Monday, 3 September 2012

An evening at ezard

A good meal is similar to a journey – and all journeys begin with a sense of anticipation for what might lie ahead.

It was with this sense of anticipation that our evening at ezard began. After dining at ezard’s more casual sibling Gingerboy, I had some idea about what delicacies might feature on the menu. The restaurant itself is a sleek dark elongated dining space nestled under the Delphi Hotel on Flinders Lane. The room is a great mix of inner city glam and casual intimacy. Tonight ezard is buzzing with a diverse mix of Saturday night occupants, but no doubt it is also a week night playground for business types who work the Paris end of Collins Street.

At ezard, you are the master of your own dining journey and given the ability to choose from a number of different menu options. On offer are eight course tasting menus (including a diverse and thoughtful vegetarian option), an al carte menu built upon different starters and mains or a pre-theatre express tasting menu. This is impressive flexibility not often seen at fine dining restaurants.

The Husband and I opt for the eight course tasting menu, said to be carefully constructed to showcase the breadth of Teague Ezard’s talents. The menu is based upon Asian flavours of spice, sourness, sweetness and salt but whilst adopting European technique. The matching wine flight is an easy choice, as on this occasion I’m perfectly happy to let this part of the journey be chosen by another. The wine list is an impressively heavy folder, with comprehensive offerings of predominantly international wines with scatterings of Victorian and other Australian wines.

After a glass of De Sousa champagne, and a delicious morsel of ocean trout and broad beans, we’re ready to begin!

Ocean trout and the bed of broad beans

Eight course degustation
·        Japanese inspired oyster shooter – NV Ruinart blanc de blanc, Champagne, France

See the oyster lurking in the almost jelly-like

 Powerful flavours of wasabi, soy and ginger collide in one mouthful. As our wait staff says “there’s a lot going on’, and how right she was. This dish is said to be an ezard stand out, but I’m left wondering if it’s a little too crowded? Loved the tiny little nori roll on the side.

·        Sesame crusted kingfish sashimi with crème fraiche custard, black garlic, citrus and hazelnut dressing – 2010 Moniki shuzo ‘tae no hana’ junmai ginjo sake, Mie, Japan

This was one of the stand out dishes of the journey for me. The delicious salty oiliness of the kingfish was paired beautifully with the sake. Flavours were perfectly balanced and left a lovely lingering salty smoothness.

·        Steamed blue swimmer crab dumpling with Yarra Valley salmon roe, celery cress and tom kha – 2010 Framingham gewürztraminer, Marlborough, New Zealand

Simply delicious!

Another standout – a beautiful dish with tom kha poured before your eyes. The sour coconut creaminess of the silky smooth tom kha matched so well with the fluffy luscious crab. The tom kha brings out the best of the sweet meat rather than over powering it.

·        Salad of baby beetroot, asparagus and iberico jamon, parmesan custard and black truffle vinaigrette – 2008 François chidaine ‘les tuffeaux’ montiouis sur loire, Loire Valley, France

At this point the menu took a bit of a crooked turn for me – the previous two dishes were fantastically good, and this dish seemed a step backward. The salad was introduced as ‘cleansing’ flavours after the kingfish and the tom kha crab. But the truffle vinaigrette and parmesan custard were hardly cleansing, although well made and probably delicious in their own right. The poor iberico jamon was appeared to be a lonely after thought.

·        Steamed mulloway with rice noodle rolls, Japanese plum wine dressing, Asian mushroom and chilli sambal – NV Henriques & Henriques 15 yo Sercial Madeira, Portugal, France

Not convinced on the selection of a fortified wine in the middle of an eight course tasting, but it did match quite well with the clashing flavours of ginger, soy, plum, mushroom and chilli. This was a good dish, but yet again, there were many flavours going on!

·        Slow cooked Bangalow pork belly, apple pudding, fennel celeriac and calvados jus –Le pere jules cidre bouche, Normandy, France

The pork belly, a little too crispy on the top for me

Apple and pork is a proven combination which worked well in this dish. The pork belly is a little too crisp on the top for my liking, and I would have like a little more fat to have melted away. The cloudy cider chosen is a very good one, but I can’t help but wonder where this dish fits? To me, it doesn’t fit in with the Asian influence running through the menu. 

·        Chinese style roast duck, green chilli and oyster sauce dressing with coconut rice and Asian greens – 2008 Chateau mont-redon chateauneuf-de-pape, Rhone, France OR Eight score sher wagyu beef with soft polenta, braised shimeji mushroom, sticky shallot sauce and celery cress – 2008Llinnaea ‘rhizotomi’ cabernet sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Perfectly cooked duck

The Husband had the Wagyu, and I chose the Duck. Had I not been feeling really full and slightly overcome by Pork Belly and Madeira, I think I would have appreciated the flavours more. The Husband commented that the Wagyu dish contained strong flavours that overpowered the flavour of the Wagyu.

The Wagyu dwarfed by the superstack of

·        Ezard dessert tasting plate to share – 2009 Mas amiel maury roughe, Languedoc-roussillon, France and NV Normanno zibibbo ‘vino liquoroso’ Sicily, Italy.

Beautifully presented sharing plate of very generous servings of art work-like desserts. Salted caramel popcorn, pear, pistachio, champagne jelly and chocolate delicacies bring a lovely end to the meal.

Overall, we experienced an impressive journey of Teague Ezard’s extensive culinary talents. For me, there were lovely highlights, but like many journeys, a few difficulties. A little misstep here and there makes this not quite the perfectly balanced eight course tasting menu I’d hoped for. It might be a case of trying to fit in a little too much in the menu. My stomach certainly thought so. The wine flight consisted of very generous pours indeed, so with the sake and the fortified in the middle – be warned.
Would I go back? Yes, certainly for the blue swimmer crab dumpling and the kingfish sashimi – these were really beautiful dishes which showcase how good ezard is. I’d probably choose the smaller al a carte menu where you can build your own menu. I would have been equally satisfied with a six course tasting menu with the salad and the pork belly taken out, especially in light of the generous wine flight.

What I liked: The buzzing atmosphere is quite casual for a fine dining restaurant, yet the fine dining food doesn’t suffer for it, nor does the attentive service.
What would I like to see: A little slight tinkering of the dishes that don’t really fit the Asian flavour themes or were overly rich – Beetroot salad and Pork belly, I’m looking at you!
Similar to: For a more casual dining experience visit Gingerboy, Melbourne. For a similar fine dining experience visit Jaques Reymond, Victoria. For South Australians, try the Degustation menu at Kenji’s Modern Japanese, Adelaide.

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