As you may have guessed from my little entry last night, I was not denied a first round offer (yippee!). Although I may not have thought much about where I’ll be in 2009 since I lodged my application with VTAC in August last year, I starting to feel increasingly nervous over the weekend and was fretting all day at work. To keep my mind off things, I busied myself with work and focused solely on the hottie personal trainers Mal Walden and the channel 10 news while I was peddling away at the gym after work. At 6pm, I met up with Adam and we both walked to Fed Square where they were giving away special editions of that day’s Herald Sun along with the tertiary places list. Making our way through groups of young boys and girls men and women in predominantly surfie attire, I felt very old. Like I was someone’s mother about to collect the newspaper to stalk every other effing Asian kids’ tertiary placement results or something like that.
So I grabbed myself a paper … but instead of trying to find my name, I flipped through the front to see how many people got accepted into law at Monash. If I saw a number less than 5, then I was screwed; but to my surprise, there was at least 100 people who got in. Double last year’s amount . Then I looked to see how many people got accepted into my second preference, banking and finance/law at Monash (the course that I didn’t really want to do but only applied for it just for the law component, hoping to drop the boring finance component in second year or something). Only about 17 or so. My stomach churning, I turned to the ‘M’s and scanned for my name and there it was. I prematurely jumped up for joy and started hugging Adam in the middle of Fed Square, not knowing which course I was actually accepted into.
After double-checking, it turned out that I got into my second preference (banking and finance/law) which I couldn’t really complain about. Sure, I didn’t get my first preference and sure, I now have to study boring sht like stockmarkets and commercial banking amongst the more juicier subjects like torts and civil law. Oh, let’s not forget that a double degree is going to take me donkey years to finish – no, make that dinosaur years seeing as I’ll be studying part-time while I work. But no really, it was great. I was stoked. A cause for celebration. And with that, we both ran all the way to Crown to have a celebratory dinner at Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons, affectionately known as GAS to the local foodie population.
Located where the old Warner Bros store used to be, GAS serves rustic Roman-style food in a funky, airy toffy-industrial setting with a sexy black backdrop and the lights dimmed down to create a vibe of sophistication … and to make food photo-taking a frustration for people like me. Hot, blustered, and looking a bit worse for wear (hey, I’d just came from the gym and also had to run all the way from Fed Square in high 30 degree heat!) arrived just before 7pm and without a booking because GAS refuses to take them. Although the no-booking policy pisses off many people (including yours truly), I was glad that we were able to waltz into the place without any problems just this once because, after all, it was a spur-of-the-moment dinner decision. The restaurant may have been half-full when we arrived but we were able to nab a pretty decent table past the salumi cabinet (note: no typo, I really did mean “salumi” not “salami”), past the great wall-of-bread and just before the kitchen.
A waiter with a striking resemblance to David Bowie immediately asked us if we would like any water (“Sparkling or still? Tap or mineral?”) before placing a small bowl of bread (a mix of grissini, sourdough and foccacia) on the table and pouring some house-branded olive oil in another small bowl. The menus, merely a simple paper place mat, were already on the table in front of us so the waiter left us alone while we choose a main each and two entrees to share.
First up was a serving of one Robert Marchetti’s famous salumi (a collective term to describe Italian cured meats, including salami), in this case the cacciatore which is made from “all parts” of the black Berkshire pig ($12.00 for about nine slices). Waxy, fresh and with a mild flavour, it was particularly good paired with chunks of sourdough dipped in the oil. The perfect starter to our meal.
($17.00 for three). Hervey Bay, naturally. I scoffed at the “hand dived” bit when I saw it on the menu deeming it perhaps a bit show-offy but after one nibble, my eyes popped out. The juicy Yorker of a scallop was nothing like anything I’ve tasted. One thing that made it differentiate between other instances where I’ve had scallop was the fact that it was so delicate, verging on fragile. GAS, you may hand-dive your scallops anytime. The sweet and tender scallop flesh was tinged by the tangy dressing of lemon and dwarf peaches topped by baby rocket leaves which gave it an awesome kick but without compromising the natural taste of the scallop. The whole experience went a notch further when accompanied by a melodic glass of James Squire golden ale ($7). Sublime.
The mains took one helluva long time to come out but because I was in such a jolly mood, I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I ordered the sea urchin roe spaghettini ($24) not only because everyone else harps on about it, but also because I’ve only had sea urchin once and even then, it was in pureed form (which was okay enough, but then again it was mixed with heaps of other ingredients) so I wanted to see how it tasted in pure roe form. Okay, how do I start? When the waiter came around with our two plates, there was this weird smell that came out of nowhere. I mouthed to Adam, “What the heck stinks?!” before realising that it came from MY plate. I saw pasta. I saw tomatoes. And saw fennel. And after a bit of prodding using my fork, I saw little bits of orange brain-looking mush embedded within my strands of pasta, the sea urchin roe. The smell was slightly making me not want to eat my dinner but nevertheless I decided to keep my mind open and at least have a bite.
To put it nicely, sea urchin roe is an acquired taste. It is briny and has this weird metallic aftertaste… I guess the best way to describe it is that it tastes like the sea, really. Think of Port Melbourne beach: sea urchin roe encapsulates the place in taste. It was very different to the more buttery and subtle-but-nice sea-tasting mash that I had at Shoya. While I managed to eat everything on my plate (and admittedly, forking off half of my orange guck to Adam), it’s fair to say that I won’t be ordering this dish again. Oh yes, the simple dish was technically wonderful and I can understand why food bloggers bow down to it. The blonde strands of pasta was cooked al dente and swathed in light olive oil and garlic; and the fresh tomatoes added a much-added sweet contrast to the otherwise salty roe. In short, it would’ve been a perfect a dish… had I liked sea urchin roe. (Aside: Adam, on the other hand, did like this dish so perhaps you should take his word for it and not mine ).
“La Tagliata”, a 250g Angus Rib Eye which was char-grilled and cooked medium rare ($34). It was dressed with lemon, oil, spring onion, green peppercorns and fresh chilli and garnished with a bunch of rocket leaves and a wedge of lemon. A side of potatoes would’ve gone down nicely with the steak but frankly speaking, we would’ve probably been too full to finish off all the potatoes so we said no to them. It doesn’t matter anyway, the steak was nice enough without the potatoes, juicy and so full of flavour. While not a very ambitious dish, it was nevertheless lovely.
We left at around 8:30pm to a sea of people waiting patiently at the door for a table to open up and a waitress ready to guide the next couple to our already vacant table like clockwork. Adam and I left GAS both full (but not bursting-full) with a spring in our steps. The entire meal took us back $94 which isn’t really what many would call a cheapie “impromptu” meal but given that GAS is a one-hatted restaurant and given that we were both full, I’d say that it’s definitely good value for money (except maybe the salumi which are expensive but ohhhhh so worth it). The service was generally excellent despite some minor issues. For example, I overheard David Bowie v.2 telling other tables that a few of the dishes such as the crab sandwich weren’t available that night yet had failed to tell OUR table the same thing. No biggie really, but they really should be telling that to EVERYONE. Apart from those incidents though, fantastic. Will definitely go back again…
… perhaps skipping the sea urchin roe spaghettini next time .