St Valentine's Day surprise

The Spouse told me to keep the night of February 14 free for "a surprise", so I happily obliged. I was also warned to eat sparingly during the day, so I guessed we were going out for dinner. We lead a fairly social life and go to a lot of business-related functions, but it's great to have the occasional night out of our own choosing.

And so, fortified only by a small sandwich and a handful of strawberries for lunch, I was ready for what the night held.

The only clue I had was it was somewhere I'd been before. Melbourne has plenty of great restaurants. I've been to quite a few of them and most I was happy to visit again. We hopped on the tram (more relieable and speedier than the local cabs) and headed into the city along with numerous others who were togged up for a night on the town.

As we walked down Swanston Street and headed up Flinders Lane, I had my fingers crossed. Sure enough, our destination was ezard, Teage Ezard's prizewinning restaurant.

We'd visited there twice before and enjoyed stunning menus and excellent service and their Valentine's Day degustation dinner promised to be a memorable experience.

I read somewhere that some restaurants don't like St Valentine's Day - all the bookings are usually for tables for two. That was certainly the case on February 14. No threesomes, foursomes or moresomes in sight.

Here is a taste-by-taste of the night's exquisite fare and the accompanying wines:

  • Truffled wagyu spoon accompanied by Pineau des Charentes from Charentes, France

  • Japanese inspired swordfish shooter. NV Billecart-Salmon Rose from Mareuil-sur-Ay, France.

  • Hiramasa kingfish tataki with ginger and black bean dressing, baby Asian cresses. 2004 Caves de Beblenheim Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, France.

  • Oxtail wonton dumpling with sweet and sour tamarind broth, shaved coconut. 2002 Heymann-Lowenstein Schieferterassen Riesling, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany.

  • Steamed Streaky Bay scallops with green chilli and peanut dressing, spicy Thai salad. 2003 Rene Mure Pinot Gris, Cote de Rouffach, Alsace, France.

  • Steamed tiger prawn rice noodle roll, Chinese wine, ginger soy dressing. 2006 Torbeck Saignee Mataro Rose, Barossa, South Australia

  • Seared quail, cucumber, mint salad, mandarin pancake and plum sauce. 2005 Marcarini Dolcetto d'Alba Fontanazzo, Piedmont, Italy.

  • Sumac spiced lamb with eggplant two ways, soft herb salad, sweet and sour pomegranate. 1998 Wynn's Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia.

  • Chocolate tasting plate for two. Romate Pedro Ximenez, Jerez, Spain.

  • Raspberry chilli chocolate balls. Gravity espresso or T2 tea.

The wine selections certainly enhanced the dishes right from the Cognac/grape juice blend of the Pineau de Charentes, through to the Romate Pedro Ximenez. Even the Pinot Gris stood up well to the aggressively seasoned South Australian scallops.

The food was beautifully presented and explained, as were the subleties of the chosen wines. While it was recommended that the tataki be taken in one bite, I actually had fun deconstructing it and enjoying the individual ingredients.

Teage Ezard calls his food "Australian freestyle" and the influences are clearly Asian, particuarly Chinese and Thai. This was certainly so in this menu. The Thai flavoured broth was an excellent background to the oxtail dumpling and the tiny boned quail and the tiger prawn dish had clear references to Chinese cuisine. And the Middle Eastern influences in the lamb dish made an interesting contrast.

On a previous visit I enjoyed a magnificent oyster shooter and the swordfish one was equally good.

Not having much of a sweet tooth, I might have opted for cheese instead but I still did a valiant job on the chocolate tasting plate - apart from the white chocolate.

I like surprises and this was one of the best - and no, we didn't get separate checks!

Ezard on Urbanspoon




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