Saturday, August 31, 2013

Posh Dinner Perfection

Koots Salle à Manger on Urbanspoon

I've learned that if I put some things out there, there is a good chance it will find it's way to me in the end.

A couple of years ago, on my bucket list I had a line reading that I wanted to go to a degustation dinner at great restaurant as I'd never done this before.

A day or so later, Millie from Hold the Peas contacted me and said she was on for the challenge - and ever since this, we've been treating ourselves to a degustation dinner every few months. It's always a lovely evening picking through some of wonderful restaurants of Melbourne.

This time, the restaurant in question was Koots Salle a Manger in Kooyong.

I'd never heard of it, but Millie said that it had a good name for a degustation. Looking at the price, we'd left this dinner until we had a bit more money to our names. At $140 a head without wine, the degustation was up the pricier end of the degustation dinners we've been on.

Thankfully, we were not disappointed at all.

Joined by Jonella, we embarked on the seven course meal. Our hopes were high - the last degustation we'd gone to we all left hungry despite the five delicious courses. Being a Tuesday night, we were a little surprised to see that there was only one set of diners in the restaurant. On questioning the Maitre D' he said that this wasn't normal, but not unusual. They'd been filled to the brim at lunch. It was really lovely to have to place to ourselves.

Koots is a traditional French Restaurant - right down to the Maitre D', the wine and the amazing food.

As is tradition with our dinners, we started with a glass of French bubbles. I rue the day that Millie introduced me to French wine and champagne... This time, a glass of Paul Bara Brut Grand Cru Reserve. Wonderful is all I will say. Another wonderful element to the restaurant was the bread basket, which was refilled regularly and served with salted butter. The bread was fresh and light. It was great not to only get bread at the start of the meal.

Jonella and I ate off the card. Millie, who doesn't eat fish or seafood, had a couple of alternates. For her take on proceedings see her blog here.

The first course - Freshly shucked Coffin Bay Oysters with vodka, ginger and lime granite.

There was a wow factor to this dish. simple, clean, elegant and just perfect - or maybe I'm biased because I come from South Australia and Coffin Bay oysters are some of our best.

Millie was served a cold pumpkin soup with a dollop of creme fraiche which she said was lovely.

The second course was a scallop mousse with roasted king prawns, leek compote and shellfish foam. Now I'm one to occasionally refer to the use of foam as "wanky" however this foam was the perfect foil for the mousse and the prawns. Two dishes in and we knew we were on to a winner for the night.Millie was very happy with her duck liver parfait that she had instead.

The next course was a palate cleanser. A salad made of witlof, pear and walnut with Woodside goat's curd, sourdough toast and a shallot dressing. This was a brilliant salad - clean flavours with a sharpness that cleaned the palate beautifully.

Next cab off the ranks was the dish of the night. Roasted pig's trotters and ham hock in brick pastry, sauce ravigote and frisee salad.

Now I'm all for the nose to tail eating, but go into it with some trepidation. You just don't know if a pig's foot is going to be presented on your plate - like I'm a reflexologist - I like feet, but I wouldn't want to eat one. I shouldn't have worried. This wonderful mix of rich meat, crisp pastry, creamy, garlicky sauce and salad was just perfect.

The next fish course came. A fillet of wild barramundi with caramelised fennel, herb spaetzle and dill cream came out. Jonella was keen to try the spaetzle (a German noodle type arrangement) knowing it from her childhood. This was a lovely light dish - and with no foam, I was happy. However, Millie did even better, being presented with some gnocchi with walnuts and goat's cheese. This gnocchi was made the French way - half potato, half choux pastry. She gave us a taste - and it was AMAZING.

The last savoury dish for the night was a seared veal loin, with local wild mushroom and penne pasta gratine with Comte.

Ethically I'm a little hesitant over veal. Raised on a farm, I spent many a morning before school feeding poddy calves. I look at veal and I think about Laverne - my first calf. Then I see the beautiful food in front of me. It's something I'll eat but prefer not to order as a rule.

It was a lovely dish. The veal sous vide then pan finished with very posh macaroni cheese. It was divine - even if I could see Laverne's big eyelashes batting at me in the back of my mind.

And then, after all of these perfectly timed and delicious courses - dessert.

On the menu, pear and chestnut mousse trifle with salted caramel foam and spiced pear doughnut.

Now, Millie is a chocolate fiend. I'm more a lemon or citrus dessert person. This was absolutely perfect. Millie puts it up there with one of the best non-chocolate desserts she's ever had. It was glorious. Even better than the St Katherine's salty caramel parfait. The doughnut had a warm pear puree in the middle of it - like a not too sweet jam donut. The mix of salty, sweet and fruity was just sublime.

As we were about to finalise the bill, we were presented with some vanilla and chestnut macarons for petit fours.

A few minutes later, we rolled out the door, happily replete, but the maitre d', who provided excellent, knowledgeable and friendly service for the evening. We all said that we'd go back in a heartbeat.

This is a seriously good restaurant - perfect for a special occasion. I wish I had more special occasions so that I could go back sooner.

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