Two years ago, Adam and I had only been dating for three months. Not a terribly huge milestone but nonetheless a cause of celebration for me because back then, most of my relationships were as good as over within two months. Heh.
Two years ago, I was still a povo university student (still am now, but at least I’m working 30 hours a week) and so when I got my tax return, I knew I had to take Adam to dinner as a ‘thank you’ gift for taking me to lunch and dinner when I had no money at all.
Two years ago, I decided to take Adam to Ezardas it commanded rave reviews from all around the country. It would be the first time we would enter a fine dining restaurant as a couple. Unfortunately, that night also happened to be the night where we both got hooked. Seriously hooked. And to this day, Ezard has been the cause of our dilapidating bank accounts, our increasingly demanding palates and our propensity to become harder-to-please patrons when it came to haute cuisine. Even as I write this, I’m wondering what would have happened if I had taken Adam to Oriental Spoon for our three month anniversary… heh.
Anyway, it’s been a while since we had been to a fine dining establishment and so I decided to take Adam to Ezard to celebrate our “it’s been two years since our first outing as a couple to a fine dining restaurant” anniversary. Yeah, it sounds stupid but hey, any sort of justification for spending a wad of money on food is better than no excuse at all right ? Having loved our first visit there back in 2007, we were eager to recommend the restaurant to friends over the last two years. When a bunch of them visited in the last few months, however, I was surprised when each of them told me that they didn’t find it as awesome as I did. Whether Ezard was really diminishing because of Teage Ezard’s concentration on Gingerboy or simply because it really DID suck, I don’t know. Hence, tonight’s visit was going to be an interesting one. Was the food going to be as good as it was back in 2007? Were there going to be any major differences? And how does a $65 main taste?
So we rocked up to the New York loft-like basement of the Adelphi Hotel on Flinders La at 6pm where a handful of tables were already filled. We were led towards the nicest corner tables towards the back where it was more romantic than out the front but unfortunately, this also meant that it was much darker than the rest of the already-dim dining room which, of course, meant that photo-taking was going to be a bitch (Libby’s effed up dining mantra: soft romantic lighting = bad, bright lights = good). Rarrrr.
Like last time, we were given bread to start off with. Next to a bowl of Ezard’s Parmesan, garlic and rosemary infused olive oil were a trio of spices which we could dip our breads in or use as seasoning for our meals. My favourite was the nori and bonito salt which I likened to eating a dried agadashi tofu.
Our starter of Ezard’s signature Japanese-inspired oyster shooters ($5.50 each). First, you’re supposed to gulp the contents of the sake glass in one go (ginger, mirin, fresh oyster, wasabi and all) and while your mouth is burning, you then grab the nori filled with soba noodles and chew on it to ease the burning down your throat. A sublime experience and no wonder the restaurant apparently sells about a thousand of these every week. You MUST try this if you go to Ezard. Meanwhile, the little bundle on the Chinese soup spoon is an amuse bouche of lime-cured kingfish which is to give you a taste of what’s to come, I guess. Nothing worth singing about.
Adam’s seared Canadian scallops with spiced pumpkin puree, chorizo and cumin caramel ($24.50). While I’m not a fan of meat and shellfish combinations (tacky 90s surf and turf, much?), I was surprised to find that this dish worked quite well. Traditionally, the succulently sweet and juicy scallops may not have bothered to mesh in with the rough and spicy chorizo crowd on their own but with the help of the smooth and sweet duo of pumpkin puree and cumin caramel, an amicable union was formed. Lovely.
My open wagyu beef burger with quail egg, onion jam, cresses, smoked tomato and truffle oil mayonaise ($25). Another successful dish. The base was an amazing sourdough bread which, despite being smeared with creamy mayonaise and sticky onion jam, remained crispy until the very last bite. There wasn’t a lot of overbearing ingredients in the “burger” which enabled the natural juices of the wagyu mince ball to permutate nicely, and even the chefs went easy on the truffle oil. Delightful.
Our mains took a while to come which made me start to get a little bit cranky. It wasn’t that there was a shortage of waiters around though. The restaurant was filling up to the brim and the waiters had to deal with more than a few food wankers who HAD to ask stupid questions like where the beef came from (like you would be able to tell the difference, you fat feck, and like your date even cares) and at what temperature the fish is to be seared at. Grrr. The food eventually did come though.
Adam’s seven score wagyu beef with sake roasted king brown mushrooms, garlic jam, black vinegar and shallot glaze ($65). This was clearly the most expensive dish on the menu so we were both somewhat surprised to see that it wasn’t as big as we had imagined. Never mind, we thought, it’s all about quality. Actually, the dish was nice. The sirloin steak, cooked med-rare and sliced for our convenience, was literally cooked to perfection. If I had to show a philistine how a perfect med-rare was like, then this would be it. The problem, however, lay in the sauce which I thought was too heavy, too fancy and OMG, TOO SWEET for the wagyu. The same sauce would have been nice on something deep and gamey like venison but I just felt that the wagyu, which was already flavoursome on its own, needed something a little lighter to bring out its natural flavours. On the other hand, I did like the crispy taro chips on top, hehe. So yes, I did like the dish despite the heavy sauce but I didn’t think it was worth $65.
My pan-fried local sea bream with cauliflower cream, roasted jerusalem artichokes, seared scallop, caviar and chive oil ($47.50). Please forgive the poor quality photo. Given how rich and how sweet Adam’s main was, my lighter meal was a welcome treat despite the fact that it lacked the complexities that Adam’s main boasted. While I would have liked my fish to be cooked for 45 seconds shorter and while I wished I could tell Ezard that molecular gastronomy was soooo three years ago, it was nevertheless an excellent dish which each unique element providing their own subtle nuances to the final package.
A side of green beans with a tofu and sesame sauce ($10.50). They were pleasant enough for a side dish but we could have done without.
We were about 80% full at this stage but we couldn’t leave without ordering the ezard dessert tasting plate ($45.50). Not surprisingly, it didn’t fail to amaze but I reckoned that last time’s dessert plate was so much better. Despite the fact that both our visits occured in August, I found it interesting that the plate we ordered in 2007 consisted of predominantly light and zesty Summer notes whereas the plate we had tonight contained richer and warmer desserts. No wonder we were so stuffed and bloated afterwards. All the desserts were fine (apart from the thyme ice cream which was way too weird and clearly “influenced” by Jacques Reymond’s oregano ice cream) but my favourite was the cherry ripe ice cream – too good!
The total bill was $252 but we managed to bring it down to $202 thanks to the Entertainment book discount. This included a coffee for Adam ($6.50) and very strong and textured Red Claw pinot gris for me ($9.50). We had a great time tonight but felt that perhaps Ezard was losing their magic touch which charmed us two years ago. Whether this was because Teage Ezard was, in fact, focusing on Gingerboy and other projects or whether we were easier to please back then or whether we are more experienced diners – or a combination of all three – is something that I’m not sure about. Indeed, the service lagged towards the end of the evening and there seems to be a shift from Asian to more European influences on the menu which may have changed the quality of the food and not necessarily for the better. Regardless, Ezard still manages to draw a crowd and if tonight’s full house is anything to go by, it’ll remain a fixture in Melbourne’s fine dining scene for years to come.
Something weird’s happening with my arms…
PS: On the upside though, at least my food writing has improved since then!