As a restaurant lover/blogger/nutter, I feel as though I breached an unspoken rule when I visited Huxtaburger before I dined at Huxtable. The predicament I had put myself into was something along the lines of watching The Dark Knight before watching Batman Begins. Nevertheless, in a very timely manner, I moved swiftly to correct this. Now I can sleep at night knowing that Huxtable has been conquered.
Huxtable is positioned nicely on Smith Street, Fitzroy, situated in arguably one of Melbourne’s current top eating precincts, almost rubbing shoulders with some of my favourite restaurants including Huxtaburger, Gigibaba and Easy Tiger. With the addition of Huxtable to this diverse range of hot-spots, I couldn’t recommend a visit to this neck of the woods more highly. To all the south siders - don’t think it’s too much of a trek! I used to feel the same as you but I am now a better man after migrating my eating to north of the Yarra.
The menu was separated into ‘bites’ (small mouthful starters) and the larger dishes, which were ’to share’. The sharing plates were further divided into sub-categories of land, earth and sea. After reading through the menu for the third time, a long discussion ensued. Several small bites were ordered to whet our palates while we mulled over the main courses. A long thinking process was essential, as almost the entire offerings were very ‘up our alley’. To describe the cuisine, I would have to say Modern Australian/International – meaning a mix of food from here and there. We decided on two land and one sea dish for the mains – Excellent choice.
The meal could not have started on a better note. The jalapeno and cheddar croquettes ($3.50 each) were excellent. We broke the ’no fried food’ rule, but they were lightly fried and small so it didn’t count! These were served hot and as you bite through the outer crust, the rich cheddar combined with the fresh jalapeno flavour gave a mexican feel to the dish though its really the texture that makes it memorable - the centre was smooth and delicate with a creamyness. Yum.
The steamed tofu with chilli, ginger and black bean dressing ($4.50 each) were very nicely presented. These were a pleasant two mouthfuls or so, but don’t know if I will be ordering them again. Need to try all the ‘bites’ on the menu before I will repeat the order.
Now, small burgers/sliders/buns have to be one of the most popular appetisers in Melbourne right now. Buttered brioche-esque rolls, mayonnaise with pork belly, chicken or lobster – I mean seriously, how could these not be appealing? Huxtable’s version, the XO bun with crab, jalapeno and Thai basil mayo ($6.50 each) are up there. Crunchy exterior of the bun, with delicate pieces of crabby-mayo mooshyness inside. Bang – all over in 10 seconds. But what a 10 seconds it was!
Tograshi spiced tuna tartare, avocado and crisp nori ($23.00). Delicate, playing dice sized pieces of tuna, spiced up for my liking. Loved the toasted nori slices. I wanted a few more though. The avocado was possibly mixed with sour cream, and was in a paste-like form. Personally, I felt it wasn’t necessary. The tuna is where the money’s at.
Unbelievable main course coming right up. The wagyu and pea eggplant curry, coconut, shallot and lime leaf salad ($26.00) was ridiculous. We were expecting this to be in more of a soup-like curry form. Quite clearly from the photo above this was not the case. It is almost as if the soft pieces of wagyu had been cooked in a curry but served by draining most of the curry part (none of that was complaining, just blabbering). The fresh coconut slices on the top were not just aesthetically pleasing but added a great edge that gelled well with the whole shabang. My partner in crime described this dish as more of an indian flavoured goulash/stew. If you can’t tell – order this bad boy.
Roasted duck breast, quinoa, hazelnut, pickled cherries and goat’s cheese ($27.00). This is a dish to write home about folks. Thick, succulent pieces of lightly seared duck resting on a bed of toasted quinoa. I have never had quinoa served like this before, it provided a good crunch to the meal and combined with the melted goat’s cheese, it made for a stunning course.
Huxtable offers a great range of dishes, using premium quality fresh produce which all contribute to a vast array of flavours. One couldn’t decide between an australian or asian influence, rather a mixed blend that will appeal to all. I cannot say that I would recommend Huxtable for people who tend to watch the hip-pocket nerve when dining out. Luckily enough Huxtaburger (amazing burger joint), diagonally across from Huxtable is a great alternative. For The Chommery, Huxtable could be my top dinner for 2012 thus far. Pick a nice evening, to be on the safe side book ahead, take comfort in our suggestions. Huxtable is excellent.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Modern Australian / International
Noise: Relaxing background buzz
Bookings: E-mail or phone – 6:30pm & 8:30pm
Suitable for: Kids allowed, doubt they will appreciate the quality
Dress: Smarter casual than usual
Price: $65 per head including a glass of Pinot
My View: A fabulous eatery
Address: 131 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Phone: (03) 9419 5101
If you are looking for a great place for Thai north of the Yarra, Easy Tiger is an excellent choice. I was lucky enough to dine here in January 2012. Bookings can be made via your telephone or an online system; we used this knowledge and made a reservation well in advance of the date. I would highly recommend booking early to ensure your evening here. The Tiger isn’t huge and it gets booked out very quickly.
The street frontage on bustling Smith Street in Collingwood is unassuming, a subtle hint of the treasure that lies inside. You will notice there is no Smith Street front dining, but there is an extremely good-looking (and surprisingly large) courtyard out back. Set out with communal timber tables and fairy lights hanging from the ceiling it provides for a great dim lit cosy space for a night out.
You’ll notice Mr monkey on your left as you step inside. I like to think he’s looking over the place, making sure everybody has a swell night. He wears a hat tilted to the side because he’s hip and wants to show the world that he’s not like all others.
A complimentary tea on arrival makes for a very welcoming feel. We sipped and enjoyed sitting in the lounge area at the front while our table was prepared for us to feast. I noticed that many of the customers were seated on this low lounge table for roughly 5-10 minutes when they arrived. This was cool because it allowed me to acclimatize to the ET vibe before venturing deeper into the jungle…
OK, maybe jungle isn’t the best way of describing this place, although the animal pictures do provide it with some kind of jungle-esque feel. The front dining room is a compact space where diners sit close to one another on the communal tables or have the option of sitting as a two along the right hand wall. This circa 30 seat room is looked over by the double horned unicorn/donkey displayed above the multi-coloured glass shelves.
We ordered the set menu @ $65 per person, which ET does on the condition that the entire table get’s involved. (However, for the convenience of your reading pleasure I have included the menu price for the individual dishes too). I am always a bit dubious about ordering set menus and banquets when I’m out for the dinner meal. Sometimes it can be highway robbery and leave you forking out some serious coin when the a la carte option would have been cheaper, and potentially more interesting. At ET I would say the banquet is a wise choice. A very wise choice. The dishes are made according to the amount of people to be served, which is a generous change from the common trend of one massive plate in the middle (desperately hoping that it will be enough for all).
These four little babies are the Ma Hor ($4.00 each) which are made up of prawn, pork and chicken mince cooked in palm sugar, perched on top of a 50 cent sized bed of watermelon. As you can imagine these were a very short lasting experience, but one you won’t forget. These little guys were absolutely scrumptious. The sweet, fresh watermelon was great.
Another miniature gastronomic delight which is eaten in one mouthful: the betel leaf with prawn, peanuts and fresh coconut ($5.00 each). So many amazing flavours and textures packed into a leaf sandwich – a killer second entree.
Next up was the classic Thai fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce ($12.00). Delicious, lightly fried cakes which don’t taste too fishy (for my humble tastes), and the sauce was a very befitting companion.
Chicken, shitake mushroom and water chestnut spring rolls ($6.00 each). Springers – you can’t go wrong, right?
Here’s the controversial one: sour orange curry of smoked trout with cherry tomatoes and Siamese watercress ($30.00). Strange, right? Could be wrong, could be oh-so-right. (I mean, what is ‘smoked trout’ and ‘curry’ even doing in the same sentence, let alone the same dish?). Personally, this wasn’t my favourite dish of the night. I found the curry slightly too sour for my liking. But that’s OK. It was a half/half split over this one, which suggests its an ambitious and interesting dish. The funny part was that the 2/4 of us that loved this dish weren’t huge fans of the wagyu beef. You know, sometimes it’s good to come across a dish that isn’t my favourite – the incinerator is human after all. And it makes ordering easier next time around. Meanwhile, I was on the team that preferred the beef. Make your own call and get back to me.
Green papaya salad ($8.00). Classic Thai staple and national dish that varies from region to region, though not always on the menu in local Aussie Thai eateries. This wasn’t one of the main events but it was nice and fresh, worked well as a side to the larger courses.
Oh yeah. Coconut braised blackmore wagyu beef shin with pickled cucumber ($30.00). Be still my beating heart. The plate was entirely spotless when my side of the table was done with it. The wagyu was exquisitely soft and melted in your mouth; the rice soaked up all the creamy coconut sauce that the beef was floating in. The robust garnish of coriander and spring onions added a good crispy, fresh vegie-herbie to the overall flavour and texture. Mos def my favourite dish of the night.
Son in law eggs ($4.00 each – These are boiled then lightly fried eggs often served in/with a sweet sauce). To be honest, I was holding out for these for the entire meal. I have had them before at both Longrain and Gingerboy, both hip Thai-Fusion joints in the city. So I did know what I was in for when they arrived. I like to think of them as small explosions in the mouth as is the course of action when you chom. They are best consumed whole to avoid slopping and for full eating pleasure. Definitely order if you haven’t tried these or, if you have tried them and really like them.
I didn’t think there was room for the desert. Bullshit. I always make room for desert. White sticky rice served with banana fritter and salted peanuts. This was just the perfect size to end the feast. The sticky rice was an unusual and surprisingly great addition.Each person received their own little serve, (the regular serving costs $14.00 and is presumably larger.
The Tiges is an upmarket Thai restaurant – on the pricier side for this type of food in Melbourne, but you are paying for helpful, professional staff, clean and delicious food and a simple but funky fit out. The price is totally justified. I would recommend heading down there as a 2 or 4 person group to allow the sharing to work best and the conversation to flow like the rivers of the Mekong while you can still hear each other. ET is a beautiful spot. Definitely one to try, as it’s an excellent example of high-quality Melbourne dining.
The Important Details…
Noise: Loud but bearable
Bookings: Yes – by phone or website
Suitable for: 18 year +
Price: $65 banquet + alcohol
My View: Yet another fabulous Smith Street establishment well worth seeking out.
Address: 96 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: (03) 9417 2373