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.