Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Maze Melbourne

Level 1, Crown Metropol, Southbank
P: 03 9292 8300

We went to Maze by Gordon Ramsay last night for dinner. I am so incredibly upset. I’m so disappointed. I can’t stand the man, or at least the persona he presents to the world, and I was fully prepared to dislike the meal. I was determined to find offence. Hence why I’m so upset.

It was frikken brilliant.

This will be a long post, so get comfy.

We wandered in a bit after 6.30pm and asked for a table. They told us they had one but we’d have to be out by 8.30. Sure, no problem. They led us to a table.

Initially I was happy – the place is so dim that my mother could have been sitting 3 tables away and I wouldn’t have been able to see or recognise her. I wouldn’t be able to pick our waitress out in a line up. J couldn’t read the menu. That is also why there are no pictures with this post. So I thought “Ah ha! First strike!” And I’ll admit my opinion of the lighting didn’t change. Sadly (I mean, “thankfully”), that was more or less the only bad thing I have to say about our experience.

Our thoroughly charming, knowledgeable and efficient waitress explained the way things work to us. You see, the menu is set up so you create your own little tasting menu which, if you like that sort of thing, works well (btw, I DO like that sort of thing. A lot. So choosing my own set of tastings certainly appeals). Dishes tend to range between $12 and $24. While we ordered and shared, I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing that, as each serving is really meant just for one person.

We munched on some skinny baguette-type smeared with some absolutely divine seaweed butter, with tiny salt flakes to sprinkle on top. I think I could happily have a meal of just this. By the by, later in the meal when we requested some more bread they were more than happy to provide.

We chose three “starter” dishes to share – marinated pink fur potatoes, Applewood smoked kingfish and Queensland mud crab. The potatoes came out as a few slices artfully arranged around a large bite of smoked eel with the blackened leeks and other bibs and bobs. No complaints about this one. I love potatoes any way you care to dish ‘em up, and the smoked eel was delicious (a word I may be using often in this post... I’ll use my thesaurus to try and come up with alternatives, though).

The smoked kingfish was goluptious (thank you, Macquarie Thesaurus). A mouthful of yummyness.

The Queensland mud crab was interesting... It arrived on a bed of pressed watermelon, with “stuff” on top (the menu says pickled ginger, but I can’t remember what it was), with a dollop of rockmelon sorbet on top. It was nice, but my mouth wasn’t quite sure what it was meant to be processing.

We initially ordered three mains, but enjoyed two in particular so much that we asked for them again.

First up we tried the pan roasted barramundi. It was served with a puree of butternut squash and pieces of cucumber. Oh. My. God. I believe the skin had been salted, and then the piece cooked skin-down to give an oh-so-crispy-and-tasty experience, while the rest of the flesh was done to perfection. This one we ordered again. By the by, the second time we had it the piece of fish was bigger. Whether that was luck or deliberate on the part of the kitchen staff I don’t know, but it was just as good the second time as it had been the first.

Second was citrus cured king salmon with soy salt, corn (“succotash”), bok choi and wee little asparagusy bits. This was almost as good as the barra. We ordered this again as well, because dang it all, it was bloody tasty. The salmon fell apart under the knife, and the soy salt on top added a salivary-gland-kick-starting tang. And that succotash... I’m going to have to learn how to make that. I can just imagine cooking it up to have on toast on a Sunday morning.

Lastly we had lamb cannon and shoulder. Two pieces of lamb on the plate, both perfectly cooked and tender, one falling apart when you so much as waved the fork at it. A dollop of cauliflower puree with a piece of anchovy on top and a small mound of wilted stinging nettles topped with a slice of cauliflower floret completed the plate. Don’t get me wrong, just because we didn’t order this one again doesn’t mean it wasn’t divine.

From there we moved to the desserts. First up we had a coconut and white chocolate pannacotta, with a slurry of mango puree and a granita of some description on top, and a dollop of black olive caramel. This dish was probably the lowlight of the meal. Not that it was bad; it just didn’t seem to mesh together. Once we removed the caramel and just attacked the rest it was quite nice, if unspectacular. I think the caramel was simply too strong in flavour to work with the rest of the dish.

Next we ate the chocolate cremeaux. It came out as a splodge of decadently rich and creamy chocolaty sauce (which is handy as “crémeux” is French for “creamy”) with pearl barley ice cream next to a two-bite mini loaf of banana. The banana bread was uninspiring, but PHWOAR - the chocolate sauce was rich as sin, and the pearl barley ice cream was a wonderful wheaty-honey-malty piece of coldness. The itty macadamia halves on the side tasted as though they’d been dunked in a salted caramel. This was REALLY good. J very nearly didn’t get a look in on this one.

Lastly we come to the Granny smith apple parfait. A rectangle of what could have been green apple sorbet sat on a thin biscuity base (which, frankly, I think they should get rid of – the base, I mean). This all sat on a bed of oh-so-finely shaved green- and red-skinned apple slices, arranged to make the prettiest pattern. Opposite sides of the parfait rectangle had a very thin wafer of what appeared to be finely diced and pressed red apple skin attached. On top of all this was a granita of beetroot and blackcurrant. I drool just to remember it. It was the perfect way to finish off the meal. Words really can’t describe it, or at least not MY words.

So yeah, it was a wonderful meal. I definitely plan to go back, partly to see if this trip was a fluke, and partly to sample what else is on the menu. I think next time I’m going to go for the Chef’s menu, which I didn’t notice on this visit as it was so dark I didn’t realise there was more to the menu than what our waitress opened them to!

Which reminds me, the only other problem I had with Maze – if you don’t like seafood and mushrooms, there’s little left on the menu for you. There is a lot of seafood on the menu, which is fine for us, however J can’t eat mushrooms, and I’m not a big fan of them, so quite a few dishes were out for us. There again, I hope that a place of this calibre would be able to work with you, and modify some dishes. I don’t know. Give ‘em a call and find out.

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