South Wharf, VIC 3006
Ph: 9027 2000
Truffles. You mention the word and you'll get two reactions. One is that someone will turn up their nose and go "uuuugghhh". Two, you'll get someone exclaim "I love it, it's amazing". Truffles are the fruiting body of an underground mushroom. It's got an extremely unique smell and taste that lead it to be described as the "diamond of the kitchen". Along with caviar, truffles are one of the most expensive food items in the world. Part of the revered status that truffles holds is due to the price. It's a very special item that you don't get to eat often. Traditionally, truffles come from Europe, but in recent time, Australia is starting to produce truffles as well. Areas in Western Australia, Canberra and Tasmania produce truffle during Winter. On this particular night, Agnes, Penny, Adrian, Michele and myself were invited to a truffle event at Nuevo 37. John Baily from Tamar Valley Truffles had flown in from Tasmania to tell us more about his "grown" truffles. Executive Chef Philippe Perrey of Nuevo 37 cooked up some dishes for us to try using these wonderful truffles.
John's farm is located in Tasmania, with 3500 oaks trees on 20 acres. During the months from June to August, John and his team harvest these black beauties from under the trees. You may have seen images of pigs being used to find truffles, but nowadays dogs are used instead. While the pigs will damage the truffles as they actually love to eat it, a dog can be trained to find the truffles but not enjoy eating the precious cargo. A dog will sniff out a truffle, alert the trainer who will get down on his knees to slightly uncover the truffle and smell it. If it is ready, then it will be harvested. If not, the truffle will be covered back up with dirt and left for another week or so. After harvesting, truffles from Tamar Valley will be exported all over the world, including to France as French chefs appreciate the greater flavour of Winter truffles than Summer truffles grown locally.
During our night, we got to touch, smell and taste truffles. Truffles are actually quite hard and have those beautiful patterns throughout it. The smell is so pungent but I adore it. Some people may find it quite an unpleasant flavour. I find that while the truffles by itself is extremely pungent, once added to food, it works so well. Phillipe said that he would never ever cook a fresh truffle, instead just shave it over the dish at the end to give maximum flavour.
Our venue for the night was the very beautiful Nuevo 37 restaurant, which is part of the Hilton Hotel restaurant located on South Wharf. The South Wharf area is quite unknown still but worth checking out as there are more shops and restaurants opening soon. The restaurant is decorated beautifully with a large open kitchen. The food has a slight Spanish accent but it is also quite varied to appeal to all guests.
For our truffle dinner, we tried the degustation truffle menu offered in the next few months. The first dish was made in front of us by Phillipe. It consisted of rocket and goats cheese wrapped in pancetta. Shaved truffles finish off the dish. Surprising, I didn't really taste the truffle on this dish, as nice as it was.
Pancetta cannelloni, rocket, caramelised black truffle, Meredith Dairy Goat Cheese
Second dish was a Moreton Bay bug served with a truffled Jerusalem artichoke soup. The soup is creamy and delicious while the bug was very good too. The truffles worked well in the soup and also enhanced the bug.
Moreton Bay bug, root vegetables, truffled Jerusalem artichoke sauce
The dish of the night, without doubt was the simple but truly fantastic Tagliatelle. The truffles just seems to encompass the pasta and coat your mouth to give a perfect dish. The truffles kept echoing in your mouth and you keep wanting more. As Philippe told us, dishes with fat help to carry the truffle flavour really well. He also points out that for himself personally, when he uses truffles, he likes to keep it quite simple to let the truffles shine. This dish definitely proved his point.
Tagliatelle, creamy truffle sauce
An unctuous Wagyu cheek soaked in Tempranillo was served with truffles on top. The truffle flavour wasn't super strong in this dish but definitely could be tasted and improved the dish.
Braised Wagyu beef cheek, Tempranillo, truffle,forked chick peas, black cabbage
Lastly, an excellent creamy Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is served with shaved truffles. Who would have thought truffles work in a dessert, let alone ice cream. But it was so good, with a slight crunch and savoury note to the ice cream.
Vanilla bean ice cream, truffle
I had a fantastic meal and learned so much about truffles from John and Philippe. Truffles are truly a wonderful food item that can really turn a dish from great to sensational. They are extremely costly but I still recommended heading down to Nuevo 37 to try out the truffle menu while it's still in season. I must warn you that it's very addictive and you'll be left wanting more of it the next day when you have your "truffle burp".
Thanks to Hilton Hotel and Tamar Valley Truffles for hosting me and the meal. Thanks to Red Agency for the invite.