Wednesday, 22 July 2009


When Manchester United sold Beckham and replaced him with Ronaldo there was trepidation and speculation about replacing a much loved tried and true performer with a new and unproven pretender. But after allowing some time to settle, it was obvious that this flashy European was the real deal - the same can be said for the replacement of the much loved 312 with Embrasse.
There are tweaks to the decor but more or less there is no distinct visual difference to the previous occupier. There is an inescapable French feel, Parisian pictures hanging from the walls, eclectic French music playing in the background, and strong French accents on the female only wait staff. We take our seats in the upstairs Private dining room, forks and knives prepared to engage into our upcoming 10 course degustation.

Two house house baked breads come out, one looking like a tiny loaf - and the other a sour dough dinner roll served with an excellent butter. Once this is devoured an amuse bouche is served - smoked ocean trout with tarragon butter and a flower of some sort, the other a spoon of walnuts, olive, some flowers.. (I'm allergic to walnuts so I didn't eat this hence my forgetfulness) great appetisers that definitely leave us in anticipation for what's coming up.

The first two courses are vegetarian, the first is the signature dish - a "melo melo" of garden vegetables. This was an ensemble of 14 different vibrant vegetables, boiled and coated in butter served on a plate with various interesting vegetable smears, dried olive "dirt", edible flowers & herbs - it was art on a dish. Next came an egg on root vegetables. Sound boring? Certainly didn't taste boring - with the egg cooked at precisely 62 degrees for 110 minutes, leaving it with the physical likeness to a hard poached egg, but a textural likeness to a soft boiled egg. Amazing.

The two dishes were the "seafood" section of our meal. We were looking forward to the Yabbies and pacific oyster in a muscovado consume but were left underwhelmed. The sweet broth seemed out of place, the yabbie slightly overcooked and the oyster forgetful. However in stark contrast, the flaky john dory was steamed to perfection and finished off in the pan for a crisp outside. It was served with a "cereal butter" & creamy white beans along with the now expected flowers and herbs. After this dish, everyone was excited to see what was coming next.

The next dish - although very yummy, was essentially a palate cleanser - a gentian granita, should not have been advertised as a course.

Our "protein" section of the meal was up next. The first was roast partridge served on a wheaty pulse with a giblet jus. Although the description of the jus could've been left out, the breast meat was juicy and sweet and the subtle flavours and textures of the ingredients on the dish matching perfectly. The next was simply described as "Wagyu, spanish flat beans, black sesame, braised onion". I don't think any combination of words could have done this dish justice. A eye fillet portion of the cow is cuvee'd (cooked in a bag) for a few hours at what I can only imagine being a very low temperature, then finished off in the oven. The result is the best piece of beef I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Everything that you could want in a piece of meat was present, the was flavour akin to a prime piece of grass fed black angus, the meat tender like wagyu should be, and a perfect crust developed in the oven. The big flavours & contrasting textures were nothing short of amazing. The only disappointment was when my plate was empty.

"If I were to write a wagyu beef story, this would be it" - Nuge '2009

Desserts consisted of two french cheeses firstly, then what was arguably (contending with the wagyu) the best dish of the night - Mandarin, gateau de gene & marmalade. A smear of marmalade on the bottom of the plate was topped with mini segments of mandarin, some mandarin cake, mandarin mousse, mandarin granita & sweet slithers of crisp biscuit. There was a refreshing light flavour, a complex combination of textures and an unusually delightful mix in temperatures brought on by the granita. A dessert that won't be forgotten quickly.

For our last course we had petit fours (or petit trio as there were only three - chocolate crackle, a mini cake and a chocolate brownie). Using petit fours and a palatte cleanser as courses in a 10 course degustation is a bit of a disappointment, and should be replaced with something else or be renamed to an 8 course degustation (the extras always seem like you're getting more value for money).

All in all we had an amazing time, with the service was excellent - knowledgeable & friendly, and the chef coming in to ask how we enjoyed our meals. Even though there were a few small gripes (no matching wine option for the degustation, yabbie dish & pretend courses) this was still one of the better restaurants I've been to - with a lot of meticulous detail given to each dish, often overlooked and unappreciated. The wagyu and dessert are some of the best things I've ever eaten, definitely worth a re-visit - this place has potential.

4 / 5 yums!


Where? 312 Drummond Street, Carlton 3053, VIC

What? Entrees: $17, Mains: $35, Dessert: $14



Robert Kingston said...

Looks awesome guys... I'm heading down to Melbourne today. Originally I was going to MoVida but they're booked out so I'm pretty keen on giving Embrasse a buzz now.

slowcooked said...

Hope you enjoy it too!

Movida is great too, but there's a wealth of other places to go in Melb.

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