Dinner 26 April 2013
Executive Chef Jacques Reymond
Jacques Reymond, a name synonymous with the best of Melbourne’s culinary delights displaying innovation, modernisation, consistency and artistry on the plate. Located on the outskirts of the CBD, Jacques Reymond occupies an old and lovely Victorian mansion complete with flourishing gardens, fireplaces and has been used as a restaurant reception centre for over 50 years. The house has undergone extensive renovations since the Reymond family purchased it in 1992 resulting in a fusion between traditional and contemporary décor reflective of Jacques cooking style. If you walk past the kitchen, you may get a glimpse of Jacque in the kitchen commanding the troops with his daughter Nathalie in front of house as the sommelier. This highly regarded restaurant is affiliated with the Relais Chateaux association, awarded three chef hats for many consecutive years and currently holds two and three gourmet traveler stars for food and wine respectively.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to have dined at Jacques Reymond on three previous occasions. My first two visits played a big part in my fascination of food and wine so there is a special place in my heart here. I can still remember the sweet lobster bisque with crab dumplings and the flavors of the foam on a perfectly cooked king fish…just magic. The third time I visited Jacques was early 2011 where I felt a slump in consistency and quality in the dishes, a shame really. Nevertheless, when my 30th birthday came around this year, there was no other place I wanted to be than Jacques. It was like a pilgrimage, one all Melbournians should take so thank you to all the guests of the night making it a memorable one.
Friday came around quickly and we soon found ourselves outside the mofo of a mansion scanning the soon to be nommed 9 course degustation menu. Three taps on the old door later, we were greeted by some fabulous wait staff, patient, accommodating and friendly; easily some of the best.
We filtered in two at a time around a circular table within one of the three rooms flanked by fireplaces and carts of Dom Perignon. The menus came around along with one of the many reasons to dine at Jacques; the cheese balls.
OMG the cheese balls, this can easily be one of the degustation dishes and none would be the wiser. Wafts of decadence fill the room emanating from the Gruyère woven choux pastry straight from the oven. Soft and melt in your mouth like a cheese soufflé with just enough cheesy goodness to make you come back for more.
After the degustation’s were ordered and the cheese ball crumbs licked clean, came the bread and…..the butter, another reason to come to Jacques and only surpassed by Tetsuya’s truffle butter. Three kinds of bread are served at Jacques: white, multigrain and poppy seed, all going swimmingly with the house butter. My advice, go the poppy seed bread and butter thickly.
The first course soon arrived, a fragrant consume of shiitake mushroom and sea cucumber with a side of honey soy dressed chicken and pickled clam paired with a Arbois Blanc sourced from Jura near Burgundy. This wine was picked to match the dishes the acidity and shows fresh grassy notes, semisweet apples and hay. Gives off a light mouthfeel, somewhat sweet on the attack with a lean body moving into a gentle acidic tingle in the finish.
The mushroom consume is very subtle, hint of ginger, light and not too rich with a sweet nose. The zucchini and chicken add sweetness whist the clam cuts the dish nicely. There are also a few pieces of sea cucumber which bring a bit of a surprise throwing off the expected mushroom texture. This was a clean dish bringing forth some power and tannins in the wine, adding body and also enhancing “mushroom-eyness” to the broth. A great example of wine matching and how food and wine play can play with each other.
The second dish began with a Chenin Blanc. Nose is like old apricots, quince paste, ripe pear tart on golden delicious apples on smooth rocks and chat potatoes. Attack has boiled potato skins with a jammy and semi thick mouthfeel like a spiced apple pie along with a thin line of acidity down the middle. Finishes like pear tart with a sprinkle of vanilla bean. Spicy, powerful, just like quince paste with a color to intrigue.
To match is an equally complex looking dish of yellow fin tuna and salmon mousse. Smells funky and there is an unexpected hard caramel like shell on top of the tuna sashimi. This is a whirlwind dish with sweet and sour flavors and varying textures to match. Crunchy, granuley from the rice, soft fish combine into flavors of something like caramel popcorn (I’m thinking the popcorn brand called “Poppycock”). The wine is enhanced with this dish, tingly, like sherbet. A fruity sweetness comes forth with more apple, lime and salt flakes. Another stellar wine match with a dish full of funk.
This was very good, well balanced and interesting; a whiting, simply cooked to keep the integrity of the fish with a dominant flavor of grapefruit from the yuzu on the nose. Another dish varying in textures going from extremely crunchy barley, slightly crisped cauliflower then to a lovey soft fish. Flavors of sweet whiting and seaweed integrate well with a wash of pickled flavors and a touch of sweet/bitter pomelo. Each element adds a new dimension to the dish making each new mouthful a new experience.
To match, a buttery Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley to complement the acidity of the dish. Butter on the nose, light mouthfeel with a lemon rind complexion from beginning to finish. Very linear in design but very good at bringing a combination of acidic flavors wrapped in a buttery mouthfeel. Unfortunately the wine is overshadowed here acting more like a palate cleanser and becomes more tannic and pushing lemon rind flavors.
This is my favorite dish and my favorite wine of the night. I have always wanted to try a pinot noir by Garry Farr and the 2008 Sangreal by farr doesn’t stray far from its namesake. Spicy, opulent ruby nose with an outback influenced background of gumnuts, eucalyptus and a hint of scallop shell. Firm grip on the attack but juuuuust the right amount. Same tasty grip on the palate with complex flavors of leafy Chinese broccoli, sesame seed and some cigar notes finishing like rye bread with cream cheese. Perfect balance of sweet, sour and tannin’s whilst bringing a smooth and textured mouthfeel. An extremely well made pinot and tough beat! I’m writing this a week later and still dreaming about it!
The dish to complement this magnificent specimen is equally magical; pork, fried cuttlefish and crispy chicken skin. This smells beautiful like a seafood tom yum with a dash of big red tomato sauce (not sure if you find that combination attractive but hey!) going with soft flavors of vinegar with coriander, bamboo and lemongrass. Lovely integration of Asian influenced spices into a delicate broth of sweet shallots and tamarind which makes you want more. The wine adds further flavors of custard apples, a touch of chili and pushes the acidic components of the dish. I’m very happy here giving this the best individual and paired food and wine of the night.
Now this is a random looking palate cleanser! It’s even got a piece of bacon on it! Wasabi, apple granita, peas, crispy pancetta, a grape and parmesan custard….yes, parmesan custard. Head = Blown. This dish kinda tastes like a fresh cold carbonara with the combination of the fresh peas, herbs, panchetta and cheesy base all cut down by the apple and wasabi granita. Weird but quite delicious.
This was probably my second favorite dish with a bit of a surf n turf angle. The smell of scampi leaps from the plate followed by the lovely smoked scallop, then the lamb. Our lamb hero is succulent matched with a vinaigrette drizzle. The scampi is cooked quite well having a texture akin to bbq prawns and the scallop is well smoked and plump. The masterstock has the tamarin flavor to it combined with chilli, tomato, lime and five spice flavors. When eaten together you get a wonderful experience starting with flavors of the lamb followed by the not too subtle flavors of scampi and scallop wrapped around overarching flavors of the jelly stock and crispy raddish.
The wine match was a bright wine from the south Corsica Island in France. Fresh nose with macerated strawberries, deep green leaves, artichoke along with a slight confectionery flavor. Attack is broody, peppery into the mid palate, chilly, bark and red earth finishing smoky, earthy and long with a good heaping of cuddly tannins. With the dish, the wine takes on a rose water note and becomes heavier on the palate highlighting the sweetness of the dish. Another really good pairing and dish/wine in their own right.
The final savory course was my third favorite of the night, yummy fatty wagu. The wagu is extremely fatty so having only a few slices was just right (though I didn’t complain finishing off a few other dishes). This was a textbook example of how to cut the rich flavors of blood pudding and the fatty wagu with acidity of the pickled mushroom and horse radish. Extremely well balanced, full in flavor with another perfect wine match.
The wine was the Pryus; a Bordeaux blend heavier than the previous wines with rich and creamy nose displaying chocolate flavors, black forest cake with a touch of eucalyptus and crème brulee. Attack is of gumnut, rubber and tar with lush bramble, cherry, pinecone and juniper as it transitions into the mid palate. Finishes spicy, chocolate and chilly giving of a sense of warmth creating a fantastic course overall.
This desert didn’t have a wine match to start with but our sommelier managed to somehow twist our arms into a NV demi sec. The champagne had a powerful and refreshing nose showing a combination of zesty, sweet and dry strawberries. On the palate you get roasted brioche, green tea, apricot sorbet with champagne foam, honey and rice bubbles in the finish making for a very playful Champagne.
The desert looks like it tastes, fun, thick, chewy and fluffy like a bubble bath. Citrus notes with oats and honey make up the flavor profile like a breakfast. This is a fun desert with plenty of textual surprises playing with the chewy and crunchy. I really liked this but the champagne doesn’t play well becoming more acidic and too sharp. My advice is to eat and drink separately…in large mouthfuls.
The last cab off the rank is another from the south of France on the Spanish border. The Cornet & Cie is made from 100% Grenache, full of spice with a nose of plum, boysenberries and dark raisins. Attack is lighter than expected, shadows of coffee and chocolate, cigar and lush spices atop of a strawberry jam and pine wood body finishing like fruit cake with sweet aniseed that so happened to match well with the desert itself.
The desert was a neat looking piece of chocolate cake to be eaten with the fragrance of paperbark. Within the paper bark were roasted accompaniments of Szechuan pepper, cinnamon, juniper, bay leaf, plum and chest nuts. The desert was creamy, soft, thick and delicate with hints of coffee. The chocolate is sumptuous and matches with the paper bark bringing a sense of warmth, smelling like a Chinese Christmas. The wine becomes more pronounced, stronger than before pronouncing the tangy sorbet and adding dark chocolate notes. Lovely combo, textually sound and a perfect finish.
To finish, an espresso, churros and a medley of French delights.
What can I say, tonight’s dinner, in my opinion was a triumph and if I had to nitpick, there was a slight miss match in two of the wine parings… Boo Hoo! Jacques Reymond is back baby! (not that it ever left). I had a lovely evening with more than interesting dishes backed with a flight of pristine wines and couldn’t be happier. Too bad I Jacques himself wasn’t there that night, I was hoping for a pic or two, maybe at my next visit 🙂
Final thoughts and a snapshot for you adventure to Jacques Reymond, cuisine du temps:
- Jacques does do al la carte but the degustation menu is the specialty and the way I would go
- Degustation prices: $185 for a 9 course tasting menu, $280 for wine matching. This is slightly pricier than most places but you are dining at a Melbourne icon.
- Service is fantastic
- Ambiance assumes a shirt and tie atmosphere but smart casual is an acceptable dress code
- Book in advance for weekends but you will generally get a table on weekdays
- Enjoy yourself