Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Atlantic - (Melbourne, Australia)

  The Atlantic is located in a busy corridor of the Melbourne Crown Casino and it will inevitably catch your attention.   The front window display is filled daily with the biggest fishes you can imagine in your wildest nightmare,   their jaws jacked wide opened and their tongues sticking out in protest  -  did u realise a fish tongue can be bigger than a human’s?   Haha I didn’t either!!    A quick browse of the menu during a walking-by session and my instant conclusion was perhaps rather judgmental?   A big rip off,  touristy prices,  totally not on my agenda to visit,  ever.   But as luck will have it,  some family members decided to host a birthday gathering here and although I wasn’t the one to foot the bill I still felt a great sense of guilt for the person who shall eventually pay for it.    I was so certain that this would turn out to be a mediocre experience but at grossly inflated prices!    This assumption was only half correct in the end -  the final bill was still exorbitantly high and not so justified,  but the food quality nearly matched the money.    It turned out in hindsight that this is operated by a locally famous chef Donovan Cooke,  who used to run other 2 hatted restaurants and this casino restaurant has just been awarded a 1 Hatted Status as well.  

    Whether it is worth its status or not is not the pertinent question however,  as celebrity or well known chefs in town have proven to always receive a consolation prize or two by default either way,  perhaps due to mutual respect and the Aussie way of interpreting their mateship in the culinary world  -  the problem with the restaurant ratings in Melbourne is generally opposite to Hong Kong’s Michelin situation.  The latter Michelin Guide gives them out too laxly sometimes (bar the odd omission of a few obviously neglected choices,  but there are other reasons for that).   In Melbourne, some establishments really deserving their due recognition are hardly given a 2nd chance to regain themselves and be elevated to a Hatted Status.   The media darling chefs, or the rare restaurants that came up first with an exotic menu that fits in with the local food trend are the only chance and accessible way of becoming promoted to a higher pedestal level.    The Good Food Guide is tethering on the brink of losing its credibility  -  often failing to recognize the real genuine gems in town  and it is lately losing it fast too,   as year in and year out,  only the same restaurants or chefs are being featured,  yet the neglected ones are still becoming kept silently in the background despite being of true International standards.   Donovan Cooke and his food might be worthy of being 1 hatted,  but I can at the same time think up of many others in town which can also feature brightly and unashamedly on an international scale,  laying claim to becoming promoted.  These really ought to be treated without bias by the judge panel.   Customers follow our prestigious guides to eat around town,  and the guides must also judge them all with fairness and understand it’s on their onus and responsibility to prove to the proprietors and the customers, those whom should be appreciated and to keep the culinary circle running on its gears.   More reviews of those deserving ones to come soon just for comparison!…  



P1170213Gigantic Fishes and Tongues -
A sight indeed!



Dinner can still be a bright dining event,
when facing the Yarra River during spring time




Bread with Spanish Olive Oil -
The olive oil was really good actually,  with a full bodied mouthfeel and heavy in Olive essence.



Moulting Bay Oysters (Tasmania) – AUD $4.5 each
Sweet and creamy,  but not exceptional compared to the below.  I think Australian pacific oysters are too ‘clean’ and sweet tasting in general,  except for the odd ones or two which are exceptionally salty!   ~  6/10


Blackmans Bay (Tas) – AUD $44
These surprised me a bit as they don’t taste like normal Australian pacific oysters,  but were distinctively fresh in its crisp, sharp and minerally character.  There are sometimes artisanal rock or angasi oysters grown in Australia which are also great but this is the first time I’ve encountered Tasmanian pacific oysters of this quality.  Pleasantly surprised.  *For Hong Kong people,  these are now sometimes found at City Super supermarket nowadays.    ~   8.5/10




Atlantic Seafood Cocktail -  $32
Spanner Crab, Scallop, Moreton Bay bug,  Prawn, Iceberg lettuce with Rock Melon, Basil, Soft boiled Quail Eggs.  This was quite boring,  as it was mainly too mayonnaise like?  The seafood quality was fresh enough.   Just a little too creamy overall  ~  6.9/10



Trio of Crudo – $28
With Kingfish, Yellow Fin tuna and King Salmon,  served with pickled cucumber, daikon, horseradish and lime.   Sliced and plated quite messily,  there is no doubt the fishes are fresh,  but anyone could get access to the so-called sashimi grade fish.  Almost any Italian crudo dishes I’ve had looks better than this,  so why don’t I just go buy some and do it myself at home? Confused smile  2/10




Spanner Crab,  Curry Scented confit Butternut Pumpkin, Candied Ginger,
Pumpkin Sorbet, Curry Oil and Green Mango salad -  $28
This was more interesting unlike the above seafood cocktail,  although the curry and pumpkin is probably a little too sweet and overpowers the not-so-strong spanner crab flavour especially when it doesn’t have much tomalley/roe.   The green mango is refreshing and worked with a Thai slant.   ~    7.5/10



Warm Salad of Smoked Eel, frisee, Garlic crouton, slow cooked Free Range egg, Smoked bacon and Mustard dressing -  $25
This was quite smoky in both sauce and eel but without the bitterness/sour taste sometimes associated with these smoked food,  and it worked really well with the egg and frisee salad.  Didn’t think it was out of this world in recipe, but the taste was impressive  ~   9/10



Steamed Spring Bay Mussels – $27
In a Chorizo, Saffron, Tomato, Sherry and Basil broth,  this was decent but not so overly memorable.  The mussels didn’t had as much sweet mollusk flavour as I had hoped for, which is surprising since I remember having better mussels in 2 other local restaurants in town.  The soup was a little weak as well.  Overall however this was still acceptable ~  6.9/10




Caramelised Crispy Skin Berkshire Pork Belly -  $28
Surprisingly small in portion,  comes with pineapple cumberland sauce, micro coriander, spring onions and soy beans (green bears).   This was decent but a little under roasted as the fatty flavours hasn’t been yet released and then penetrate back into the meat.  Garnishes were ok but were a little tired in formula nowadays.   Not the worst ones we’ve tried, marginally decent ~  7/10



Wood fire grilled King Fish (Port Lincoln, South Australia) = $48
Green and white asparagus,  prawn and citrus vinaigrette.  This was cooked really well and had a strong wood fired flavour,  which this same smkoy taste carried across to all other items that were wood grilled tonight.  The sauce was quite simple for a 1 Hatted status restaurant however,  and there are no pretty plating or good garnitures to accompany the fish.  Taste wise however was still good albeit predictable ~  7/10



Steamed Wild Barramundi  (Gladstone, Queensland) -  $45
Confit fennel and cucumber, Tempura Oysters,  Oyster Veloute scented with Truffle.  The fried oysters were a little bready and limp,  but the fish was cooked very well and the oyster veloute was judged right enough to not overpower the fish.  A bit on the small side though for the price.  ~  8/10




Wood Fire Grilled Flounder (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) -  $52
The above fish portions were tiny,  but out came this gigantic flounder!   Again there are no garnitures to go with this – which to me makes it not necessarily better than any other seafood restaurants in town.  The taste of this fish however  could hardly be faulted.  Grilled nearly spot on with a wholesome smoky trait (but smelt burnt nearer the fin areas too),  I actually thought this was too smoky and overpowered the fish’s flesh.  But it was high quality fish and even came with attached female fish roes.   ~    7/10




Red Apple Salad – $12
Rocket,  Parmesan, Honey and Black Pepper,  but not much signs of the apple and the sauce was downright poor,  being lacking in quantity and taste,  and the big parmesan pieces on the side distracted from the eating itself.   ~   3/10



Thrice Cooked Russet Potatoes, Rosemary, Garlic and Sea Salt – $11
A lot of restaurants stuff this simple side dish up and often hand out soggy messes of potatoes most of the time,  but this was done really well for once.  Floury and crispy and seasoned well,  thanks to triple cooking.  Execution,  like a lot of dishes here was great, but the recipes can be rather old school and it’s not exactly cheap either..
~  8/10



Not everything tonight was destined to be seafood ..


P1230230-1Geoff Merrill Merlot 2007 -
Violet fruitiness with fruitcake and spice with a distinct newish cedar oakiness,
this is a very balanced Aussie wine.  If this had more vegetal or earthiness and also cut back on the forward fruits and oakiness,  it can be quite French Bordeaux in style.   A nice Aussie wine indeed.




Darling Downs Wagyu Scotch Fillet 300g -  $42
My scotch/rib eye did not look like a scotch to me but a sirloin.   Nice grill marks but the surface looked a bit pale.  Cooked just past medium rare (photo looks redder than it really is),  but the beef and wagyu fat flavour was decent but not exceptional.   Nice wood fired flavours however.  Overally the steak was a little dry but still enjoyable enough,  although Rockpool has better steaks.   ~   6.9/10



Their Seafood Platter for 2 -  Around $190
We decided to skip this, as you could get these in buffets,  and there is little cooking skills involved in such platters.    Expensive, plus. how else can we test the kitchen’s true cooking skills!!  Smile




Food Wise -
Definitely turned out to be surprising in two ways.   The recipes are boring and out of fashion,  but at the same time the execution was mostly spot on,  bar the Crudo dish which really looked out of place for a seafood fine dining restaurant and not better than the Waterfront Restaurant it had replaced on the same spot.   I definitely thought this was just deserving of a 1 Hatted Status based on execution and seasoning alone -  but there is no doubt that there are many more restaurants in town which are equally deserving of being elevated.   Places like Attica and Royal Mail Hotel got promoted for no real reasons this year, why not some other proven institutions in town as well?


Price: AUD $100 to $125 /person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2  to  ♕♕♕♕ 3/4  (Pricy,  but great executions.  Lobster is way overpriced at $3xx for half a size.  You must be out of your mind,  The Atlantic.  )

Opening Hours:
Lunch: 12 noon – 3pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday from 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Sunday from 5:30pm – 11:00pm

Address: 8 Whiteman St Crown Entertainment Complex, Southbank, Melbourne Victoria
Ph: (03) 9698 8888

1 comment:

  1. Interesting observations on Michelin v Good Food Guide. It would be interesting to see Michelin in Australia (although certainly in the UK the star system has come in for a lot of criticism for being so Francophile).



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