Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Solid Return on a Gamble

Before travelling to Australia, I've heard that Melbourne is a foodie haven, and having sensed how cosmopolitan the city is in my travels around town, I could see and therefore hoped to experience a pleasant dinner that helps Melbourne live up to this reputation. Having finished watching a footy (Aussie rules football) game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground east of downtown, my friend and I gravitated ourselves towards Southbank were there were plenty of restaurants and eateries along the Yarra River. After scouting a bit we created a shortlist of three restaurants, and after meeting with my friend's boyfriend and a friend of theirs, we decided to go for the one called Number 8, one of several restaurants found in the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex. A few presumptions were made to ultimately help us choose this particular place:
  • It had to have fresh oysters available (we were absolutely craving for oysters);
  • It had to showcase some of the finest cuisine and delights that Melbourne (and Australia in general) had to offer; and
  • It had to be a fairly short distance from my friend's boyfriend's conference venue, as he was temporarily on crutches.
Australia grows and harvests a lot of its own food, which can make for fairly expensive groceries and meals, but that means I would more likely get to enjoy Australian treats. Take the dozen fresh oysters we all first ordered to share. These Tasmanian beauties may not be the famed Malpeques, but man alive, they still tasted wonderful. It was especially nice for me as it had been about a year since I last had fresh oysters on a half-shell, and even then a singular one that was slightly dressed.









After that delightful amuse-bouche I had my entree, wagyu beef carpaccio with pecorino and rocket (arugula). Apparently Australia now also produces a good amount of this type of beef, made famous in Japan for its exquisitely marbled meat and, in Japan at least, for the cattle being fed beer (i.e. Kobe beef). Carpaccio, often using red meat (though tuna can also be used as well) is essentially the red meat equivalent to sashimi, so the beef used has to be very fresh and handled carefully. The dish was surprisingly light, and the rocket and pecorino complemented well, providing a good balance of flavours.









For my main course I had something that I've yet to see in Canada and likely never will, Moreton Bay bugs. Found on the northern shores of Australia as well as parts of Southeast Asia, the bug is actually a type of lobster famed for its fleshy tail that's larger than a tiger prawn's but smaller than an homard lobster's. Served simply grilled with a touch of salt, pepper and a garnish of fresh herbs and sprouts, the meat was a wonderful treat with a sweet undertone that's unlike homard lobster. Curiously enough, in Australia vegetables aren't always served on a main course dish unlike in North American restaurants, as I learned for sure when I later dined at another wonderful restaurant in Sydney; sides of vegetables were ordered in our case here to share.









Lastly, for dessert I had a leatherwood honey panacotta, made with honey of a tree found only in Tasmania. It certainly had a subtly different taste than the ones to which I'm accustomed in Canada, but I for the life of me can't lay a finger on terms to describe it. It tastes slightly heavier than spring honey, but definitely lighter than blueberry flowers honey. Nonetheless, served with a rhubarb compote it was light and had the right sweetness, a perfect ending to my dinner outside as the casino's riverside giant torches rang in the second hour we dined there.

My friend and I rolled the dice in choosing a place in a casino for dinner, and in the end it appeared like we picked a winner. If you ever get yourself in Melbourne, be sure to make a stop at Number 8 if you can only try one nice restaurant; your taste buds will agree it'll have been worth the long journey. This place is worth the hit on the wallet, though most of the time dinner shouldn't require more than $100 (excluding drinks); the only case where you'll have to pay more than $100/person is if you share with someone a Seafood Journey for 2 and have an entree and desert as well.

Name: Number 8 Restaurant & Wine Bar
Address: Riverside at Crown Casino, Southbank, VIC, Australia
Cuisine: Fusion (Mod Oz)
Price Range: Lunch AUS$55-AUS$70; Dinner AUS$65-AUS$150
Accessible: Yes (except washrooms)

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