Last weekend, twitterverse was abuzz with the hash tag #tasteofmelbourne. It was, of course, referring to this amazing event: Taste of Melbourne, held over a period of 4 days at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.
I’m sure many of you are already familiar with how Taste of Melbourne works, but if you aren’t, then very quickly:
From the Taste website:
Taste of Melbourne is unlike any other food and drink event.
For four days, selected restaurants will set up full professional kitchens to deliver a degustation menu like no other. These restaurants are offering over 40 of the city’s most tantalizing signature dishes and this is just the start. It all takes place under one roof at the fabulous Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton and will be the ultimate dinner party experience.
These taste-sized signature dishes are purchased with “Crowns” – the festival currency which can also be used to buy fine wines, champagnes and specialty beers from a range of bars and quality drink purveyors. Each signature dish will cost just 8-12 Crowns ($8 – $12).
A Taste Session lasts for 4 hours (5 on Sunday) and allows you enough time to browse around the event and enjoy the various features such as The Australian Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen, Taste Wine with Gourmet Traveller Wine, the Australian Gourmet Traveller Chef’s Table and the Producers Market with over 100 fine food and drink exhibitors.
Let me just begin by saying that 4 hours is hardly enough to eat AND browse through the event. I didn’t get the chance to go through all the different stalls and try out all the different wines! That said, I did enjoy myself incredibly. Here are the dishes I tried on the day:
Maze Restaurant and Maze Grill
Seared cured Marlborough King Salmon, warm sweet corn and potato salad
This was amazing. The salmon was melt-in-your-mouth awesome and every little bit of this dish just screamed magnificent. Done to perfection and I’d be very happy to pay the full price for this dish at Maze anytime. If it was based on this one dish alone, I’d be very happy to make a booking for a dinner at Maze right this instant. It was that good.
Wallaby Tataki, ginger soy, horseradish
This was my first time tasting wallaby, which was part of my reason for picking this dish. Kangaroo, wallaby, kangaroo, wallaby… I think I can’t quite pick a favourite between the two and having tasted both now, I like them equally. It was good! But the soy sauce was just a tad too salty. Not enough push factor from this dish to start seriously contemplating going to Charcoal Lane though. Having said that, this restaurant does come highly recommended, so I might add it to my restaurant list anyways.
The Palace Wagyu Burger
I didn’t actually try it myself but I have it on good faith that this was really really good. It did sell out on opening night after all! I heard that it was a little dry on the Saturday so obviously there’s some lack of consistency going on. I wish I had tried the eye fillet from The Palace. Maybe next year!
Mezzo Bar & Grill
Organic slow braised pork cheek, white polenta, raisins and marsala sauce
Having heard so many rave reviews on twitter for this dish, it was with high expectations that I handed over my 8 crowns for this. Unfortunately, despite claims of how amazingly tender the pork cheek was, mine was like a brick. The spork that I use to jab at it bent upon contact. It was with great effort that this dish was finally finished, after having been tried and rejected by everyone in our group. Perhaps the one I got was a dud. Who knows? It was definitely a waste of 8 crowns.
Wagyu Beef Cigars, artichoke tapenade and horseradish
Definitely one of the highlights of the evening. Stokehouse shone like a bright star on a dark night and for me, this was the restaurant that was King. The Wagyu beef cigars were a true stroke of genius and we had lots of fun posing with the cigars before devouring them like a small child. The artichoke tapenade and horseradish went beautifully with the cigars and I cannot wait to try them again. In fact, I’m eagerly awaiting the reopening of Stokehouse as I’d love to make a booking for the later part of this year.
Duck Tortelloni with pea puree and truffle oil
This was a downright no for me. Cold and clammy, the pasta was also thick and chewy. The duck filling was indeed very tasty and it would have been a pleasant dish if not for the fact that the pasta ruined it all. I am keen to give The European the benefit of the doubt tho, and might try to book myself in for a night there. Maybe. Does anybody have any opinions on them? Like them, hate them? Let me know!
Pistachio ‘panna cotta’, caramel salted popcorn
The panna cotta was creamy and rich and every bite was luxurious. But there was one pertinent problem – I couldn’t taste any pistachio in it. When I spoke with some other stallholders who had tried this dessert, they too said that they couldn’t taste the pistachio in it. Did you try this at the event, and if you did, could you taste it?
The popcorn on the other hand was worth every single crown we had paid for it. I’d have dearly loved a larger quantity as it was incredibly satisfying to eat! My mission now is to make popcorn like Sarti. I could live on a diet of caramel salted popcorn.
Raspberry & Rosella Flower Cannelloni, Strawberry & native mint salad
It was pleasant but not particularly attention-grabbing. 2 out of 3 of Charcoal Lane dishes and both had failed to impress. But as I mentioned before, the recommendations behind this place are solid. Perhaps I just need to find the dish that has my name written all over it.
And for the rest of the event, I did heaps of wine tastings, cheese tastings and even managed to score some of my favourite Kiwi wine from the Yarra Valley regional producers. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Taste, and if you went to this year’s Taste of Melbourne, I hope you did too!
Thank you to 65degrees, Green & Black and Penny for the tickets to this event. You made me and my friends very happy!
Here are some other bloggers who have covered the event:
See you at Taste 2011!!