What does one ask for on her birthday?
I’ve never had a very clear idea as to what I want each coming year. Anything I desperately need I save the money and purchase myself, and so I always give my friends and family a hard time when it comes to this time of the year. Up to this year, all I tend to ask for is a cake, but then this year I told mother not to even bother buying me a cake, as I make so much at home. If she really did have to buy me an edible symbol of my birthday, please buy me ice cream (I dearly miss the ice cream birthday cakes you used to be able to buy from the supermarket!) – and so she did, with a tub of Sara Lee’s finest Cookies ‘n’ Cream.
Some of my close friends, noting my upcoming audition for Masterchef (which was unsuccessful this year, but there’s always another..) purchased me kitchen aids – a pasta maker, lavish cookbooks and Victoria’s Basement vouchers – and as a consequence my bookshelf has needed a desperate clean up lest it explode, and my mother has complained that there’s no room left in our kitchen. First world problems.
Perfumes, sensual candles and chocolates were also well received. But I’ve always been a person that’s more into experiences and memories than expensive trinkets, and it was for this reason that I suggested Fashion Obsessed Girl treat me to a meal during our trip to Melbourne. We had a bit of an argument over which meal she would treat me to – but in the end I graciously relented to her choice of our second night’s dinner at Ezard. In fancy dress and with another friend we go!
I’ve been wanting to visit Black by Ezard, the Sydney restaurant for some time, but after hearing of Ezard Melbourne having a two-hat status and seeing the interesting Asian-fusion menu, the pull was too much to resist. Ezard is located on the back of Flinders Lane, below ground level. It’s dark and moodily lit, and surprisingly a little noisier than I had been expecting. It was a Saturday night after all though, and the dinner service was in full swing. A three course fixed price menu for the evening was $104.
While it was a little hard to get service at times as they were so busy, when we were served it was always very courteous, friendly and personable. Our waitress introduced us to the accompanying condiments for our bread, which were: a house-marinated extra-virgin olive oil, Sichuan peppercorns with salt, yellow lump sugar with chilli, and a mixture of nori with dashi and bonito flakes.
The meal started with a refreshing, textured amuse bouche of nagame (kumquat), sugar snap peas and goats cheese.
Everything on the menu looked amazing, and it was with some difficulty that we chose our entrees. Fashion Obsessed Girl and I always have a tendency to select the same item on the menu, so this time I relented and chose something different. She selected the Seared Canadian Scallops with pea and mint puree, nashi pear, sesame, radish, nasturtium, and ginger meringue.
While I went for the Steamed Spanner Crab Dumplings with Yarra Valley salmon roe, chervil cress, and coconut tom kha.
The dumplings were deliciously moreish, with the dumpling skins silky but not over-cooked in the slightest. I was surprised at how tasty the combination of the spanner crab filling was with the coconut tom kha – it was a perfect balance of savoury, offset by the slight characteristic sweetness of the coconut.
The Slow Cooked Pork Belly with fennel pollen, celeriac, apple pudding and calvados jus was a flavoursome little dish, bringing together flavours that traditionally accompany pork: wafer-thin slices of fennel and celeriac, and the curious ball of “apple pudding”. It was a little sticky, a little syrupy, and while the skin on the pork belly wasn’t as crispy as I would have loved, the meat didn’t fail to melt-in-the-mouth.
I had had some difficulty in selecting a main, and on recommendation by the waitress, went with the Pan-fried Sesame Crusted John Dory, with gnocchi, nettle, black rice paper, jerusalem artichoke and chestnut custard.
While there was a diverse range of unique textures with the black rice paper, gnocchi and custard, I could not help but wonder if my flavour receptors had switched off for this dish. The dish was what I call “mono-flavour”, and I dearly wished for some more seasoning or just a little more salt in, well, every element. All I could really taste was the nettle, a rather “green” taste throughout the whole dish. The sesame crust didn’t really do the beautiful John Dory fillet any favours, being rather bland and not having the crunch element that I was expecting from a crust.
I knew it wasn’t me when I sampled the Eight Score Sher Wagyu Beef, with white polenta, morels, red wine jam, foie gras, sticky shallot jus and mache salad.
Sticky red wine jam, a perfect medium-rare steak and soft, fluffy white polenta. Zero bleeding from the steak, which gained a top point.
The Crispy Skin Baby Barramundi, with caramelised eggplant, tomato and lime sambal arrived, with the yellow curry dressing poured around the dish at the table.
Tenderly cooked fish, and a nicely spiced yellow curry sauce that complemented the barramundi and soft, sweet eggplant surprisingly well.
We also shared the Fried Potatoes with dukkah salt and lemon yoghurt. Nicely seasoned, slightly crispy potatoes that were velvety soft on the inside. The whipped lemon yoghurt was a slightly unusual combination with the potatoes, with almost the consistency of cream cheese.
After our mains, we were given a little palate cleanser while we considered our dessert options, of a Mandarin foam, Strawberry & Lime Fizz.
Dessert was an easier choice, thank goodness, with little quarrel between us as to who would get to order which. Our friend went for the Honeycrunch ice cream, toasted gingerbread and sugar swirl.
It was rather too sweet for my preferences (which is saying something considering my consistent sweet tooth) but they enjoyed it immensely, so that’s all that really matters!
Fashion Obsessed Girl was taking lots of photos of her choice, the Blood Orange and Vanilla Parfait, with black sesame crackers, basil seeds, and white aero chocolate.
It was a dessert of textures – from the orange jelly “sheet” laid across the plate, the bitter crunch from the black sesame and the pungent fragrance from the basil seeds, not to mention the white chocolate that fairly dissolved on the tongue.
My selection, however, was almost like the adult rendition of a childhood favourite: Chocolate Brownie and Coffee Gelato, dulce mousse and caramelised banana. I’ve made fudgier brownies myself, but it was the pure combination of the brownie, gelato, mousse, banana and the caramel popcorn that really had me in my own, utterly blissful little bubble. Chocolate and coffee, banana and caramel – what can possibly go wrong? I would have independently hoovered up this beautiful dessert off the plate had the others not demanded a taste.
Overall, it was a very pleasant evening. Despite the noise factor and the fact that it was a little hard to get service at times, what attention we did receive was welcoming, courteous and informative. My main was the only minor let down in the course of the evening, but I can say that the dessert definitely more than made up for it.
187 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9639 6811