[Note: Maze Melbourne has closed. Currently resided by Mr Hive]
8 Whiteman St
Crown Metropol level 1
03 9292 8300
It was a Sunday afternoon, after a day of eating out at David’s and Ganache chocolate with friends; I was then dragged along by my parents to the annual Crown CNY stalls / celebrations. Sitting in the car, the first thought that came to mind was: where to eat dinner at Crown? I pulled out my phone and dialled Maze (*ahem, yes I did have the number saved in my phone for such emergencies). And table for three was booked! It was the perfect opportunity to spoil my parents with my first pay check. And, CNY is all about the food and sharing it with family, is it not?
The notoriously foul mouthed British restaurateur, Gordon Ramsay, opened his newest establishment in Melbourne early last year on the first floor of Metropol Hotel – the end point of the new Crown shopping promenade. The internal clockwork of this place is overseen by head chef Josh Emett.
The quirky bird-and-vine wall design adds curiosity to the shades of washed out grey and white. In the day the space is nicely illuminated with the sun peering through the soaring curtains; at night it is quite the bloggers-nightmare with soft illumination from beautiful spiralling light fixtures. Can someone please tell me why restaurants are so dark that you can barely see what you eat?
For those who like me (until last week) had not yet visited Maze, the menu is structured between a Chef’s degustation of seven courses at $95 a head, or a la carte. Having had quite a late CNY lunch, we opted to share one degustation and 4 a la carte dishes between three people. I am always happy when restaurants are able to accommodate for difficult diners. =)
White bread + seaweed butter + salt – The diagonally sliced bread was warm and lightly toasted on the crust but soft and fluffy on the inside. I slather on the butter and a sprinkle of salt. Just a whiff of the warm bread and buttery-seaweed-butter – HEAVEN! Over the first 2 courses, I conjured the courage to ask for a second serve of bread, to which I was granted my wish… =)
Marinated beetroot with goats curd – beautiful petite morsels of red and white. All in one mouthful you have the thinly sliced sweet, earthy and soft beetroot teamed with a robust, acidic goats curd; underlain with a floral Cab-Sauv vinaigrette and nutty pine nut crunch. I must say although quite strongly flavoured, it was well balanced with nice textural contrasts.
Seared yellow fin tuna – two thick unctuous slices of yellow fin tuna, ever so lightly seared with tart, citrusy notes from the yuzu marination. Small cubes / mounds of white radish, black garlic and enoki mushroom provided a clean, simple and delicate marriage of bite and taste!
Yuzu – cirtus fruit originating in East Asia, similar in flavour to grapefruit, but with mandarin overtones. [Wikipedia]
Tête de cochon – the golden crumbed roll had a crumbly crispy exterior hiding a soft gelatinous interior of pigs ears. A warm juicy super-thin-layer of watermelon, warm drizzle of chicken jus with a little crunch from the German turnip (kohlrabi) brings it from ordinary to extraordinary – absolutely love it.
Smoked eel – (a la carte) this is probably one of my least favourite courses, with not much to elevate the smoky but somewhat dry eel. This was teamed with a dehydrated pressed apple, crispy local green asparagus, orange rind and crispy shallot.
Pan seared scallop – the plump-curvaceous scallops were seared to a light crispy gold, with a soft and unctuous core. The sweet champagne foam and chewy caramelised kelp balanced off the green-grassy paste hiding underneath (not sure what it is). Sugar snap peas and tonburi seeds provide a nice textural contrast.
Tonburi seeds – these glossy black-green seeds from the burningbush, are commonly used in Japanese cuisine as a garnish with similar texture to caviar. [wikipedia]
Crispy roast pork belly – fall-apart tender meat with a crispy outer shell, laid in a salty dashi broth with crunchy soy beans and radish. I find the very moment the crispy skin makes contact with the broth (no doubt when you try to cut it with your knife), it is softened and somewhat toughens up – so EAT IT FAST! I must say it reminds me of, but doesn’t surpass that of Anada’s version.
Ravioli of Southern Rock Lobster – (a la carte) covered in a concealing foam (mum devoured it all before I could ascertain what it was), was a light ravioli filled with lobster, avocado and macadamia. Whilst the bisque was a superb interpretation of the deep sea, with a nice balance of flavours, the lobster was a tad dry.
Poached blue eye cod – (a la carte) was utterly soft with a subtle ginger fragrance. A sweet daub of smooth carrot puree contrasts the light spanner crab tempura speckled with fragments of crisp greens.
Cape Grim short rib – deserves a special mention as one of my personal choice dishes of the night. An unassumingly asymmetrical cut of short rib lathered in a sweet-syrupy coating is an effortless surprise on the cutting knife. On the palate, the fatty layers of the tender beef melts away together with the syrupy-barbeque sauce makes for an indulgent mouthful – umami heaven! A small trail of smooth-fluffy mash, layered with the slight orange hue of togarashi spice and shimeji mushroom, complements the meat.
Togarashi spice – 7 spices (red chilli pepper, Sichuan pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, ginger, hemp seed, nori)
Exotic fruit vacherin – two wings of chalky meringue, juicy cubes of summer fruit, a dollop of thick mango puree, and a lightly-fragrant banana sorbet – sweet, acidic and refreshing. Vacherin – meringue
Maze “lamington” – the thin slice of rich-decadent chocolate ganache dusted with coconut; together with the generous daub of thick, sweet but acidic raspberry jam and puffy triangle of light sponge – replicates the elements of the good ol’ lamington, but with the added twists from the quenelles of light coconut sorbet, cream and a crispy cylinder of tuile. A delicious deconstruction!
How does one tell the difference between a sponge and a chiffon cake?
Petite fours – sitting on a cool glass with shallow burrows, these white chocolate balls are in fact filled with strawberry ice cream. I’m not usually a fan of white chocolate, but this was delightful! MORE please!!!
A little treat to take home…
Rating: Yummy+2 – I was actually fearing a disappointment coming to Gordon Ramsay’s new establishment, but Josh Emett has succeeded in transcending that thought, bringing to the table a thoroughly mouth watering and memorable experience, albeit a few small glitches.
A la carte dishes were timed appropriately with the degustation menu. The staff were knowledgeable, though some rolling the menu descriptions off their tongues better than others. And I like that the cutlery was replaced after each course – such luxury. I’d still like more light in the room though…