5 Gamon St
Entrees: $10 - $15
Mains: $19 - $30
Desserts: $9 - $12
This Modern Australian Cafe turned French Eatery just got better. The bustling cafe is home to many a "yummy mummy" and her bug-a-boo during the day, serving fabulous coffee with local brunch favourites such as perfectly cooked poached eggs with avocado and fresh tomato a-top sourdough toast spread with promite. Tonight I experienced the grown up version of this busy little hot spot. A new (and bound) sophisticated menu hosts some lovely entree and main choices with just enough options to allow you to ponder leisurely over a glass of the delicious sangiovese.
Service is down to Earth, super friendly and damned efficient. The owner-slash-waiter, Andy, is more than happy to help you choose a glass of wine to your preferred taste and will give you as much or as little time as you need to select your dishes. Without regret, I chose the chicken, pork and pistachio terrine with onion jam for entree. The terrine was just the right kind of "fatty" and meaty with a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth flavour and had no unpleasant metallic after taste that I find some terrines leave. The onion jam has just that right amount of tang to cut through the smoothness of the terrine and was a delicious accompaniment. My only complaint (however minor) would be that the toast is a bit too thick and not as "crunchy" as I tend to prefer with this sort of dish.
My dining companions had the scallops and black pudding; and the smoked cod fritters. After trying small amounts of each I have the following comments: the scallops were juicy and well-cooked, the black pudding was rich (I could smell it from across the table) and comforting and the smoked cod fritters were nourishing and definitely tasty, if a little dry.
Our mains were brought to the table with about 10 minutes wait between courses. I had John Dory wrapped in prosciutto with cauliflower puree and a red wine sauce. 9/10 for presentation. It looked like something you want to eat immediately. The red wine sauce was thick without being sickly and the cauliflower puree - oh.my.god. Finding the occasional lump of cheese in the sauce was like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Three times. The fish (three small-ish fillets) itself was good but perhaps slightly overcooked. Only very slightly, though. The prosciutto was deliciously salty but didn't overpower the fish and provided slightly crispy texture and a whack of flavour - again - without overpowering the fish or the dish.
I can vouch for the eye fillet steak, "cooked at the Chef's discretion", and served with roasted kiflers and bearnaise - yum. The risotto was citrusy, light and again, held little cheese surprises that were akin to the rainbow paradigm.
Now to that special part of the evening - dessert. Not for a second do I regret my last-minute decision to forgo cheese for white chocolate parfait served with strawberry salad. This parfait is going to haunt me in a good way (perhaps). In fact, whilst writing this, I'm still full to the point of bursting - but the thought of the parfait has me watering at the mouth once more. Smooth, white-chocolatey, ah-mazing (I would go so far as to describe the white chocolate as: chocolat blanc, oh yes, we all know that once things are in French - albeit with rough translation and meaning the same thing, it elevates them to a point beyond an English description.
The chocolate pudding had my chef brother weak at the knees and the pear and rhubarb crumble was so big I'd advise you to... eat it slowly so as to fit it all in (did you think I was going to say share?)
My coffee was nice, but it's always been nicer during the day. My brother found his long macchiato a little bit bitter, as well.
The sangiovese (of course, I forget the winery and vintage...) was my special treat and I treated myself twice on this cold, winter's night. Whilst it probably wasn't the most suited choice to my dishes, I found it a warm and delightful companion anyway.
This is the second night Le Chien has been open for dinner and they've so far done a very fine job of transforming the fun little cafe into an intimate, relaxing and inviting dinner space. I told the owner when we were chatting at the end that I would recommend it to my friends. Well, recommend it, I definitely do. I'll definitely be going back for seconds.
NB: Picture at top borrowed from http://www.theage.com.au/