EM has checked into ... Brae, Birregurra
Recognised as one of the top restaurants in Australia as well as gaining its reputation towards the World's Top 50 Best Restaurant list, there must be something fascinating that they are doing and rumours said that they could be even better than Attica.
I haven't been able to check into Attica and getting a booking is almost as tough as winning a lottery ticket. Why can't I ever get a booking at Attica! So frustrating! But oh well I'm happy with trying Brae first and then hopefully Attica to give a better comparison. And also because it was two of our friends' birthday celebration and this was the group's pick so why not!
Food (as of Autumn 2018)
Brae does change up their menu at a seasonal basis so please do take into consideration that the menu described in this menu might not be the same when you go to Brae in the near or far future. What I like about Brae's interpretation of degustation is that it offers more of a sharing/tapas/small bites menu with a few individual plates. Hence, it makes you somehow feel like you are in a tasting journey and the concept of sharing or small bites encourages diners to enjoy their time with their friends or family. Even if you are dining with your other half, you will still find that you can spend more time chatting with him/her and enjoying excellent food.
Yes degustation is generally a long affair, I mean of course it has to be since you are spending so much money and you really should be getting your money's worth. It is not supposed to be rushed. But here at Brae, it does emphasise the theme of social-ness with a touch of carefree-ness which makes the hours feel like it is a relaxing dining experience.
1. Brae farm vegetables and grilled green tomato juice
This was a great appetiser dish, the freshness of the vegetables with a hint of acidity from the tomato juice work their magic to open up your palate.
2. Eggplant and salt grass lamb washed with sweet onion juice
This was an amazing dish (my personal favourite). I love how it is served in a twig like at a campsite. The texture of the lamb was so tender that melts along with the eggplant, with both combined, it tastes like an umami ootoro (fatty tuna) served in Japan. Well done Chef Dan Hunter!
3. Bonito cured overnight with kelp and mountain pepper
I quite like this dish as the creamy-ness of the potato really compliments well with the umami-ness of the cured fish. It is savoury yet a surprising hit of depth-ness.
4. Prawn, nasturtium and finger lime
This is a stunning dish! I love it so much and still reminiscing about it till this day (my absolute personal favourite). Chef Dan Hunter is being extremely talented to make full use of the prawn including the head which I love by the way and this dish absolutely brought me back to Thailand. The green parcel which has prawn meat inside as well as a boost of citrus was just mind-blowing. Incredible, incredible, incredible!
5. Herb toast and warrigal greens, sunflower seed and green ants
Hold up, green ants everyone! I was slightly shocked when they mentioned ants and my husband now can joked about cooking up ants at home as a fine dining cuisine. I'm very open to trying new things and I was looking forward to try this dish. Overall, it is superb with the crunchy-ness of the toast supplemented by the slight herby-ness of the greens and you hardly can taste the ants at all (I'm assuming the ants are just there for texture reasons rather than taste). A splendid effort from Chef Dan Hunter!
6. Barbecued beetroot seasoned with Brae farm honey and rainbow trout roe
Another clever invention from Chef Dan Hunter to combine both sweet and savoury into a single dish with different complex elements. You get the sweetness and the chewy-ness of the honeycomb with a burst of umami-ness from the roe and finish of with a rounded flavour of the beetroot with a hint of smokey-ness.
7. Smoked eel doughnut
Can I please get an encore for this dish? It is really remarkable and showcasing the talent from Chef Dan Hunter. This is another personal favourite of mine. At first when you smell it, it reminds you of Maccas fries but when you bite into it, it is so soft and delicate unlike a normal churro (even though it mimics the appearance of a churro). I don't know how Chef Dan Hunter can incorporate such stunning invention once again with eel in the doughnut batter but it really does work and all I could think of is the fluffy-ness of the doughnut with the flavour of an eel. Amazing!
8. Iced oyster
Wow I have to say that this dish is unique, innovative and one of a kind. Also added as one of another personal favourite and yes this is what the restaurant is well known for. No you do not eat the rocks. There is just one oyster and it is very surprising when you taste ice cream but not really. It is like a savoury ice cream infused with fresh oyster flavour and hint of matcha (green tea). In a way it provides a great palate cleanser before moving on to the mains. How I wish I can have more though!
9. Bread with the world's most generous whipped butter
Many people treat bread as just a side thing and forget about it but I treat my bread very seriously and if the bread is disgusting at a fine dining restaurant, the whole experience collapses with it. Here at Brae, they don't just give you a small slab of butter, it was a huge scoop of butter like an ice cream and wow the butter is just incredibly light and airy which compliments very well with the soft-ness of the bread made in-house.
10. Rock flathead, cucumber and fermented cabbage, pressed chives and yoghurt whey
This dish brings a subtle refreshing note to your palate without having too much of the seafood overpowering your senses. It does have a slight tangy-ness from the fermented cabbage and yoghurt whey so a very well-balanced dish.
11. Shiitake and southern rock lobster, egg yolk, meat broth and coast bonefruit
Can we please bring Chef Dan Hunter to Asia and showoff his talents in the culinary scene? He has done a remarkable job in providing an Asian inspired dish like this one. It is full of umami flavour from the shiitake and a magical broth, a burst of sweetness from the lobster with the combination of the creaminess from the egg yolk. Another one of my personal favourite which I am still dreaming about. YYYYAAAAASSSSSS!!!
12. Aged Pekin duck wood roasted on the bone, sour squash, muntries and purslane
This is a good dish with well cooked duck but I feel like it is quite ordinary compared to the previous dishes with a strong sense of innovation and creativity.
13. Strawberry gum ice cream and frozen passionfruit
I might be biased since I am a fan of passionfruit and I absolutely adore this dish. It is refreshing, sweet, tangy and brings joy to your palate especially with the combination of the strawberry gum ice cream.
14. Parsnip and apple
Here comes another smart innovation from Chef Dan Hunter and added to my personal favourite. Many uses parsnip as a savoury element however he thought about 'why not make it a dessert?'. Who would have thought about using parsnip as the highlighted texture to make it like a chip and brings it together with the sweetness and sour-ness of the apples. The apples were no ordinary apples as well, they are frozen and melt straightaway when it hits your palate. This dish really closely resembles to the Korean famous honey butter chip which I am obsessed with (if you haven't try it, you have to go to find it either in Korea or eBay....not many Asian grocery stores in Melbourne sell it).
15. Trio to finish off
Last dish to finish off for the day. We were served with grilled figs with air dried pork (a hot item), baked meringue with ridiculously good cream (they seriously named it as that) and rhubarb and pistachio. Out of those three, I prefer the baked meringue since the cream is seriously tremendously and ridiculously good. The last element didn't hit with a bang but it was more of bringing you back to reality and we felt really satisfied with a slow hit of food coma on the way.
Dining at Brae certainly was enjoyable with a more relaxed atmosphere compared to other fine dining restaurants. It truly symbolises good food with good company. The next thing you know it is already four hours and time really does fly here at Brae.
The food was an excellent demonstration of a talented chef. Here at Brae, I really felt like I have been brought to taste new things and dishes with combination of ingredients that I never would have thought. You can really appreciate the skills and knowledge from Chef Dan Hunter and no wonder he can lift this restaurant to its reputation.
But if you are expecting theatrical element, this place is probably not the best for you and it is probably Chef Dan Hunter's intention to showcase his food instead of a side performance as a distraction. In saying that, perhaps it is also something to be improved so that diners can have the 'WOW' factor. I'm not saying that every dish needs to have something theatrical but perhaps a very selective few. For instance if the Iced Oyster is the signature dish, I think having a dry ice effect will elevate our dining experience of that dish to really remember its 'WOW' moment. Otherwise, it might look quite 'empty' with 1 oyster surrounded by rocks.
On another note, I felt that the service could be slightly better. I mean the whole atmosphere and concept was to provide a more relaxed environment however the wait staff did give off a very robotic service style whereby they announces every dish word by word from the menu and they do the same for every table. I mean we can read the dish from the menu you know? I would love it if they could have their own personality and twist to announcing the dish and also providing some education to diners. After all, we really want to know how Chef Dan Hunter got inspired to create a particular dish. Or even educating us on some of the unknown ingredient for example 'purslane' in the duck dish, what is that?! Several times we were just being blinded by weird sounding ingredients and I don't think that is the attitude on how we want to appreciate the dish being presented to us. Don't you think with a more educative facts that you can encourage diners to talk more about it amongst themselves and hence tying back to the 'good food with good company' theme? But this is just my honest opinion anyway.
Nevertheless, Brae is still a must try experience even though you have been to Attica or any other fine dining restaurants. It truly highlights the component of food with surprisingly new ideas and also ridiculously good cream. Have you try it before? What do you think? Let me know!
Till next time, take care and stay inspired.