This relative newbie to the Good Food Guide has quite a high urbanspoon rating, however doesn’t seem to have reached over-hyped status just yet. Add that to the fact that it is in my home suburb: perfect!
This dinner was to be a small celebration of me being selected to attend the Eat Drink Blog 2012 food blogger’s conference. Noir was just the right setting for a romantic evening
We ordered the 8-course $80 surprise tasting menu, which consisted of five starters, one main and two desserts.
Apologies again about the photo quality: restaurant lighting is never conducive to good photos. Luckily we were seated opposite the bar which was lit up, but the photos are still quite grainy and blurry
Oysters with champagne granita
The granita was nice and refreshing, although it was very sweet. In fact, it tasted more like lemonade than champagne. Not a bad thing though!
I’d never really thought of raw beef as being particularly enticing, and I certainly wasn’t sure what to expect here.
The meat was well seasoned and quite vinegary, topped with mayonnaise, pickle and a soft boiled quail egg. Spread on the thin crisp breads it was lovely and if I hadn’t already known that it was raw meat I wouldn’t have guessed it. The deconstructed Waldorf salad consisted of a cute little stack of perfect apple rounds separated by walnutty puree. It was a good match for the strong-flavoured soft meat. This was certainly a stellar entree.
Harpuka with artichokes
Firm white fish was fried until crispy all over and served artichoke two ways: as a puree, and roasted. The fish was perfectly cooked and tender with a nice crunchy exterior. I have to admit that this was my first time eating proper, fresh artichokes (I have only ever had the marinated ones in the jars/tins). As such have only ever known them to have a sort of acidic flavour and had no idea of the wonderful soft texture they obtain when cooked. They were reminiscent of potatoes, but with a slightly stronger flavour. Kind of like how sweet potatoes are like potatoes but at the same time not like potatoes (if that makes sense). The puree was silky smooth, slightly buttery with a hint of truffle. The little baked artichoke pieces were fabulous; I could see myself snacking on these just on their own. Overall this dish was kind of like a posh fish and chips (definitely my sort of fish and chips).
Black pudding-stuffed quail
It seemed like it was a night of ‘firsts': raw beef, artichokes and now black pudding! The black pudding didn’t really taste like much, it was just kind of salty and meaty. I was expecting a bit of that offal-ly flavour that liver has, but it wasn’t there at all. The quail was, as quail is: sweet, juicy and succulent with crispy skin. For such a small bird it is intensely flavourful (take that, chicken). The sweet Pedro Ximinez dressing and soft puy lentils were a good match for it. There was also supposed to be bits of quince jelly in this meal: I didn’t actually see any, but every now and then I got a lovely hint of that honey-perfume in the dressing.
Moreton bay bug tortellini with lobster bisque
I’m not really a pasta person but this was quite nice. You could tell the pasta was fresh as it was light and silky smooth. The filling didn’t have a lot of flavour; it tasted mostly of ricotta and didn’t appear to have a whole lot of seafood in it. The sauce however seemed to make up for this. It was thin and foamy: somehow light and rich at the same time. It packed an intense lobstery punch that the tortellini were crying out for. The pasta was also served with a few thin ribbons of zucchini. I’m not normally a fan of zucchini served plain like this, but the slightly bitter and watery qualities of the delicate ribbons were actually a very good complement to the rich lobster sauce.
Duck with brussel sprouts and chestnuts
My regular readers will know how much I love duck. My usual complaint about bad duck is that it is overcooked and dry, however this time around I had the opposite problem. It was rare. Really rare. Not just pink, but the inside very much had the colour and texture of raw meat. (Raw duck, there’s another first). I still ate it anyway, because I never want to be that jerk that sends their plate back. Maybe this is how the French eat their duck? The outside slices were perfectly cooked, but the ones in the middle weren’t really to my taste. The sauce was a little too aniseedy as well.
The duck was served with a carrot puree, which was actually much nicer than it sounds and not at all like the baby food I was expecting it to be. It smooth and quite mild tasting (there must have been potato in it). The real highlight though was the Brussels sprouts stuffed with duck and chestnuts. The shredded, tender duck was just the way I like it and the pairing with sweet chestnuts was amazing.
The roquefort was exactly my sort of blue cheese. It was a sweeter cheese, not too salty and it was strong without being too sharp or offensive. The crisp breads were the same as the ones served with the Steak Tartare, and as they were oily they were a bit on the heavy side. I would have preferred conventional crackers or even a light walnut bread.
Raspberry and macadamia souffle
I hate to say it but it wasn’t a stand out dessert. The souffle had a nice fluffy texture and a strong raspberry flavour but there was a ‘weirdness’ to its overall taste. There was just too much macadamia flavour in the souffle. The ‘white chocolate’ ice cream also tasted completely like macadamias and not really like white chocolate, and there were also even more chopped macadamias as a garnish. It was kind of overkill and I think would have preferred a slightly more boring but winning classic combination of just a plain raspberry souffle with plain white chocolate ice cream.
The quality of the food was excellent and the menu had a good variety. The souffle was a bit of a let down, next time I would go for something else (although the dessert menu is separate to the main menu so I’m not sure what else there is). My only other complaint about the food is that there were quite a lot of starters. Usually a degustation with this many courses will have more than one main; I think two would have sufficed.
Service was slow to start. After we were seated it took them a while to give us menus, and then quite a while to take our food and drink orders even though we were seated near the bar where the waiters were standing. Service speed improved throughout the night though. This may have been because the restaurant was starting to empty: we booked for 8pm, after peak service time. Generally though the waiters were friendly with a good sense of humour; there was no pretentiousness to be seen here.
Overall this is a lovely little place with a nice atmosphere and a background noise level suitable for easy conversation. Definitely a good place for a date. It’s nice for a change to be able to get a Friday night booking with a week’s notice! Be sure to pay a visit before the word gets out.Noir 175 Swan St Richmond