Shooting food is one of the better jobs a photographer can land. I love food, I live to eat and around 60-75% of my relationship with my girlfriend is built on and around the eating, preparing and enjoyment of food. Shooting and eating dishes beautifully prepared by Justin, the chef at Eau De Vie was a fantastic way to spend a Friday afternoon.
First up was wild caught scallops steamed in ouzo. While photographing this dish the scallops started to open up under my LED lights. Justin informed me this was due to them still being alive and the reflex opening happens in shallow water when the tide goes out.
The trick to eating these is the same for eating muscles. After prying the shell apart you scoop out the scallops with a fork. I’m not a big fan of scallops, but if people keep making them like this I might be. There was a lovely freshness which was set off beautifully by the subtle anise of the ouzo.
Following the scallops was soda-battered sardines with micro & pickle salad.
The batter was light and crisp while the sardines were slightly salty. This was delightful and the sauce at the bottom of the bowl matched perfectly. The salad added a bit of crunch and freshness. It was a very balanced, moor-ish dish, hearty without being heavy or oily.
The next plate held crispy local calamari, wild olives & rocquette.
Having a Greek mother I’ve been eating calamari and olives all my life. I’m always appalled when restaurants overcook their calamari, making it rubbery and destroying it’s texture. During a trip to Japan I was often served raw calamari as sashimi and while playing I-can-eat-anything-you-can with a chef in Ueno, I’ve even eaten raw squid guts. It is fair to say I’m a little picky when it comes to squid, so I was very happy when the calamari in this dish turned out to be beautifully cooked with the extra crunch on the outside making the texture even more enjoyable. The olives had to be some of the nicest I’ve had this year, and if I had a jar of them, they wouldn’t last more than a week.
Next was one of Chef Justin’s signature dishes, beetroot and lemon salted kingfish with macerated shallot and edible garden.
Up to this point, I had enjoyed all the food I had been served. This plate took it to another level. The flavours mixed beautifully and there was a lovely meatiness to the kingfish. If ordering this dish (which I highly recommend) it is a must to eat the flowers! The chef gets a little bit insulted when people don’t eat them and I agree, they complete the balance of the dish.
Next up is my equal favourite dish of the day. Seared single line yellow-fin tuna with white bean puree’ and green olive.
I love tuna, there is something beautiful about it’s flavour. I always get nervous when people do a lot too it, it can often over-power what I like most about tuna. As you might guess my fears evaporated with the first bite. The natural flavour of tuna came through while being accented and enhanced by what they had done to it. The smoky flavour of the salt worked with the olive worked with the puree’. The slight crunch around the outside next to the soft, raw flesh, beautiful textures.
Up to this point all the dishes had been displaying balance and control over textures, flavours and aromas. Nothing you wouldn’t expect from a chef who has earned his stripes. The next dish however is a different kind of animal which I will explain below. What we have here is hand-cut linguine with tomato and jalepeno braised lamb.
I often don’t order lamb when I go to restaurants. This is because it almost never lives up to my expectations. As I’ve mentioned, I’m half-Greek and lamb is something Greeks take a lot of pride in. It is like serving pasta to an Italian boy, if it isn’t like his Mama used to make it, you can bet he probably won’t rate it. In my case, if it isn’t on par with my Uncle John’s lamb-on-the-spit or lamb gyros cooked over charcoal for 6+ hours and spiced with a recipe he has been perfecting for over 20 years, I’m not happy. That is a bar some of Melbourne’s hatted restaurants haven’t been able to meet. So you must be wondering what do I think of what they served me up here?
When I first turned up the lamb had just finished cooking for over 8 hours (time to be updated, I cannot remember exactly how long) Chef cut me off a piece straight out of the baking tray it was in. I ate it steaming hot and fresh out of the oven, the way I might at a BBQ, cut straight off as it rotates over the fire. So what did I think of it, you ask? It was good; bloody good. It was hot and juicy, the meat fell apart as I chewed it, bursting with flavour. It was different to how I’m used to eating lamb, I normally enjoy the smoky taste of charcoal that goes hand-in-hand with BBQ-ing, but this was equally good in it’s own way. I had a smile from ear to ear, very impressed. As part of a lamb ragu, it was hearty and filling. The lamb had preserved it’s deliciousness while being mixed with a lovely tomato sauce. The slight tang of the jalepenos went beautifully with linguine and parmesan. This is my second, equal favourite dish.
For dessert I was served up fraise savage, ewes milk and passionfruit honeycomb.
A fantastic way to finish off the day. It was light, while not too sweet. The passionfruit honeycomb added crunch and a lovely sweetness while the fraise savage was cold and sweet all at once. I ate the plate clean.