Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jacques Raymond

78 Williams Rd Prahran VIC 3181 Tel: (03) 9525-2178

Of all the restaurants I've visited over the last few years, somehow I've managed to unconsciously avoid visiting any type of French restaurant. So, when I found out that my best mate was going to take me to Melbourne's 3 hatted Jacques Raymond for my 30th birthday, I was over the moon! Not only do I get to visit one of Melbourne's best restaurants, but I get to try proper French food for the first time, too! What would be eating? Frogs legs? Kilos of butter? Snails? I thought I would cheat and check the restaurant's website before going, but it seems that JR don't actually have an online version of their menu.

We arrived at the Williams Rd, Windsor location and I was surprised to not see a shopfront type restaurant, but instead a typical Toorak style Mansion, which most Melbournian's would know what I'm talking about.

We were greeted at the door by three elegantly dressed waiters. The best way I can describe them is if you've seen that episode of The Simpsons where the waiter has the argument with the Mayor's son about the pronunciation of the word 'chowder'. The waiters very much resembled that character. The spiffy suit, the slick hair and one even had the very cliche' little French moustache. Our main waiter for the evening had a very radio/car-salesman-esque voice where everything he spoke to us about, sounded like he was performing a voice over. If only I could show you a photo of him. (Actually... I found one on The Age website)

....only when the waiter saw my camera (still in it's case) he very politely advised that the chef did not allow restaurant visitors to take photos of their food. Apparently there are these things out there called 'blogs' and people take photos and post them on their blog and write reviews about restaurants. Really?? Who knew?? The waiter mentioned that the chef thinks that most of these photos look rubbish and are a poor representation of the food, so they don't allow photos of the food. But apparently, the chef is happy to make a booking with you, if you're a photographer and you can come down during the day and take photos of the food. Somehow, I don't think that is going to happen.

Ah well. Rather than sit through an entire degustation menu, and attempt to take photos of the food, this time I could just sit there and enjoy the food and the service. The degustation menu is 7 courses, which the chef decides on for you. There's no list or menu to tell you what you're having, you just make sure you tell the waiter if there's something you don't like or don't eat and they will accommodate.

First up was a Crayfish and Pork Dumpling (Ravioli) with a Dashi Broth and Topped with shredded and oven dried apple. What a wonderful start! I'd never had Crayfish before this. So, nice- yet not very French, I would say more Japanese.

Second course was a bit of a jumble of flavours. There was Ocean Trout Sushimi, Duck Breast, Water Cress and Foie Gras. Well, I know Duck and Sushimi is very Japanese , but we did have some Foie Gras on here. I'd never tried Foie Gras before tonight, probably for two reasons- one because it's so expensive and the other because a lot of people believe the process for making Foie Gras is cruel. But that's another story. It tastes, like a cross between a very rich pate' and butter. It also has the texture of a soft butter.

Third Plate was Hiramasa King fish, with (from memory) a skin of miso and a buttery sauce. The fish was a very small fillet, which was standing upright on the plate. It was very attractive and the colours looked delicious. We were even given very special cutlery for the fish. Apparently the only real difference to the fish knife and fork though is the fact there is a little knick taken out of the side of each.

Fourth plate was a very rare slice of Venison, which was only briefly seared on the outside. It came with a extremely thick and sticky beetroot and red wine jus and was served on cauliflower florets in a delicious white sauce. I'm a big fan of Venison and this one was done particularly well. Very, very tender and so flavoursome. Perfect with the sweet beetroot reduction.

Fifth plate was what I would consider our main meal. Apparently there was a choice of Lamb Cutlets and Veal, but as there were two of us, we were just given one of each. For a place that prides itself on customer service, it would have been nice to have been given the option here.
The Lamb again was cooked very rare and seemed only just seared. I know Lamb isn't meant to be cooked right through and still be slightly pink, but even I would have considered this a little under-done. The lamb was served with a savoury Pistachio foam, which was another new experience for me - I've never tried a 'foam' before and I have to say I like the idea of it and love the taste and texture. My friend had the Veal, which was poached in Milk and was also served with a Milk foam over the top - kind of a 'baby cow cappacino!'

Sixth Plate was a cheese course. It was a delicious South Australian Goat's Cheese, wrapped in a vine leaf from the farm where the cheese comes from. There was also a little mound of salad and 3 pieces of walnut - generous! The cheese was very tasty indeed and was just the thing I needed at this point in the degustation.

For the seventh and final main plate, we had our dessert course. Dessert was served in a 1990's-esque tubular vase type contraption which was lying on it's side. You needed a long spoon to get in there and get out the food. It did look very pretty though. It was a layering of flavours and textures. On the bottom was crushed nougatine, which was more of a biscuit like texture than the chewyness I expected. On top of this was a scoop of an amazing Oregano and Mint ice-cream! Who would have thought to put Oregano in an ice-cream? These guys did and it was fantastic! The Oregano was not overpowering at all, like I thought it would be. Laid over this was a slice of peppermint marshmallow. Very subtle flavour and texture. And on top of it all was an extremely strong coffee foam, almost like having a Short Macchiato!

Finally, with our tea and coffee we were given a lovely looking plate of Petit Fours, which the kitchen had written a nice, little happy birthday message across the top in chocolate. I managed to sneak a photo of this one on my mobile phone.

Jacques Raymond overall was a fantastic experience. Everything was pretty much perfect, from the service, to the ambience, to the decor, to of course the food and even the gent's toilets were pretty snazzy. Dinner there isn't cheap though by any means. For the two of us, the bill totalled over $400! That includes four imported beers. I thouroughly believe though at most restaurants that you get what you pay for and on this occasion, you're paying for perfection and perfection always comes at a cost. I'm just glad that on this occasion, perfection was my birthday present!

* Unfortunately, as I usually use my photos as a reference to remember exactly what we ate, this time i'm just going from memory, so my descriptions may not be 100% accurate. If the restaurant would like to correct me though, they are most welcome to contact me to do so.


thanh7580 said...

Sounded like a great dining experience. Happy Birthday Adski. Thought you had disappeared, didn't see a blog from you for ages.

It's interesting about Reymond's policy about no photos. If people really want to take a photo, they will find a way and probably do it with their mobiles anyway and the picture quality will be even poorer. Over at Vue de Monde, the staff were more than happy for me to snap away at the food.

One question, what if you wanted to take a photo of your friends and family since it could be someone's birthday. And the food happened to be incidental in the shot. Would they allow that?

I also use my photos as a way to remind myself what was in each dish. With dishes comprising so many elements nowadays, it's hard to keep track.

Adski said...

Thanks Thanh!
There were people there taking photos of each other - they didn't seem to have a problem with that. However - they did have nice little portable digital cameras, whereas I had an SLR.
Ah well, it's their loss. I would have taken nice photos and wrote good things - so it's them that miss out on the publicity. But then again - they don't really need it with their 3 chefs hats and all.

thanh7580 said...

I don't see why your SLR would have been any different. Lots of people carry SLRs as their default cameras for taking happy snaps nowadays.

I guess they don't need the publicity but seeing as they have 3 hats, I don't see what they have to fear. If your food looks good, why not let people photograph it. Soon they'll want people to not even write about it and give an opinion.

Jack said...

I'm surprised at the no camera rule.

I dined there late last year and didn't take any photos, but there was a very annoying group right in the middle of the room taking photos with flash of every dish, very deliberately.

I think any restaurant that bans photography is a bit up themselves. The best restaurants in the world encourage guests to record and celebrate their experience.

Adski said...

I totally agree Jack. I was kind of annoyed that I couldn't take photos, especially since we were spending so much money! Plus, i'm paying for the food - so it's technically mine, so if I own it, can't I take a photo of it??
Had it not been for the fact that I was being treated to a birthday dinner - I probably would have said something, but I just wanted to get on and enjoy the night. Can't really fault anything else there.

Anonymous said...

amazing, that you claim to be such a food enthusiast, write off some of the most fantastic restaurants melbourne has to offer over the most trivial of things, yet you had never been to JR or had Crayfish.

you're a joke.

Adski said...

Anonymous. Thanks for your input. Funny how people like you with comments like yours always seem to be anonymous.
I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ISP.