Friday, December 16, 2011

Golden Fields

Golden Fields
157 Fitzroy St
St Kilda,
VIC 3182
Ph : (03) 9525 4488

I try to avoid reading much about hyped up restaurants, as there is a point at which the same superlatives seem to be used, the same dishes eaten, and it all becomes a big overexcited blur. I also have a tendency to veer away from restaurants with too much early buzz, mostly because of natural caution towards laudatory excess.

Nonetheless, I decided to visit Golden Fields, hype and all. Situated amidst the noise and restaurant overload of Fitzroy Street, they do not take bookings, so we arrived at just 6.15pm or so to find that it was still fairly empty, though it reached table (but not bar) capacity up later on that evening.

Golden Fields is large, filled with shiny sleek surfaces that exuberantly inflate the noise of a full house; if you want a quiet conversation over a meal, don’t come here.

It took a little while for things to get started in terms of being able to get anyone’s attention, but after we placed our order, the first in what turned out to be a trip down taste memory lane arrived – pumpkin seeds.

If I had to describe these with one word, it would be ‘salty’. Initially they seemed too salty, but the reptitive motion of picking one up and putting it in my mouth became strangely addictive, and I can see how they would work well with a beer.

Inevitably, we ordered the New England lobster roll, hot buttered bun, cold poached crayfish, watercress and Kewpie ($15).

I was happily proven wrong with the lobster roll. I had ordered it out of curiosity, believing that it couldn’t possibly be as good as all that. You know what? It was. More filling than you’d expect for the size, the sweetness of the brioche-like bread was the perfect counterpoint to the crisp clean crayfish and dollop of Kewpie (my favourite mayonnaise). It worked for all of us, and all we could think of was what other seafood it might work for.

It boded well.

Next up was shredded chicken, sesame paste, house-made cold rice noodles, chilli oil ($15), and this is where the taste memory nostalgia kicked in with a vengeance. With the exception of it being more carefully plated and about one-third of the size of the ones I remember, this was essentially a dish that formed a regular part of my childhood, though with less sesame paste, better chicken, and the addition of coriander.

Twice cooked duck, steamed bread,vinegar and plum sauce ($20 for 3 pieces) was the next to arrive. Which made me wonder why they were presenting everything as individual courses, rather than presenting some of the ‘mains’ together. The size looked rather folorn. One piece to share between three of us? Would it be enough? And only one piece of cucumber per bun?

Although a bit folorn looking on its own, once the duck was shredded it did prove to be enough to fill the buns, which were probably one of the best steamed buns of this type that I’ve eaten. I preferred it with the vinegar rather than the plum sauce. The duck itself was crispy skinned, the flesh tender and perfectly cooked, and another nostalgia trip, taste wise.

Ah that tricky nostalgia thing again; I couldn’t help but think of the size of the dish, and its cost.

The final ‘main’ was red braised snapper, grilled prawn, vermicelli ($38). We had been warned that this was chilli hot, and it was, too much so for one of us, who could not eat it. Unfortunately, it was also quite heavily salted, and with no rice to provide a counterpoint, it proved a bit challenging at times.

And so onto desserts.

Peanut butter parfait, salted caramel and soft chocolate ($10). A quenelle of chocolate mousse and salted caramel syrup on a square of dense peanut butter parfait. It was not as rich as it sounds, but unfortunately, the oversalting that had already occurred extended to this as well. There’s a fine line between salted caramel and oversalted caramel, and our example on that night just tipped into the latter.

My choice was lime syrup cake, lime curd, pineapple sorbet and anise ($15). A more successful choice than the peanut butter parfait, the citrus was a good way to balance out the heat and saltiness of the snapper. The pineapple sorbet was my favourite component taste-wise and texturally.

In thinking about this evening afterwards, the high point was clearly the lobster roll. The rest of it was a bit more uncertain for me (the food, the service). The previous night’s dinner at Estelle was still fresh in our memories, and despite having quite different palates and preferences, we were in agreement about both.


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