The Grain Store – European Dinner Flair

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Grain Store Menu for the night

I have been a HUGE fan of The Grain Store ever since its inception (check out my previous blog here for them – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-grain-store-honest-cooking/ )– initially starting off with trying their breakfast menu (a few times!) and then branching out to try their lunch menu. I loved all of their food, ingredients and plating up of dishes. So naturally I was excited when I received an invite from Zilla & Brook,  to try out their latest dinner offering at an intimate bloggers’ dinner.

On arrival we were all greeted and asked to select from a choice of drinks. I opted for Hepburn Mineral Springs Organic Lemonade which was refreshing and perfect after walking from Southgate to the venue.

As the rest of the bloggers started to arrive, we received small starters which were elegantly presented in clear egg shaped glass cups. You could see the distinction of two layers through the clear glass – a savoury mushroom jelly topped with a layer of pumpkin foam and finished with a crisp triangle of chickpea biscuit. The combination was delicious – the vibrant mushroom flavour paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin. The silky jelly combined with the smooth foam was a texture party for your senses.

Once we had all sampled the starter we were led into an intimate private dining room which had been set up especially for us. It was a cosy group of about 15 of us – which was the perfect size. When we were all seated, head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and gave us some information about the Grain Store – its background, philosophy and ideologies. Meissner himself is from Europe and hence there are many Mediterranean and French influences throughout the menu – that utilise both traditional and new techniques.
The Grain Store sources local produce – for example the Burrata is from Carlton, the duck is from Daylesford. But their main point of difference is that they have their very own Rooftop Garden where they grow seasonal produce – as well as the pretty flowers, petals for that little bit of jazz when plating up – that ends up on your plate. What a great idea!

The night started off with Entrees which was a selection of three small dishes – all plated up on the one plate which I thought was a great idea to showcase a variety of their dishes succinctly. These dishes included:
Green asparagus, burrata, char-grilled orange, black barley, hazelnut, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks
As I couldn’t have the Poached Veal Fillet – I was substituted with a salad consisting of a variety of ingredients.

The plating up of this dish was done really well – with the standout definitely being the bright purple cauliflower; everyone was wondering what taste they would have when they took their first bit into it. The cauliflower had been beetroot cured and therefore had a bit of tang to it – really good! Each of the components worked well together and I especially loved the black barley – which not only added texture but a great earthy tone to the dish. I loved the addition of orange to this dish to add an element of sweet and citrus.

The scallop component was definite highlight amongst the other dishes on this Entrée plate – the scallop had been seared to perfection and flavoured well. The butternut boudin noir sandwich was a welcome component adding a sweet touch to combine with the ricotta and lemon curd. I enjoyed the finish of the crisp leek – adding depth to the dish.

Next up was the mains – we were served alternative dishes between a Fish dish and a Duck dish – Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel slaw, Nicola potato, crème fraiche, caramelised carrot and pine nuts. There was a resounding “delicious” for the guests in the room that had this dish – with the duck being succulently cooked and the flavours of the fennel furthur enhancing the duck flavour. The Nicola potato component that it came served was glistening and looked divine!

I had the Lakes Entrance Dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa. This dish was plated up simply, yet it was a colourful visual spectacle. The star attraction was the fish which front and centre and sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle (I asked Ingo later how it was made and he told me that it was made much like that of pasta – with flour and eggs, with the addition of herbs to give it that vibrant green colour), and surrounded by the asparagus and the charred corn salsa. Each component added flavour and texture to the dish. The Dory fillets were lightly battered on the outside and cooked well – resulting in soft white kernels of delicious fish on the inside. I loved the look, feel and taste of the spätzle – it was the first time I was eating this and I was highly intrigued – it is the type of dish that you keep going back for more as it is easy to eat and tastes great. The charred corn salsa had the perfect level of smokiness that worked well with the simple flavours of the fish. I would definitely recommend this dish!

Whilst we were eating our mains we were also given polenta chips topped with herbs and salt – which came out stacked like a jenga game. They were really tasty as well – crispy on the outside with a dense softness on the inside. A really great side dish addition to enhance your food experience.

It had been a great night of conversation and simply designed tasty food so far but my favourite part of any meal was still to come. For dessert we lucky enough to be served a selection of desserts which included – Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, coca nibs together with a Grain Store Soufflé (Strawberry with Goats Cheese sorbet and fresh strawberries).
It was a tough choice of deciding where to begin on this sweet delight. I started with the black forest gateau – dense, rich and with added flavour from the berry centre. The chocolate ganache was the bomb – smooth, silky and full of chocolate goodness – you could seriously eat bucket loads of this ganache. The vanilla panna cotta came in a pyramid bite size piece – it was creamy and yet another delicious component.
The Grain Store Soufflé was delightful – light, soft, melt in your mouth and filled with a strawberry flavour. A truly great dish! I wasn’t a huge fan of the goats cheese sorbet that was its accompaniment and felt soufflé on its own was all that was needed.

The night was a fantastic event to meet new people and exchange stories, compare notes – all in the name of food – and more! The Grain Store should be a place that should be added to your list of restaurants that you must try in Melbourne – be if for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All dishes that I have tried here are delicious and well worth the effort.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at The Grain Store as a guest by Zilla & Brook, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.grainstore.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.grainstore.com.au/
517 Flinders Lane
Tel No: 9972 6993

Opening Hours:
Breakfast & Lunch
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Dinner
Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grainstore517
Instagram: GrainStore517
Twitter:@GrainStore517

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B’Stilla – Moroccan Talk of the Town

panda-4-rating1

halal symbol* NOTE THE GOAT, BEEF and LAMB are all Halal Certified.

It was birthday dinner time and I picked B’Stilla to try out. B’Stilla is a newly opened Moroccan restaurant tucked away behind Chapel Street in South Yarra. When I was making the booking I enquired if the meat was halal and co-owner Leon Kennedy was fantastic in responding and letting me know that the beef, goat and chicken are all Halal Accredited. Great service already!

B’Stilla is a modern and spacious restaurant with an open kitchen and an outside seating area in the form of a long terrace which has overhead industrial heaters and plastic screens to keep the cold out. It is named after Morocco’s most famous pastry dish – the sweet-savoury B’stilla. This is the latest project from Jason Jones who co-founded Mamasita and remains a co-owner, and Leon Kennedy (Padre, Proud Mary). Both took a trip to Morocco and fell in love with the cuisine and enrolled in cooking courses to learn more, and then forged ahead with this venture. The aim is to deliver authentic and approachable Moroccan food, celebrating essential balance of flavours and fresh local produce and it safe to say that B’Stilla ticks all of these boxes.

There is a real Moroccan feel to the place with its lattice of the 8 point star that is reminiscent with any Moroccan theme. This continues in ochre colours under the bar in the form of tessellated tiles. The open kitchen is lined with tagines and colourful preserved fruits and overlooks into a red painted dining area. This is where we were seated on this Friday night. There are simple wooden tables and chairs to further enhance the casual yet classy feel.

The menu is designed to share and is split up into smaller entrée size dishes, followed by larger dishes which consist of three different tagines and dishes like lamb shoulder and beef ribs. There there are seven different salads to choose from and of course dessert to finish off the meal. There are Banquet options available as well (refer to the Menu section below for options and pricing). There are plenty of vegetarian dishes available as well which makes the menu robust to all. In addition to this, if you flip the menu over there is a handy glossary on the back that run you through some of the elements mentioned in the dishes. I think this is a great idea – saves the customer from whipping out their smart phone and googling what each thing is or asking the wait staff.

After perusing the menu for a while we settled on a couple of the smaller dishes, two of the larger dishes with a salad – leaving room for dessert. I also ordered a mocktail – which had pineapple, passionfruit and mint flavours which was quite tasty as well. They ask you what flavours you want and make one up to suit that. Whilst we were waiting for our meals, we were brought out complimentary tea for each of us together with a small piece of date shortbread. This was a nice touch I thought and typically Moroccan. The mint tea was full of flavour and was a great way to start a meal.

The first dish we got was the Lamb Ribs, Apricot and Cardamom. This was a super tasty dish – the lamb was cooked delicately and just fell off the bone – the apricot sauce added a sweetness to this dish. Having sweet flavours mixed with lamb was a great combination. Next of the entrée dishes was the Chargrilled Whole Prawn, Pil Pil and the Rgahaif – we got the spinach, eggplant, almond and yoghurt option ( there is also an oxtail option). The Rgaghaif was one of my favourite dishes of the night – it reminded me of a samosa in a sense – it was pastry wrapped with spinach, eggplant, almond and yoghurt. The pasty was homemade and delicious – I could eat loads of the pastry all on its own. The mix of flavours with the mentioned ingredients was tasty and the spices added to it was a great hit, with the almond finishing the flavour palate. The prawn dish was good but not great – the prawns were grilled perfectly and the addition of the Pil Pil (which is made of garlic, chilli, lemon and parsley) added to the flavour of the prawn – there was just something lacking. The last of the dishes we got was the Medfouna – Beef Cheek, Cashews, Potato, Labne – this dish was yet another winner. It resembled what looked like a meat pie but tasted so much better! The filling was moist and flavoursome and each element worked perfectly together.

After letting our entrees settle we were ready to take on the mains. We ordered the Cous Cous Marrakech with Seven Vegetables, Seven Spices, Smen (which is oregano infused butter that has been aged and fermented). We also ordered the Fish Kefta Tagine and the Lamb Shoulder with the side of the Cauliflower, Pine Nut Paste, Ras el Hanout and Herbs Salad. Both the Cous Cous and Fish came in tagine dishes and were filled to the brim – serving sizes here at B’Stilla are quite generous. The Cous Cous with Seven Vegetables was flavoursome and fresh – the cous cous was cooked to perfection as were the vegetables which were piled up high atop the cous cous. Some of the veggies included chickpeas, potato, sweet potato, cabbage and zucchini.

The Fish Kefta Tagine comes with black cabbage, saffron and potato and was delicious. The fish kefta’s were green in colour which I thought was really interesting but do not let that fool you as the flavour was great. The juice I did find to be a bit runny and not as flavoursome – I think I would have preferred it to be a bit thicker in consistency. The Lamb Shoulder was another favourite dish of mine – it came with Ginger, Cumquats, Parsnip and Sumac. The lamb was once again cooked beautifully and was soft and tender and coupled with the parsnip puree was delicious. The cumquats added a tang to the dish as well. The side of cauliflower was also outstanding – the cauliflower being lightly charred and coupled with the pine nut paste and the ras el hanout and herbs was a great addition and complement to all the other dishes had.

We were all so full from the entrees and the larger dishes, but decided to share some desserts amongst the five of us. We got the Persimmon, Mehalabeya, Amlou dessert and the Rosewater Flan with Dates and Walnut Nougatine. The winner and standout out of these two was definitely the Rosewater Flan. The flan was something between a crème caramel and a crème brulee and had the right amount of wobbliness. The dish was creamy and smooth and the addition of the crispy walnut nougatine added texture to the dish. The Mehalabeya dessert I thought were just different elements put together on a dish that didn’t really mesh together all that well for me – I would have liked to have had more of the Mehalabeya component.

B’stilla also has a strong focus on coffee and serves French Press and Cold Drip – both of which are African varieties from Proud Mary Coffee. The staff are friendly and well informed about the menu, and always are energetic and have a smile on their face and are happy to help out at anytime. We were lucky enough to have Leon serving us, and he gave us a good background about the restaurant.

B’Stilla is a great addition to South Yarra and the fact that it is embracing Morrocan cuisine is a big win. The food is delicious and encompasses great ingredients in imaginative and unique combinations and the presentation is fantastic as well. The focus on a shared dish menu I think is great and more restaurants should encourage this. For a taste of Moroccan in Melbourne definitely check this place out.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://bstilla.com/menu.pdf. There are also Banquet menus available – 5 dishes and sides (savoury only) at $45 pp or 8 dishes and sides (includes desserts) at $65 pp. For Lunch there is a 3 course lunch menu for $35 pp. A minimum of two people are required for the Banquet menus.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Modern and Classy. It is a chilled out place and is reminiscent of being a piece of Morocco in Melbourne.
Standout Dish: Rgahaif –spinach, eggplant, almonds, yoghurt AND Lamb shoulder, ginger, cumquats, parsnip, sumac
Service: Fantastic, Super Friendly and Helpful. Staff always have a smile on their face and make you feel welcomed.
Online Booking: No. Point to note – Half the restaurant is reserved for bookings and the rest available for walk ins
For bookings, there are two seating times available: 6:00pm to 8.15pm OR 8:30pm to late
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://bstilla.com/
30b Bray St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9826 2370

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday – 5.30pm – Late
Friday & Saturday – 12.00pm – Late

B'Stilla on Urbanspoon

Fenix – Venue with a View

Dinner at Fenix was my second time here. This time it was for a girlfriends Hens Night, the previous time it was for Lunch. I have to admit that when I was told that we were going to Fenix for dinner, I wasn’t looking forward to it because the last time when I came for lunch I wasn’t very impressed. The food was not bad, but from a Gary Mehigan restaurant I was expecting a LOT more. But I have to say that the experience and the food this time around was a lot better and the food was delicious! Not all dishes were fantastic but a majority of the dishes we had were great tasting dishes and all the girls enjoyed their meals. One thing that is consistent is the service – both times it was impeccable and friendly.

Fenix is owned by Masterchef Judge and Chef Gary Mehigan in the picturesque part of Richmond with overlooking views of the Yarra River. The restaurant is split level and impressive with its floor to ceiling glass windows surrounding the whole venue to allow for the views. On the higher level, there is a fire place which sets the mood to cosy and is great for those wintry Melbourne nights. The set up is formal yet somewhat casual at the same time and the friendly staff do make you feel at ease. Fenix upstairs also serves as a reception centre for weddings or cocktail functions. For further info refer to the following link – http://www.fenix.com.au/page/Weddings.

As we walked into Fenix and were shown to our table we were greeted by none other than Gary Mehigan himself. Gary went around to each of the tables that night and said hello and had a little chat which I thought was a very nice touch. When he came over to our table (of 15 girls mind you) he obliged to take a photo with about 8 different cameras. Gary was very obliging and even suggested different poses for the different cameras.

My friend who had booked for the Hen’s Dinner was told at the time of booking that we would need to pick from the set menu either 2 or 3 courses, however when we got there and were looking at the menu’s we were told that we could pick from the A la Carte menu and choose any of the dishes, so we didn’t have that restriction. This was very nice of them as we had free reign on the menu. Most of the girls had  selection of Entrées and main, whilst some had all three courses – Entrée, Main and Dessert (Yes…I was one of them =p).

For the Entrée I ordered Blue Swimmer Crab Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Cashews and Black Garlic Dressing. These Zucchini Flowers were very tasty and the right amount of seasoning. The Crab was cooked perfectly and together with the black garlic dressing made for a great combination. The other Entrée I tried was the Atlantic Salmon Ceviche with Watermelon, Persian Feta and Coriander Shoot Salad. The mixture of salmon with the fresh flavours of the watermelon was delicious! This Entrée was actually one of my favourite dishes of the night. The addition of lime added the extra tang and further enhanced the feta used.

My main dish was Yellow fin tuna & spanner crab spaghettini, confit tomatoes, olives & lemon. There was an addition of caviar and breadcrumbs. I really enjoyed the breadcrumbs which added to the texture of the dish. The spaghettini was nicely flavoured, however I wasnt a fan of the yellow fin tuna. The yellow fin tuna still had an overly “fishy” taste and some bits were dry. I also tried the Ricotta & basil gnocchi, Otway forest shiitake mushrooms, spring peas. This is one of the best Gnocchi dishes I have tasted. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and as I am a huge fan of mushrooms, was the best compliment to the dish. The Squid Ink Risotto, Seared Japanese Scallops, Green Asparagus Salad was also great. There was a tang mixed in with the flavours of squid and scallops. All dishes were of a generous serving size and were really filling. I was regretting ordering dessert!

For Dessert my order was Dan’s decadent chocolate trifle passion fruit jelly, hazelnut crunch. The aim of the dish is to get every layer in one mouthful. The addition of popcorn on the top was an interesting addition that you dont usually see on many desserts. This added for an extra texture amongst the trifle, jelly and crunch. The other desserts ordered were presented beautifully and tasted just as great. The Baked orange cheesecake, citrus salad, blood orange sorbet also came with some edible flowers on the side, which added extra colour and pop.  The Bourbon vanilla bean crème brûlée, chocolate & honey madelines I was told was amazing and a definite must try.

I must say that my experience at Fenix the second time around was fantastic and the food was of higher and better quality than the first time around. The venue is great and the dishes tasty. And also you might just get a photo op with Gary himself.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Various Menus – go to http://www.fenix.com.au/page/Restaurant – there are variety of menus, from Spring Dinner Menus, Express Lunch, Sunday Set Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast and Bar Snacks
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy – a room with a view of Melbourne from 55 floors up
Standout Dish:
Service:
Online Booking: Yes via http://www.fenix.com.au/page/Book_a_Table
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.fenix.com.au/
680 Victoria St, Richmond
Tel No: 9427 8500

Opening Hours:
Coffee – from 8:00am daily
Breakfast: Saturday & Sunday: from 8:30am onwards
Lunch: Monday to Saturday:  12:00 – 3:00pm
Sunday Lunch: Set lunch from 12:00 – 4:00pm
Dinner: Monday to Satuday: 6:00 pm – Late

Fenix on Urbanspoon