August 26, 2012

312 Drummond Street, Carlton
NOTE: Unfortunately the lovely Embrasse has closed as chef and owner Nic Poelaert has moved to new restaurant Brooks in the city to work his magic there. All the best to Nic, though I am sorry to see Embrasse go.
Have you ever seen a more delightful looking dessert? Anyone who knows good food in Melbourne would look at that hazelnut parfait mushroom and sorrel mint granita and conjure up one word: Embrasse.
We took Dad to Embrasse for his birthday earlier this year, and we all loved the food and the ambiance. As expected, the service was excellent; it struck the perfect balance between politeness and friendliness. The food is modern French, clasic flavours presented in a clever and beautiful fashion. You can tailor your degustation at Embrasse to anywhere between five and eight courses. We went for six, which I think was a good number; we left full without feeling like bursting.

To tantalise our tastebuds, a delightful dish of puffed rye bread with goats cheese (crispy exterior yielding to a pillowy soft cheese), and glasses of avocado mousse, fried shallots and Dalesford carrots. The fried shallots look almost burnt in the picture, but they were a fantastic salty foil to the richness of the mousse, eaten by dipping the carrots into the glass (though we did finish the remainder with our forks!)

Just quietly, the butter was also amazing, as was the house made smoked bread. Real butter makes such a difference, I tell you. We also shared a bottle of one of my favourite reds – a Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz from Heathcote, such a treat.

The menu is typically left up to the chef, but I requested the next dish specifically because I’d read good things about it. Our version of the meli melo of vegetables included a dozen incarnations of various vegetables, including zucchini, corn, squash, cucumber, purple potato, fennel, plus some purees and emulsions of pumpkin, grape (an awesome, translucent gel), pea, cherbil and mexican sage. All crowned with foraged herbs and flowers.
We tried our best to guess them all but the mexican sage had us beaten! This was such a beautifully presented and varied dish (both in terms of taste and texture), and it was great to see a chef pay homage to vegetables in this brilliant and intelligent manner.

Next up was a fillet of Tasmanian trumpeter, cooked sous vide “for a few minutes” and served with a bay leaf powder and pickled lemon puree. I’d describe trumpeter as halfway between snapper and mackeral; it’s quite oily but has a delicate taste and the gentle cooking process allowed us to admire the fish in its simplicity.

A chilled kiwi tea served as a palate cleanser, and then it was on to the meat dishes!

First up, yet another stunning dish of pork, burnt carrot puree, artichoke puree and jus. One of my favourites from the evening, along with the meli melo of vegetables – never before have vegetables tasted as good as they do at Embrasse!

The tender pork had been cooked sous vide before being roasted in a pan with a slightly sweet maple sauce, and the burnt carrot puree was a delicious, nutty revelation.

Again, cannot stress how excellent the presentation of all our dishes was.

Our final main course consisted of wagyu with squid ink, brocco-flowers, potato croquette, kholrabi puree and black rice puffs. Whew!

The flavours of this dish were outstanding, though disappointingly we all thought the beef was chewy, though perhaps this was due to the particular cut of beef.

Before dessert, we had a cheese course; a washed rind sheep’s cheese from Victoria, served with capsicum and orange marmalade. The cheese was good, nothing wrong with it at all, but I thought given the cuisine was French perhaps a French cheese would have been more appropriate. Additionally, I think I would have preferred another main/dessert course rather than the cheese, which always strikes me as a bit of a cop-out in restaurants, but each to their own.

Finally, we get around to that fabulous, fantasy dessert. A chocolate and hazelnut parfait mushroom, sitting on a forest floor made of sorrel mint granita and chocolate soil. Just incredible, makes your mind do back-flips of joy at the thought of a dessert that reminds you of a children’s book or film. I loved the rich chocolate flavour, countered by the refreshing granita. An excellent end to an excellent evening!

Happy Birthday Dad!

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Filed under: Carlton, French