Food Review: Lesa, Melbourne

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. If I had to choose a place to live (other than KL), Melbourne would definitely be on top of the list. Why? Aside from a thriving arts and culture scene, they’ve also got awesome coffee. And of course, food. Australians in general are big on food and wine, but Melbourne is on another level. Not only is the scene one of the world’s most sophisticated, you literally cannot find food that sucks here, lol. Or at least not any that I’ve tried.

Enter Lesa, upstairs from another popular resto, Embla, along Russel Street. Ascend a dark and narrow staircase to find a cosy spot that is contemporary and slightly reserved; not too casual but not intimidating either. Rough, brick walls are complemented by sleek wooden furniture, the large glass windows allowing for plenty of sunlight to filter in during the day. It’s the perfect place for intimate dinner dates or a long lunch with business associates and/or friends – preferably with a glass of wine from their extensive list.

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Our four-course menu kicked off with Fermented potato flatbread, shiitake and macadamia. Fluffy with a crisp crust, the bread was elevated to new heights with the macadamia cream and the rich earthiness of the shiitake oil.

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Next was Spanner Crab, Floratina Tomatoes, Pine Nut & Laurel, a delightful combination of flavours pairing the natural sweetness of the carb with the tartness of the tomatoes, the slight bitter sharpness of the laurel and pine nut. Being a big fan of seafood, this was right up my alley!

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My favourite of the lot was the third course: Lamb rump, chocolate capsicum, garlic and almond. Chocolate capsicum sounds like a crazy combination, but it worked surprisingly well – it was almost like eating a mild and chewy sweet. The lamb was the star of the show – perfectly pink and succulent, with just the right balance of lean and fat.

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Sides of roast potato and reine de glace iceberg, rocket and hazelnut. Now people who know me know I’m not a big fan of vegetables, but these were so fresh and nicely dressed that it had me going for seconds.

 

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Last but not least was the innovative Roast potato parfait, chocolate, sourdough, lemongrass. This is one of those non-sweet desserts that do just as well as an ending to the meal; loved the creamy texture of the parfait and the fragrant notes of lemongrass.

Originality is definitely Lesa’s strong suit; the dishes are creative and put together in ways that many other restaurants will not even dare to go near with a ten-foot pole. Presentation can appear sparse, but what really matters here is flavour.

LESA 

level 1/122 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Phone: +61 3 9935 9838

Business hours: Wed & Sat (dinner service only – 5.30PM – 11PM), Thurs & Fri (lunch and dinner, 12 – 3PM, 5.30 – 11PM). Closed from Sun – Tues.

lesarestaurant.com.au

 

Review: Contemporary Dining at Lume, Melbourne

Go hard, or go home. That seemed to be the philosophy at contemporary dining restaurant Lume when they opened in Melbourne two years ago, proclaiming their dreams to make it to the World’s Best 50 – wildly ambitious for a setup run by first time chef-owners. Obviously Rome wasn’t built in a day: it’s 2017 and we have yet to see Lume on the list, but that doesn’t mean the restaurant isn’t worth visiting. Dishes are creative and employ complex cooking methods, with items such as emu ham and eel butter. Be prepared though. A degustation at Lume can run into the hours, the dishes served far between, so I’d suggest not going on an empty stomach (!)

Housed along Coventry Street in a former burlesque club, the restaurant has been renovated with a light brown and pink scheme, coupled with cosy furnishings and elegant silverware: intimate but classy at the same time. Dining areas are divided into the front, where guests can watch the chefs in action at the open kitchen, and the comfy atrium at the back with its potted plants and glass skylight. We opted to sit at the front.

Chefs plating bite-sized platters with delicate accuracy.

There are currently two degustation menus at Lume, although this is subject to change: An Incitation ($140), a seven course menu served Tuesday to Friday evenings and for Saturday lunch, as well as The Road ($210), which has 14 items and is served from Tuesday to Saturday evenings.

To kick off our (very long) meal, an entree of Sea Corn Taco. Beautiful presentation aside, the delicate taco was crisp and very thin, with a custard deceptively made into a corn shape but was actually crab, topped with bronze-coloured fried corn silk.

One of their signature appetisers, the aptly named Pearl on the Ocean Floor was a wonderful visual feast, like a manicured garden at the bottom of the seabed. Combining earth and sea, the ‘pearl’ was a ball of cocoa butter on sesame-flavoured sand, flanked by a plump raw oyster and frothy white mussel foam forming a ‘wave’ on the side. It was interesting blend, but not my cup of tea as I felt the flavours didn’t gel well together.

Next came carrot honey and calamari in bergamot marmalade, easily one of my favourites of the night. After the complex appetizers, this was surprisingly simple but full of flavour. I liked the freshness and texture of the squid in the creamy marmalade sauce, which complemented the sweet lightness of the glazed carrot.

 

The Jerusalem artichoke crumpet and eel honey was a pleasing break before our mains. The name made me think it was going to be savoury, but the dish turned out to be a fluffy cake with a slightly salty spread and thick, viscous honey. Great combination of flavours.

The Pork Belly cooked in onion oil, golden beetroot and smoked miso was the only disappointing dish of the night. The belly was fatty on its own, but when drenched in onion oil, made for mouthfuls of grease with every bite.

Barbecued abalone with emu ham and kombu was another winner. The abalone was fresh and meaty, cooked in a savoury dashi sauce, with thin slices of cured emu ham and mushrooms.

Marron head with Japanese Ginger and Wild Scampi Roe was served in a vivid explosion of colours – bright orange, slightly charred shell, white and meaty flesh topped with sapphire-blue roe. Tastewise, the meat was sweet and refreshing, with a smokey aftertaste from the grilling coupled with salty roe that popped and exploded in my mouth.

Last but not least, we ended the meal with Berry Pavlova, fig leaf and quandong, which had a nice balance of sour and sweet. The pavlova was the highlight of the dish, with a soft, airy texture that melted on the tongue like spun sugar, while the sweet ice cream was creamy and rich without being cloying, thanks to the sourness of the berries.

It was close to 11.30pm when we finally finished our meal – a total of 3 hours. If you’re good with the wait, Lume is an experience you should try while touring the fine dining circuit in Melbourne for its innovative creations, quality food and attention to service.

LUME

226 Coventry St, South Melbourne VIC 3205, Australia

Operating hours: Saturdays (11.30AM-2PM, 5.30PM-11.30PM), Tuesdays – Fridays (5.30PM-11.30PM). Closed Sun-Mon.

Reservations: restaurantlume.com / tocktix.com