Ten Minutes By Tractor – Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula – May 2017 – Lunch

Catherine, and her Mum, Sandra, in the garden

Is it possible to feel like a regular when your second visit to a restaurant is eight years apart? Perhaps that is a KPI for Ten Minutes By Tractor. Without any facade, the staff have you feeling completely at ease in an instant.

Looking around the room, the recent renovation has been nicely undertaken, not making a big statement but certainly leaving a very comfortable dining room to spend three hours over lunch. The seats in particular are the perfect choice, both well designed, and like your favourite couch. As you can imagine, there is plenty of emphasis in having a good view of the vines in this beautiful part of the world.

Notwithstanding first class service, and a terrific newly renovated dining room, I want to talk about one dish. Offal has never been the flavour of the month. It has been lauded for reason over a long time, but has never escalated to the heights of true popularity. Perhaps it never will be. When you look at a “balanced” restaurant menu you would ordinarily expect certain main star ingredients, some choice of secondary stars, and then something surprising. I’m afraid while beef, chicken, and fish take that staring role, offal has always been kept to the “surprise” meaning it gets a gig only on occasion.

Veal sweetbreads, mushrooms, charred baby leeks, chestnuts

While livers take the cake, sweetbreads (which actually sound like a cake) must be the second most unsexy ingredient going around. I mean they actually gave them a name that tries to confuse the customer into having a go! Ten Minutes By Tractor are serving veal sweetbreads for entree, and like a kid in a candy shop, I’m excited. To serve offal, you need to honour the flavour, but present it looking delicious (in spite of itself) and with complimentary accompaniments (more than other dishes).

Slow cooked goat, beetroot pasta, pickled beetroots, Main Ridge caprinella goats’ cheese

That is why I’m focussing on this dish. It came out on a black plate, showing off fabulous presentation skills of the chefs, but not hiding the sweetbreads, and actually highlighting them. The visual sear on the sweetbreads translates to the taste. Soft but deep gaminess, cooked in balance, and enhanced with the sauce and complimentary earthy mushrooms. I was not completely sold on the chestnuts in the dish, but this was close to perfection.

Cauliflower and mushroom, mushroom and cauliflower royal, black pearl barley

There are some choices to be made on the menu with a tasting menu, and a prix fixe option of two or three courses. We chose to have three courses ($99). It is best to not have any plans following the meal, with an amuse to begin, and a pre-dessert, making for a long and enjoyable meal. As well as having the sweetbreads, there is good diversity in the menu. Catherine’s Mum Sandra tried the roasted cauliflower to start. With a variety of mushrooms, a flavoursome theme on the menu, black pearl barley, and a “mushroom and cauliflower royal”, this is a nicely executed vegetarian dish. For her entree, Catherine opted for the slow cooked goat with beetroot pasta, pickled beetroot and goat’s cheese. Again, presentation is superb, and backed up by the taste.

Smoked breast of Great Ocean Road duck, mushrooms, celeriac, walnut crunch

Not easily put off by rich gamey dishes, next I was trying the smoked breast of Great Ocean Road duck. The duck was nicely cooked, and as I got further into the dish, the sweet walnut crunch dulled, starting to combine and balance the richer flavours of the mushrooms and celeriac. Both Catherine, and Sandra, tried the roasted hapuka which is a fish I’ve always loved. Here it is cooked with skill, and combined with both a persillade (mainly parsley) and lovage puree. The cauliflower is thinly sliced on top and it all makes for a delicious dish.

Roasted hapuka, lovage puree, heritage cauliflower, persillade

There is some serious flair here. A meal is more than a simple three courses. When the blood orange sorbet refresher comes out we know we are being spoilt. The flavours are as intense as you would like for a refreshing, but indulgent, interlude between mains and dessert. Then there is dessert itself. The colours, textures, tastes, and look of these dishes shows why it is a good idea to limit options on a menu. Make every dish exceptional and choice is not so important. Probably the only critique is the length of time it took for dessert to come out, meaning my 3.30pm conference call was a bit of a rush.

Poached pear, cashmere ice cream, candied chestnuts, slow roasted grapes

Michel Cluizel chocolate pave, cassis mousse, beetroot and creme fraiche ice cream, chocolate cake

Poached estate quince, candied ginger, sable, verjuice gel

Sandra’s came with the classic acknowledgement of a special day, but the combination was hard to beat. Quince from out the back seems healthy enough, but when combined with the sponge, crisps, gels and sorbets it is something else! My chocolate everything with cassis was its equal on the richer side. I’ve never rated food based on size, but this was a classic dish for sharing. Then there was Catherine’s poached pears which is not as popular as a few decades ago, but is a classic for a reason. Modern desserts have similar balance, texture and composition, but they don’t get much better than these.

Blood orange sorbet

I knew Ten Minutes By Tractor was a great place to dine. Though it had been several years since I’d had the experience first hand. At this stage of the day, albeit running out for a work call, I couldn’t quite believe how good today’s lunch actually was. It is still sinking in.

Ten Minutes by Tractor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

No Mafia – Northbridge – Thursday 19 May 2016 – Dinner

IMG_5217 People eat early in Perth. This means that if you are able to defy the norm, you can easily get into popular restaurants simply by arriving after 8.30pm.

Earlier tonight a couple of mates and I had a few beers and wines at Shadow Wine Bar. The Austrian Veltliner I tried was impeccable, but the initial greeting left much to be desired. That alone left me very open to moving to another venue for dinner, though I must say for the rest of the evening the staff were actually quite good.

No Mafia is only a short walk further down William Street towards the Perth CBD. Having heard great reports about this place I had no hesitation in being guided by Haaron’s suggestion. When we got there it dawned on me that a lot of tables must have finished a good time before we had ordered our last drinks at Shadow.

Continuing on a wine sandwiched with beer theme we began with a terrific bottle of Montepulciano (which incidentally ruined the poor waitperson’s corkscrew), before finishing with a delicious cleansing Bassendean Stout by Nail Brewery. We needed a wine with some versatility and this worked well with a number of the chef’s selected dishes.

The service here is certainly suited to informal dining. We had a waitperson with the right amount of attentiveness and humour, without going too far. She even allowed us to have the $35 chef’s selection even though it is supposed to be for four or more.IMG_5218

We started with some fried baccalau that was excellent and some zucchini fritters that were passable, but I wouldn’t order them again. Then things started to get serious with some Napoli squid, capers, fried leeks, and lemon, which for the most part stayed tender, and had a good flavour profile.

The heavy hitters were my favourite dishes though with the comforting triple cooked potatoes bathed in garlic, chilli & aioli, something to go back for, and the Black-pig prosciutto, red-wine poached pear, ricotta, and almonds, being a dish that was delicate and glorious, even if styled on some classic combinations.

In between the pan-fried gnocchi was well executed with the semi-dried tomato pesto and rocket an aside on how good the gnocchi really was. Finally, the braised lamb leg with baked ricotta, peperonata, and green olives worked classic ingredients in another dish that is spot on.

I know my review sounds like everything was good to very good, but I will say I wasn’t sure about the ordering of the dishes, and also the overall decision on the menu. It felt a little disjointed put together and next time I would order a la carte. In isolation however, almost everything worked, and the menu is more than reasonable being this close to the city. No Mafia provides an interesting modern take on Italian near the arts precinct of Northbridge that is getting better and better.

No Mafia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato