My culinary adventure continued this week, venturing a little further down Flinders Street in Melbourne, down a side street to Shane Delia’s middle-eastern restaurant, Maha. I thought I’d start by running through some of my favourite dishes on the menu.
Roast quail, cocoa nibs, candied walnuts and quinoa, chicken parfait bastilla, coffee and cardamon air.
I like the combination of the cocoa and coffee with the quail, which is not something I would have thought of. The soft chicken parfait contrasted by the crunch of its brik pastry shell is heavenly. I love a well-made chicken liver parfait, and this one is particularly delicious. I endeavour to steal the parfait recipe before I leave!
Oyster katifi, puffed and bbq corn salad, smoked and salted almonds, tomato and sumac foam.
I don’t want to like this dish, as I fundamentally disagree with the cooking of oysters, but the contrast of texture between oyster and pastry makes it pretty hard to resist! Sumac is a spice I hadn’t used much up until recently but now I love it. Compliments the tomato nicely in this dish, but is used at The Press Club to flavour strawberries in one of the desserts.
Turkish delight donuts, candied almonds, almond ice cream
Anyone who has eaten at Maha will almost certainly have had these donuts. I was silly enough to eat one almost straight out of the deep fryer, and burnt the crap out of my tongue on the molten turkish delight contained within. In fact, they are so popular that the other desserts on the menu rarely get ordered. It’s actually a bit of a shame, as there are some cracking desserts on the menu, my favourite being the sweet corn cream with salted caramel and nut butter ice-cream. It was ordered too scarcely for me to get a photo of it!
It would also be criminal of me to not put up the photos of Quay I took when I went on the weekend. It was my first visit to the 3-hatted, 27th best restaurant in the world (according to S.Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurant awards) The restaurant also won the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards 2010 and The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2010. After recently acquiring Peter Gilmore’s Quay cookbook, I was excited to say the least.
Simply put, the food was inspiring. Quay is the pinnacle of fine dining in Australia, and along with the views of the harbour bridge and opera house, it made for a very memorable experience. I have met chef Peter Gilmore a few times, and it’s very pleasing to know that he is a very down-to-earth, friendly guy. I think sometimes people assume that top chefs have big egos or are arrogant, and this couldn’t be further from the truth here. Adam and I had to re-create Peter’s ‘snow egg’ dessert in the finale of Masterchef, and so I think Quay will always be pretty special to me as it was involved in a big part of my life. My photos do not do the food justice, as the dim lighting means that the dishes all look rather dark and brown. I hope you will get the gist though. Enough talk, I’ll let the food speak for itself!
Smoked eel & sea scallop pearl, horseradish
Salad of pink turnips & breakfast radishes, violets, olives, pine resin, balsamico
Gentle braise of pearl oyster, Southern rock lobster velvet, shaved squid, tapioca, lettuce heart, oyster cream, pea flowers
Butter poached coturnix quail breast, morel and ethical foie gras pudding, walnuts, quinoa, truffle custard, milk skin
Slow braised Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil
White nectarine snow egg
8-textured chocolate cake
I could write about Quay for hours, but I think it may be best if I don’t add too much text to this already rather lengthy post.
Lessons learned this week:
- It’s fun to experiment with flavour combinations that you wouldn’t always think are going to work. As shown in my Maha photos, I think the coffee and quail goes well, and as mentioned sumac and strawberries is delicious.
- If you are going to treat yourself to a meal at a top restaurant, I think it’s worth doing it properly and getting the degustation, so you can sample the best of what the kitchen has to offer. It is usually the more expensive way to dine, but I would rather spend more money and go out less often. The same applies with food you buy too- I would rather buy 100g of a beautiful artisan triple cream brie than 500g of supermarket brie for the same money. Chocolate is another example, if I had $10 to spend I would get the best quality stuff and have a little bit rather than a kilogram of poor quality chocolate.
- Don’t burn your tongue on piping hot donuts. Not only does it hurt, it also makes tasting dishes for seasoning slightly more of a challenge!