Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Urbane Restaurant

It's funny how one thing often leads to another. C and I had been meaning to celebrate our 5 year anniversary- we knew it was some time over the last three months but just had not had time. When we went to lunch at Tastings on Hastings and met the lovely Kassie and Daragh, we obviously got to talking about food. They told us about the fabulous recent experience at Urbane,  and on their recommendation, I moved  up the 'to visit' list. As a surprise, C secretly booked and told me three days before the event- previously citing 'needing a night at home' as the reason to reject other offers!

Urbane has been a Brisbane institution for some time, but re-opened to show the world it's more chic self in November 2009. Along with the main Urbane restaurant, the old site also houses the more casual bistro, The Euro, and the very talked about Laneway Bar. All three share the same kitchen, which are now back under Kym Machin's watchful eye.

Obviously, in true G.G. style, once I found out we were going to Urbane, I decided to stalk the menu. Funnily enough, I had also checked it out after speaking to Kassie but hadn't taken a serious amount of time looking, but once I knew I was eating there, I needed to spend a considerable amount of time perusing! 9 courses is a lot to remember!! When I re-downloaded the menu, it appeared that everything had changed- obviously in time for Spring- but, it was a whole new menu. Initially, I was a little sad because the old menu looked just amazing but I tweeted and everyone told me to trust the menu, as it had worked out fabulously for them! We couldn't go past the detailed degustation menu, and at $125, this is reasonably priced and probably the best way to experience the restaurant for the first time.

Our booking was for 6:30 p.m. which I was glad about, because these things take some serious time- and I hate to finish eating at about midnight- I'm just over it by then. We walked in about five minutes late and were greeted by the polite restaurant manager. The difference in the place from pre reno, is just amazing. No more cushion seating along the wall and devoid of yellow, but instead, a very dark and earthy setup creating a comfortable, but not too comfortable feel.

Our waiter, Danny, brought out some house made bread and asked us to decide whether we would be having the matched wines (+$85). I had already decided that I wouldn't, because quite frankly, I get far too drunk when having matched wines. I only need about 3 glasses of wine to enjoy the evening, so instead the sommelier came over to help with suggestions. THANK HEAVENS for this because I took one look at the wine list and felt instantly intimidated. I am getting to the point where I can generally be confident in a wine choice, but with intricate dishes like the ones we were about to be served, and the massive, extensive, huge and complicated wine list, I was a lost cause. We decided to go with wines by the glass, and although this limited our selection, I thought this was best, as it would be really impossible to find something that goes well with seafood, chicken egg, lamb and duck, which were all on the menu.

The sommelier suggested the 2009 Kt and the Falcon Riesling, Watervale in SA ($14 per glass)  for the first few dishes. Just as our first glass of wine arrived, the amuse bouche also came to the table. Kingfish with a watermelon soup was simple but excited me for what was to come, just as it should do. The kingfish was bite sized and the watermelon soup was fresh and sweet.

The first official course was Noosa Spanner crab, braised melon, spikey coriander, lemongrass and lime, blood orange jelly. This was very in sync with the amuse bouche, but the spanner crab was much better than the kingfish. Ultra fresh, this really made my palate dance bringing back memories of Christmas when watermelon and crab are abundant. I'm not sure how one braises a melon, but it was delicious. A simplier version of this would really make a nice summer salad, obviously it wouldn't be as technically correct or as tasty, but the base flavours really worked well.

I was a little unsure of the next dish when reading the menu, but thought it would probably be okay, as I like the odd bit of kimchee paste. The acutal menu description for this dish was Spanish mackerel in the Korean 'Maeuang' style, Kimchee paste, chinese artichokes, edamame and daishi cellophone. We were still sipping on the riesling, which was lucky because if you were to order the matched wines, the Kt and the Falcon Riesling would be served with this dish. When it was served, I found this dish to be totally polarising. I really didn't like it at all. The broth was too fishy and the dashi cellophane really did nothing for me textually or taste wise. I think my palate simply isn't used to such easternised cuisine to enjoy this dish. C didn't really feel the love either. Visually, it was a very pretty dish, and I enjoyed the edamame but really didn't feel like I should finish the dish because there was heaps more to come, and I didn't want to fill up on a dish I wasn't thrilled with. At this point, I was starting to be really scared! What if the rest of the dishes were as 'out there' as this one?

3rd Course, was baby cuttlefish and squid ink 'risotto', seared scallops and crispy tentacles. Risotto is written as 'risotto' as it is not really risotto. The risotto is actually made from the cuttlefish, and not rice. This meant the texture was smooth and more similar to a think soup. The scallops were still translucent and the tentacles were crispy and perfect. This dish was nothing short of amazing! Time to breathe a sigh of relief after the second course! I'm deliberately not going to add a photo of this course as I want you to get a surprise when you go and try it, and try it you must! By this stage, we had already had another consultation with the sommelier who suggested trying the 2007 Heggies Reserve Chardonnay at $17 a glass or $80 per bottle for this course and the next.

Next on the list was the slow cooked organic chicken egg from highgate farm, pearl barley and tarragon fricassee and aerated potato veloute. By this stage, I was getting a little confused about what cutlery to use- because even working with the traditional rules, I was still a little unsure. Danny gracefully handled this by bringing new cutlery whenever was required, and I'm quite sure that other people may have had the same issues- it is quite hard to decide whether to use a spoon or a fork for the veloute. I used the spoon. Breaking open the perfectly runny yolk and swirling through the veloute was actually quite fun, and visually quite engaging. I felt like a little kid with eggs and soldiers. Once I finally got to eating this dish, my mind was blown from the very first bite. The salty foamy sensation, together with the richness of the yolk and the small pieces of barley was amazing. Really seriously amazing. The waiter was a little surprised to hear that so far, this was our favourite dish, as he mentioned that this seemed to be a dish that was a little overwhelming for lots of people, perhaps even more so that course 2. I can't agree- it was honestly one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted, and the egg managed to somehow turn this very finicky unfamiliar food into a comforting, delicious dish.

The saltyness (albeit - delicious saltyness) of course 4 meant we finished off our chardonnay quite quickly and moved onto a red - the 2008 D.J. Palacios "Petalos" Mencia, (from Bierzo in Spain) at $19.00 per glass which was more suitable for the next few courses which consisted of red meat.

The first of the meaty dishes was a decent sized serving of lamb rump, slow roasted with a horseradish crust, baby vegetables, herb gnocci and consomme. The Lamb rump was perfectly cooked, and although I didn't eat the whole piece of lamb as I was starting to tire, and wanted to leave space for next couple of courses, I really wish I had. The baby vegetables were barely cooked, but perfectly so and I could have been satisfied with just a bowl of the rich but light herb gnocci. I would love to replicate something similar to this at home (although I'm not sure I would be capable), because I think it would be the perfect spring dinner party dish, that would really wow the guests! Lamb can be so average, but when done so exquisitely, as this was, it makes me fall in love all over again. I really want to go on a new season spring lamb rampage now! It's definitely on the menu this week.

As my loyal readers would know (waves at you!) duck is one of my all time favourites, so I left a bit of the lamb on the plate to ensure I could eat all of the duck. The duck was braised and roasted with vanilla and parsnip, prunes, chocolate and foie gras and seasme vinaigrette. This dish was incredibly rich, but the vanilla, coupled with the slow cooked duck was amazing. The foie gras didn't really add much for me, and it was indeed the meltingly soft meat, and the rich, slightly bitter chocolate and vanilla flavours that came alive in my mouth. I'm glad this was only a degustation sized dish, as it was almost overwhelming when eating, but as soon as I had finished, I wanted more. Such an intriguing concoction! With something like this I would usually feel sick, but this just left me feeling immensely satisfied.

 Sheeps milk cream and rosemary ash, with apple and charred onion juice is not something I could picture in my head before it arrived, but when it did arrive, I recognised it immediately from the website. Obviously the Urbane website has a much better photo than me and the dish is quite distinctive and visually appealing (when it's not taken on an iPhone!) Taste wise, this did not blow me out of the water, but it did almost settle my palate after the extremely rich last course. The charred onion juice was something a little special, and the sheeps milk cream was soft, and contrasted nicely with the rosemary ash. At this point, my appetite was starting to wane, quite badly, and I needed about 10-15 minutes to compose myself before the dessert courses started.

There was a little surprise in between these course, but I want to leave it a surprise for you too!

After the little surprise came the Banana and purple maize juice, with buckwheat and raw cacao ice cream. This was an interesting little dessert, and I'm not sure I gave it my full attention, because my taste buds had already tasted a diverse range of dishes. To me, it seemed a little odd. I just can't explain. I didn't really not like it, but I didn't really like it either. I quite liked the taste and texture of the buckwheat, but the other flavours left me impartial. I didn't eat the ice cream obviously, and asked for mine to be served without. This was no problem at all, and instead I received a little piece of lavendar nougat, which was quite tasty!

After our mammoth meal, we took a little bit of extra time to sit, and just let the whole meal settle. It was really a delightful experience. Danny, our waiter, was fabulous throughout the evening and handled all my question asking with grace. The sommelier also did a fantastic job of helping us decipher the wine list with no air of pretentiousness, but quite an air of grace. The meals are extremely complex and it is all the little details that made the evening so enjoyable. At the end of the evening we were served a little box of petit fours to take home, along with a menu closed with a wax seal. So gorgeous~! Every little detail really was taken care of!

I enjoyed my experience at Urbane immensely, and that's exactly what it was- an experience as opposed to just a meal. Although all the flavours (particularly the second course) didn't tickle my fancy, others took my tastebuds salsaing around my mouth. I will definitely go back to Urbane, maybe the next time the degustation menu changes, because it really was incredible. I would be tempted to go back in between times to visit the Euro and the Laneway, as I'm sure they also have some cool things to try out. I thought the value for money was also pretty great- $125 for this feast, was not expensive at all in comparison to the prices of the dishes on the normal menu. We enjoyed 6 glasses of wine between us, two bottles of San Pellegrino, a cappucino and gave a reasonable tip for around $200 a head, so for a special occasion, I think it is definitely worth the cost. It's fabulous to see some Brisbane dining venues that can offer some seriously innovative and high quality food. I also know that they have a vegetarian degustation menu too, so that provides a great option for those of you veggies out there. I know they can also cater to certain dietary requirements, so if you in doubt, just phone ahead to check.

When to go:  A special occasion - any lovely celebration- but make sure you have time to sit back, relax and enjoy. We were eating for about 4 hours!

So... tell me readers, how do you celebrate your anniversary? Do you remember dates or just have a vague idea like C and I?

Urbane Restaurant
179 Mary Street
Brisbane City
07 3229 2271
Urbane on Urbanspoon

6 fabulous comments:

Leah said...

Wow, sounds amazing! I might have to put that on my "must-try" list also.

Digella said...

Lovely GG, We will go to Euro and Laneway when we meet up. It is one of my fave haunts.

The staff are fantastic! During the day Euro really is a sight to behold with the sun beaming through the yellowing glass and into the resturant. You could be anywhere but Brisbane's finance district!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Now I really want to know what the surprise is! :P Yes we usually celebrate our anniversary by going away. And I remember the date as it was only a few years ago ;)

InTolerant Chef said...

Wow! I love degustation menus, you get the best the venue has to offer in easy little bites. We had a degustation for our recent anniversary, and BigJ said I could blog about it if I wanted, but I knew he didn't mean it! Thanks for sharing your experience.

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

Being Asian myself, not sure I would've liked that second course either as there seems to be lots of flavours happening there! And I'm wondering what Chinese artichokes are...

Looks like a great meal though and it really is those little touches and polite service that make it a great experience rather than just eating of the food =)

Kerri Thompson said...

Hiya GG.. jus wanted to say thanks so much for trying my Riesling.. make sure that if you find yourself in sunny Watervale you come and taste it with me! Have fun.. thanks, KT
Kerri Thompson.. Wines by KT..

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