Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
+61 9292 7899
I’m back, guys! No, I have not returned from some exotic location with a tan to boot nor have I had my internet capped or anything. Quite simply, I’ve been busy with exams. Having to deal with exam date mix-ups, lost USB sticks and a closed book constitutional law exam (FML FML FML FML FML FML) meant that I haven’t had time to sit down and blog. Oh, but I’ve ate. And drank. And ate some more. Blogging, however, is something totally different. And while a two-week absence isn’t normally that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, a LOT can happen in two weeks. New restaurants open, soup are cast aside to make way for couscous salads and leading ladies of popular TV shows get killed off. But anyway, back to food.
The first review off the Flinders Street station rank will be about a dinner that Shirls and I attended two months ago (!!), one which has been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time (along with Brad Pitt). The photos may be of crappy quality and the commentary may be sketchy (after all, it has been two months) but whatever, a review is being posted tonight and that’s all that matters! (cue appropriate segue to) … Number 8. Apparently Derryn Hinch’s favourite restaurant and one that always seems to be packed to the rafters (okay, I’ll stop now) whenever I stroll past. Like most Crown restaurants, they do a Monday – Friday pre-theatre special where one can enjoy two courses for $43 if they dined before 7pm. Because Shirley and I like early weekday dinners and being tight arses, we decided to give Number 8 a go.
Sitting in an almost-bare restaurant, the waitresses immediately put our chompers to work by bringing us fresh, warm bread and two dips in place of the usual olive oil or butter. A pile of smooth sweet potato gunk appealed to Shirley’s sweet tooth whereas I preferred the garlicky white bean dip. We both thought that this was a great start to the meal. I really wish that more restaurants would bring out dips – don’t get me wrong, I love butter and olive oil is my BFF but to bring out something that’s slightly unusual, well, that gets my vote.
While she had juice, I had a glass of Albarino Valminor DO Rias Baixas (2009 ($15.45). It was a wonderfully complex blend of fragrant citrus notes with a slightly creamy finish. I was glad I gave my usual riesling a miss that night.
Shirley’s entree: Salt and pepper calamari, tomato and lime compote, aïoli and chive dressing. To me, this was their interpretation of the famous pan-Asian dish, the salt and pepper squid. While the squid had a lovely soft texture that was easy to chew, I felt that the dish was a bit too bland. In addition, there was no heat and no cohesion between the squid and the
compote salad (and why the effk are they calling it a compote?!). Give me $10 plates of salt and pepper squid from Dessert House any time.
My entree: Handmade ricotta gnocchi, fresh tomatoes, basil, Jingilli olive oil. Those of you who know me will be like, “Since when do you voluntarily order gnocchi at restaurants, miss?!” Well, since the only other option on the pre-theatre menu was wagyu carpaccio, I really did have no choice (and I was over ordering carpaccio for entrees). Okay, so I have a choice which was to order the same dish as Shirley but c’mon, what foodie orders the same thing as their dining companion?! Anyway, the gnocchi was surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because apart from the gnocchi at Ladro, I’ve never had good gnocchi at a restaurant before. I liked that the dressing was a simple, light medley of the freshest herbs and vegies – that went extremely well with the carb-heavy gnocchi. And the whole thing just about filled me up before I even reached my main.
Shirley’s main: Roasted Cone Bay barramundi, baby fennel, à la grecque dressing. You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought that this dish looked dryer than a creek bed during the drought years. The kitchen kept it simple with a slab of barramundi that was roasted until most of its moisture was sucked out, then plonked among a bunch of baby fennel quarters before being drizzled with a simple olive oil and herb dressing. Actually, ‘drizzled’ is too generous of a word – there was hardly any dressing at all. Greek gods such as Aphrodite look hot naked, but not dishes like this. Far out.
My main: Free-range Bendigo chicken breast, organic white polenta, herb salad, spiced jus. Although it was also on the dry side, my chicken fared better than Shirley’s fish. The fact that it actually had wet elements in it (i.e. polenta, more than a negligible amount of jus) helped too. While it was an adequate dish (barring dryness), I didn’t feel any excitement when eating this.
We also shared a side of roasted potatoes, smoked paprika and thyme oil. They were crunchy to the bite and surprisingly tasty which is more than I could say for most of the stuff we had tonight.
Despite our lackluster meal, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert. Shirley opted for a serving of Cocoa Barry Venezuela chocolate fondant, hazelnut praline, milk ice cream, Pedro Ximenez reduction ($16). It was a beautifully executed dessert, the highlight being the chocolate fondant that was as rich and warm as Barry White’s voice and just as seductive. The milk ice cream was there to provide a lovely, cooling contrast in case things got a little bit too hot on the fondant side (which it did). Thanks for the sugar, sugar.
I went simple with my dessert: a trio of sorbets and ice creams ($14). At $14, three scoops is a bit of a rip especially when you can get three scoops of better-tasting ice cream at Trampoline a few blocks down. Still, I didn’t mind the subtly sweet vanilla bean and hazelnut ice creams nor did I mind the vivaciously tangy raspberry sorbet. Not a bad way to cap off what was otherwise a rather predictable meal where the highlight of it was the complimentary dips.