Tim Adams Semillon 1998 Rating: 86 Best drinking: 1999-2002 Price: $14 Drink with: Rich white meat dishes Background: It is made to develop early, with substantial oak input (75 per cent American, 25 per cent French) and 12 hours skin contact used prior to fermentation. The wine is barrel-fermented and spends five months in oak. Tasting note: Medium to full yellow-green; the usual full-frontal style with lots of American oak and some fruit refusing to capitulate on the bouquet; the palate is oak-driven as always, very faithful to the style.
The Age Good Food Guide Award winners 1999
Best Restaurant - Flower Drum
Best New Restaurant - Langtons
The Age Special Award For Professional Excellence - Frank and John Van Haandel
The Diners Club International 'Silver Service' Award - Simon Denton
City and suburbs
***** Flower Drum
**** Jacques Reymond
*** Bamboo House; Cafe Di Stasio; Circa, the Prince; Grossi Florentino; Langtons; Luxe; Marchetti's Latin; Mask of China; O'Connell's; pomme; Toofey's
** Akita; Becco; Blakes; Caffe Grossi; Donovans; est est est; Guernica; Jimmy Watson's; La Madrague; Le Restaurant; Matteo's; Melbourne Wine Room; Morgans; Ocha; Onions; Radii; Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder; Stella; The Point; Walter's Wine Bar
* Abla's; Bhoj; Bonum; Caffe e Cucina; Centonove; Chine on Paramount; Chinois; Daimonji; Dumpling King; France-Soir; Hotel Spencer; Kenzan; Lemongrass; Lynch's; Madame Joe Joe; Marchetti's Tuscan Grill; mecca; Mercer's; Near East; Punch Lane; Scusa Mi; The Boulevard; The European; The Stokehouse; The Windsor; Veludo; Zio's Ristorante
Out of Town
*** Eleonore's at Chateau Yering (Yering); Lake House (Daylesford); Stefano's (Mildura); Sunnybrae (Birregurra)
** Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant (Skenes Creek); Vue Grand (Queenscliff); Warrenmang Vineyard Resort (Moonambel)
* Adams of North Riding (St Andrews); Arthurs (Arthurs Seat); Bazzani (Bendigo); Castle at Delgany (Portsea); Marine Cafe (Lorne); Mietta's Queenscliff Hotel (Queenscliff); Mitchelton (Tabilk); Opus (Sorrento); Oscar W's (Echuca); Powerscourt Country House (Maffra); Simone's (Bright); The Parlor & Pantry (Beechworth)
Best Chinese - Flower Drum
Best Greek - Stavros Tavern
Best Italian - Cafe Di Stasio
Best Lebanese - Abla's
Best seafood - Toofey's
Best steakhouse - Vlado's
Best vegetarian - Shakahari
Best French - La Madrague
Best Indian - Bhoj
Best Japanese - Akita
Best Malaysian - Penang Coffee House
Best Thai - Lemongrass
Best cafe - Wall Two 80
Best good food getaway - Howqua Dale Gourmet Retreat.
Taking the pulse (from The Age)
Vibe of the year
To be found at the cool (not calm) and collected Luxe, which has captured St Kilda's energy, wrapped it up in a designer shawl (please, not a pashmina) and teamed it with trainers. All credit to boy wonder on the floor Simon Denton, and the chicks in the kitchen - Karen White and Rita Macali - for their fantastic food, dressed down.
Comeback of the year
The CBD: despite Georges' demise, restaurateurs have flocked to the city. See Langtons, ezard at adelphi, Bonum, the growing strength of the European, Radii at the Park Hyatt,
Tete 2, and the new Sarti in a tailor's shop above the Gin Palace. Look out for more developments in the next year: a basement restaurant in Nonda Katsalidis's Republic Towers building (Queen Street); a mystery package at the same architect's Hero Apartments (Russell Street).
Trends of the year
The reluctance of Melbourne diners, by comparison with our big-spending Sydney counterparts, to spend extravagantly on eating out. In Harbor Town, they've swallowed the $40-plus main, hook, line and sinker. Despite the best endeavors of some of our top restaurateurs, Melburnians are still loath to spend more than $30 on a main course, an attitude that many in the business believe is holding back the creativity of restaurants at the top end of the market. Also notable this year: the saturation coverage of pigs' trotters (at pomme, Langtons, Jimmy Watson's, Morgans, Circa, Stella, the Mezz) generally stuffed with sweetbreads, with morels or shiitake, sometimes seen with ginger, sometimes seen with mash.
Dish of the year
Warm poached eggs with truffles and soft polenta at Radii at the Park Hyatt by executive chef and Georges Brasserie emigre Paul Wilson, who, mercifully, has put a cracker under hotel dining. His triumphant and brave dish is one of gooey, nursery texture and wan color, yet it packs an olfactory, textural and palate punch. Those who have tried it can't stop thinking about it.
Dining room of the year
Cafe Di Stasio, which just looks better and better and which exemplifies the theatre and art of dining out. When it's good, it's very, very good. Well, you ain't seen nothing yet from Ronnie Di Stasio. The visionary, the obsessive-compulsive, the ultimate ideas man, the Medici of Fitzroy Street St Kilda, is in his bunker now, poring over architect Alan Powell's plans for a new Di Stasio restaurant in the Yarra Valley.
Predictions of the year
That one of Melbourne's most high-profile restaurants will close or change hands within the next 18 months; that one of Melbourne's most successful restaurants will do a Dolly and clone itself.
Renaissance man of the year
Gaetano (Guy to his mates) Grossi, who took a high-risk position buying the most coveted and history-sodden restaurant in town. With Guy at the helm, assorted family on the sheets, and masses of loyal Grossi staff keeping the boat on an even keel, Florentino - Grossi Florentino - has sailed into very smooth waters. All hands on deck and land ahoy!
THE WINE AND JAZZ APPRECIATION SOCIETY NEWS, VOL 5, NO 32, 10/8/99
One day, John's tennis elbow was acting up and he decided to stop in and see a doctor. When he got to the doctor's office the nurse told him he could see the doctor in 15 minutes but first he'd have to give a urine sample. John muttered that this was absurd but the nurse insisted and John complied. Fifteen minutes later, John was ushered in to see the doctor.
"So that tennis elbow is really acting up, huh?" the doctor said. "The nurse must have told you," said John, wondering how the doctor knew. "No. It was in your urinalysis." and the doctor continued to say that he had just purchased a new machine that could diagnose every physical condition with total accuracy based on the urine contents. John didn't believe a word of this but he did agree to provide another urine sample on check-up visit.
Two days later, John was sitting at the kitchen table with his wife and his teenage daughter. He was telling them about this ridiculous machine and decided to have a little fun with the high-tech doctor. John urinated into the bottle - as did his wife and teenage daughter. Then while walking to his garage he had a brainstorm. John put a few drops of oil from his crankcase in the jar and finally masturbated, adding a few drops of semen to the mixture in the jar. He drove to the doctors office, shook the bottle, and handed it to the nurse. This time his urinalysis took twice as long. Finally, John was ushered in to see the doctor. The doctor looked at him and said, "I've got some bad news, smartass. Your daughter is pregnant, your wife's got an STD, your car is about to bust a timing chain, and if you don't stop masturbating, that tennis elbow will never heal!"
Friday night, in anticipation of the massacre the Mighty Bombers were about to inflict on the embarrassingly inept Blues side, a premature celebration was in order. As it eventuated, the move was inspired. I think I will henceforth celebrate all victories before they occur. What do you think? It certainly makes sense to me. You canÕt fail. If things go well, you get a second chance to let loose, and if things go, ahem, less well - then youÕve had a great time anyway the night before.
Nina Ferro is known around the traps as one of MelbourneÕs most promising jazz singers, and though IÕve felt there was a certain slick shallowness about her in the past, there is no doubt that she can sing. On this night, she performed with Colin Hopkins (piano), Nick Haywood (bass) and Darren Ferrugia (drums). Tunes included Nearness of You, The Way You Look, Night & Day, Golden Earrings, You Call It Madness, YouÕd Be So Nice, Just One of Those Things, World on a String.
She complained of a throat wog, and I’m unsure whether my enjoyment was due to a certain mellow restraint that characterised her singing, or whether her voice and style has matured. In any case, it was a pleasing session - made all the more so by Colin’s sensitive piano accompaniment and the low-key rhythm section.
Now here’s a bit of enthusiasm!
"Last night I witnessed the show of the year at the Continental cafe in Greville St. Prahran, JON CLEARY the New Orleans piano legend. If you hate feel-good, get-down-and-boogie, kick-arse blues then make sure you stay away from this man. I guarantee that you will not be able to stand still to this. Mr Cleary is helped along by his working New Orleans band The Absolute Monster Gentlemen. There was not one song during the two sets that even remotely became boring. See why BB King, Bonnie Rait, Taj Mahal and a host of others choose Jon Cleary to record and tour with. MONDAY AT THE CONTINENTAL CAFE IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO CATCH THIS MAN. Don't be a whimp about this ... and yes I know it's Monday night ... this will energise you for the rest of the week. Well I've warned you .... Don't miss out, Cheers Nic"
With this ringing endorsement from Geoff Achison’s manager, it was with some anticipation that we rolled up to the Conti. I saw Jon Cleary in Melbourne some years ago when he sang and played solo piano superbly, and have recently found moderate enjoyment from his new album - one with rather more funk than his former traditional Professor Longhair style.
Appearing with a electric bass, electric guitar, and drums - Cleary was content to tinkle a Roland electric iano. Though he had an upright acoustic piano beside him, Jon presumably wanted to face the audience over the console-style Roland rather than turn side-on to play the real piano. The tone wasn’t too bad for a fake instrument, but for much of his playing the piano was pretty much swamped by the bass-heavy rhythm section. Unlike the Dr John concert, the sound was undistorted and very listenable - I just would like to have heard more of the piano as a solo instrument, rather than as simply another rhythm piece to be thumped.
The musical style is apparently new-New Orleans music - but it seems to me to owe a fair bit to James Brown. It was initially exciting, very funky music, energy-ridden and tight, but it palled for me after a while - a sameness that becomes a little ho-hum. There was singing on all numbers, often in trio format as the guitarist and bassist added harmony.
The tune of the night for me involved a return to the more traditional New Orleans Professor Longhair number - Jumbalaya - in which Jon’s playing was outstanding and mercifully sans rhythm section for a goodly portion.
Winestate Top Wines: September - October 1999
Majella Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 ****1/2
This wine exhibits cassis, soy and blackbean aromas over spicy oak. Complex oak palate with sweetish alcoholic palate, hints of olives. Plenty of big tannins and a persistent finish. $20
Stephen John Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 ****1/2
Intense aromas of cassis/spice/smoky oak. Shows an outstanding balance and structure Not overly oaky or 'in your face' fruit. Sweet cassis fruit and soft velvety tannins. 5+ $40
Rosemount Estate Traditional Cabernet Merlot Petit Verdot 1997 ***1/2
Perfumed ripe cassis and vanillin oak nose. Very attractive sweet fruit in mid palate. Very stylish wine with lovely fleshy tannins. Persistent finish. 5+ $30
Lillydale Chardonnay 1997 ***
Yellow colour. Rich ripe melon fruit with vanilla and cream on the nose. A complex creamy palate with hints of oak and honey. A simple clean wine $16.
Oakridge Estate Reserve Chardonnay 1998 ****1/2
Subdued butterscotch/nutty nose. Excellent full, creamy, toffee palate. A good wine with crisp acid. 2-5 $42
De Bortoli Yarra Valley Shiraz 1997 ***
Moderate red brick colour. Rich chocolate, licorice allsorts nose with slight herbal characteristics. Austere palate of prunes, plums and chocolate spice. Medium weight and oak driven. Will develop $30.
d'Arenberg Ironstone Pressings Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 1997 ****
Ripe raspberries with chocolate and touch of tarry licorice. Big tannic base with nice sweet fruit. Good length and complexity. $35
Woodstock Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 ****1/2
Aromas of mint, chocolate and spicy oak. A huge wine with complex fruit and oak balance. 1-2 $21
Saddlers Creek Equus McLaren Vale Shiraz 1997 ****1/2
Strong vanillin oak nose. Supple palate with lots of cherry/oak and cedar tannin length. 5+ $NA
Brands of Coonawarra Laira Riesling 1997 ****1/2
Lovely green/gold colours. Beautiful toasty nose with aromas of citrus and apricots. Rich fresh flavours of limes. Nice bottle age development with plenty of fresh acid. $15
Sandalford Riesling 1995 ****1/2
Toasty vanilla nose with some bottle age characters. Great complex palate and a persistent finish. For drinking now. $19
Taylors St Andrews Riesling 1994 ****1/2
Aged nutty nose. Soft palate with well developed complex flavours. A wine to have with food. $20
Majella Coonawarra Shiraz 1997 ****
Spicy/plum fruit nose. A youthful, full-bodied, licorice wine with chewy tannins. Typical regional characters. 5+ $20
Rymill June Traminer 1998 ****
Golden hues. Luscious raisin/apricot nose. Fresh medium-weight palate with lovely flavours resembling marinated pineapple, showing botrytis characters. Some VA hotness. Nice lively acid and excellent length. 5+ $NA
Barossa Valley Estate E & E Black Pepper Shiraz 1996 ****1/2
Earthy nose with chocolate, cherry and coconut oak, slight VA lift. Full ripe, extractive, palate with persistent length and structure. A very big shiraz. 5+ $50
The 50 best neighborhood restaurants
They're not always the coolest places in town but they're the places we like to go for a good time, a quick feed or a cheap alternative to cooking at home - and they are inevitably close to home.
* Albert Park Deli - 129 Dundas Place, Albert Park, 9699 9594
Though recently renovated in line with the area's economic upturn, the Albert Park Deli still does surprisingly good-value meals. In the morning, they cook up a few large pans of tasty stewed dishes - you might find Malaysian-style beef curry or chicken with olives and tomato - and serve them up with a vast range of focaccias, lasagnes and filled baguettes. There's a range of fresh pasta sauces and reasonably authentic Thai soups, too. More a lunch and takeaway spot than a dinner destination.
Open: daily 6am-9pm.
* Cicciolina - 130 Acland Street, St Kilda, 9525 3333
One of the ultimate neighbourhood restaurants; yes, it's a place you'd drive across town to, but there's a catch with that: you can't book and it's usually packed. Which means unless you live around the corner and drop by on the off-chance of getting a seat, it's not worth the hassle. The appeal? Its combination of restaurant-standard food and wine and the bustling atmosphere of a neighbourhood cafe with service that's friendly with an endearing hint of attitude. They do one of the best steak dishes around town: a hunk of fillet with varying accompaniments (you might find bok choy and polenta fritter). Others seek out the linguini with Atlantic salmon, braised leek, capers and olive oil and for those sweet of tooth, the sticky date pudding is a winner.
Open: Mon-Sat 11.30am-11pm, Sun 11.30am-10pm.
* White Village Greek Tavern - 582 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick, 9523 7375
At White Village, the food just appears. A plate of dips, beans and olives arrives soon after you do and the meal will continue thus until you beg for mercy. At some stage, a waiter will ask if you'd prefer more seafood to meat in the main dishes but generally the food just keeps coming. The seafood dishes always include calamari (the stuffed barbecue version is especially popular) but the fish is whatever was fresh at the market, including, occasionally, lovely garfish that comes in a perfectly grilled pair.
Open: Tues-Sun dinner only 6pm-late.
* The Greville Bar - 143 Greville Street, Prahran, 9529 4800
Never mind that it's too dark in this cosy, railway-carriage-like cafe/bar to read the specials board - the waitress appears whenever you want her. The food is ambitious, with many dishes Japanese-influenced and the occasional oddity like goat curry popping on to the menu. Our success rate over several visits has been fairly high: a duck confit with puy lentils and white truffle oil had the requisite intensity of flavour and tender texture, while a tea-smoked quail with miso and eggplant stuffing and braised tofu, though too heavy on the smoke, also won points on texture. If the prices seem a little heavy, pop in for a drink and a snack instead of a slap-up feed.
Open: seven days noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm.
* Centro Cafe - 225 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, 9699 5904
Centro, a family-run restaurant, has been serving up good, authentic Italian food for the past 21 years and shows no sign of flagging. The menu changes seasonally and is intelligently structured to allow you to order most dishes as either entree or main course. There are some interesting regional pasta dishes, such as the home-made breadcrumb pasta "badly cut" and tossed with char-grilled eggplant and pesto. Then there's the trio of rabbit: rabbit sausage, rabbit leg and rabbit fillet wrapped in prosciutto. The gnocchi was so light, we thought it might float off the plate.
Open: Mon-Fri noon-3pm, Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm.
* Kim Chi - 75 Koornang Road, Carnegie, 9569 2399
Not only does this restaurant always seem to be packed with people but you'll also often find a crowd milling around on the footpath outside, waiting for a table. The food is a combination of Korean and Japanese. California rolls and chicken teriyaki rub up alongside pork and beancurd hotpot, beef soup and other traditional Korean fare - and it's all pretty good.
Open: Tues-Sun lunch noon-3pm, dinner daily 5pm-10pm.
* Rose and Crown - 309 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, 9646 3580
If there was ever a pub that encouraged a long, relaxed boozy lunch, this is it. The R&C is far from trendy; it has more of a comfy feel, with old-fashioned carpet and a traditional bar, and you can sit in either the front bar or the slightly more formal restaurant area. There's a huge wine list with plenty by the glass and the food ranges from snacks to go with drinks through pizzas to full-blown restaurant meals. We chose the makings of a snacky lunch: fried sheep's milk cheese, which came nicely done with a few marinated vegetables on the side, a little pizza with pieces of tomato and anchovies, very tasty; potato croquettes filled with rice, flecks of herb and cheese, and served with a thick tomato sauce. Excellent pub grub.
Open: Mon-Fri noon-3pm, Mon-Sat 6pm-11pm.
* The Dogs Bar - 54 Acland Street, St Kilda, 9525 3599
The Dogs Bar was the place that really started St Kilda's renaissance nearly a decade ago, its owner going on to renovate the equally trendy (in its time) George Hotel on Fitzroy Street. It has lost none of its old appeal though and, while it's mainly a drinks venue on a weekend night, the meals are worth a visit in themselves - like the hearty lamb saltimbocca we tried, which arrived with a dollop of excellent sage risotto. The prawns with garlic and chilli served in a terracotta pot is a good bet, too.
Open: Mon-Fri 10am-1am, Sat and Sun 9am-1am.
* Indian Express - 277 Hampton Street, Hampton, 9598 4444, 9598 4322
We've recommended Indian Express several times in the past and nothing's changed - it's still a nondescript curry shop with a handful of tables for eating in and a bain-marie counter. But come lunchtime on Saturday, Indian food fans - and members of the local Indian community - come from all over town to eat the masala dosai (a kind of crepe, made of ground rice and lentils, and served either plain or filled with a buttery potato and onion curry). The rest of the week's menu is just as appealing, with North Indian favourites such as yoghurt-marinated chicken tikka.
Open: Tues-Sat noon-3pm, 5pm-late; Sunday 5pm-late.
Prices: breads and starters $1.10-$2, meals $5-$7.
* Caffe Per Te - 66 Church Street, Brighton, 9592 0169
An Italian-style cafe serving breakfasts ranging from pastries to poached eggs, good lunches such as pasta or stuffed focaccia and, most important, reliable coffee. At night, Caffe Per Te has more of a restaurant feel as the tablecloths come out to replace the butcher's paper and the food is a little more serious. We relished the risotto casareccia; a hearty serve of tomato-tinted rice, cooked in a terrific seafood stock, then mixed with prawns and capsicum flecks. As for the mussels, they were mighty good - a decent bowlful cooked in white wine with garlic, tomato and a hint of chilli.
Open: seven days breakfast and lunch, Wed-Sat dinner.
Prices: entrees $2.50-$13.90, mains $13.90-$20.
* The Galleon - 9 Carlisle Street, St Kilda, 9534 8934
Very old-school St Kilda with a real breakfast scene for the locals on weekends but it does good family cooking all day through - chicken and leek pie, toasted sandwiches, spanakopita, Tuscan bean soup, pastas - with a slightly more sophisticated menu at night. Stir-fried noodles were well above average, as was a spaghetti pesto - exactly the kind of food you want to find at the end of your street when you come home too tired to cook.
Open: Sat-Sun 8.30am-11pm, Mon-Fri 9am-11pm.
* Aroma Bar Restaurant - 100 Ormond Road, Elwood, 9531 3155
The modern pale-wooded cafe par excellence and one of the better places along this strip, though the competition is now fierce. The interior is cheerful but elegant with ragged yellow walls adorned by a series of large modern abstract paintings. Coffee and cake are popular during the day and in the evening there is a varied menu, supplemented by a specials board. The menu is modern Eurasian, offering everything from curry laksa to risotto.
Open: seven days 8.30am-10.30pm.
* Bala da Dhaba - 56 Glen Eira Road, Elsternwick, 9523 8683
Hugely popular on weekend nights for that easy slap-up feed. The ambience is very much that of a traditional Aussie-Indian eatery, with waiters turned out in waistcoats and bow ties. And the food's generally good: vegetable samosas crisp and chunky and keema naan was packed with spicy mince.
Open: daily 5.30pm-11pm.