Dinner @ Courgette (Canberra, Australia)

January 2, 2020 in Australian, European by thywhaleliciousfay

Because I was spending 4 days in Canberra, I made a pact to myself to try at least 2 fine dining restaurants. Keke. So beside Aubergine which was an obvious choice as it’s the highest rated restaurant in ACT (Australian Capital Territory) by Good Food Guide 2019 with 2 hats, I decided on Courgette which was awarded 1 hat.

Now… I originally made reservation for lunch via Courgette’s website. However, when I was in Canberra, I called the restaurant to ask if I could change my lunch reservation to dinner; I was visiting galleries the day I meant to have lunch at Courgette, and it didn’t make sense to cross the bridge to go to the restaurant and cross the bridge again to resume my gallery-hopping. My bad. When I did my itinerary planning on Google map, I didn’t expect Canberra to be so big. And thankfully they could slot me in at 8.30pm.

On the day of my dinner, I decided to reach much earlier than my 8.30pm reservation time. I honestly thought I could be seated earlier by reaching earlier. And thus starting dinner earlier for me to return to hotel earlier (Haha. The number of ‘earlier’ I used). However, I soon realised it was a bad decision.

Entering through the entrance at 8.10pm, I immediately noticed the staff was bustling around. Even though they saw me, no one came forth to the receptionist desk to acknowledge my presence. And soon, more customers streamed in at 8.15pm. It was apparent the staff were struggling with crowd management. But thankfully chef-owner James Mussillon stepped in to manage the mess.

There’s 3 dining areas. The main dining area had a view of the internal garden through the full-height glazing. Unfortunately for me, I was seated in another area and right at the corner. So it could be because I was out of the waiting staff’s line of vision or they were seriously too busy understaffed that I only had my order taken 20 minutes after seated. For dinner, Courgette offered a 4-courses meal (AUD88). And from the menu (pages 1, 2), I ordered:-

  

1) Bread, Complimentary (above)

2) Welcome soup, Complimentary (above) – The waiting staff didn’t elaborate the flavour, but I guessed it’s probably celeriac.

3) Dish #1 with options of:-

(A) Hawkesbury River stuffed baby squid, blue eye cod, Eden Bay mussels, chorizo, charred red pepper (above)

(B) Beer battered courgette blossom filled with lightly, smoked buffalo mozzarella, basil & olive pesto, carrot gel (above) – I was surprised to see head chef James serving the dish personally. And after introducing the dish, he apologised for the slow service as it’s a busy night with many big groups. I softened. Ha!>

4) Dish #2 (above) – Seared clearwater scallops, free range confit chicken wings, cauliflower puree, star anise & Szechuan pepper gastrique.

5) Dish #3 with options of:-


(A) Spinach & ricotta tortellini, pumpkin, baked eggplant, haloumi, mixed seeds, sage beurre noisette (above) – I didn’t like this. The pasta skin was too thick.

(B) Market fish of the day, smoked salmon custard, herbed potato hash, seaweed salad, avruga caviar sauce (above)

6) Dish #4 with options of:-


(A) Caramelised honey crisp apple and cinnamon, flaky pastry, milk sorbet, freeze fried maple (above) – Similar to the pasta, I found parts of the pie pastry too thick. Especially the perimeter. It even tasted a little… Doughy? But the apple puree served alongside with the pie was really good.

(B) Brillat-Savarin, red wine poached pear, granola cookie, quince, lavosh (above)

7) Petit fours (above)

I wasn’t too impressed with my meal at Courgette mainly because of the service. But! When I was onto my last dish, head chef James came over. He was surprised at how much I could fit into my stomach. HAHA! So the thing was… I ordered extras. A supposedly 4-courses dinner became a 7-courses meal. Keke. And through my conversation with him, I learnt that they were short handed because a number of his staff pulled out at the very last minute. At 5.30pm! It was the Labour Day long weekend that I was in Canberra too. So that explained the bad service. He went on to say he could have done something if his staff gave him enough notice. In fact, I noticed head chef James was busy shuttling between the kitchen and dining area. And I really give him credit for it. He’s a good multi-tasker.

So ignoring the poor service standard (which shouldn’t happen normally), I would say Courgette is ideal for a fancy dining experience. And because my 3 additional dishes coincidentally happened to be 1 appetiser, 1 main and 1 dessert, I was told I was charged AUD154 which was the price for a 4-courses dinner & a 3-courses lunch.

COURGETTE
54 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT, Australia
+61 2 6247 4042, Website
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 6
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Aubergine (Canberra, Australia)

October 14, 2019 in Australian by thywhaleliciousfay

When I was holidaying in Sydney back in 2017, I didn’t think I would return to Sydney. Don’t get me wrong… It’s just that I would visit the other states when I do return to Australia for travels. But I guess the statement ‘You never know what your future holds’ is true. I certainly didn’t expect myself to be out-stationed. *Sheepish grin*

After I settled my accommodation, etc, I began making my plans to travel within Australia. And my first trip out of Sydney was to Canberra! I mean, Canberra was really accessible. Just a 4-hours rail journey. And October couldn’t be a better time to visit because of Floriade! But of course, no trip would be complete without satisfying my craving for good food. Keke. And for my Canberra trip, I made reservation at Aubergine and Courgette. =)

For Aubergine, I was re-directed to a third party online booking system The Fork where I made my reservation 1.5 weeks ahead.

Aubergine wasn’t located in the city centre. The suburb which it was located in was actually nearer to Canberra Railway Station. And from the city, I took bus R6 to reach the restaurant at 6.25pm.

For dinner, Aubergine served a 4-courses meal (AUD105) where one had up to 4 options to choose from for 3 of the 4 courses. And from the dinner menu, I ordered:-


  

1) Snack #1, Complimentary (above) – Beetroot tart, and puff with smoked ocean trout cream. The beetroot tart was a delight to eat; It had various textures which included beetroot puree, beet-vinegar jelly, etc.

2) Snack #2, Complimentary (above) – And I was told the sugar pea was meant to be a refreshing dish. Hmm… Interesting.

  

3) Bread, Complimentary (above)


4) Dish #1 (above) – Hiramasa kingfish, celeriac, creme fraiche & mustard oil. I really enjoyed this refreshing dish. It was brilliant! I especially liked how they played with the textures; The crunchy celariac strips and buckwheat against the kingfish’s chewiness. Glad there’s no option offered for the first course so that every diner would get to enjoy this.

5) Dish #2 (above) – Duck breast, grilled celtuce, lovage, wakame & buttermilk dressing.

6) Dish #3 with options of:-

(A) Potato tart, roasted yeast, black garlic puree & creamed swiss chard (above) – This potato tart tasted like pizza to me. What sorcery is this! The potato was cooked perfectly through, and was so soft to the bite. I never had a potato tart before cause it’s like carbohydrates on carbohydrates. But I was so glad I decided to be more adventurous care less about putting on weight from eating too much carbohydrates. Keke.

(B) Fillet of hapuka, baby octopus, caramelised cauliflower & sudachi (above) – And I was told that the fish was cooked skin down and then cooked through in the oven. Now, I am not one to order fish for my main but I was attracted to this dish because of the baby octopus. Ha. But I am glad I ordered this fish dish (because of the baby octopus). Pretty good!

7) Dish #4 with options of:-

(A) Baked cheesecake, lemonade fruit, passionfruit & coconut sorbet (above)


(B) Coffee & caramel delice, frozen chocolate milk, brown butter (above) – The waiting staff went on to explain egg white and cocoa powder were put into a piper and hardened with nitrogen. Thus, creating the melt-in-mouth melt-upon-contact texture of the frozen chocolate milk.

Everything about my dinner at Aubergine was great! I really enjoyed the dishes. To be honest, I didn’t think much of the dining scene in Canberra. But this meal changed my mind. Good food could also be found in Canberra! Not just Sydney and Melbourne! Hee. During my dinner, I even heard the table of diners seated near me exclaim “this is really good” at least twice. Looked like I wasn’t the only one enjoying my meal!

Will I recommend Aubergine? Definitely.

So while it was a 4 courses menu, I ordered additional. Thus explaining the 6 dishes instead of 4. Yes, I finished everything as a solo diner even though the serving were regular portion. Keke. And for my additional main and dessert, I was charged AUD25 and AUD16 respectively. Really reasonable, I say!

And I thought I should share… So while Michelin Guide hasn’t come to Australia, Australia has their Good Food Guide Award where restaurants are awarded hats. The more hats, the better. And for the latest Good Food Guide Award (2019), Aubergine has 2 hats under their belt. I certainly agree with their verdict!

AUBERGINE
18 Barker Street, Griffith, Canberra ACT, Australia
+61 2 6260 8666, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Whitegrass [Revisit]

August 8, 2018 in Australian by thywhaleliciousfay

After our wonderful dinner at Magic Square, my instagram foodie friends @abbey_thebolobao, @thetravellingcow and @free.the.umami were up for our next food adventure. And we unanimously agreed on Whitegrass. Which was great because I had been interested to return to Whitegrass for their dinner menu since my last enjoyable lunch in 2016. Not to forget that this time, I would be returning to a Michelin-starred Whitegrass.

With that, reservation was made for a weekday. And on the afternoon of our planned dinner, the restaurant called to request our choice of menu. I am wondering if the call came about because we were a big group of 6. And between the 5-course and 7-course menus, we (foodies) naturally went with the former. Keke.

And we started our 7-course ($250) dinner with:-

1) Amuse bouche #1 (above) – Deep fried baby crab with salted egg batter.


2) Amuse bouche #2 (above) – Plated like macaron was sesame biscuit and garocha cheese.

3) Amuse bouche #3 (above) – Yellow and green zucchini tart with lemon gel.


  

4) Bread, Complimentary (above) – And before this was served, @free.the.umami was raving about the lard. I guess the lard must be a new item since I didn’t have that in my previous visit. And I must say the bread was a sight to behold; Served beautifully as a rose. I really enjoyed the sourdough with the lard. Followed by the butter of course. But what’s really good was the sourdough. The staff saw us enjoying the bread very much and gave us additional. Keke.

5) Dish #1 (above) – Ginger milk curd, spring peas and bottarga.

6) Dish #2 (above) – Western Australian marron, fresh curd, wild fennel pollen, pickled watermelon rind, seawater.


7) Dish #3 (above) – Red braised Challans duck, eggplant cream, kanten noodles, water chestnut, Chinese jelly mushrooms. This was so good! Flavourful with many contrasting textures. My favourite dish for the night. A must try.

8) Dish #4 (above) – Smoked eel, potato and celeriac, crispy quinoa. Interesting that it was cooked to a texture similar to risotto.

9) Dish #5 (above) – Butter poached Hokkaido snow crab, golden crab dumpling, water shield, egg drop soup.


10) Dish #6 (above) – Buddha jumps over the wall. Yin-yang scallop ‘cheong fan’ skin, slow roasted iberico pork neck, abalone, shimeji mushroom cap, lotus seeds and shiitake custard in pork rib broth.


11) Dish #7 (above) – Slow roasted Pyrenees lamb neck, seaweed chimichurri, agretti. And we were told the lamb was braised before it was shredded and then pan-roasted.



12) Dessert #1 (above) – Dragon eye blossom honey, Hokkaido milk jelly, burnt honey whip, milk ice cream, dried milk curls.


13) Dessert #2 (above) – Single origin Peruvian chocolate, wood roasted coffee, pedro ximenez prunes, shaved macadamia nuts, frozen chocolate.

14) Petit fours #1 (above) – Snickers, strawberry and watermelon lamington.


  

15) Petit fours #2 (above) – Fortune cookie.

Although it isn’t an apple-to-apple comparison but when I compare our dinner (July 2018) to the lunch that I had 1.5 years ago, Whitegrass certainly has since improved. Not that they were bad previously; They just got better. Truly deserving of their 1 Michelin star. I definitely recommend dining at Whitegrass.

On a totally different note, please pardon the lousy quality of my photographs. The camera of my handphone (iPhone 6S) has been spoilt for a while now and I really should get a new mobile phone but… I’ve been lazy. Oops. Was using a really old Samsung phone which couldn’t take quality photographs in dim setting. Sob. I honestly wish I had better photographs for sharing to do the food (better) justice.

WHITEGRASS
30 Victoria Street, Chijmes, #01-26/27, Singapore
6837 0402, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Wed – Sat : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 21:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon & Sun