Showing posts with label *Suburb: South Melbourne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label *Suburb: South Melbourne. Show all posts

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Journey to The Palace by Luke Mangan

The Palace by Luke Mangan
505 City Road (corner Pickles St)
South Melbourne VIC 3205
Telephone: 03 9699 6410

Opening Hours: Daily 12pm-2:30pm; 6pm-10pm

In the kingdom of celebrity chefs, even your mum knows I pay homage to Gordon Ramsay.

Unfortunately my king visits rarely, so while he's off to other lands, I'm a courtesan for any court.

I first read about The Palace here and became fascinated with Luke here and here. I'm a shameless wench; wild horses couldn't keep me away.

So one soggy Friday evening, I donned some prince(ss)ly garments and paid court over the river. And let me just preface this review by saying, if you enjoy watching food as much as eating it (and sadly, like me, you plan your meals at home around foodie TV such as Masterchef and The F Word), then dining at The Palace is the very pinnacle of experiences.

The fit-out is pretty, but hardly palatial. So why the hype?

Catch a table by the pass;
All you have to do is ask.

No, really! There is a whole row of tables right next to a huge window through which you can watch your meal (...and everyone else's! Per-vy!) being prepared. Table 12, in particular, is the place to be. But you'll have to fight me for it.

Pardon me while I gleefully press up against the window. You may peruse the menu here.

Warm bread, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, served immediately.
The ceremony begins.

One thing to note; they do take their time here - and you can see it too, it's nothing like Hell's Kitchen. I didn't mind the lull between courses, enraptured as I was watching everything unfold. But if you're off somewhere after, it's something you should definitely keep in mind - we were one of the first guests to arrive and our three-course meal went on for over two and a half hours.

Kingfish carpaccio, goats feta, roquette, ginger eschallot dressing ($18)

I loved this; the kingfish was very fresh. It slithers down your throat something super with the crumbly feta and ginger zing.

Who couldn't love an oyster? They were a well-travelled rock trio on this plate - natural/kilpatrick/tempura. Half a dozen ($20)

A very Japanese oyster; tempura-ed and adorned with shiny, slippery seaweed.

It's an easy formula: love worcestershire; love this.

And while waiting for our main to arrive - a waitress came over with a wink. "Just as you've been watching us all night, the chef has been watching you. Enjoy."

A very delicate beef tartare on a salted 'crispbread'.
I'm too exultant to be abashed.

And you know I've been eyeing our steak on the grill the whole time.

But a beef on your plate is worth two on the grill.

400g Rib-eye; Nolan Meats, 100 days grain fed, dry aged charolais ($42). Your choice of sauce; we picked bearnaise.

Too perfect. Seasoned just right, and melted in my mouth (and my heart). It's cooked really rare because that's exactly how I like it. Say what you will, but I love my flesh fresh.

Some strong supporting actors - sweet and sultry carrots delicously roasted in dukkah...

...And the bowl of chips that lived forever after.

Great chips, but we just couldn't finish it. $8.00 each side.

I remember being horrified when Luke Mangan admitted he's 'not a chocolate person' on Masterchef (who are these people?!). But I forgive him because he put this on the menu.

My most beloved dessert - Hot chocolate fondant with cookies and cream ($17.00).

It's an obsession - I spend many, many hours scouring menus of Melbourne restaurants for this. Apparently it's a terribly boring cliché to many chefs and diners.

Your mum is a terribly boring cliché.

What a royally rollicking night. Make a date, don't be late!

Apologies for the hiatus, and the mum jokes. The reason for both: my life of late has been entirely consumed by a most heinous piece of work, which thanks-be-to-God, ends today. So all my stolen moments of pleasure during this time were with Natalie Tran, who I adore.

How did you spend your Easter weekend? Let me know - especially if you gave something up for Lent, I always find that fascinating. My Easter was spent in the most traditional fashion - copious amounts of chocolate; and contemplations of death.

But I'm back now, baby!

The Palace on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tempura Hajime

60 Park St, South Melbourne
Telephone 03 9696 0051

I am an unashamed, absolute, stereotypical girl. I calorie-count, weight-watch, fast-fastidiously, snack-sparingly*, diet-desperately, and exercise-exhaustively.

(*Okay, this is a lie.)

So what could induce me to postpone my persistent and pestilent pursuit to purge pounds in a show of defiance not seen since I tearfully chomped cookie after cookie of Arnott's 40% Premuim Chocolate Chip to the tune of Katherine Heigl consuming an entire stick of buttter (and infinite trays of muffins) after the untimely death of her fiance (who has since returned to haunt her now that she's finally in a healthy (!) relationship with Karev)? What made me pick up the phone a month to the date to book us in for a deep-fried degustation so devillishly decadent it would cost me more than any singular dress I've ever bought in Melbourne at the expense of being able to fit into every other one already purchased?

Unadulterated, pure, unselfish love, that's what (and the Bible-wielding G would have you believe there's no other kind.) Exactly half a year's worth. And goaded by warnings of their imminent closure to return to Japan, we dive heedlessly into tempura wonderland - like Alice, recklessly consuming all and anything that remotely hints 'Eat Me'.

We begin with an enchanting appetizer of Kobachi and Sashimi - a cornucopia of fresh salmon, kingfish, and ocean trout accompanied by a small serving of the Japanese vegetabable 'Nanohana' and calamari drizzled with sesame seeds and sauce:

And then, almost immediately after, the Dream Master emerges from the kitchen and in less time than it takes G to crane his neck around the stove to salivate over the man's deft handling of delights disguised in batter, we are served our first tempura experience.

An achingly gorgeous king prawn. Adorn to your personal taste - pick from pink salt flakes with lemon juice freshly squeezed from the most darling bird-like juicer or a lovely tempura dipping sauce with white radish mixed in. "But not a combination of both - not good."

And then comes what I refer to as the M&M experience (though a comparison to the over-the-counter, artificially-coloured confectionary seems almost like an insult). Despite a quick swab of the pink salt (which G implored the waitress to reveal the source of - Murray River) and lemon juice, the batter remains light and crisp and its combination with the crunchy juiciness of the prawn tastes blasphemously unearthly. It literally melts in my mouth. And now I know what John Lethlean was on about (and I hardly ever do) when he said "you've never really tasted a prawn" until you've had this one.

And we're off.


Scallop with Sea Urchin - this was G's pick of the night for its briny freshness. I thought it was bit of an acquired taste, personally, and so he acquired my other half.

An interlude of seaweed salad - the seaweed is of what I can only describe as the jellyfish kind - all rubbery (in a good way!) and delicate. And the avocado made for a meltingly fine accompaniment.

Sweet Potato

Mushroom with Prawn Mince - big, bad, beautiful. One bite of this had me eyeing G's even before he'd touched his. Ridiculously juicy considering its crisp coat.

Whiting - and what a whiting wit was - sorry, couldn't resist the lure of alliteration. I ate the whole thing, down to the fins (and the one G discarded as well). Fresh, fried fish. How can you lose?

Eggplant with Chicken Mince - an excellent, temporary departure from seafood with a distinct onion flavour running through the meat. In a shamelessly pompous gesture, I closed my eyes to savour this one.

Eel with Teriyaki Sauce - G proclaimed this the best unagi he's ever had - and he's had plenty. And then proceeded to lament that no eel would ever taste the same again. So eat at the peril of your own future satisfaction.

And (regretfully), we conclude with a sushi roll of ___ fish with sour plum, and calamari with seaweed running through. The calamari had perfect texture - slightly resistant to the bite and then yielding with juicy contrition. G waxed lyrical about the perfect combination of the sour plum to the fish, so I gave him two-thirds of mine. Personally, I think the sour plum needs a bit of getting used to.

With the end in sight, we're served with a bowl of rice and tempura-d seafood and vegetable combination.

We spy corn in the mix, and are told that prawn, scallops and fish contribute to the seafood half of the donation. All very good but I'm very full, so G devoured most of two bowls (which we discreetly switched so as not to insult the chef).

And finally, just as I was thinking, Colonel Sanders-esquely, that perhaps deep-frying is the way in which all food should be served - and in the two decades I've lived so far, I've just been corrupted by other cooking styles, we float back to earth with a gentle, yoghurty flan, accompanied with a single mint leaf (which G unashamedly chewed up cow-style even before we'd received our spoons), and two bites of orange.
It's the perfect ending - the ubiquitous green tea ice cream other Japanese restaurants favour would have been too, too much.

And so we pay our compliments to the chef, settle the bill (unprecedentedly leaving a tip - hey we're students!) and step outside the hidden entrance (a wooden door in an office block with no signage whatsoever) and stroll to the tram stop, the frigid night air rousing us from the waking dream that is Tempura Hajime.

Revision 26.10.2009: Tempura Hajime never did end up closing because the owners couldn't afford to move back to Japan after the GFC hit. I'm not sure whether this is something to celebrate?

Tempura Hajime on Urbanspoon