I didn't get out by five, as it turns out, not until 5:40, which meant a brisk long walk to the train. I was rushing so and it was dark (being mid-winter) and I made a wrong turn at a three-way junction, but I realized this in two blocks and stopped a stranger for directions and he was also going to the train station so I wound up going a sort-of shortcut through a residential neighborhood and had a nice talk about this guy's life so even that was provident. Then the train (an express) was right there and leaving, and then the tram was right there, so I made it to the restaurant in time after all. Oh yeah, the restaurant where I just had a laughing delightful dinner with some of the folks I met at the system administrator conference last fall. Which brings us back to the food.
Last night's food was at Mecca, a restaurant in the Southgate complex on the south bank of the Yarra just across from the Flinders Street train station. Melbourne runs along the Yarra River, and until not too long ago the south bank was industrial and bleak. Then came the realization (to whom I do not know) that this was prime amazing real estate mere blocks from the central business district, so now the south bank of the river is lined with shops and restaurants and a world-famous casino. You can stroll along the promenade and check in the glass-fronted and open restaurants and drool your way through the evening.
At Mecca I had Moroccan spiced duck leg pie with a ginger glaze and onion chilli(sic) relish. Do I need to describe it beyond that? I don't think so, except to say it was too rich to eat much more than half of -- the pie was a sort of philo pastry pie. Somehow I found room for passionfruit souffle with coconut lime ice cream. When I ordered it the server said that all souffles were made fresh so it would be twenty minutes. I wouldn't want my souffle any other way. It was quite literally the best-textured souffle I've ever eaten. I also shared an appetizer platter that included things like smoked salmon lasagna (topped with salmon roe) and kibbe and a spiced lentil dish. And a salad served on "polenta bites".
Tonight me and the geeks went to an amazing vegetarian restaurant called Shakahani, with original and creative and delicious meals (and lots of wine -- here in Australia everybody else drinks as much wine with dinner as I do, perhaps even more). My appetizer description, straight from the menu:
Individually pinched RAVIOLI to intrigue. It is filled with a mixture of soy mozzarella, spinach, almond basil and poached in a vegetable consomme.
It turned out to be something of a soup, and that vegetable consomme was so rich and flavorful that every other vegetable consomme I've ever eaten should be ashamed.
For the main course:
Croquette Chinois, crunchy patties of compounded yam, potatoes, french green lentils, roasted nuts and chives. This is served with a mildly spiced black bean sesame dressing.
Plus, unmentioned, beautiful beans and cabbage and a few other small vegetable tidbits.
Was there room for dessert? Yup:
Blackrice Bubur: Black rice cooked in a palm sugar coconut cream with candied orange potatoes and red beans.
Orange potatoes turned out to be yams, and black rice is wild rice. It was an interesting sort of rice pudding.
Lunch was more funky, but what do you expect from a hole-in-the-wall place in Camberwell called "T. J. Noodles and Sushi". I had a sushi assortment because I was in a big hurry and it was already set, but the menu consisted of 26 different items, each seemingly from a different Asian country. The counterman was also the cook, and I watched him whip up some amazing things in a giant wok. I may go back later in the week. All lunches are about $5 American.
And there's the coffee and the pastry and the feeling that it is right and good that I'm here. The food is just the metaphor.
Wish you could be here with me. You could have helped me finish the duck leg pie.