Monday, December 8, 2008

Cafe La, or: Please bring back the vegan options!

Buzz and I wanted to go for A Dinner. Not dinner, but A Dinner.

It was not yet time to return to ezard, so I looked at felt (that’s a lowercase f, fanks) at the Hotel Lindrum. They had one vegetarian main and no vegetarian entrees, so I fancied my chances were nil (and even if they were higher, I was annoyed by their meat-heavy menu without reprieve). I didn’t bother to call.

I emailed Attica and they advised that they could not do a vegan degustation, could do a vegan entrée/main combo with some warning, but that they were booked until the end of the year. Also I had to not come on a Saturday.

Pearl was all seafood. I didn’t enquire.

So, heart heavy and belly hungry, I remembered that Café La at the Sofitel had kindly provided and noted vegan options on their menu when I last ate there in March. I specifically enquired about this when I rang up to book, and was assured that there were still vegan options on the menu. Yeeha!

It was therefore especially annoying to discover that vegetarian dishes were noted. C’mon! Different word, different meaning! If you’re not sure I’d really preferred you asked!

Jesse our waiter was a salve. He said it was “a good question” when I asked about egg in the gnocchi (there was), understood exactly what vegan meant (hooray), and when the gnocchi was indeed eggified he told me exactly what chef was going to make up for me instead and asked if that sounded ok (it was the same dish I had in March, so I guess it’s in the repertoire).

And so to the food …

I have to admit that the description of my entrée – salad of baby cos, sundried tomatoes, avocado and toasted pinenuts – fell short. The salad however was superlative.

Imagine a really great olive oil. Really, really, I’d-drink-it-on-its-own olive oil. Now add a bit of something endivey (do I mean endivey? Tasted like a small onion but not so pungent), and small pieces of smushed avocado. Now add in a few pieces of small well-cooked beetroots, an intense basil tapenade/reduction thingie, toasted pine nuts and torn baby cos leaves. More olive oil.

It really was totally fabulous and I would have happily eaten it again as a main.
My main was herb-encrusted tofu with spring vegetables. The tofu part of the dish was a little hit’n’miss – great crunchy herb encrusting, but sliding off a slab of firm plain tofu. I kept trying to spear a bit of each so that I didn’t end up with a mouthful of unflavoured tofu.
The vegetables and saucing however were just fantastic. The green beans were crisp and perfectly cooked, and the small cherry tomatoes lay on a dark, sticky, sweet swirl of dressing. I couldn’t work out what it was – perhaps caramelised balsamic? If anyone’s got any ideas, let me know.
EDIT: Big shout out to my podbuddy Cameron - it's dessert balsamic and it's apparently highly priced and highly worth it. It's ultra aged balsamic, almost with a toffee consistency - very sweet but still with a bit of a vinegar sting. Available from snooty food shops, as he so aptly puts it.

All of it was presented on a bed of olive oil-y sauce which provided a rich, smooth counterpart to the punchy sweetness of the maybe-balsamic.

Not pictured are our sides – ‘signature’ fries (which I think were just fries with garlic salt, but hot, crisp, golden, fresh and fatty), and garlic green beans, where the garlic was well-sauteed but not browned at all. They were good, but not necessary, sides. The state of our bursting bellies afterwards told us so.

Our meal was really very lovely and not at all expensive for what it was – two entrees, two mains, two sides, and four beers came to about $140. Coupled with a view over the nightlights of Melbourne from the 34th floor, it was indeed A Dinner.

(Photos were particularly difficult to take – something about the soft lighting and city lights perhaps … or the glass of Moet I had beforehand ….)

1 comment:

lisa said...

Ooooh, wish I had reason to have A Dinner. The salad particularly sounds fab!