This year for my birthday celebration, we were in the mood to try out a new restaurant instead of those tried and tested with many reviews. Amaru was featured in a couple of online food magazines in the weeks leading up to my birthday and it sounded promising. Ex-Vue du Monde’s sous chef Clinton McIver now runs his first solo venture after a successful run at Clayton Bowls Club for 16 months. Pictures of the food looked amazing as well, so we were really excited.
Amaru has an intimate and casual setting with beautiful minimalist fit-out, we could watch the crew prepare our dishes in the open kitchen. It felt a little like personal chefs serving food at a home dining.
A degustation-only menu, they serve 10 courses for $120 per person with additional course for extra depending on what they serve. We opted for the additional course that night. They didn’t reveal the courses upfront (an exception was the special/additional course), but verbalised them as we progressed through the degustation. All they needed to know was if we had any allergies or anything we disliked. Hubby and I eat anything and everything so we’re all clear. Since we didn’t know what will be served, we asked for recommendation for a glass of wine for each of us. After we were served our recommended wines, we were all ready to begin our tasting journey.
First course: Ike-Jime Squid / Raw Peas / Wasabi / Milk Skin / Salted PeachIt was beautifully presented and I liked the look of the white layer from the milk skin placed delicately between the squid and the salted peach. The squid had a firm texture, quite different from a typical cooked squid dish. The Ike-Jime technique of preparing this squid made a difference to the texture and freshness. I felt the raw peas overshadowed the squid as it was still crunchy has a strong taste, I ate the squid and peas separately in the end. Hubby was not bothered by the peas though.
Second course: Summer Corn / Yarra Valley Trout Pearls / Lightly Pickled KohlrabiThis corn ice cream/sorbet was absolutely beautiful, both in the visual and taste aspects. I loved the colours – the bright yellow contrasting with the orange trout pearls and purple flowers. It was certainly appetising, rich yet refreshing.
Third course: Crab Toast / Macadamia Milk / Plum / VinegarYou can eat this small toast in one mouthful. It didn’t have a strong crab flavour as it has been well balanced by the macadamia milk and other components. Overall, nothing out of ordinary.
My favourite out of the three amuse-bouche is definitely the summer corn dish, it was memorable for me.
Fourth course: Barbecued Greens / Heidi Farm Gruyere / Bone MarrowGreat textures from the barbecued greens. The super finely-grated gruyere was airy light yet cheesy.
Fifth course: A dish of Old and New / MarronThis was the additional course for $30 per person. Marron is a type of crayfish and I liked crayfish in general so we opted for it. I don’t know why it is called a dish of old and new. The sauce/accompaniments to the marron was delicious, nutty and richly flavoured. The crayfish tasted good and cooked well. Although, I wasn’t sure if these two paired well.
By now, I was commenting to the Hubby about how there weren’t any bread and I wished for some in between courses. We then started chatting about how the other restaurants had a huge selection of bread and pastries. As a huge bread and pastry lover, I loved the sight and smell of those wait staffs walking around the restaurant holding a huge tray of huge selection of pastries for me to select – freshly baked bread, croissants, brioches.
For the next course, very timely, they served bread with it. My, oh my, this course trumped those with huge pastry selections.
Sixth course: Heirloom Tomatoes Stewed with Marron heads / Muntries / Bread / Cultured Butter
This was one of the most interesting courses for me. Cubed heirloom tomatoes in different colours – yellow/orange, green and red. It didn’t taste like the typical tomatoes and didn’t have the mushy part but remained firm. The colours reminded me more of melons and I thought the texture was similar to those melons that are slightly unripe. Interesting.
Now shall I entice you with the amazing sauce and bread? It was as though the chefs heard us and were trying to prove the point that I don’t need a huge selection of breads when I can have just the one, with an ultra-rich sauce to dip in.
The sauce was ultra-delicious and rich. Stewed with marron heads, no wonder. In my opinion, any dish that is cooked with crayfish/shellfish heads has to be amazing. The bread was warm, soft, fluffy and unbelievably moist. The bread-sauce combination was just awesome. They didn’t serve the butter right away but have said we could ask for it if we wanted to. Trust me, there was no need for the butter, the sauce itself was too delicious and I wiped them dry with the moist bread.
Seventh course: Ike-Jime Hapuka / Roasted Wallaby Bones / Sea Grapes / Funori
The hapuka was beautifully cooked, the texture was smooth. The sauce complemented it very well as well. This was the first time I’ve seen and eaten sea grapes.
Eight course: Dry Aged Corn Fed Duck / Pear Leather / Bitter Radicchio / Preserved BlueberriesAgain, presentation was beautiful. The duck was cooked very well, still pink and very tasty. However, I wasn’t sure about the blueberry sauce and the duck by itself was good enough. We’ve had rabbit with blueberry sauce before in Budapest, and we didn’t like the combination either. It could just be personal preference.
Ninth course: Sweet Potato / Blood Lime / Caramelized White ChocolateVisually appetising again! The sweet potato thins held the white chocolate nicely. It was so thin but upon biting them in half, it wasn’t crumbly or messy but still hold the filling well.
Tenth course: Chocolate / White Miso Fudge / Yuzu Vinaigrette / FennelThe fennel sorbet was very light and refreshing, unlike the previous course. The previous course was creamy which was good to break up from the previous intense courses but not too light that may confuse our palate. We thought the progression of courses was good and matched well.
The Finale / Eleventh course: Buffalo Mozarrella Ice Cream / Sun Dried Strawberry / Cold Pressed Olive Oil / BasilI absolutely loved this dish – the flavour and texture were totally on point! We couldn’t helped but praised this course after every bite. This is definitely one memorable course.
Overall, the time between the courses were just nice. Since the restaurant is small, the kitchen aligned our courses with other patrons so I thought it was nice the whole restaurant was eating same thing at the same time.
As I write to describe the taste of each courses, I realised that I may not have been able to taste every element of the course as written on the printed menu (which we requested at the end of the degustation course). It’s all about balancing all the different components to create a delicious course. We shouldn’t have been influenced by a certain expectation of a specific component but let the chef balance the flavours. Overall, I think Amaru has done really well at the start and the end of their degustation courses.