Monday, 9 December 2013

Little Truffle Dining Room and Bar - A long way to drive for truffle.... but worth it

We really wanted to hang out with our mates on Saturday night and have a nice dinner somewhere, but the plan was thrown askew once we found out that they would be 'baby sitting' on the Gold Coast.  TB's sister had just picked up a new puppy, a French Bulldog, and CITB had agreed to travel down to the coast and look after the little puppy for the weekend.  Not letting this deter us from hanging out and having a nice meal, we agreed to drive down to the coast for the night and have dinner locally.

I don't know too much about the Gold Coast dining scene, so I'd left the selection of restaurant up to TB, who received some advice about where to go from her sister.  We had established some ground rules for dinner though, it had to be close to the new puppy and it had to be a nice restaurant, one that we would be excited to visit.  

There are a handful of hatted restaurants on the coast and after considering and then discounting RockSalt modern dining, TB ended up booking Little Truffle dining room and bar.  I'd not heard of Little Truffle before, but after doing a little research on the interweb, I got quite excited about the choice.  You don't need to convince SC to visit any place where there is the prospect of getting some truffles, it's one her three favourite food groups (also included is duck fat and bacon).  It was on, a day trip to the Gold Coast for dinner!

OK, I'll admit it, we are totally spoiled.  We live in the CBD and most of our food adventures are not too far away from home, so the prospect of a 70 minute drive for dinner didn't excite me.  At least we had some cool new tunes to listen to on the way down, but by the time we picked CITB from TB's sisters place, I was totally over driving.  Luckily Little Truffle was only a few minutes drive away.

Little Truffle is located on the Gold Coast highway in a strip of shops that is as far removed from fine dining as you could expect to find.  We had noticed the restaurant as we drove past to pick up our mates and really wondered if a fine dining restaurant could be located in such a dodgy spot.  It didn't get any better after parking the car and walking to the entry, which was just around the corner off the main street.  We became pretty hopeful though once we walked into the dining area and saw how packed the restaurant was, pretty much every table was taken with lots of happy looking diners munching away on some food.

We were taken through a fancy looking dining area, up some steps into another dining area that had a completely different look and feel.  Where the lower level had fancy chairs and tables that had a bit of an old world charm, our dining area had a much more contemporary feel, with lots of black and minimilistic furniture.  We were given our menu and and then explained that there was a special deal on for the night, three courses for sixty dollars.  Looking over the standard menu and the special menu, they were both filled with the same items, so we were a little confused, but didn't look a 'gift horse in the mouth'

The menu was put together by chef and owner Daniel Ridgeway, who like most hatted chefs in Australia nowadays had spent some time overseas learning his trade.  I was excited to learn that Daniel had worked in some of the best restaurants in Europe, including two michelin star restaurant The Square in Mayfair.  The menu ran with some classic French cuisine but also had a distinctly Modern Australian feel to it as well.  After quite a bit of discussion, CI and SC decided to just run with the set menu and TI and I decided that we wanted to mix up the options a bit and get some options off the a la carte menu. 

First out was SC's terrine of ham hock and pistachio with truffle salami, mustard fruits and cornichons, which was presented old school style on a piece of slate.  I hadn't seen that for a while and wondered if it was retro or just dated, but either way it looked quite appetising.  The terrine had a beautiful texture along with a wonderful ham flavour that contrasted with the sharp pickled flavour of the cornichons (like a gherkin). There was some sweetness from the mustard fruits that added some depth to the salty flavour of the ham and provided a nice balance to the overall dish.

The next dish was from the a la carte menu and was the crispy BBQ duck salad with watercress, coriander, radish and ginger dressing.  Where I was a little suspect about the slate used for the terrine, I was super impressed with the cool looking plate that the salad was presented on.  It had a oxidised copper colour that offset the green and orange of the salad to perfection.  The salad itself had cool, clean flavours that complimented the BBQ duck nicely.  The texture of the duck was interesting, almost like a pulled duck and it had a lovely gamey flavour.  It was a very simple salad but hit the right spot for TB.

I think the dish of the night went to CI's entree of pork belly and scallop with pea and mint puree, creamed potato with a red wine reduction.  I'd been contemplating the dish myself but was swayed at the last moment and the minute I set eyes on the starter I started to second guess my selection.  Pork belly and scallops are a true classic combination and this one was right up there with the best I have sampled.  The scallop was expertly cooked with a lovely caramelisation and it was offset by the tender pork and the incredibly crunch pork skin.  There was a subtle flavour coming from the pea and mint puree, just enough to get the flavour without being overpowering while the red wine reduction packed more of a punch and provided some sticky goodness to the dish.

I'd opted for something off the a la carte menu for my starter too.  I really couldn't go to a place with a name like Little Truffle and not have some truffle.  My starter of quail and truffle ballotine with fried quail leg, parsley coulis, glazed onions and trompette mushrooms sounded amazing on paper.  I would have been really impressed with this dish if I wasn't suffering from food envy from the scallops and pork belly dish.  The ballotine was well cooked with the soft subtle flavour of the quail working well with the sticky jus.  I could only just get the flavour of the truffle, it was very subtle too, but it was slightly overpowered by the parsley coulis.  The biggest flavour punch from the dish came from the glazed onions and trompette mushrooms, which when combined with the quail was heavenly.  It was a great dish, but suffered because I compared it to that damn pork belly dish!

Starters out of the way, it was time for mains and first up was CI's braised beef cheeks with cauliflower and truffle puree, bacon, horseradish gremolata with a sticky jus.  I'm not a fan of the deep rich flavour of beef cheeks, so when I sampled it, I really didn't like it at all.  Having said that, everyone else at the table had a try and really loved the rich beefy flavour.  There was a lot going on with the dish, which had some complexity with the flavour combinations, especially the horseradish gremolata which seemed to work despite all logic.  There was an ample supply of truffle mash, which everyone at the table had a crack at and loved. It was a really heavy dish though and CI struggled to eat it all, luckily TB can put the food away and helped him finish the dish off.

TB was able to help finish off the beef cheek because she opted for a lighter dish of pan fried king salmon with parsley and spinach risotto, poached king prawn and asparagus.  The first thing I noticed about this dish was that it more resembled two separate dishes on a plate, as opposed to a well balanced meal.  The salmon and risotto were on one side of the plate and the prawn and asparagus on the other and nothing really linked them together.  The salmon was well cooked and worked nicely with the texture of the risotto. I really like fish and risotto as a combination and think they work well together.  The whole dish was quite nice, but it really needed to be brought together somehow.

Last up was the amazing Moreton Bay bug and prawn tortellini with a sweet mustard fruit beurre blanc, which looked so good that both SC and I had to order it.  The large stunningly cooked tortellini were stuffed full of wonderful bug and prawn meat and swimming in the equally amazing beurre blanc.  I was amazed at the unique flavour coming from the sweet mustard beurre blanc, it was quite unlike anything I have tried before. There was the sweetness from the butter but also a subtle fruity flavour that came from the mustard, it really was stunning.  When I first saw that the plate only had four tortellini on it, I thought I would go hungry, but as it turned out, four was the perfect number.  It's amazing how such simple flavours, when working in harmony, can provide such a memorable dish.

It was time for dessert and CI and I had the same idea, get the soufflé.  In this instance it was a berry soufflé with warm white chocolate sauce.  It was the first time I had ever seen a soufflé presented in a rectangular ramekin and strange as it looked, it worked pretty well.  The warm white chocolate came in a pouring dish and after creating a little hole on the top of my soufflé, I poured the sweet sticky chocolate over the well risen dessert.  Wow, it was hard to describe the first few mouthfuls of the perfectly cooked soufflé and the wonderful white chocolate.  Suffice to say it was amazing, quite possibly the best soufflé that I have had and I was definitely left wanting more when it was gone.

Last up for the night was SC's warm chocolate pudding with caramel, double cream and honeycomb, which again suffered from looking like two desserts on a plate with nothing really joining them together.  There was nothing at all wrong with the taste however, with the warm and wonderful chocolate pudding melting in the mouth.  It was deliciousness on a plate and was made better when mixing with the double cream and the sticky honeycomb.  It was just a mystery about the presentation, it looked weird and really didn't do the dessert justice.

By the time we had finished our dinner, most of the restaurant had emptied out.  For a spot that was so busy for our 7:45 start time, it was amazing how quickly people finished up and left...  Come to think of it, maybe it was us.  We seemed to linger over our dinner quite a bit....

There were some things I loved about Little Truffle, the menu was excellent, very creative and amazing value once you took the sixty dollar set menu into consideration.  We also found the service to be superb, the team were friendly and actually quite funny throughout the night.  We always had our water topped up and they were there when we needed them.

However, there were some things that I thought were incongruent with the lovely food and the amazing service.  To be blunt, the inside of the restaurant is a bit run down.  There were spots on the walls that had been badly painted over and looked completely out of place.  I also found it disconcerting that there were different dining rooms that really didn't work together, in fact they couldn't have been more different.  Lastly, the location of the restaurant was weird, it was in the middle of nowhere and in a sting of shops that really didn't fit with a fine dining restaurant.

While I wouldn't not go to Little Truffle again because of the food, which was superb, I would have second thoughts due to the location.  I'm all for eclectic dining areas, I think they are a little kitsch and pretty cool, but the dining area at Little Truffle was just a little off putting.  Well, at least I will have fond memories of that tortellini... 

Quite an alluring piece of art on display 
This area was packed when we first arrived 
The lower area was completely different in look and feel to our dining room
The kitchen area looked just a little 'rough around the edges'
Right on the Gold Coast Highway and a pretty weird spot

Little Truffle Dining Room & Bar on UrbanspoonLittle Truffle Dining Room & Bar

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