Pei Modern. The name of Australian restauranteur Mark Best’s newest venture in Melbourne’s CBD. Best is well known by many for his multiple award winning Marque Restaurant in Surry Hills, NSW. I have not been to Marque and assuming that the big wheels keep on turnin’ – I shall one day. I did visit Pei Modern for dinner in September 2012 and to be frankly honest - it was awesome.
Located at the base of the Sofitel Hotel on Collins Street, Pei has established itself as a premiere all-day dining venue offering a breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a bar menu. Pei has recently been awarded the prestigious honour of ‘Best New Restaurant’ in Victoria for 2012, by the ever reliable Age Good Food Guide. Being awarded such a prestigious honor certainly pumped up my expectations (and appetite) before attending.
The cuisine is modern Australian incorporating gastronomic edge to many of the dishes. I was recommended by many to take advantage of the degustation dining experience. This consisted of 7 courses at, dare I say, a reasonable price of $90 per head (without tip or alcohol included) but I do think that it was quite reasonable for the callibre of the food. As such, we swooped in while we can still afford it. An a la carte option is available too.
Our palette was whet with freshly sliced sourdough, butter and salt – the key to this chommer’s heart. The simple combination of these three basic staples makes for a superb beginning to the feast. To cap it off, the hospitable staff replaced the full package as soon as we were done. Believe it or not – the upcoming feast was so large we only went through two rounds of bread!
The first course was the almond garzpachio with blue swimmer crab. This was a fabulous opening dish that was light but flavourfilled. Small pieces of fresh crab were hidden under a dressing that we felt tasted almost like hummus. Sweet red grapes were included too, which balanced the dish well.
We moved onto the cold smoked tuna with goat’s curd and mustard seeds. This dish was an artist’s piece and almost looked to good to chom. Almost! Possibly the finest tuna that has ever graced my lips. Add all that other craziness and liquid goat’s curd underneath – you have a delicious dish.
Just a little warning, don’t be a hater and just eat Peter – he tastes delicious. The rabbit meatballs with slow cooked carrot were to die for! Definitely in the top 7 dishes we had for the night. While these were not as visually appealing, they made up for it in sheer eating delight. Warm, soft and full of juice, lying in juice. The carrots were not the center of attention but were divine too and soft as butter.
From my understanding, this is quickly becoming Pei’s signature dish. This is Dutch cream potatoes with bone marrow, potatoe mousse and coffee grounds. While the name/description do not sound too desirable, I felt I was comfortably in safe hands. This was a massive serving of soft potatoes hiding beneath the super flavoursome creamy broth. Word’s cannot describe the flavours – a must try!
The fifth and final savoury course was the wood fire grilled hanger steak charred pablano pepper and harissa. A beautiful, rare piece of meat to take the centre stage with the harissa a ‘match made in heaven’ accompaniment. Truthfully, we were all full to the brim by this point. How did we manage dessert?
Dark chocolate sorbet with crushed chocolate and honeycomb. The photo does not depict this well, you may be able to make out the chocolate at the base of the cones. This is for dipping the ice cream into – need I say more? And, YES double dipping did occur – triple too!
The 7th course finally arrived – the one that we truly believed that our stomachs had no room for. It was white chocolate and yoghurt ganache with fresh mandarin and sorrel sorbet. I summoned to the almighty chomming gods for the strength to plough this dessert.
Pei Modern is truly something special. Save it for a special occasion or don’t – either way just make sure that you find the time to go down. Hands down I would recommend the degustation experience as an awesome way of trying a large portion of the menu. From what I am aware, the menu changes every day of the week but Sunday when Pei has a little rest. Open from 5:30pm all other days – Pei Modern is at your service.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Modern Australian / Gastronimic
Noise: Nice hum
Bookings: Yes – Praise the lord
Suitable for: Adults inclined
Dress: Work wear appropriate
Price: $90 per head (excluding alcohol)
My View: An affordable and scrumptious degustation experience
Address: 45 Collins Street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9654 8545
Attempting to source a cafe in Melbourne with a difference can prove to be a challenging task for any foodie. Again and again you dine in very similar environments, sipping similar blends and finding almost identical items on the menu. Truthfully, the winning formula works, and it hasn’t been a problem thus far. However, Demitri’s Feast is a top discovery if you are looking for an edge, a bit of zing or something that provides a different take on the standard brekky or lunch.
Positioned on Swan Street, very close to the intersection of Church Street, makes for an extremely busy location. Queues, up the wazzoo can be expected for Monday to Friday lunch times. I visited Saturday afternoon and managed to get a table reasonably easily. In width, this place is very small comprising a very tightly packed front room with a long work bench, which flows through to a humble and intimate courtyard.
The converted Greek oil container stools are very funky. The display case beautifully displays the assortment of take-away options to support the hustle of the residential and business types that come here to feast on the run. Assortment of toasted pita bread wraps, salads and smaller Greek delights can all be packaged up to chom while your on your merry way.
Mezedes plate of selected small tasty treats ($18.00) includes chorizo sausages slices, dolmades, spicy roasted capsicum and green beans (maybe chillis – they were extremely hot!), sauteed mushrooms, olives, quiche and a trio of dips. This is a fantastic sharing plate for approximately 3 people (a larger plate is offered at $29.00). A perfect appetizer !
Fluffy, soft, lightly toasted pita bread which comes with the plate of goodies – worth the carbs!
The free range egg, bacon and ouzo aioli pita bread sandwich ($9.50). This dish was consumed at 2:30 in the afternoon after it was most likely prepared closer to the 9am mark. Considering this, I probably should have chosen something freshly made as there was a slight dryness. Suggestion: order this one closer to the morning rather than the arvo.
Demitri offers breakfast served till 3pm each day (Tues-Sun), which is just super, but at the same time makes deciding what to have a tougher choice. Above is The Gigantes, which consists of baked beans, a free range egg, lokaniko sausage and feta ($15.90). The toast is sourced from St Kilda’s baking experts, Baker D. Chirico.
Another delight from the breakfast menu is the Rizogalo ($9.80) – an excellent choice. This is a warmed Greek rice pudding topped with poached fruit compote. I like to think of this as an excellent replacement for the standard porridge. In some form this has been sweetened, but not too much. Just enough to tickle the taste buds’ fantasy. It may be described as a creamy, vanilla-y bowl of heart-warming goodness.
Spanakopita, whitebait, calamari, semolina pancakes and baklava french toast are just some of the mediterranean inspired courses that feature on the menu (some of these I have tried and will be back for in the future). Demitri’s Feast should definitely be high on your ‘to try’ list, especially if you’re keen for an alternative to the typical Melbourne cafe fare.
We certainly feasted at this lunch destination. Demitri would be proud.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Greek cafe
Bookings: Unfortunately no
Suitable For: Young and old
Price: $15 – $20 per head
My View: A top cafe with a difference
Address: 141 Swan Street, Richmond
Phone: (03) 9428 8659
Two saints feature on The Chommery in a row! St Edmonds graced us with his virtuous presence in Prahran in the last post, and now precious Katherine has shown me a thing or two with a blessed new restaurant in Kew. Popular chefs George Calombaris and Shane Delia have pooled together their fathomless food and food industry knowledge to create this impressive establishment. Serving up a plethora of Mediterranean dishes inspired by a mixture of Greek and Turkish cuisine, I think St K’s is doin’ a pretty bang up job.
The street frontage doesn’t look like much, and it is a shame there is no outdoor seating or courtyard. Nonetheless, the location couldn’t be more perfect for a casual but mid-market eatery, like this, especially considering the lack of genuine competition in the Kew area. Locals and visitors alike seem pretty very happy with this new instant institution, which caters well for all people: young, old couples, insanely massive family gatherings. Surely many business minded restaurateurs will catch on to the suburb’s potential for reinvigorated eating and drinking, and places will sprout up like daisies
Step inside and you hit a pretty loud, buzzy atmosphere. The staff will greet you and walk you to your table that… guess what?! You have BOOKED. This strange, foreign word ‘book’ – sometimes know as ‘reserved’ – is not always a part of the vocabulary of many new places. But I called up St. K’s earlier this week, got the time and the day I wanted. Exhilarating stuff.
Exposed ventilation, hanging lights, white tiling, shiny wooden tables, open kitchen, massive bar and loads of people. These are some of the tell tail signs of what I call the ‘Melbourne Food Model’ (not to be mistaken for the slightly less savoury Melbourne University Melbourne Model). In Melbourne, some or all of these features seem to have become a formula to be followed by successful restaurants or cafes. If you include these features, you will look attractive to customers and they will come and try once. The challenge is to attract the repeat customers, the ones that come back for seconds, thirds, their Nan’s birthday, a corporate lunch, the odd desert and then dinner again. I am a repeat customer of St K’s: guilty as charged. The first visit was only a quick lunch with the boys, which I usually try to keep quite sedated in terms of eating. When the night comes around so does the appetite and the ordering shenanigans begin…
The Mythos beer ($9.00) was a great start to the meal. I became quite familiar with this particular brew during a trip to Santorini, Greece. It’s smooth and easily drinkable lager. If I hadn’t been with the family (that’s my Nan in the background) I could easily kick back and knock down a dozen.
Grilled flat bread brushed with olive oil and Za’atar ($6.50). Olives- poached in olive oil served with maltese fel fel ($8.00). The flat bread was soft and not too heavily spiced. It complemented the pumpkin dip (next photo) perfectly. The huge olives were the best ones – ultra Juicy.
Fez roast pumpkin dip made with honey and cinnamon ($8.50). This was an exquisite dip – great consistency; not to runny or to firm. Not to mention the serving dish was very pretty.
Under the Wood Fired Oven section of the menu there were four different pides. Others had toppings of prawns, peppered figs and Maltese pork sausage. We chose Pide number 4 with ground lamb, tomato, garlic, parsley, Aleppo pepper and lemon ($15.00). The pide had too many flavours to pin point exactly which you were tasting, but too be fair, this was a superbly easy dish for sharing; it’s pre-cut and there’s enough to try but not to feel stuffed either.
Wow. Turkish lamb dumplings with garlic yoghurt, sumac and dried mint ($18.00). Neither myself nor anyone I was dining with had ever seen dumplings like this. Most of us are used to the regular dimmies you may get from a bain marie, or served en masse in a bamboo steamer. This was quite a different kettle of fish. 30+ soft little morsels, each mouthful sized and served with a spoon. I recommend this dish for a group to try and experience something a little different.
Two Chicken kefta snack burgers (fish also available) in a sesame and cinnamon roll with mayonnaise and herbs ($6.50 each). These were slightly bland and dry. I could have just been unlucky on the night or maybe I’m too much of a harsh pr*ck, but my feeling is that these are more of a novelty than a must-try.
Grilled market fish of John Dory filleted ($34.00). These were easily divided among the team and tasted like what regular fish with some herbs on top tastes like.
Salad of ancient grains: seeds, pine-nuts, lentils, capers, currants and pomegranates ($12.5). This was my favourite of the two salads we had. I strongly attribute this fondness to the addition of pomegranate seeds. I know they’re hard to peel, but these definitely don’t feature enough in regular salads (or maybe just the ones I eat) and they add a hit of sweetness and tartness to the dish. This combo of ingredients was a great side and I would definitely order again.
Rice pilaf with dill, apricot, carrot and toasted pumpkin seeds ($9.50). The rice was nice. Relaxing. By this I mean the flavours were pleasant, as expected, but my heart didn’t skip a beat in gastronomical delight (yes, this does sometimes happen). But maybe that’s what you want from a side dish of pilaf?
This was the “Off the rotisserie” ($27.50), which is usually two different meats, slow roasted in house and great for sharing (unless you’d chom this alone – if that’s the case, respect). We ordered chicken and lamb served with a side of lemon and yoghurty goodness. The chicken was succulent and great, but, truth be told, the lamb was a little bit dry for my liking. The dryness is easily cured with a drowning of lemon juice and yoghurt.
Dessert was the Choc chip mousse with hot cherry jam doughnuts and whiskey jelly ($14.90). The waiter kindly suggested we add an additional extra two doughnuts. We obliged. We shared this among six people, which was a wise choice. A mouthful or so is all you need and I hope that you find some of the crunchy chocalatty/caramelly pieces dispersed within the mousse.
I’ve really grown to love the after dinner coffee. It can be a highly tactical decision if you have an event that you need your buzz for after the meal concludes. I choose the strong Greek coffee ($4.50), the other option was the Arabic. More expensive than a regular Melb caffeine hit but tasty nevertheless. Don’t forget your paying for the experience of not drinking the standard fare.
I’m confused with the scarily low urbanspoon rating this Saint has acquired over its short time in the world. ‘Each to their own’ they tell me, and ‘everyone can’t think like you Dr Chommer’. My feeling is that most will have a a pretty sterling experience. Like Hellenic Republic, another Greek-influenced Calombaris venture, the food isn’t complicated gastronomy – rather wholesome and delicious. The staff are attentive and comparatively to George and Shane’s other establishments (i.e. Maha) the pricing is quite reasonable. The serving dishes are all beautifully designed. Most importantly, this is a sharing place, so be in the mood for that. The more you share, the better.
Don’t forget to post your comments if you have been and let me know your view of the Kath.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Mediterranean Inspirations (Greek/Turkish)
Noise: A full house becomes buzzing but you can still hear the others on your table
Bookings: Yes (Can you believe it?)
Suitable for: Family friendly
Dress: Casual to smart casual
Price: $35 – $45 per person
My View: A fabulous food hall with brilliant staff, simple fit out and wholesome dishes
Address: 26 Cotham Road, Kew
Phone: 9207 7477