Sunday, December 12, 2010

Disappointment at Dell'Ugo Southbank

On a Friday night a few weeks ago, my mum received the good news that she had gotten a full time job!  This was fantastic news, and so I decided to take her out to dinner with my sister and great aunt.  I thought - let's go somewhere fancy!  Let's go somewhere expensive!  Let's feast on good food and guzzle good wine!  And because my great aunt has a unit at Southbank, I chose Dell 'Ugo (

I had tried the New Farm Dell 'Ugo some years ago for a Melbourne Cup lunch.  I really loved it - it was really high quality Italian food.  I remember ordering an amazing ravioli and a gorgeous rabbit terrine and thinking it was the best Italian food I had ever had.

Unfortunately Dell 'Ugo Southbank was a different story.  Opening the menu, it soon became clear that everything was very expensive but just didn't sound that appealing.  Plus, there was no veal on the menu - I mean what kind of self respective Italian restaurant doesn't have veal on the menu?

We started off by having the assortment of vegetarian dips served with toasted bread & eggplant cheese balls
Actually this was ok, but it did set us back $23.  $23 for slices of bread with 3 small containers of dip and 3 eggplant cheeseballs.  While the dips were unusual and the balls were quite cheesy and tasty, this appetiser did not score high enough on the yum-expensive matrix, that is, it was not delicious enough to outweigh the cost.

After a disappointing start, I was looking forward to the main.  I had ordered the pork cutlet filled with manchego cheese wrapped in prosciutto pan fried with sage and pork glaze served with potatoes and mushrooms ($38).
Yes yes, it came out on a cool rectangular plate and looked impressive enough at first.  But as I ate the meal, I realised that the pork cutlet was reaaaaally fatty.  And not in a good way.  I was spitting out gristle left right and centre.  And who's idea was it to put a pile of shitaake and enoki mushrooms on the side?  I wasn't sure how this fitted into the whole "Venetian Style Cuisine" touted on the menu.

But the final nail in the coffin for Dell 'Ugo Southbank was this pitiful side dish.
This set us back $12.  If I'm paying $12 for a side dish, I want it to rock my world.  I do not want the cauliflower to be overcooked and the beans to be shriveled beyond all recognition, like someone had nuked them in the microwave for 8 minutes.  For SHAME Dell 'Ugo. 

I will never go back to Dell 'Ugo Southbank.  It was very expensive and the food was average at best.  If you're in the area, try Piaf or Bamboo Basket and steer clear!!
Dell 'Ugo South Bank on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 3, 2010

2010: An Era Odyssey

When I made my booking at Era - mainly due to the fact that no where else decent had a spare table for Melbourne Cup day at such short notice - I did not expect to have an encounter with the sublime.

Upon being presented with the menu at Era, I was placed in the happy position of not being able to make up my mind because everything on it sounded so delicious!  I eventually settled on the seared scallops with broad beans and lobster dumplings.

I love the way a perfectly cooked scallop is juicy and slightly glutinous and has a subtle seafood taste without being overpowering.  The real indicator of a good scallop for me though, is that amazing sweetness that comes through in an aftertaste.  In my view, they are about as good as seafood gets.  I had really hit paydirt here.  I honestly have not seen scallops this colossal.  I mean just get a look at these pillows of juicy seafood nomnom!  And who knew that a humble broadbean could add such subtle complexity to the dish?  The crustacean bisque sauce, drizzled over the plate in flood of yellow velvet, was the crowning glory.

When I put that first morsel from the dish in my mouth, it was like the world slowed down: I got tunnel vision and my eyes went wide as my senses took in the full spectrum of the taste.  While I may be overstating things slightly, after about 15 seconds of experiencing something like the cosmological rebirth scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I returned to consciousness to realise that this was one of the most sensational entrees I had had all year.

After recovering from my Kubrick-style encounter with the monolithic scallops, I was ready for the main event: the rare venison.

While the venison was not quite as mind alteringly profound as the epic scallops, and let's face it, the crisped sweet potato flower was a little naff, the meal really was terrific.  The meat was dark and rich on the outside, while deliciously juicy and ruby red on the inside.  The jus was intense and pungent.  I was definitely getting the meat sweats by the end of this course!

Unlike so many restaurants of its kind, Era is certainly not mean with its portion sizes.  There were at least 7 or 8 slices of tantalising venison fillet my plate.  And underneath was hidden something quite special: a piquant bed of braised red cabbage.  To so many people, cabbage is merely a drab, squidgy, sludge that causes bad gas and is of no real culinary importance.  But add something zesty to it like sherry vinegar or citrus and it turns into a delicious pickley foil for something rich and meaty like venison.

With a meal this good, it's not surprising that my lunchmates and I ate and drank all the way until dinner service was just about to begin!  As the light faded we stepped out blinking into the sunlight to make our way home, full bellied and satisfied at the end of our Era experience. 

Era Bistro on Urbanspoon