Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Restaurant II - Feasting the Family

Restaurant II
Dining Out

Some family flew in from the States last week and I was delegated the task of finding a nice restaurant to show them. This is not as straight-forward as it seems because I had to choose between the 'well known' Brisbane restaurants and my personal favorite Brisbane restaurants, as well as cater to kids (9yo and 13yo) and adults alike, including some who don't eat 'strong flavors' (namely, my mother).

I ended up choosing Restaurant II for one simply because it's one of the highest ranking restaurants in Brisbane. If it gets a bad reception, my own ego isn't shattered.

I've been to Restaurant II only once before and on that occasion, did a 9 course degustation. It was quite an experience and I remember each little course looked absolutely stunning so hopefully, this would be the right place to impress.

We got to our booking almost an hour early... but they had no qualms with seating us at that time. Whilst waiting for Charlie to turn up (he didn't know my family would be that early), they brought out little savory tart appetizers and the bread.

The tarts were quite tasty and cute - nothing remarkable though.

My mum commented that she didn't like the bread that much. I thought it had a strong sour flavor, which I liked, but the texture was a bit normal. It would have been nice if the butter was at a more spreadable consistency.

As is usual with my family at big dinners, we got a selection of entrees and desserts to share, plus a main item each.

These are the entree selections:

Landsborough zucchini flowers with ricotta, tabouleh, eggplant chutney and spicy tomato butter

Glasshouse Mountain snails, herb risotto, garlic braised tomato and crisp prosciutto

Roasted Pittsworth quail, veal sweetbreads, sauteed mushrooms, peas and foie gras cream (apologies for the out-of-focus shot)

Tempura of Pinkenba soft shell mudcrab, crushed avocado and citrus mayonnaise

The favorite by far was the snail risotto. It had a wonderfully complex and aromatic flavor and the risotto consistency was perfect. The zucchini flowers were quite average and the quail was nice but didn't stand out to me. My grandparents hadn't tried soft shell crab before so they thought it was really special but because I've eaten it at many other places, it wasn't that out of the ordinary for me.

Our mains followed after a considerable wait (dad was getting hungry again) but I realize that they did have to bring out 10 mains simultaneously.

These are the mains that we got (some people chose the same items, obviously, so I didn't snap them all):

Seared fillet of Tetsuya’s ocean trout, crisp pork belly, crushed new potato salad, preserved lime mayonnaise

Dry aged Darling Downs sirloin, bubble and squeak, field mushrooms, wood smoked bacon, Shiraz jus, bearnaise sauce

Rack and loin of Milly Hill lamb, sauteed potatoes, pumpkin puree, garlic rosemary jus

Darling Downs eye fillet, braised beef cheeks, paris mash, sauteed mushrooms, red wine jus

Roasted organic duck breast, red vegetable crumble, steamed greens, mandarin, honey sauce

Main of the day: rib fillet

Side of greens for the table

My dish was the duck - it was full-bodied and gamey. I liked the flavors but would have preferred a crispy skin on the duck. I tried a bit of Charlie's lamb and it was phenomenal: SO GOOD. It is definitely 'up there' and in contention for best lamb I've ever tasted. Cooked to perfection.

Mum was on the other side of me so I got to try a bit of her fish and pork too. The fish was really dry and boring to me but the pork... it was 'something else'. The slab or pork on the plate looked like a brownie slice or something. About 1/2 of it was fat. I tried a bit of the crispy skin and it was great - extremely crispy and flavorsome. I'll be blatantly honest now: the bits of fat attached to the skin (this description almost sounds anatomical) were really delish. Yes, that's right. I admit that pork fat tastes good.

For dessert, my two cousins and I each picked something for everyone to share. Our selections are as follows:

Four hour apple cake, Calvados mousse, macerated currants, cider and green apple sorbet

Soft centred Callebaut chocolate pudding, frozen chocolate mousse, white chocolate and raspberry sphere

Vanilla bean crème brulee, pear pate, compote and crisp gingerbread

My favorite was the chocolate pudding, which to me was like a fondant in a souffle ramekin. It was gooey and hot and chocolatey and rich. I liked the ice-cream that came with the apple cake because it was heavily alcoholic (tee hee) and although I never usually order creme brulee (only because it's reasonably easy to make at home), the one from Restaurant II was really nice. The consistency was just right for me - thick enough so that it wasn't like eating fresh custard and a really pronounced vanilla flavor.

Restaurant II had its good and so-so moments. My dad thought the service was a bit slow because he asked for the bill and it never came...

There were some standout dishes. The risotto entree, the lamb main and the chocolate pudding dessert were, in my opinion, divine. If I had a meal consisting of those 3 courses, I would have walked out of Restaurant II thinking it was the best restaurant I've eaten at. However, there were also less-than-impressive dishes amongst the pack that make you question whether it's worth the money or the hype.

I'd say that if you haven't been to Restaurant II, give it a go because it's got a reputation as one of Brisbane's best. Once your curiosity is satisfied, you might give it a more objective view.

Restaurant Two on Urbanspoon

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