After reading Truffle's post about the Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel in Crown and how they had a lunch special of 3 courses for $43.90, I immediately decided I had to go. I asked my friend John to come as he said "money is no object" after holidaying in England and spending heaps on average food. Here's John looking very stylish in a clean shirt rather than his usual old t-shirt/ripped jeans combination.
The restaurant has a very clean modern feel about it. The high ceilings and glass windows looking out onto the Yarra give it a very open feel. In reality, the restaurant isn't that big. The small entrance opens into a reasonable sized room but the use of lots of mirrors, especially the column covered in mirrors help to give the illusion of more space. The kitchen is cleverly hidden behind the column and some wooden fence type planks. The restaurnat has a bit of posh vibe to it, but got more comfortable as more people occupied tables and the noise levels rose. We were seated to a heavy wooden table with crisp white tablecloth. I liked that already. The crispy white tablecloth was matched by equally white napkins. We ordered drinks from the plush heavy menu. I ordered a Cabernet Sauvignon while John got a Shiraz. Both wines were very good, if slightly expensive at $10 and $15 a glass respectively.
For entrees, I got the Snails Provencale. This consisted of puff pastry over the top of a snail which is covered in garlic and parsley butter with some tomato pieces mixed in. It was totally delicous. The contrasting textures and flavours worked so well without masking the flavour of the snail at all.
John got the Tasmanian Salmon Gravlax. The gravlax was served with a spelt blinis and some creme fraiche. I crumbly bits around the edges were like capers, parsley, egg and potato I think. The salmon gravlax was delicious, with the texture of the salmon still firm and not too salty at all. It didn't have that strong taste of smoked salmon and instead had the hint of herbs.
For mains, I got the Slow Braised Wagyu Ox Cheek. I read on a few review sites that this dish was the must have dish, and they were certainly right. The cheek was so tender with a hint of stickiness due to the tendoins running through it. I liked the dark sauce that went with it. The carrots were ok but what I was totally falling over for was the truffled mash. It was so creamy and the flavour was like a mixture of rich cream and butter without the richness. It was great and I kept saying mmmmm each time I took a mouthful.
John ordered the Medley of Lamb, which he couldn't stop going mmmmmm to as well. He started off with the lamb cutlet, which was good already. I then tried a bit of the cut of lamb, which was really good and full of flavour. Then there was a lamb roll, which John said was great. Finally though, last but not least was a tiny cigar shaped piece of lamb. That was the best according to John.
We had side dishes of beans and snow peas in a vinaigrette and cauliflower gratin. I thought both were ok but John like the Bechamel sauce on the cauliflower.
For dessert, I forced John into getting The Brasserie's Tasting Plate since you need at least two people to order that. He didn't put up much resistance and agreed to it. Starting from the left and going clockwise, we have some fruit salad, profiteroles with hazelnut and chestnut cream, baba soaked in cointreau liquuer with citrus salad and orange marmalade, more fruit salad, chocolate marquise with pistachios, sorbets (vanilla and raspberry) with almond crips and vanilla creme brulee.
Since desserts are my favourite part of the meal, let me dissect each dessert one by one. The fruit salad was good as fruit salads go. It had sweet kiwi fruit mixed with slightly sour strawberries and pineapple. The profiteroles were the only bad part of the meal. The choux pastry was all hard and tasted stale. It wasn't helped by the crunchy things on top that were really sweet. Then the worst part was the hazelnut and chestnut cream, I hate chestnut cream usually but this one was especially bad. I didn't finish my profiterole needless to say. After that disappointment, I was immediately lifted by the baba. It was deliciously soaked in cointreau and the custard underneath it went really well with it. The soaked orange pieces and marmalade added some bite to it. The chocolate marquise was so decadent. It was like the richest chocolate cake with a softer texture like mousse. The sorbets were refreshing, especially the very strong flavours in the raspberry one. Finally, the creme brulee had a wafer thin crust that hid a beautifully smooth concotion.
Service was really good, professional from start to finish. We were promptly seated and given menus. We actually got our iced water, which is a rarity for some restaurants. The waitress who served our table was very good, asking how things were going just the once during the meal and once at the end. She also checked whether we wanted desserts, more wine and coffee. The waitress who took our order did forget my entrees, which makes me wonder why people don't write down orders anymore. Relying on your memory is fine if you're Einstein, but for mere mortals, when rushed, you tend to forget things. Also, a slightly funny thing was when our entrees were brought out for a second time. Despite finishing our entrees already, a different waiter came around with the entrees again. Being the instinctively honest guys that we were, we told him that we had already eaten our entrees. Upon second thoughts, I wouldn't have minded a free try at the salmon gravlax hehehe, although that would have probably made me burst after dessert. So it was good that we didn't indulge in our greed and accept the extra entrees.
So what didn't I like about the place. The service, ambience and food were great on the whole. Only the profiterole was to my total disliking. The waitress did drop some salad tongs loudly next to us, but she didn't make a fuss. She just kept walking away with the dishes, then came back to pick up the tongs. Very professional. I did dislike the knives they had. The handle was this weird square shape, which looked great when the knife blade was seated facing the table, but totally impratical to use. It felt really weird and uncomfortable in the hand. The only other thing was the toilet flushed with so little force that nothing got flushed away, which didn't leave the best look. So there I am nit picking at the small faults. Otherwise it was great.
I had the Entertainment Book card with me so we got an even further discount from the lunch menu price. All up, our 3 course lunches, with wine and coffee only cost $91 after using the entertainment card. We gave a tip to round it up to $100. What a great meal for only $50 each. Compare that to the awful meal at Sakura House which also cost $50 for bad food and service and no wine. You can make your money stretch a lot further when you go to the right places. I totally recommend going here for the lunch special. It would be a different story at dinner as you would pay full price for the exact menu choices. It's a shame more top restaurants don't allow their lunch specials on weekends.
Overall Rating: 17/20, Food, service, ambience all great with value for money as well for the lunch special.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.