Domaine du Bois Mozé Crémant de Loire Rosé 2009, Loire Valley, France

Looking for an alternative to Champagne? Take my advice for this bang-for-buck excellent tasting Crémant from the Loire Valley. You can find it at PWS for $30, and wait till you hear what went into making this wine!

The Bois Mozé vineyards are located between Angers and Saumur, west of the towns of Chinon and Tours in the Loire Valley. The Loire being renown for Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc, but here’s something alternative. Here is a Cremant made from 95% Cabernet Franc and 5% black Grolleau grapes. The fruit is cold pressed, left for 12 hours on skins for the colour extraction, then a further 3 years ageing on lees before being disgorged. A lovely aromatic dry sparkling wine, notes of red currants, blackcurrants, rose and spice. The acidity is firm and crisp, nicely toned fruit on the palate. Clean, moderately weighted on the finish. A great drink for the cooler sunny days heading up to summer! Drink now – 2025. 90/100.

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Domaine La Roubine Gigondas 2010, Rhone Valley, France

Roubine Gigondas 2010 Rhone Valley France Simple Palates Seriously

Another delicious Rhone wine from the solid 2010 vintage. The Domaine la Roubine Gigondas 2010 is a blend of 65% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault and 10% Syrah. Dark ruby purple colour, youthful floral nose with aromas of blackberry jam, stewed plum, sweet spice and earthy oak staves. Still young, this medium+ bodied wine has fruity acidity, and a moderate level of chewey tannins. Ripe joocey blackberry, mulberry and red plum flavours. Nice clean finish. Drink now – 2020. 90/100. This would be nice with some char-grilled chicken with a beetroot and fetta salad.

I got a couple on the cheap off Langton’s but you can find these for $50 from PWS.

For an exploration of the region, check out the Roubine Vacqueyras 2010 which retails for $40.

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Oakridge Local Vineyard Series 2012, Yarra Valley

I dropped by Oakridge Wines in the Yarra Valley on the weekend while I was visiting Healesville Sanctuary. David Bicknell has a fantastic track record of turning out fine Chardonnays so no better time then the present to drop by and say ‘hi’ to the friendly cellardoor staff.

Oakridge Fumare 2012 864 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Yarra Valley Simple Palates Seriously

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Murramong Vineyard Arneis 2013
$26. This is a cellar door exclusive, and is the product of experimentations with different fermentation methods. Light, golden yellow colour. A pretty, feminine and aromatic wine. Notes of lemon zest, quince and poached pear in honey. A simple, straight-forward wine, great as a late afternoon drink, or to start off your dinner. Edgy acidity, firm structure and a long aftertaste. Would be nice with a pear, walnut rocket salad, or prosciutto-wrapped melon. Drink now – 2015. 88/100.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Fumare 2012
$32. A multi-vineyard blend from the Guerin, Oakridge and Syme vineyards, from different sites around the Yarra Valley. A barrel fermented blend of 71% Sauvignon Blanc, 19% Pinot Gris and 10% Semillion. Fruit was chilled down from the summer heat, then separately whole-bunch pressed into old 500L puncheons for natural fermentation till dry. Left on lees for 7 months prior to final blending and bottling. Clear, light straw yellow colour with a shade of green. Very expressive and aromatic, youthful notes of minerality, spice, white grapefruit, pear and a note of the fumé. Intriguing. It is complex, the citrus flavours are layered, mingled with acidity, and the structure holds up against all that. Medium-bodied for a dry white wine, clean and precise fruit flavours, impressive. Drink now – 2015. 90/100.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series J&J D’Aloisio vineyard Chardonnay 2012
$36. Bright lemon yellow colour, this fresh, highly zesty charged wine exudes youthful aromas of lemon candy, mandarins, baked green apple and a touch of raw cashew. A medium-bodied dry white wine, feels fuller due to the tart acidity. Rich fruit flavours with lemon and mandarin flesh, green apple and it’s all retained on a softer, rounded finish. Drink now – 2020. Will be interesting to see how this evolves in the bottle. 90-92/100.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Guerin vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
$36. Whole berry fermentation in open vessels for two weeks, followed by a 10 month maturation in French oak barrels. Medium ruby coloured wine with crimson hues. Slightly reduced, earthy initially, then opens up with youthful aromas of sour cherry, red currants, pomegranate and baking spices. A medium-bodied wine, lovely fruity acidity, soft silky tannins. Ripe flavours of red currants, cherries, cranberries with a velvety slate of spice. Nice length for the finish. 519 cases produced. Drink now – 2019. 89-90/100.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Whitsend/Oakridge vineyards Shiraz 2012
Not on tasting at cellar door due to dwindling stocks. Only half a shelf left on sale at cellar door. Offered the Over The Shoulder Shiraz 2012 for tasting instead. I bought a bottle from a store later on the day.

$36. This wine is a blend from the west facing Whitsend (60%) and north Oakridge (40%) vineyards sited in the grey alluvial loams of Coldstream. The Whitsend fruit underwent whole berry ferment while the Oakridge fruit was whole bunch fermented, both in open vessels followed by 12 month maturation in 500L 20% new French oak puncheons. Clear, medium ruby colour with a shade of purple. Youthful aromas of white pepper, blackberries, mulberries and dried herbs. A medium-bodied wine, high acidity to keep the freshness going, moderate level of chewy tannins. Nice dark fruit flavours, blackberry, cherry, bit of black plum, and the lingering spice. Good length for the finish. Drink now – 2020. 89/100.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Oakridge vineyard Merlot 2012
$26. Not the biggest fan of Merlot. But this was an ok drink, fine dusty tannins, dark plummy fruit flavours. I with-hold my opinion on this.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Whitsend vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
$36. Quite the typical Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics, which was probably aided by the good-excellent ripening conditions of the 2012 vintage. Dark ruby with purple/crimson tinge. Youthful perfumed bouquet, think typical Cabernet characteristics – blackcurrants, violets, sweet peppercorns, pencil shavings. This is a well-structured medium to full-bodied wine, sufficient acidity and good level of tannins. Good fruit weight, ample roundness to the dark berry fruit, then finishing relatively well. Drink now – 2020. 91/100.

Oakridge 864 Oakridge Vineyard Winery Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$75. Fruit comes off the Oakridge Vineyard which is in direct view from the winery. Planted on alluvial loam soil in 1996, mixed Clonal selection. Fruit is hand-harvested and sorted prior to destemming. 4 day cold maceration, pump-overs thrice a day, juice remained on skins for 3 weeks prior to pressing. 15 months ageing in French oak barrels. Dark ruby-purple colour. Fragrant, youthful notes of blackcurrants, crème de cassis, dark plums, cedar, touch of clove spice and faint hint of anise. Full-bodied wine with a bit of age to it now, very different from the Local Vineyard cabernets which are more typical. There is more elegance to this one. The acidity is fresh, the core acidity is retained all the way through till the finish. Medium level of fine tannins, prop up the rich dark berry, blackcurrant, plum fruit flavours, again bit of sweet spice lingering. Long finish. Drink now – 2025. 92/100.

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Wahh… Warra Warra korean restaurant

I would never have found this place were it not for a work function. The biggest hindrance would be its subprime location, but that could be part of its appeal and consideration as a hidden gem. Warra Warra is located on Rainbow Alley, beyond Tivoli Arcade (use Cacao Green as a landmark) off Bourke St. Basically, walk into the arcade and head straight towards the rear exit of the building. Take a sharp right, and there you’ll find Warra Warra.

Warra Warra korean Simple Palates Seriously

This is a Korean restaurant, run by Koreans. Yes, a tick for the authentic racial owner factor, so unlike many of the Japanese or worse, faux-Mexican joints that proliferate in Melbourne CBD these days. While you may classify the surge in Korean restaurants as a fad, it is one that is here to stay and for the benefit of CBDers. Where else can you turn up at 11pm, gulp down cold beer, and tuck into sizzling meats? Korean BBQ is one of the bestest late-night outing snack attacks!

The layout of the restuarant is simple, not the most comfy of chairs, and against the backdrop of the kitchen. About half the floor is arranged for smaller groups of 2-4, but a quick rearrangement and my group of 12 was easily accommodated. The drinks list is mediocre with juices, soft drinks, some wines and beers. I think if more effort was made to boost the number of sojus and korean beers, this place would instantly turn into a hit!

In comparison, the food menu is well structured, it is simple yet provides ample options to satisfy most diverse groups. The bulgogi and bibimbabs should obviously be your mains of choice if you are not intending to smell like your share BBQ. These are very well priced at $14 – $18, and will certainly fill you up quite nicely. I am tempted to try their soupy stews next time for $15.

Warra Warra Chilli Cheese Chicken Simple Palates Seriously
Chilli cheese chicken, doesn’t this have ‘Korean’ written all over it? And if you weren’t satisfied with gooey cheese, here’s some potato wedges to top it off..

Warra Warra spicy beef bulgogi Simple Palates Seriously
Beef bulgogi, with a bit of sweet makgeolli on the side. Fresh salad leaves and a slice of tomato, although I wish the salad leaves had some dressing.

Warra Warra tofu bulgogi Simple Palates Seriously
Grilled tofu in teriyaki sauce bulgogi, again fresh crunchy salad leaves. I really needed a stack of kimchi with this one! Or some marinated baby octupus!

Warra Warra Vegetable pancake Simple Palates Seriously
A bit of vegetable pancake to round off the meal. I think I’ll order the kimchi pancake next time… A bit too expensive for a pancake.. about $8-10 would be more appropriate.

The key let-down, the major flaw to Warra Warra was the lack of kimchi for the table. How can a Korean restaurant NOT keep up its serve of kimchi? A fatal mistake if there was one.

A minor point: the 2 person shared BBQ is $57.50 which is a hefty price to pay for only 4 options of beef, pork, chicken or 5 prawns. You do get a salad and appetizer as part of the deal, but I think you can get much cheaper options elsewhere, although I don’t know how much meat you’re getting for this price.

However, overall, Warra Warra is a nice compact restaurant situated away from the noisy crowds of Melbourne CBD. It offers a cosy atmosphere, with outdoor tables if you are impartial to the cold. Food is very well priced, and the individual main portions are generous. Drink options could be improved, but you are really here to satisfy your stomach. Sharing out several mains and sides would be the best option for a group of friends. Once you’re done here, Cabinet Bar & Balcony is right around the corner for drinks to last you the rest of the night.

Warra Warra on Urbanspoon

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Healesville Sanctuary in winter, wood-fired pizza at Innocent Bystander (Yarra Valley)

Winter feels like it has decided to settle in Melbourne. Heading out into the Yarra Valley, it was a brisk 9 degC in the morning, and the area was clouded in mist with dark rain clouds in the distant Northern part of the valley. How cold was it? Let me put it this way..

It was so cold that the kangaroos at Healesville Sanctuary were doing it to keep warm.

Healesville Sanctuary Kangaroos Simple Palates Seriously

It was so cold that the Tasmanian Devil didn’t feel like doing much…

Healesville Sanctuary Tasmanian Devil Simple Palates Seriously

It was so cold that the wombat was busy chewing up firewood for keep his fire going.

Healesville Sanctuary Wombat Simple Palates Seriously

We needed to warm up quick, and it was lunchtime too…

So, a quick decision was made for the short drive around the corner to the Innocent Bystander winery restaurant. I have visited the Innocent Bystander / Giant Steps winery multiple times since it opened its doors years ago. I was, and still am, taken by background of their winery operations. Set against that are very comfy sofas with little stool tables, or large family-sized tables. They are certainly squeezing in more customers on to the floor these days, but it remains very much a family-friendly establishment, and a cool casual place to catch up with friends on a weekend.

The floor layout has changed since I was last there. Gone is the cheese room in the back corner of the building, replaced by a small cheese counter near the entrance. The bread racks which used to be located near the kitchen and ovens is now few and sit with the sweet pastries near the cashier. However, the tasting bar is now swish looking, and comfortably accomodates 8-10 tasters at a time. Bottles of their various lines is spread out in this area, and a King Valley Prosecco for $25 did garner my attention. You can taste through the Giant Steps range for $10.

I used to be a fan of their pink moscato which I remember having a $6 price tag when it was first released. A 375ml bottle will now set you back $12.50, or you can have a full-sized 750ml bottle for $20. I hesitate to recommend this purchase at these prices. Don’t be mistaken, it is a fun easy drink. Which is precisely why I struggle with this price. You can have a glass for $7 or a 500ml flask for $19.

Innocent Bystander Giant Steps Moscato 2014 Healesville Simple Palates Seriously

For starters, try the Honey roast pear, endive, walnut, aged feta & basil salad ($13) and the Tomato, eggplant & silver beet rice pilaf with yoghurt ($13). Their normal fries ($7) (frites as they like to be called here) are kinda meh whilst the Truffle and Parmesan frites ($11) don’t offer enough to stoke my tastebuds. I haven’t ordered these before, perhaps the Duck fat roasted potato, speck, peas & mint ($13) might be nice. But this afternoon, it was all about the pizza. And it was some yummy pizza indeed…

Innocent Bystander Caramelised onion spinach olive mozzerella fetta almond pizza Simple Palates Seriously
Caramelised onion, baby spinach, buffalo mozzarella, Kalamata olives, fetta and fried almonds $25.

Innocent Bystander Cotechino sausage smoked scarmoza cheese pickled eggplant pizza Simple Palates Seriously
Cotechino sausage, San Marzano tomato, olive, sage, smoked scamorza cheese & pickled eggplant $25.

Innocent Bystander Winery on Urbanspoon

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Pike market, then a hike to Elliott’s Oyster House

Pike Place Market is one of the best places to visit in Seattle this summer. It’s right in downtown Seattle, and offers a bit for the tourists, and a bit more for the locals. Founded in 1907, it consists of several buildings at the base of the steep city hills on the edge of the Elliot Bay waterfront. It offers views of the Seattle eye, the busy docks and an outstretch glimpse of the Olympic mountain ranges in the far distance.

Pike Market Seattle Simple Palates Seriously

It is popular as ever with the visitors and the locals. There are plenty of handmade crafts, sharp black and white photos, jewellery and nic naks. But I was there for the food, of course! And boy do you get plenty of fresh fruit, crisp vegetables, and glorious seafood! You can see cheese being hand-made, bite into a fresh Russian Piroshki (oddly, made by Asians) or handout with the Southerner Blue grassy trio who bask outside Starbucks. Check out those jumbo Dungeness crabs, the (relatively) cheap lobster tails and Alaskan Halibut! If I could esky-pack a heap of seafood to Melbourne, you bet I would’ve hand haul my entire luggage allowance-worth back.

Pike Market Dungeness crabs Simple Palates Seriously Pike Market fresh seafood Simple Palates Seriously

If you’re looking to make an entire day out in the area, then wander south from Pike Place Market towards the Seattle Aquarium. I didn’t visit the fishies on this trip, because my stomach was drawing me further towards Pier 56 where you’ll find Elliott’s Oyster House. Established in 1975, this restaurant is often listed on ‘Best of’ lists and boasts an impressive list of oysters that would make any foodie swoon with excitement. Elliott’s pride themselves on sustainable aquaculture and supporting the local fishing industry.

Elliott's Oyster House Seattle Simple Palates Seriously

Elliott's Oyster House2 Seattle Simple Palates Seriously
Sitting on the bar with the awesome range of oysters in full view. Just courting trouble, you know you want to take on the challenge of having one of each!

Elliott's Oyster House menu Simple Palates Seriously
A most impressive oyster list, with recommended wines.

South Sound Kumamoto Oyster Elliott's Oyster House Simple Palates Seriously
The firm and clean crunchy Stellar Bay Pacific oyster.

Cajun Pan Seared Wild Pacific Salmon Elliott's Oyster House Simple Palates Seriously
Cajun pan-seared wild Pacific Salmon with mango salsa and creamed Beluga lentils.

Woodward Canyon Chardonnay 2012 WA Simple Palates Seriously
The Woodward Canyon 2012 Chardonnay (RRP$44) was a perfect drink to wash down a dozen oysters, and had the rich fruit and firm acidity to accompany the oiler salmon fish. Fermented in 20% new Burgundy barrels. 71% fruit from Woodward Canyon Estate in Walla Walla bring the fleshy ripeness to this wine. Remainder is from Celilo Vineyard in Columbia River Gorge. Bright yellow colour, lovely aromatics of green pear, Jazz apples, sweet lemony sweetness, spice and touch of raw cashew nut. Rich flavours of peach and ripe pear, there acid structure is clean and precise so it doesn’t overload the mouth. Lovely soft finish. 14.1% alc. 873 cases produced. 

Elliott's Oyster House on Urbanspoon

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Sunshine in Seattle! I’ll drink to that! Elysian Brewing Co.

Seattle is best known as the home of the Space Needle, the Supersonics (ex-2008), Frasier and Starbucks. I had to travel to Seattle for a conference last week, and was fortunate to be met by hardly a cloud in the pale crystal blue sky, warm sunshine and a cool breeze sweeping down from Puget Sound. I was basking in the perfect weather while my friends back home were nailing their windows shut to hide from the Cat 1 cyclone-strong winds and thunderstorms which slammed Melbourne. Ahhh, T-shirt and shorts weather =)

Space Needle Seattle WA
Space Needle. But to see Seattle, head to the Columbia Center.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time on my hands to visit any of the hipster gourmet roasters. Thankfully, I managed to stave off my caffeine urges and avoided drinking Starbucks filter provided by the hotel. To do otherwise would have betrayed my Australian coffee-snob pedigree. For those of you wandering through the city, check out Seattle Coffee Works which is conveniently located at the Pike Market area, or venture further North to Fremont Coffee Company.

Father and Son Louise Bourgeois Olympic Sculpture Park
Father and Son by Louise Bourgeois, Olympic Sculpture Park

Washington State is also home to the first microbrewery in USA – Yakima Brewing & Malt Co (1982 – 2005). Currently, there are 250+ brewings bubbling away, check out a comprehensive map list on Washington Beer Blog. One of these brewing pubs – Elysian Brewing Co – is located in Capital Hill, a suburb mish-mashed with dense residential streets, a vibrant multi-purpose Volunteer Park, and is central to the LGBT community. They’ve got other locations, but this is the original place to be. This is where you go for the biggest range of taps and casks, and where the festivals blow the roof off.

Elysian Brewing Co Capital Hill Seattle WA Simple Palates Seriously1221 E Pike St Seattle WA 98122

Elysian Brewing Co bar Capital Hill Seattle WA Simple Palates Seriously
A seat at the bar counter is always in demand. 16 taps, that’s quite a number to get through. Better get started early!

Elysian Brewing Co kettles Capital Hill Seattle WA Simple Palates SeriouslyThe rest of the pub is spacious, and well lit. Even on a Sunday afternoon, seats are aplenty making this an ideal location for a quiet introspective boys day out.

Elysian Brewing Co Dread menu Capital Hill Seattle WA Simple Palates Seriously
Always remember to ask about their seasonal brews. Beer-gasping-gasm!

Elysian Brewing Co nachos Capital Hill Seattle WA Simple Palates Seriously
Nachos with lots of melted pepperjack cheese, and the Immortal IPA (very passionfruity).

Elysian Brewing Co buffalo chicken wings Capital Hill Seattle WA Simple Palates Seriously
Buffalo chicken wings with The Dread imperial stout. Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout wasn’t pouring on the day, nooooo!!

I enjoyed Elysian Brewing Co on a Sunday. It’s got lots of space for patrons, there is a relaxed feel to the place, and the staff are a friendly bunch. Oh, and did I mention LOTS of great tasting beer. It’s in a nice part of town where you’ll find lots of restaurants and cafes for a proper bite after you’ve had your fill of beer. Not sure about accessibility by public transport, parking appears to be quite the challenge though. I wish I was back there right now. I’ve got unfinished drinking business with this place!!

Elysian Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

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Mama Wang is ShanDong MaMa

In the recent (admit it, it’s actually over the past 5 years that people have started to really pay attention) debate to determine who makes the “Best” dumplings in Melbourne CBD, if such an accolade can even be conferred, Shandong Mama’s joint has to be on everyone’s short list. If you haven’t yet tried the dumplings here, then you Sir/Mdm are no dumpling aficionado. And here in Melbourne, we take our dumplings oh so seriously…

Shandong Mama1 Simple Palates Seriously
Shandong Mama resides in Chinatown, for only the pretenders venture beyond the bountries of Lt Bourke St. Usually packed with the lunchtime crowds, I have found it strategic to come here in the late afternoon when the kitchen is under no pressure to churn out the hundreds of dumplings in a single service. Still I think I did pretty well to order 50+ for my mid-afternoon tea time.

Pickled jellyfish and sprouts Shandong Mama Simple Palates Seriously
Just to revive the tastebuds, the nice refreshing crunch of jellyfish and white cabbage makes for a good starter here.

Deepfried spring onion cakes 蔥油餅 Shandong Mama Simple Palates Seriously
Then to really signal that serious eating is about to start, how about some doughy spring-onion cakes? While not the best around town (needs more spring onion), really take this opportunity to dip into the vinegar at this stage. Then let’s get stuck into…

Pork dill dumplings 蒸餃 Shandong Mama Simple Palates Seriously
The Mackerel fish dumplings are probably the most well-regarded item on the menu. Not one which you’d find in other dumplingeries, it’s a different take on the by-the-way pork dumplings (we’ll get to those later). I do appreciate the use of fish here, as a substitute for good quality fishballs in Melbourne. Fishballs these days get made with so much flour as a base that they complete lack the fishy flavours. You try filling a dumpling with that kinda rubbish quality and you’d never get another customer. Shandong Mama’s fish dumpling does taste well of fish mince (mash, whichever), and has that nice QQ bounciness to the filling. You don’t need too much vinegar as a dip, and you can do without the chilli too. At 10 pieces for $14.80, that’s a price I’m quite happy to pay.

Mackeral fish dumplings 蒸餃 Shandong Mama Simple Palates Seriously
The pork dumplings are flavoured with dill (they’re DILL-icious, ha!), spring onion, dried shrimp and ginger. Steamy warm inside, generously coat it with vinegar and some sliced ginger before wolfing it down. Here, I wish that a stronger vinegar was available because you really need a much punchier condiment to accentuate the flavours. $12.80 for 12 pieces, can’t complain. The prawn dumplings with black fungus and chives are also a hit, and there is a “Melbourne” dumpling which claims to be “inspired by the Australian multicultural foodscene”. Hmm.. is the fillind made from minced lamb kebab with kimchi chicken quesadilla?

Fried potstickers 餃子 鍋貼 Shandong Mama Simple Palates Seriously
Finally, the fried dumplings, or 锅贴, were pretty good too. I’d probably leave these just as a final call in case you hadn’t ordered enough because the steamed dumplings are just the way to go here. Still, these were well-fried, slight bit of char on the base, but the meat filling was tender and moist, with some residual sticky soupiness to it. Really needed a stronger vinegar here, but piling on more chilli is a reasonable substitute.

Shandong Mama is a great place for dumplings, especially the Mackerel dumplings. It’s in a prime location in Mid City arcade, the place is reasonably large but do expect a lunchtime crowd. Definitely fill-up on their steamed dumplings, but try a couple of smaller starters too. The prices are cheap, all things considering. And just a gentle reminder, it’s a cash only place.

Shandong Mama on Urbanspoon


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Don’t ruminate! Book at Rumi!

It’s been awhile since I’ve dined at Rumi. And it’s not because I don’t like their food. I think it’s a great restaurant, good food with reasonable pricing. And not to mention it’s right around the corner from my place. Perhaps I am all too often guilty of the inexcusable thinking that it’s right there, it’s going nowhere, I’ll be back next time. Well, there was a recent rumour that Heston Blumenthal was spied dining there in the company of Masterchef judges. That was probably the unconscious spur I needed to think of Rumi as the perfect dinner venue as I was wandering out of Alehouse Project during Good Beer Week.

Rumi1 Simple Palates Seriously

Located on the corner of Edward street, Rumi is one of the best restaurants along the “local” stretch of Lygon St. Just ignore the gelato and the pizzas for a second, blink and you might just stroll by Rumi. This is one place that is consistently booked out on the weekends. Fortunately, I managed to park right on the bar counter and dove right into the $65 6-course banquet.

Rumi2 Simple Palates Seriously

Pickled vegetables and olives were a perfect starter to purge my mouth of any residual flavours of the stouts and deep-fried pig’s ears from Alehouse. There was plenty of Lebanese bread to go around along with beetroot taratoor and bastourma (house cured beef). And you can always ask for more bread should you require.

Rumi Pickles Bastourma house cured beef Simple Palates Seriously

So the next thing to warm up the stomach in anticipation for the main courses was the hot yogurt soup. This is usually used as a based for shishbarak which is meat dumplings, but just to have it plain with drizzle of burnt butter, I really like it. Good to awaken the tastebuds just in time for the meats.

Rumi Hot Yogurt Soup Shish Barak Burnt Butter Simple Palates Seriously

Fish is a perfect step-up to the main course, and we were served:

Rumi BBQ Ocean Trout with beetroot and shallot vinaigrette
Ocean trout with beetroot and shallot vinaigrette, which was accompanied by

Rumi Crispy fried Jerusalem artichokes shankleesh fresh thyme Simple Palates Seriously
Crispy fried Jerusalem artichokes with shankleesh (a type of Lebanese cheese) and fresh thyme.

Rumi Slow cooked Brussel Sprouts dill lemon Simple Palates Seriously
and Slow-cooked Brussels sprouts with almond slices and dill.

The ocean trout was cooked really nicely, still tender and moist in the middle. Not too sure about the beetroot vinaigrette, but that’s probably just me. I would have preferred a creamy sauce.  The Jerusalem artichokes were really delicious, a good crisp outer layer which you break through to access the hot velvety insides, matched very well by the saltiness of the shankleesh. The Brussels sprouts got a lift from the dill and lemon, and with added texture from the almond slices. An interesting way to prepare an otherwise boring vegetable which I tend to lump into curry, I might attempt this on my own next time.

Next, and just as an in-between course, we had grilled quail or Joojeh kebab with a cabbage salad and fried cauliflower. Very tender quail meat with a delicate skin just retaining some smokiness of the grill. I’d definitely like to order this again next time! Despite the portions not being the overly abundant, conversation and wine does fill out the stomach a fair bit. By this time, we were getting rather full, so it was the perfect time to bring out the last main which was slow-cooked chicken and rice pilaf.

Rumi Khoresht Aloo va Haveej Slow cooked Chicken Rice Pilaf apricots almonds Simple Palates SeriouslyThe Khoresht Aloo va Haveej, or slow-cooked chicken with carrots and parsnips, was served with a simple fresh leafy salad and rice pilaf which has bit of apricot and sliced almonds. The breast meat was soft and juicy, not overly spiced and full of flavour from the sauce, which I took the liberty of heaping onto my serving of rice. The fresh leaves provided might seem sparse but did provide a good crunch on the bite.

Right, had enough yet? Yes, but there’s always room for dessert. I mean, to skip dessert would be an act of cowardice and be injustice to the mint tea. Dessert was a single serve of the almond milk pudding with rose jam and a honey pistachio malt slice. Both were deliciously sweet and the hot mint tea only served to render me less guilty of overeating for a split second. I should mention that while I did feel thoroughly satisfied by the end of the meal, I didn’t like how only single serves of the dessert were provided. If it was Turkish delight, which I had previously, that’d be easy for 3 of us. A cube each. But for three guys to share dessert, that’s a little weird. We didn’t mind it so much, but what if this was a meal shared by people less familiar with each other. That’d be awkward.

Rumi Almond Milk Pudding and honey pistochio malt slice Simple Palates Seriously

Overall, Rumi is a great place for Lebanese food on Lygon St, especially if you are in a group of 4 or more. It’s essential to make a reservation, especially for Friday nights. I find the Rumi menu pricing to be fair, but the banquet is definitely the way to good. The kitchen is consistently turning out well-cooked and well-presented dishes. Don’t be too put off initially by the smaller serving sizes because as the meal goes on, you will find yourself filling-up quite quickly. Instead, take pleasure in trying a little bit of more dishes. Certainly try the lamb shoulder too if you’d like a more resounding finale than chicken.  The ambience of the restaurant isn’t quiet romantic, this is a casual place for friends and family to chatter. Service could be a tad more snappy and precise, but I haven’t encountered anything detrimental.

Rumi on Urbanspoon

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Anne Gros La Ciaude Minervois 2008, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

The Gros family name is famous in Burgundy and synonymous with Vosne-Romanee. But if you can’t justify forking over $500 for Anne Gros’ exquisite Echezeaux Grand Crus, then more reachable would be her Minervois labels. Anne Gros and her husband Jean-Paul Tollot have unearthed wonderful parcels of land with old vines in Cazelles, within the Southern France appellation of Minervois. Here, it’s all about red wines, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan.  And we’re talking about seriously old, centenarian vines.

Anne Gros Jean-Paul Tollot La Ciaude 2008 Minervois France Simple Palates Seriously

This 2008 La Ciaude consists of Syrah, Carignan (including 108 year-old vines) and Grenache. On the nose, it is floral and dense, still rather restrained (might need a decant perhaps) but certainly opening up now. Blackcurrant aromas with splash of minerals and savoury nuances. The acidity keeps the concentrated dark berry, blackcurrant and sour plum flavours fresh, it is precise and doesn’t let the weight droop over. 14% alc, but it hardly impresses upon the drinker. A delicious wine. Drink now – 2020. 92/100.

I got this bottle off Langtons, but a search turned up Grand Millesime as a stockist of these wines. They have a store on Toorak Rd (facebook), and pre-arrival prices for the ’11s and ’12s are just under $50. I’ll be putting in an order for the other Gros-Tollot labels soon.

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