaquiles were impressive. A bit richer with the addition of pulled pork but tasty. The potato and ham stack was equally delicious and we enjoyed the crispy edges.
I was able to sneak in an afternoon Flate White from Patricia. Really enjoyed the coffee from this standing room cafe.
We had a later lunch at Cumulus Inc. We avoided the crowds and were immediately seated. We started with the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with crispy Skins and Sour Cream. The soup was nutty and sweet with a great texture. The crispy skins and sour cream kept the dish interesting. Served alongside the soup was a bread selection of Seeded Bread and a Housemade Sourdough. Both were okay but useful for finishing the soup. A simple Bitter Green Salad was ordered to supplement our lack of fresh greens. Marinated and Pickled Octopus was good. The octopus wasn't overly pickled and maintained a supple texture while the pimenton infused aioli carried a Spainsh flavor profile. Equally Spanish was the Peppers de Padron that had been blistered and sprinkled with sea salt. Warmed about the possibility of the random spicy pepper we enjoyed these familiar snacks. The final dish we shared was the Foie Gras Parfait with Toasted Brioche. This was unfortunately disappointing. Unbeknownst to me, Australia cannot import unprocessed foie gras and many restaurants (Nomad) cut the mixture with chicken livers. This is really unfortunate because Australians are stuck with a grossly inferior product. As with the lack of unpasteurized cheeses, these restrictions severely limit many fine dining restaurants which often use/rely on such luxury ingredients. Anyways, the parfait was good but hardly a substitute for a proper torchon of foie gras. Only mistake was not ordering the made to order Madelines with Lemon Curd.
Dinner was at Attica. Was able to secure a 8 PM booking and were the final table to leave. Chef Sherry had left earlier that day for France but the kitchen performed well. Bread service consisted of a Housemade Rye Sourdough with Freshly Churned Butter and Sea Salt and a Macadamia Nut Butter with Salt Bush and Macadamia Oil. The bread was good but hardly special which was a bit disappointing for a restaurant of this caliber but we enjoyed alternating between the sweet butter and the rich macadamia nut butter.
Snacks included Fresh Milk Cheese with Honey from the Rooftop. This was very good with two servers scraping fresh honeycomb onto our bowls of fresh cheese. Next was Rainbow Chard Leaves with Housemade Sourcream and Quongdong Powder. Slightly sour and slightly sweet this showcased the garden and native qoungdong. Steamed corn from the Southern Penninsula with Housemade Butter and Alpine Pepper was a miniature buttered corn on the cob. Next was Walleby Blood Tartlets with Plum Jam. Chef Sherry's grandmothers recipe, these were rich and very good. Finally, arriving inside a hollow walnut shell was Shaved Button Mushrooms with a Walnut Purée.
First course was Steames Western Australian Snow Crab with Sorrel Leaves and Verjus. This was excellent, sweet crab meat with bitter sorrel and sweet from the reduced sauce made from verjus, an excellent start of the meal.
Next was Western Australian Marron with Sorrel, Tarragon and Fried Chicken finished with a sauce of Onions and Pork Fat. Another strong dish, the Marron was beautifully cooked and enhanced by the greens laced with savory chicken skin but the sauce was just stunning.
Third course was Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya. Minced raw kangaroo meat was atop a purée of bunya bunya (similar to pinenuts) and topped with shaved disks of raw red carrots. Texturally interesting, the kangaroo meat was mild but appropriately seasoned and the addition of frozen currants provided bursts of a welcome bitterness.
Given the acclaim of Chef Sherry's previous potato dish we were very disappointed with his current version. Called Minted Potato, Medium Rare this consisted of a roasted potato topped with a sauce of mint, garlic and Clothbound Cheddar. Told the dish emphasized texture by our server, the potato was indeed cooked medium rare. Unfortunately, it tasted like an undercooked potato with a very good sauce. I have no doubt Chef Sherry is trying to push the envelope of his diners with these dishes, however, IMO it shouldn't compromise it's flavor.
Much better was the King George Whiting in Paperback. A filet of King George whiting from Port Phillips was topped with Minced Pearl Oyster Meat, Green Tomato Juice and Beach Spinach and cooked in paperback bark. Mimicking a traditional way of cooking fish, the process resulted in a moist and flakey fish with another excellent sauce.
Our final savory was Pork, Rotten Corn and Lemon Aspen. A bit surprising to many diners our server explained the "rotten" element as a traditional method of using excess corn from harvests and was combined with fresh corn and turned into a sauce poured over roast pork loin. Despite the name, the sauce was sweet without any discernible funk of rotten corn. While the pork was cooked well, I wished the kitchen incorporated more of a fermented flavor profile into the sauce to add some complexity. To us, this dish felt a bit safe.
All evening we saw nearby tables being escorted away for some time. Our time had come and a server asked if we would visit the backyard garden for a pre-dessert. After being showed the garden we were given an Anzac Biscuit and given a cup of warm Apple Tea.
Upon returning to our table we were served our first dessert: Pears and Maidenii. Served in a pear shaped wooden dish were balls of Bosc Pear that had been rolled in Pepper Spice over a smooth and refreshing Pear and Vermouth Sorbet.
The final dessert was Raw Strawberry Jam. Macerated Yarra Valley Strawberries had been put through a centrifuge to create a thickened jam-like consistency without having to cook and in turn process the natural sugars of the strawberries. This was served over a meringue with raw and dehydrated strawberries and a native berry granita. This was equally innovative as it was delicious. Staying with the restaurnant's ethos of showcasing native ingredients, this was a very worthy conclusion.
Served the restaurant's signature petits fours of Puhko Eggs which were Milk Chocolate Eggs filled with Salted Caramel and a copy of our menu the meal had officially concluded.
Our overall assessment of the meal was marred by the painfully slow progression. Service was good, friendly and knowledgable but the kitchen took far too long between courses. We spent an excess of five hours during the course of the meal. The food, aside from the potato, was uniformly excellent. Highlighting native ingredients and cooking preparations the restaurant evoked a strong sense of place which is precisely what we were looking for when we made our initial booking. Chalking up the odd timing aspect of our meal to an off night, we still thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Attica and would highly recommend dining there.