Monday, July 13, 2015

Patek Philippe, ARIA And The Celestial Dance

It seems like all the stars have aligned this week as my wife and I found out that we will be attending a Patek Philippe factory tour in September. To celebrate we decided to have dinner at ARIA. As an avid and passionate Patek Philippe collector for around 10 years, this was a welcome surprise. We felt like we had won a trip of a lifetime, that only fellow watch enthusiasts would appreciate the significance of.

The evening was crisp and clear, with a stunning full moon illuminating the night. We were also lucky to look up and see Venus and Jupiter doing their celestial dance and appearing close together even though they are hundreds of millions of miles apart. At first I thought one was a plane until my wife remembered it was the celestial rarity that she had quickly read about on FaceBook. A rarity because most of the conjunctions between these two planets happen during daylight hours.

Enough of the stars, and on to dinner. We decided to have the pre-theatre menu, which offers great value. But first things first we had to choose a wine. After perusing the wine list we decided to have a 2009 Linnaea Rhizotomi Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. We like our Napa Valley Cabernets and this did not disappoint. Great flavour without being too heavy and a fabulous aroma which opened more during the evening.

A concise menu of five items per course, plus an entree extra, made choosing easy. After ordering, an amuse bouche of house made lavosh, topped with broad bean and ricotta purée topped with a little dot of lemon curd was presented to us.

A waitress came with a basket of bread from which we both chose a sourdough roll (from Iggy's Bread) which was accompanied by salted butter and a black garlic and porcini butter (both from Pepe Saya).

My wife ordered Yamba Prawns with smoked eggplant, pickled radish and finger lime (the entree extra). The prawns were roasted with the little bubbles of finger lime pulp and then stacked on the pureed smoked eggplant. Slices of pickled radish and herbs were placed around and on top of the stack.

I ordered Southern calamari with Iberico jamon, dashi custard, and shiitake mushroom tea. The dish was topped with an intriguing squid ink and tapioca crisp.

My wife chose the lamb rump, globe artichoke barigoule, green olives, eggplant and capsicum ajvar. Cooked medium rare, with the small amount of fat on top salted just the way she likes it. We also ordered our favourite side truffle mash, (mash potato finished with truffle oil) so creamy and delicious.

I ordered the Cervena venison loin and sausage, farro, parsnip, grapes  and rosemary. The parsnip came as a finely shaved crisp and puree. This was my first experience with farro on a menu and it is an ingredient I look forward to having again.

Initially we were only going to have two courses but we decided to go for broke and order dessert. Possibly not a good judgement call as we realised later. An interesting sounding tart caught my wife's eye and I chose the cheese plate.

The tart was caramel and cep, accompanied with mandarin wedges and espresso ice cream. The tart had a good depth (about 2cm of filling) and was quite light. The flavour of the cep mushrooms was delicate but was not overpowered by the caramel. The mandarin gave a refreshing burst, and the espresso ice cream was enhanced with the addition of ground coffee, which gave it a bit of grittiness. Cracked hazelnut kernels and a hazelnut ‘soil’ finished the plate.

The cheese selection consisted of Munster and St Agur from France, La Luna from Holy Goat in Victoria and Manchego from Spain. The cheese was accompanied by crackers and fresh grapes.

A plate of varied petit fours was delivered to the table and was duly consumed.

We practically waddled out the door into the chill night air and headed home.