Being a food blogger, people always ask me which restaurant has the best vegetarian food in Melbourne. I enjoy many meals but whenever I am faced with this question, I can only shrug my shoulders and admit that whilst there are some great restaurants, nothing has been outstanding lately.
I’d had my eye on Ezard’s vegetarian degustation menu since it first opened. With my friend over from Adelaide on Monday, we decided to go all out. Life is too short after all.
The first ones to arrive at the restaurant, I felt slightly stifled by the formality of the setting and staff. Even the waitress was dressed in a sharp suit with good posture to match. Relaxing more as we flopped into the comfy couch seats, we tried to focus our tired brains to order wine. In the end I resorted to their recommendations.
“I prefer richer, creamier wines but nothing too acidic, bitter or citrusy,” I vaguely described my taste.
“And what are you eating?”
“The vegetarian degustation.”
“Well then, I would recommend a white…”
Have I mentioned that I have given up on trying to match food with wine? Just as most assume vegetarian food to be bland, they expect that the accompanying wine should be flavourless too.
I had never tried a Grenache Blanc and enjoyed the 2009 Domaine Bondeville from France. It smelt softly of pear. The taste was interesting and enjoyable with a mellow texture on the end. It was subtle but I was eating chilli.
As the entrees started to arrive, I was excited at how the flavours of each were intense, different and perfectly balanced.
The first appetiser was a shooter with wasabi and tofu. It was accompanied with an artistic cylinder of seaweed enclosing tightly arranged soba noodles.
On the other side of the plate was a cute cup of red miso. Served with wakame and sesame seeds this had a delicious tang, different to any miso I had tried previously.
From Japan to Australia, next up was an interesting take on the popular beetroot/fetta combination. Assembled into an impressive tower, they had combined cold, roasted beetroot, with fetta, grapefruit, Spanish onion and baby beetroot leaves to garnish. A green puree was hidden between with a fresh texture of blended parsley, capers and olive oil.
Polenta followed in a crunchy patty with mushrooms, peas and a tiny poached egg. The flavours were brought out with truffle oil and dill.
Soon the waitress arrived with tofu with mushrooms. She dramatically poured a chilli, soy, mirin dressing over the top so that it became a fragrant soup. The tofu was crispy on the edges. Fried garlic, coriander and baby corn garnished the top. This dish was delicious with intense and original flavours.
The juxtaposition of the green and off-white in the next dish made it quite artistic. It was interesting with roasted Jerusalem artichokes, edamame beans and a smooth, cauliflower cream on top. Dill and parsley were used heavily to garnish.
I eat a lot of eggplant but have never thought to serve it caramelised. Sweet, thin slices were assorted with coriander and rice, around which the waitress poured an aromatic yellow curry. The flavours in this were an interesting combination with the sweetness of the eggplant and the coconut, chilli and lime tastes of the curry sauce, aniseed and finely shredded kaffir lime leaves.
The last main was a soft, potato gnocchi with tallegio, pear and walnuts. The top had been covered in parmesan and bread crumbs then baked to give it a crispy top. Whilst I love gnocchi, the appeal of this dish was definitely taken over by the intense flavours of its predecessors – and by our stomachs becoming full.
The desserts were just as impressive as the savouries and we elected to share the decadent tasting plate. This boasted six different but complementing sweets, all complex in their flavours and style. To prepare us, we were served a palate cleanser of calpico foam, lime and Vietnamese mint with a slither of rumbutan on top. Even this was delicious.
Trying to eat the softer flavours first, we started with the toffee ice-cream with gingerbread. The gingerbread was more like a crunchy biscuit and the toffee ice-cream was filled with intense bites of sweet, puffy toffee.
I do not normally like cheese cake but this one was beautiful with shredded pastry and a fresh raspberry on top.
The fig dessert had slices of fresh fig over a soft mousse with a thin sponge base. This dessert was enjoyable, but the flavours did not come together and it was lost in the outstanding tastes of the others.
The pistachio cake with strawberries was moist and enjoyable.
There was also an impressive looking dessert with Persian fairy floss. The floss was vanilla and melted in the mouth. Underneath was a coffee and berry semifreddo. The salted caramel popcorn was also a nice addition.
Finally we came to the chocolate torte. Hidden underneath the dark ganache was deliciously rich chocolate mousse. A slither of candied cumquat adorned the top.
The entire meal was outstanding. It was my most enjoyable food experience since dining in Michelin Star restaurants in Spain. I am not saying it was up there with them, but definitely the best since. Thank you Teage Ezard for such an exciting meal and for reigniting my faith in Melbourne’s food culture.
Ezard at Adelphi
187 Flinders Lane
03 9639 6811