Friday, July 26, 2013

Jacques Reymond, Prahran by Bureaucrat

The trouble with being a famous/lauded/hyped restaurant is that, well, it's hard to determine whether they actually deserve all the praise that it gets.

Second course - sashimi yellow fin tuna and a smoked salmon mousse 

Today's case study is Jacques Reymond - a restaurant that has been awarded three hats and many other accolades.  For a special dinner, the Lawyer and I took Mr Strong and Mother Hen there.  I had been looking forward to our dinner there as I wanted to find out if JR is indeed worthy of its status.

Upon entering the lovely restored Victorian mansion, we were led to our table. Inside, the layout is that of a house.  Each area is decorated in a different colour scheme but all the rooms retains the same decorative vibe.  The room that we were in had warm reds, crisp white linen; which was simply and tastefully decorated with a massive gilt mirror above a fireplace, white orchids and a statement lamp above.  All the walls have these long elegant fabric panels, which gave me the impression that we were in a very fancy and expensive padded cell in a lunatic asylum.

For a restaurant of this ilk, and the money that we'd be forking over, I was looking forward to being pampered and have a wonderful dining experience.  However, the trouble with first impressions is that you only have one chance to make it.

Within five minutes of being seated, Mother Hen had to visit the ladies' room.  She got up, and asked one of the waitresses that was walking by as to where the bathrooms were located.  This waitress, with a sourpuss expression on her face, extended her arm out and pointed frostily towards the direction of the bathrooms.  There was nothing polite or friendly in her attitude.  No words. No "this way, madam" or "down the hallway, madam".  We were all shocked at the outrageously rude behaviour... this was not something you'd expect from a fine dining restaurant.  It was at that moment I decided, regardless of how the food would be and what the rest of the service would be for the night, Jacques Reymond will not get a tip from us.

Thank god she was not our waitress.  Our main waiter was this French guy.  He was formal and polite but he was a softly spoken guy with a strong French accent.  This made it difficult to understand what he was saying at times (especially when he presented each course).  Unfortunately, we also couldn't help but notice that he had a strong body odour.  I know that that is not deliberate but it did mean it wasn't pleasant each time he came by to change our cutlery or top up our drinks.

In terms of food, there's the degustation menu or the a la carte menu (which requires you to order 4-6 dishes - in essence, it's like a mini degustation).  Everyone went for the meat-based degustation ($185pp without wine), while I opted for the vegetarian one ($140 pp without wine).  I did this because at our last degustation at Stefano's in Mildura, I was so incredibly full by the end of the meal.  So by going the veggie option, I was hoping to be satisfied but not be over-indulged.

To kick things off, we were present with a freebie - cheese gougeres.  They were served warm from the oven, and was as light as air.

Then came several freshly baked breads on offer.  This would continue throughout the meal.  I had one to begin with but I wanted to save room for the degustation dishes themselves.

First course - clear broth of shiitake, lemon balm, ginger cake and salsify (V). 

The meat version came with a small chicken rib instead of the ginger cake. The broth was served in these cute, warmed pots.  A very clean shiitake flavour but without being overpowering (which shiitake can be sometimes) - a very controlled flavour which no doubt took some skill to get the right balance.  The broth had a small piece of sea cucumber at the bottom. The ginger cake  wasn't very gingery in flavour and had the texture like the filling for a dumpling. A simple dish done well but we were all hoping that for something with more of a wow factor.

Second - zuchinni, fromage, spiced nougatine, togarishi and caviar (V). 

The zucchini and fromage went really well together.  Slippery yet waxy texture from the zucchini, which when well with the silky fromage. I liked especially the spiced nougatine - which was a thin layer of crispy, sweetness (kinda like the top of the creme brulee).  The meat version of this course was sashimi yellow fin tuna and a smoked salmon mousse (see first pic).

Third - King George whiting w picked Japanese veg.  

Third - leek terrine w picked Japanese veg (V).  

The whiting was very fresh and sweet - I think we all thought the serve could have been a bit bigger!  The leeks were baby ones and tender and sweet.

Fourth - cuttlefish, pork and crispy chicken skin. 

Fourth - beanshoots, swede and turnip w crispy zuchinni flower (V)

By this course, I started to get envious of the meat based menu.  Somehow a mound of beanshoots with some root veg just cannot compete with a nice chunk of juicy pork and tender cuttle fish.  The dish was Asian in style. Both had a very morish soy-based sauce.

Fifth - parmesan custard, peas, macerated grapes, wasabi and apple granita w tomato skin (V). 

For the fifth course, the meat version was the same, except it had a piece of pancetta instead of the tomato skin.  When I saw this on the menu, I was curious to see how the parmesan custard would taste like.  It wasn't anything special - not particularly cheesy in flavour and had a slightly curdled texture.  The granita was really nice.  We all liked the crisp flavour and it being a palate cleanser. However, I couldn't taste the apple flavour - to me, it tasted like a lemon granita. Similar with the fourth course, a tomato skin cannot compete with a piece of crispy, salty pancetta.  I had some of the pancetta with the granita - and wow, great flavours and texture.  Salty, yet sweet and sour and cold all at once!  The tomato skin just did not achieve the same effect.

Sixth - salad of lamb, smoked eucalyptus scallop, scampi and masterstock.

Sixth - salad of root veg, smoked eucalyptus potato, stinging nettle and lemongrass masterstock (V)

Serious food envy on my part for the next few courses.  I got to eat Mother Hen's lamb as it was too rare for her.  It was great flavour.  Everyone enjoyed the juicy scampi and scallop.  I had to make do with the small pieces of veg.  Honestly, how is a piece of potato commensurate to a scallop, scampi and lamb??? I couldn't taste the smoked eucalyptus in the potato.

Seventh - tart of king brown mushroom, candied tomato, burnt onion and coffee (V). 

Seventh - meat version was wagyu beef with the burnt onion and coffee. 

Again, no mushroom, however, royal, can equal wagyu.  Also, again, I swapped dishes with Mother Hen because she isn't a fan of rare meats.  The wagyu was proper wagyu.  Buttery and beefy... yum. Mother Hen said she quite liked the flavours of the tart.  For this dish, you could opt for 2 grams of freshly shaved truffles (for an additional cost).  As we're not fans of this earthy fungi, we passed on it.

Eighth - carmague red rice, apricot and sencha sorbet w champagne foam. 

This was just a rather bland and ho hum dessert.  A mouthful of apricot muesli is what it tasted like. The best bit was the boozy foam.

Ninth - spiced cherries, chocolate and chestnut mont blanc, bay leaf and cassis.  

We all liked this dish.  The cherries were waxy and very cherry flavoured. The brownie was slightly gooey and chocolately but not overly sweet.  The cassis couli and sorbet tasted like Ribena. While the chestnut and mont blanc (whipped cream) was a nice chestnutty and morish cream.

We finally reached the end.  So out came two plates of petit fours and coffee.  The Lawyer and Mr Strong particularly liked the smooth coffee. However, as with the start of the meal, the end of the meal gave rise to another terrible example of JR's service.  The coffees were being brought to our table. This waitress (a different one to the waitress with the sour disposition), tersely barked out "COFFEE" and plunked the cups of coffee on the table.... it's like, what the hell is your problem?!

From top right and clockwise - fruit pastille (another Ribena flavoured thing), some sort of macaron w citrus filling, marshmallow, lemon tart (very gooey and lemony), salted caramel and peanut butter candy w edible wrapper, a melon flavoured macaron, the same pastille, chocolate Madeleine, the same marshmallow and dark choc truffle.

Churros dusted w citrus sugar w melted choc.  These were okay. I couldn't taste the citrus though.

Food - 7 for veg; 8 for meat
Ambience - 7.5
Service - 6.5
Price - 6 for veg; 7 for meat

The chefs need to re-think the veggie menu.  I was still hungry by the end of the night.  Luckily for me, Mother Hen gave me the rare/raw meats to eat.  If it wasn't for that (and that I resigned myself to eat a few more bread rolls), I would have been far more hungry.  The veggie menu could definitely do with some protein such as eggs, tofu or lentils and legumes.

While the meat menu was more filling, that didn't mean it was filling.  Both Mr Strong and the Lawyer had about 6-8 bread rolls to go with their meals.  They both said that if there wasn't any bread offered, they'd definitely be still hungry.

Generally, the quality of the food is as what you'd expect for a restaurant of this ilk. However, there's nothing that I would rave about - there was nothing that made us think: OMG YOU HAVE TO TRY

Flavour-wise, I had difficult discerning the flavours that are stated on the menu with what I tasted.  I couldn't taste the ginger in the ginger cake; apple in the apple granita; the parmesan in the parmesan custard; the smoked eucalyptus in the smoked eucalyptus potato; the burnt onion and coffee in their respective sauces; the sencha in the sencha sorbet; the citrus in the citrus sugar.

If you want to have a degustation dinner and want to spend some cash, I say go elsewhere.  Jacques Reymond isn't bad, it's good but it isn't great.  My thoughts on the food and the overall food experience seems to be a common theme with other diners' reviews.

Service is mixed. Two waitresses with serious attitude problems - surely for a restaurant like this, they're a liability.  Like the food, the rest of the staff were good but not great.

Parking is limited on site.  Good luck finding a spot in the narrow residential streets nearby.

Jacques Reymond
78 Williams Rd
Prahran 3181
Telephone: 9525 2178

Jacques Reymond on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Did you then go out to dinner after eating there? :-)

Bureaucrat said...

haha... if it wasn't so late, i would have gone and eaten something. our dinner started at 6.30pm and ended at 10.30pm.

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