Spatula, Spoon and Saturday

Eating and Cooking all the things in Melbourne

Melbourne Food Review: 2009 Taste of Melbourne Festival

This year’s Taste of Melbourne was held at the Royal Exhibition Building near the Carlton garden. It’s basically a festival of all things food with food and food-related stalls. The highlights of the show are of course the food stalls held by some of the more popular Melbourne fine-dining scene.

We consumed a fair bit of food in the 3 hours that we were there! Not only there were a lot of food available to buy, there are also a lot of stalls that give out samples as well. We were in food heaven with lots of foodies peddling their wares. Too bad it was such an awful rainy day. But well, this is Melbourne. We did arrive at 1pm, an hour later than the opening, which turned out to be a good idea because we missed the queues and were able to go straight in.

(MoVida – Slow cooked cuttlefish with chorizo and chickpeas)

Without further ado, a bit of a review on each of the dishes that we tried in chronological order. I first settled on MoVoda’s cuttlefish and chorizo stew. The first thing I noticed about it was that it was not hot, in fact, it wasn’t even lukewarm. That really ruined the dish. But I enjoyed the flavours and the cuttlefish was very tender. Josh had such funny averse reaction to it and he thought it was awful!

(MoVida – Braised beef with Spanish paprika, saffron and potatoes)

Josh opted for the braised beef which was served with mashed potatoes. Again, not hot. The meat was a bit tough and we were given a plastic spork to eat with. I had a plastic knife in the bag from the Barilla’s stall free sample so I gave that to him. By now, our first two dishes were a bit of a dud and both pretty much failed to impress. In fact, I couldn’t taste any paprika at all.

(Maha – Lamb Kustilji: crisp lamb ribs, roast nuts and spices, lemon and yoghurt)

Luckily, a group of people came by to share our table and one of them carried a little bowl of Maha’s lamb kustilji. I watched as she took a bite and made a noise and I thought, ‘that’s must be a winner!’ It turned out to be the dish that stole the show. The lamb was crisp on the outside but melting tender and juicy on the inside. A definite win and, I regret to say, one of the few  really good dishes out of all the things we tried out.

(The Press Club – Spring Bay half shell scallops with tarama)

Not for nothing, we noticed that the combined stall of Maha, The Press Club and Hellenic Republic was by far the most popular. We actually had to wait a bit for the food to be brought out, which essentially meant they were the only stall that served food at decent temperature. I decided to go back for the Press Club’s scallops.

It was quite good. The salad and the dressing was superb. Couldn’t taste any tarama but there was some olive and possible some sort of crouton which really added to the texture. The scallop was slight undercooked, which was a bit of a downer to the dish but I don’t mind undercooked seafood personally. Josh was not a fan.

(Jacques Reymond – Tempura of quail breast, tajine flavours, whipped Persian fetta)

Nicole went the night before and she recommended the scallops from Jacques Reymond but Josh had enough of scallops (the boy is not a fan of shellfish, sucks to be him) so we opted for the tempura quail. Again, not hot. Not impressed. Flavours were too busy and nothing was outstanding. Sometimes I have issues with this whole fine cuisine – they just try too damn hard and lose focus. The black rice just didn’t sit well with the rest of the dish either.

(Nobu – yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and yuzu sauce)

I decided I had to have something from Nobu because it would be a cold day in hell before I successfully drag Josh to Crown. The result was the yellowtail sashimi. The fish was decent. Not great. Seriously, it’s a strange thing how they manage to not get raw fish perfect especially when it sat behind the Nobu brand. The jalapeno added a real kick to the fish and amazingly did not ruin the delicate raw fish. The ponzu was rather good. All in all the composition of the dish was excellent, a very simple dish. I approve of it. I just thought the fish could be a touch better. And of course, if the fish wasn’t the best, nothing else was going to make it an excellent dish.

(circa, the prince – chocolate, honeycomb and salted caramel crunch)

Circa, the Prince’s dessert came highly recommended by Nicole and it looked good. I thought they had the nicest looking stall decorated simply with a lot of pink sweet peas. It was dessert. It was all right but I’m kinda not a dessert person so I’ll reserve judgement. I enjoyed it but desserts don’t hit me the way savouries do.

(Silks – Pan Grilled Beef Eye Fillet. Marinated in mustard, served with Szechuan sauce)

By now, we were absolutely too full (yes, we ate all that plus all the free samples, you’d think we’d have problems standing) but we had 14 crowns left and since we didn’t plan to return we decided to go for the only $14 dish. It wasn’t hot and it should have been. Otherwise, the beef would have been fabulous. It was beautifully tender and well flavoured. Josh thought it was a winner. I thought it would have been if it was searing hot.

All in all, we were rather disappointed with the quality (especially the temperature) of the food. All of these dishes came to $90 (plus $27.50 of entry fees) and while it was a good value to sample all of the dishes, most of the dishes did not live up to the expectation of their brands. I’m willing to forgive the fact that there were a few people and the fact that we had to run around and do a musical chair thing after purchasing every dish (I refused to hog a table, there were too many people standing by, I didn’t think that was right) but all in all, I would have been able to take those hundred-ish dollars and go to a really fabulous restaurant and have a fantastic meal.

However, I did enjoy myself and would probably go again next year.  I’m not taking Josh next year because he thought it was overrated and pretentious (which it was a bit but I would never pass up a chance on food). So who’s coming with me next year?