Friday, February 26, 2010

Nuffnang Melbourne Food Bloggers Event: Grand Hyatt Collins Kitchen Dinner

Nuffnang was hosting a food bloggers meetup at the Grand Hyatt for the newly opened Collins Kitchen. Sarah from Nuffnang sent me an email asking if I wanted to attend, ummm, hell yeah. I love meeting other food bloggers and love to eat, so I was eagerly anticipating the event. A few exchanges with Lucy, Grand Hyatt's Marketing Communications Manager, who kindly helped me secure another spot for my friend to attend as well.

The newly fitted out Grand Hyatt hotel cost a whopping $45 million dollars, with Collins Kitchen taking pride of place in the first level. It is definitely one of the most stunning restaurants/open kitchens that you will see in Melbourne. You can't help but be wowed (is wowed a word? all you grammar police out there let me know) by the scale of the kitchen combined with the floor to ceiling glassed dining area and the polished wooden floors.

The concept of Collins Kitchen is explained on the Grand Hyatt website:

Featuring open kitchens and five different dining concepts, including Grill, Wok, Sushi, Deli and Patisserie, the priority at Collins Kitchen is offering simple, authentic global cuisine using the finest local and organic produce. Guests will be able to interact with chefs for a dynamic dining experience.

As Executive Chef of Collins Kitchen, Jason Camillo, reiterated on the night that Collins Kitchen is about letting the diners be more involved in the cooking process. The diner can choose something off the menu and then wonder up to the kitchen to watch it cook right before their eyes. They will be able to see and then taste the freshness of the locally sourced produce. The key to Collins Kitchen, Jason explained, was to use the freshest locally sourced produce.

Jason took us on a tour of the kitchen, and it was sure impressive. Can you imagine rolling out pastry on that huge gleaming slab of marble, or having those glass display style fridges to hold your wagyu. No? Well I can't too, but one can dream big, can't they?

Look at all those food bloggers armed with their cameras, snapping away at anything that moves or can be devoured. I loved the look of that massive tub of seafood, made me drool and wanting to eat it immediately. Jason explained to us about the oysters, how these oysters were asexual and didn't spawn, as it wasn't oyster spawning season. See how you can learn about biology whilst also talking about food.

The Sushi Station had a chef skillfully preparing sushi and sashimi. How beautiful is that glass cabinet to display the fresh fish. One of the young chefs at the Grill Station was happy to pose for a shot for me. Look how proud he is of his area.

I absolutely love my cured meats and the Deli Station was to die for. All those beautiful prosciuttos and wagyu hanging in the glass fridges. The slicer was a thing of beauty too, drawing the attention of all the bloggers, who just had to enquire about the price. For the record, it's somewhere in the ten thousand dollar range. The Wok Station was super impressive with the "turbo jet" burners. Danny and myself were agreeing that noodles cooked over that burner would sure have "wok breath". The huge extraction fans were so fantastically shiny that Neil asked how they cleaned it. It turns out that professional cleaners come once in a while to clean it. It must be so hard to get all that oil off the extractors. The Patisserie Station smelt so good that I was inhaling all the smells and actually didn't even take a photo. Such is my love for pastry.

There are two special dining areas, a Chef's Table, which was a private area in the corner of the dining room, and the Kitchen Room (as in the photo above). This was a sealed off room behind the kitchen, and could be made soundproof when the doors are closed or have the atmosphere of the kitchen when the doors are open. I would love to have a party there one day.

So after all that walking around, we were ravenous and got seated awaiting to eat. I had a chat with Jason about the restaurant and his experience in cooking before being seated. Also, as I'm a chef groupie, I got a photo with him too.

The waiters were very attentive and topped up our water and wines all night. We were seated at two tables, with Sarah from Nuffnang at my table and David from Nuffnang at the other table. Also sitting at my table was the beautiful Lucy. In the photo we have on the left, Kylie Kwong, ummm, I mean Sarah from Sarah Cooks, sitting with Lucy on the right. Sorry about the red eye Lucy.

So while we sat down and got to know each other better, the food started coming out quite quickly. And as is customary, all bloggers respectfully waited while everyone took turns taking photos. Shellie sitting next to me got really professional, whipping out the Gorilla Pod even during the night.

The first dish was a Sushi and Sashimi Platter. Can you say delicious? I love sashimi, especially really fresh stuff. Eaten with the freshly ground Tasmanian wasabi, it was joy. My favourites were definitely the sea bass and the scallops.

A plate of Antipasto and Focaccia closely followed the Sushi Platter. The focaccia was nicely crisp but the Antipasto was where all my attention was heading. The San Daniele Prosciutto was perfectly paired with some rockmelon. My favourite of the dish, the liverwurst was sinfully fatty paired with some cornichons. Wagyu bresaola was a close second, having the rich flavour of wagyu. As regular readers would know, I'm not a huge fan of vegetables so only tried a bit of the grilled vegetables with fetta and the buffalo mozzarella with tomato. Both were good.

The Wok section comprised of a mixture of Roast Meats. There was Crispy Pork (which wasn't crispy enough for my liking), Soy Chicken, Roast Duck (great crispy skin) and Char Siu (which I don't like so didn't try). I could have used some plum sauce or hoi sin, but the house made trio of sauces (soy, ginger/spring onions, chilli) were also good. The fried rice, for the "ang mor" as Sandra and Jordan commented were very good. Again, I stayed away from the Chinese greens.

We were all getting quite full by this stage, so thankfully the food was well timed so that we rested a bit and revived our stomachs with more wine. Then the Porterhouse, aged 30 days, arrived right in front of my face. Whilst others wanted a slightly more cooked steak, I was delighted with the medium rare steak and happily ate that with some bernaise sauce. I preferred the bernaise over the jus, which didn't have much flavour. Brocollini, the richest mash and sauteed mushrooms accompanied the tender steak.

The Grilled Seafood Platter was also pure heaven. I attacked the plump scallops, cooked well so that the centre was still slightly raw, just how I like it. Grilled Salmon and Tuna were ok, but the Moreton Bay Bugs were again another favourite. Since I don't really like prawns, I steered clear of them.

By this stage, I was well and truly full, but I always reserve my spare stomach for desserts, as that is my favourite part of any meal. And the dessert was well worth saving my stomach for. From left, we have a Peach Melba, Rhubarb Crumble with Custard, Ice Cream (strawberry, pistachio, passionfruit and vanilla), Chocolate Fondant and a Banana Millefeuille. The melba failed for me, being the wrong consistency and flavour. The rhubard crumble was so homely, with the crumble being fragrant and crunchy, offsetting the rhubarb. The ice creams were all good, but surprisingly, the vanilla was the absolute standout. The chocolate fondant was luscious and rich, served with chocolate ice cream, it was decadence at it's peak. Finally, my favourite dessert, the banana mille feuille had the flakiest pastry sandwiching layers of smooth custard and caramelised banana, perfection.

Teas and coffees were enjoyed with a final biscotti. It was a great night, full of great conversation, food and laughter. Thanks to Nuffnang, David and Sarah from Nuffnang, Lucy from Grand Hyatt, Jason from Grand Hyatt and the Grand Hyatt Hotel for organising and hosting us for that great dinner. I hope I get invited to more meetups like this.

And in alphabetical order (because I'm that anally retentive), the following people attended the night

Adrian from Food Rehab
Agnes from Off the Spork
Billy from Boys For Noise
David from Nuffnang
Jordan as my guest
Joyce from Jetsetting Joyce
Maria from The Gourmet Challenge
Neil from At My Table
Melissa and Danny from Tummy Rumbles
Penny from Jeroxie
Sandra as a guest of Sarah
Sarah from Sarah Cooks
Sarah from Nuffnang
Shellie from Iron Chef Shellie
Suzanne from EssJay Eats

*Note: supplimentary photos provided courtesy of Jordan. I'm sure you can pick his good DSLR photos from my point and shoot camera photos.*

Collins Kitchen on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi, sorry we didn't get to meet properly but hope to chat at the next food blogger meet-up. What fun!

    Jetsetting Joyce

  2. Woah, Kylie Kwong sure is looking a lot hotter than she did on that My China show!


    xox Sarah

  3. Excuse me, I'm not a 'Guest of Sarah'. I'm her professional photographer. Check her blog for evidence! At least I'm not the one stealing this brilliant idea. Hmpf!

  4. Ross and I had dinner there on our wedding night, we had a very similar menu, really good stuff!

  5. I haven't had a good millefeuille in ages and the one I had at a supposedly good Malaysian restaurant was so disappointing lol!! Wah I love the look of the kitchen!

  6. Nice to meet you very briefly. I am sure we will catch up properly in the next event. :)
    Shall link up now!

  7. Really want to try out Thanh, My Birthday is comming up...

  8. The foods look fabulous! I LOVE sushi and sashimi too. That dish was the most eye catching one for me.

  9. Goodness gracious, of all the pics, and scanning through your article, I thought the marble bench was simply marvelous and I read past the 45mil dollar renovation! :-b I think I'll dream of a shiny kitchen tonight...

    Anyway one of your biggest fans, TJ, asks if you could allow readers to RSS your posts via email as he thinks it would increase the number of readers/ traffic significantly.