Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tao's Restaurant

Location: 201 Bulleen Road, Bulleen Vic
Link: www.taosrestaurant.com.au
Cuisine: Japanese, French, Fusion

Having been searching for an excuse to go try out Tao's we finally decided to go for H's birthday. Dinner is a $50 degustation (the menu states seven courses but they threw in a couple of additional ones in between - not that we were complaining!).

Complimentary Dish 1...

Bread sticks with sweet tangy dipping sauce

This was the first additional dishes not mentioned on the menu. The bread sticks were crunchy and tasted like poppyseed/sesame. The dipping sauce was a sweet, tangy and somewhat sticky sauce which clung nicely to the bread sticks.

Course #1: Starters...

Chef's Seasonal Assorted Platter
(from left: sardines with pickled daikon radish; scallop with lemon slice and garnish; tomato soaked in alcohol, with a peanut sauce and mint)

The starter was a mix of strange and new flavours. The pickled daikon radish was very nice and crisp, the sardines tasted like, well, sardines - nothing too special there. The scallop was very fresh and tasted great with the lemon and the strange stringy garnish. The tomato was quite odd-tasting - as though it had been soaked in some kind of alcohol. If not for the peanut sauce, it probably would not have been edible.

Course #2: Entrée...

Ice Age Sashimi

Tao's Style Prawn with Tempura Oysters

This was an amazing entrée. The prawns were fresh and nicely flavoured. They were hung in a little shot glass of fish sauce and vinegar, with the flavours seeping in through the prawn heads into the flesh. The shells came off very easily, indicating that they were cooked to the right extend. The batter on the oysters was light and crunchy, no trace of oil at all! The oysters themselves were quite large, fresh and juicy. The only thing I didn't like was the smear of wasabi between inside the batter (I'm not a fan of wasabi). However, it wasn't enough to put me off devouring the second oyster! The small dollop of smashed potatoes was a little out of place, but tasted quite nice nevertheless.

Course #3: Tao's Special Chawa-mushi...

Seafood broth covered with soft egg tofu and fish roe

Having no idea what this was until it reached the table, we were pleasantly surprised. The egg tofu on top was smooth and silky, with a slightly salty taste and the fish roe popped like it should. Underneath the tofu was a light seafood broth, with shrimp, baby scallops and small pieces of other seafood as well. It was like finding a gem at the bottom of the sea!

Course #4: Soup...

Teapot Style Bonitto

Creamy Pumpkin

Ginseng Chicken Herbal

Cream of Mushroom

When I first ordered this, I thought it might be a little risky that I was ordering a soup that would end up being Continental Cup-a Soup. I was proved wrong with the arrival of this. Smooth and creamy, and completely infused with mushroom flavour as well as very finely chopped mushrooms. I just could not get enough of it!

Complimentary Dish 2...

Salty plum shots

These looked odd, but actually did not taste too bad. Not normally a fan of salty plum, I sipped at it tentatively first and was pleasantly surprised. The shaved ice inside the shot glass actually made the salty plum juice taste light and refreshing.

Course #5: Mains...

Baked Ocean Trout wtih Avocado sauce

Rockling Sugiita-yaki with Miso Cream

This dish came on fire! The bamboo wrapped around the rockling fillet was flaming at the ends, allowing the nice smokey bamboo flavour to infuse the fish. The fish itself was soft and tender, cooked perfectly and strongly flavoured. The miso cream added a creamy texture to the fish. The accompanying sides were a little odd - broad beans, tomato, a shitake mushroom and some picked daikon slices - but strangely enough added some colour and nice contrasting textures and flavours to the rest of the dish.

Confit Duck Leg with White Wine Sauce

Inside the baking paper

The duck leg was served inside the baking paper - which kept the sauce together. Also served with an assortment of sides.

Course #6: Rice of the Day...

Japanese fried rice

The 'rice of the day' turned out to be Japanese fried rice - with shrimp and the usual other suspects in fried rice. It again had a nice wok-infused aroma, but wasn't really much of an exciting dish. It was quite fitting to have the rice served at the same time as the mains as it allowed a nice balance of flavours.

Course #7: Dessert...

Fruits Sago

Whilst everyone else chose the cream brulee, I opted for the fruits sago and was quite happy with it. There was an abundance of finely diced fresh fruit (mostly apple) and plenty of sago and coconut milk. To be honest, I ordered it for the coconut milk!

Cream Brulee

The other three were very very pleased with their cream brulee, with had a crunchy topping that had to be cracked to get to the rest of it.


Fine dining at it's best. The restaurant is located in the suburbs and is generally quiet. There are large windows to let in the natural lighting as well as provide some nice view into the garden (and then the carpark beyond that). We went on a Thursday night, which would have been quiet had there not been a wedding reception on a couple of tables down. The little kids almost ruined the atmosphere especially when one mother decided to bring a crying baby back into the main part of the restaurant from the patio seating.

The service was very prompt and professional. There was very little delay between courses which we particularly liked. One thing we would have preferred would have been for the waiters to actually introduce the dish they were placing in front of us - we weren't told what the two additional dishes and the components of the starter were (hence I have made up the descriptions above).

Lunch is $38, dinner is $50. The main difference is that there are certain options available only at dinner time (including the prawn and oyster entrée, the rockling and the duck leg). Also the Chawa-mushi is only available at dinner time. Given the quality of the food, and the fairly decent sized servings, it was totally worth it!

Overall Impression: 10/10
Tao's on Urbanspoon

Kouzina - Lunchtime Mezedes

Location: Level 2, Westfield Doncaster, 619 Doncaster Road, Doncaster (also one at Southgate)
Link: www.kouzina.com.au
Cuisine: Greek

The lunchtime menu at Kouzina seems to sport more mezedes (tapas style dishes) than mains, and feeling like a variety of food, we decided to order a few to nibble on.

Mini lamb kebabs with tzatziki and onions

From the 'mezedes from the land' list, we decided on the mini lamb kebabs. I assumed (and would have preferred) that this would be kebabs of threaded with gyros (Greek spit roast lamb). I was rather disappointed when the kebabs were loaded with large chunks of lamb. The meat itself was quite well flavoured and went very nicely when smothered with tzatziki, but was a little on the overcooked side (especially given the thickness of it). The onions gave a good contrasting bite.

Mixed dips with pita bread

From top: eggplant dip, feta cheese, caviar, roasted peppers, tzatziki, olives, feta and capsicum dip

J was craving the caviar dip from our last Greek feast at Stalactites so we ordered the mixed dips as the first of our 'mezedes vegetarian'. We were very surprised at the number of dips that were on the dish - especially at the extras (roasted peppers, feta cheese and olives) that accompanied the dish. The eggplant dip was a little odd tasting, and the feta and capsicum was a little too salty (due to the feta I believe) but the caviar and tzatziki were smooth, creamy and very tasty indeed. I also particularly liked the roasted peppers which were nice and sweet.

Kalamarika - Salt and pepper calamari, ouzo aioli

From the 'mezedes from the sea' list, these were very nicely flavoured, but lacked crunch. The crumbs on the outside were a little soft and tasted like the oil hadn't been properly dripped out before they served them. The lemon and dipping sauce went very well with the salt and pepper already on the crumbs.

Spanakopita - Yufka filo pastry rolls with spinach and feta, served with walnut-pepper coulis
We needed one more dish and I saw this on the 'mezedes vegetarian' list and immediately thought 'Masterchef!' One of our best choices as it came out looking exactly like a miniature version of Alex Lloyd's version on Masterchef. Cutting into it, there was plenty of the spinach and feta inside the spiral shaped pastry. Perfectly crispy on the outside and nicely flavoured on the inside. I want some more now!

~Service and Atmosphere~
We went for lunch on a Thursday and thus it was very quiet - we nearly had the whole restaurant to ourselves. There are some very nice window seats which would look very nice at night. We had one waitress serve us for the entire meal, and she was pretty helpful when we were ordering, and was very friendly. Dishes came out as they were prepared, with most out in a reasonable time, except for the spanakopita (although that was well-worth the wait!).

A little pricier than we were expecting to spend (each mezedes was around $8 - $12) but for the experience, it was well worth it.

Overall Impression: 9/10
Kouzina - Doncaster on Urbanspoon