Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Atlantic

Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006 Australia


OK. So it was Father’s day. I don’t have any kids, and so had no one to say “Well done Kit-Dad!” Add to the mix that Jane was sick (down with the flu), and that I’d been doing house work all weekend, you might understand that I was feeling, if not unloved, at least a little neglected. (OK, OK, I can hear you all rattling out your tiny violins).

It was time, come Sunday afternoon after shopping and cleaning and looking after a sicky, to do something for me. To let me know I was someone I liked anyway.

Cue tram ride and a quick disappear to the Crown Casino for a movie and dinner on my own. Never one to do things by halves, I booked a gold class film and had an hour or so to kill and take myself out for dinner. But where to go? I absolutely refuse to go to that scrotum-browed Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant.

Enquiring at the box office for a good place to have seafood, the cinema staff unanimously directed me to the Atlantic. Well, if you like seafood and are looking for ego support through food, let me tell you - you could do a lot worse.

The Atlantic is a relatively new restaurant down at Southbank. A stunning trio of hostesses (blonde, brunette and Asian) in short silver skirts greeted me at the door – turning a blind eye to my lack of sartorial elegance (I was wearing a hoody and crocs), and sashayed me to table 15, my lucky number, past piles of oysters on ice.

The kitchen is an open plan affair, with the head chef yelling out orders to the return choruses of “yes chef!”. It was just like being on TV!

The view looks, appropriately, straight across at the Melbourne Aquarium, and as each hour struck that night, the gas flames of the casino lit up the sky outside through huge windows that extend into the roof.

One of the waiting staff told me they’d only received one hat from the Age this year, as they were reviewed in the first few weeks of opening, but that they were batting hard for a second hat. I don’t doubt they’ll get there. The food is art of the highest order, particularly if you’re like old squid lips here. And their chef is some superstar called Donovan Cooke, who has worked in the UK, France and Hongkers, and is responsible for Melbourne restaurants including Est Est Est, Luxe and Ondine (winner of best new restaurant 2002).

After the half dozen Dunally (Tasmanian) oysters, I had the “Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare”, a kind of pressed square of tuna with black garlic, confit tomatoes (and, I suspect, dill), served with a parsnip and horseradish cream with delicate wafers draped in slivers of Iberian jamon. Just a starter with a rocket, parmessan and apple salad. I still had some time to kill before the movie, so I finished with a coffee, Grand Marnier and their home made nougat with cranberry pieces in it (yum!).

I know, what a lush. Hey, I’m not perfect, but I’ve never felt so loved in all my life. Like the universe was opening up it’s portals and pouring down its munificence on me. I kept having little “I’m not worthy of food this good” feelings, which I quickly assuaged by having another drink or thinking “If not me, who?”

So do yourself a favour, give yourself a treat, and spoil yourself. Again! I highly recommend the Atlantic if you’re feeling neglected. Tentacles? Forza. Does anybody ever get eight? Not yet. I’ll give them a strong seven and a quarter!

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Scusa Mi Ristorante

Mid-level, Southgate

OK, how do you know when the restaurant trade has been taking a hammering?

When you walk into one of the best places you’ve ever seen, with great service, beautiful outlook, good food and the place is nearly empty. But surely we should take a look inside? Look at the lunch special!

OK, admittedly it was a Tuesday, down at a Southbank undergoing various renovations, but the sun was shining bright and, as I sat out on the verandah I felt like I was on holiday in Sydney, or maybe that it was my birthday. But no. It was just me and a book, catching a lunch special at Scusa Mi and catching a few rays.

The balcony overlooks Flinders St Station, the lunch special was great value (glass of wine, entrée – I had the octopus, and main; followed by the seared Salmon - $26!).

The name pretty much tells you it’s Italian food, and their card has three comedy chefs, so it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

As a quick aside, I'm amazed at how far Southbank has come as a dining precinct in the last decade. I’m beginning to suspect Southbank is becoming Melbourne’s version of Las Ramblas, the touristy walk flanked by the homes of jet-setty millionaires through the centre of town, and where you will increasingly find some of the very best restaurants going around.

OK, my particular lunch wasn’t the pinnacle of art in food – I did just have the special and I can’t recall seeing any “foams”, or titrations from the lab of some genius – but it was pleasant fare, a great view and attentive service. Plus, looking through their gallery, they look like they can rise to just about anything and match it with the foam/blindfold/food as painting and sculpture-ness-ness of any of them.

Thank God they are there.

Six tentacles out of eight!

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