A walk down to Spring St
A tentative looking Block
A feeling, a moment
A bursting of bubbles
An anger to overcome
A kingfish, a tuna
An eloquent table
Flavours that do not work
Some wagyu, some veal slices
A crispy brown spatchcock
A patron who ain’t been pleased(If you are at all familiar with “On the verge of something wonderful” by Darren Hayes, then you will sort of get the above reference… or maybe not)
Adam took me to Vergelast night for an early birthday dinner thingy. Now, this European-inspired Japanese restaurant (okay fine, fusion restaurant) has been on my to-try list for quite a while now especially since John Lethlean from The Age gave it stellar reviews. Furthermore, somewhat positive reviews from Kelly and a bunch of other bloggers made me even more keen to try this place out. So we booked a table for 6pm on a Saturday evening about 2 weeks ago and managed to get a great table by the window so we can watch theatre goers walk West and footy-goers walk East.
At Verge, they only serve degustation menus on Saturday nights for some reason which may piss many people off but we both love degustation dinners so we were okay with it. 5 courses for $80 (plus extra if you want drinks), we thought, sounded pretty reasonable and the great thing about Verge‘s degustation menu is that you can actually choose your own dishes from a list, the only catch being that everyone in the table must have the same thing. We got straight to work immediately:
They gave us complimentary lime-cured kingfish sashimi as an appetiser which was very nice of them. What was not nice was the fact that it was bland bland bland and the kingfish was stringy. I wonder why they even bothered, really.
Raw tuna ravioli, chilled tomato consomme and Aruga caviar. We were given two “raviolis” with the skin made out of raw tuna meat which was filled with diced tomatoes and onions. Both pieces were topped with sliced daikon and Aruga caviar which sounds good on paper but it was actually quite bland (bland will be the main theme of this blog, I reckon). The tuna was fresh and juicy, I’ll give them that (better than the kingfish!) but the flavours were just… dead. And for the record, Aruga caviar tastes like a vegetable that has lost its flavour. Once again, a very plain dish.
Oh and before I go on, I just want to apologise for the photo qualities. The room was pretty dark and while the atmosphere was lovely (dim lights, romantic setting, great views etc), they didn’t transfer well on camera. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out how to work the camera.
And also, the tuna ravioli pieces might look “decently sized” on camera but they were actually not much more bigger than a 50 cent piece.
Tataki of wagyu beef, umeshu noodle, grated egg white and onion ponzu. Once again, another tiny dish. Each wagyu would have been less than 5 cm across (we got served two slices each). Okay, this dish wasn’t BAD but it wasn’t fantastic either. The wagyu was fresh and would’ve probably tasted great with less frills on it because frankly, the grated egg whites did nothing to the dish. And neither did the umeshu noodle (umeshu = a form of Japanese fruit liquer). The fact that the wagyu slices were minuscule didn’t help either.
At this stage, Adam and I were starting to hear alarm bells. Two dishes in and none of us were completely satisfied. At this point, both of us should have lowered our expectations for the next dishes to come to avoid the wave of disappointment that was to come…
Slow poached veal, beetroot, fried tuna mayonaise and nameko mushroom. THAT was veal. Two slices that looked like they came from the ham section of Safeway’s deli . I don’t know why I agreed to this dish, particularly as I don’t really like beetroot but I ate everything on my plate as I was so eff-ing hungry. It actually wasn’t very very horrible. The veal slices were fresh and juicy and I liked the little fried cube which had the tuna mayo and mushroom sauce in it but in all honesty, this dish was a mess. None of the flavours worked well together and it just left a sour taste in my mouth.
Spatchcock, confit fennel and salsify with liver parfait. That was our main (which we got with a side bowl of salad). I think this would cost around $35 on its own which is the price you’d pay at a top notch restaurant. I guess Verge could charge that much seeing as it wins so many awards and everything. While I will not pay $35 for a measly spatchcock (yep, once again TINY!), I actually thought this dish was alright. It pretty much saved the entire meal from being a complete and utter flop. Unlike the other dishes, at least all the ingredients in this dish worked well together rather than fight for attention. I liked the gravy-like sauce that accompanied the bird and although the smoked yoghurt that was supposed to go with the liver parfait tasted a bit like those smoked salmon chip dips you get in supermarkets, it went alright with the food. And I liked the little wafer cigar which was filled with some creamy mushroom sauce too.
Guava and umeshu soup, mineral water and mint jelly, rockmelon sorbet. They should really stop trying so hard with the umeshu, they’re not impressing anyone really. Yes Dave, that’s a rockmelon sorbet. I don’t know what to make of this dish honestly. It was just a mess. The sorbet tasted more lemon than rockmelon. The mint jelly overpowered all the other fruits. And let’s not start with the umeshu.
My main gripe about Verge were the size of their dishes. Now, I’ve been to many fine-dining establishments so I’m used to seeing dishes that a lot of my friends would deem “small.” But at least with those restaurant, I was never left still feeling hungry at the end. At Verge, I was only about 50% full. And yes, I know that fine-dining is more about quality rather than quantity but if a restaurant is going to offer a degustation menu, you’d think that you’d be at least 80%, if not 100%, full by 5-10 courses, dammit! And to drive the point further, usually the degustation would showcase the best dishes that a chef can offer. Looking back, I didn’t think any of the dishes were fantastic and some of them were just bland and awful. Adam and I wondered whether we just happened to pick all the wrong dishes but seriously, what were the odds?! There are about five choices in each sub category, so according to the law of probability, the odds of picking sub-par dishes in all five category are quite slim.
Service-wise, I think they were alright. Not friendly as some of the places we’ve been to but they were definitely doing their jobs. But like the food, I think most of the staff at Verge were all style and little substance. Very good-looking young people looking smart in their black uniforms but there were times when it required so much effort to get their attention and they could probably do with a little more happy pills but apart from, I guess I can’t complain. I don’t think I’ll be back there again as I wasn’t too happy with the meal. Sure, an $80 degustation dinner might seem pretty good value given that Verge features prominently in The Age Good Food Guide (not sure if it’s been hatted before) but given that the food wasn’t up to scratch and given that we were still mighty hungry, it was a very expensive meal for us and not really worth it. I would’ve given this place a FAIL but the spatchcock almost saved them from that. ALMOST.
The black skinny tie is BACK!
I think I was eating dessert here.
Hehehe yep Dave, you’re spot on here. Cho Gao snacks were not bad. Those chilli fries again and a small plate of crab croquettes. Adam didn’t really like those croquettes but I actually thought they were decent for bar food.
We stayed there for a bit before leaving as we were starting to get annoyed at all these 18 year olds filling up the place and acting … annoying. And a bunch of gay guys dressed in YMCA gear for some function. The crowd last night just freaked us out.
Post-script: Adam gave me a new camera for my birthday, a Canon Powershot SX100 IS which explains why the pictures look kinda “different” to the photos featured in previous posts. Hopefully, I can produce some better ones once I get the hang of this thing!