Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Foraging Quail - beautifully presented stunning food

What an amazing time of the year.  Not only have there been two long weekends in a row but the weather has been absolutely perfect, with sunny days and a perfect 28 degrees celsius.  When the weather is this perfect, I love nothing more than getting out of the CBD and going for a walk in Brisbane's surrounds. We'd done over Paddington, South Brisbane and West End the previous long weekend and thought that a walk along the river to check out how the new river walk was coming along was next.  It was such a beautiful day, we just kept walking and walking and before too long we were at the Powerhouse in New Farm.

We'd been out in the sun for quite a while and decided it was time to walk home and chose a much more direct route than the meandering Brisbane river.  As luck would have it, we started to wander down Merthyr Road and stumbled upon the very new The Foraging Quail.  I was pretty excited to find out exactly where this shiny-new restaurant was, mainly because we had a reservation for dinner that very same night.  I was left wondering if it was serendipity that we'd found the Foraging Quail or if subconsciously I'd taken us to New Farm for our walk in the hope that we would in fact find it?

The Foraging Quail is one of the newest restaurants in Brisbane and had only opened a few days before we'd booked in for a Friday night meal.  As we walked by and I had a sneak peak inside the dining room, we could see Minh Le and his team already hard at work doing the prep work for the very meal that we would be back to enjoy later on that evening.  The name Minh Le may strike a chord with those of you from the inner west and that would be because Minh was the head chef at Auchenflower favourite Deer Duck Bistro.  Responsible for some insanely creative food at Deer Duck, Minh had finally realised his dream of opening up his own place and after scouring Brisbane for just-the-right-spot, found an interesting space in New Farm.

In what seemed like an age, we were back at the Foraging Quail looking for a park in what had transformed from a beautiful day to an equally wonderful evening.  We'd managed to park just around the corner in James Street and by the time we hit the front door, we were a few minutes early for our 6:30pm reservation.  As is usually the case, we were the first to arrive and were welcomed and then seated by an impeccably dressed waiter.  In fact, as we looked around the restaurant, we noticed all of the staff were wearing matching dark clothing offset by very stylish full body aprons with leather straps, the only difference being the kitchen staff were wearing white.

It wasn't only the staff that were stylishly attired, the entire restaurant had a very smart and dare I say it schmick feel to it, which very much reminded of the coolest of Melbourne restaurants.  The dining room wasn't huge but the space was used well with an exposed kitchen at the back and uber cool bar off to the side.  Most of the tables were two or four seat tables with comfy chairs but in the centre of the dining room, under a couple of empty wire frame bird cages, was a large share table.  I loved the contrast of the dark wooden share table against the stark white of the rest of the restaurants tables.

We were given gilt backed menus that were surprisingly heavy and outlined the restaurant's options, which were completely designed around share dining.  There was also an eight course chef's degustation which covered off most of the intriguing looking menu items.  It was a no-brainer for us and we quickly decided upon the $85 per person degustation.  Very shortly after we placed our order we had our first delivery, which was a lovely house baked bread roll with salted butter and a tasty little Balinese duck salad as an amuse bouche, which had loads of sweet duck and pickled vegetables.  Yum!

I love it when a chef delivers and explains the food out of his kitchen and our first course of heirloom tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, samphire, wild herbs, milk and tonka beans was presented by Minh Le himself.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was that by sharing plates, the Foraging Quail is serious and we were presented with one plate for us to share, which initially seemed like the meal would be a little light on, so we thought we'd end up a big hungry by the end of the evening.  Tomato and mozzarella is a classic combination which was enhanced with a self titled 'soil', which was dehydrated olives and other ingredients to give the appearance of soil.  The soil had a dual purpose, some extra texture on the plate and a little saltiness to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.  It was a nice dish, but didn't set my world alight.

A state that changed very quickly once the beautifully presented braised octopus with baby leeks, chilli jam and shrimp powder was presented.  It was a spectacular looking dish that tasted even better.  The octopus was cooked perfectly and was soft and yielding yet still had texture that let you know you were eating.  The chilli jam was wonderful and sweet, as was the shrimp powder, which both supported and enhanced that incredibly well cooked octopus.  The baby leeks added some bright colour and some contrasting texture and acidity to the plate which perfectly balanced out the dish.  It was an outstanding piece of cooking, further confirmed by SC devouring off her half, which is unusual as she always tries to avoid octopus.

The kitchen wizardry continued when Minh presented 'the sea' - chilli prawns with clams in the shell, scallops, mussels, bonito malto and seaweed.  This dish truly was a representation of the sea, with the dehydrated bonito malto looking just like a sandy beach where the beautifully cooked seafood had 'washed ashore'.  The scallops and clams were the highlights on the plate, both expertly cooked and quite delicious but the chilli prawn was not far behind with its slight heat and worked so well.  The seaweed definitely added the flavour of the sea and a salty hue on the palate.  Perhaps the only minor issue on the plate was the slightly overcooked mussels, which were a little chewy, although still full of flavour.

Flavours of pork were next with some Gooralie Farm five way pork with apple, chestnuts, lotus seeds and baby peas.  This was an expanded take on the normal 'pork-three-ways' with the stunning pork belly pieces, salty rillettes, Spanish jamon, Spanish sausage and deep fried pork balls.  The plate was again a piece of art with the pork interspersed with chestnut puree and the peas artfully presented in such a casually precise manner.  It was hard to determine which was the loveliest piece of pork on the plate, with the soft and jelly like belly being mouthwateringly good as was the Spanish sausage, with its light paprika flavour that reminded me so much of chorizo.  Of course the Jamon was good, it just simply is but I think the favourite was the deep fried pork ball, which was golden and crusty on the outside but had bags of sweet pork flavour inside.

I've had amazing lamb belly at Esquire on numerous occasions but the slow cooked saltbush lamb belly at the Foraging Duck was the equal to anything I'd had before.  Cooked overnight and then finished off just before the meal, the lamb was just sensational, full of flavour and perfectly cooked.  It was accompanied by baby carrot and a sweet puree as well as some of that olive soil to provide a little salty hit.  It was competing with the braised octopus as my favourite dish of the night and I definitely regretted that I had to share the dish with SC..

Incredibly, the food-as-art pieces kept coming with the arrival of the Vietnamese spiced quail with tofu, edamame beans, quail egg, Thai eggplant puree and dehydrated coconut.  I could see that this will rapidly become an iconic Brisbane dish and no doubt a signature dish of the Foraging Quail.  The stuffed quail was cooked by a chef clearly at the top of his game and was packed with flavour.  Everything on the plate had it's place and it was carefully constructed to be admired before being devoured.  I even didn't mind the tofu, which I normally avoid when I can and the sweet quail egg married perfectly with the dehydrated coconut and quail.  This was definitely a case of a beautiful meal that was unfortunately spoiled by only having three pieces of quail on the plate!  For a share dish between two people, food this good can only cause consternation when there is not enough to go around.

The only real disappointment of the night happened next.  When we'd ordered the chefs degustation, we were asked if there were any foods that we didn't eat.  I'd advised our waiter that I didn't want the cheese course due to an aversion to soft cheeses and asked if it could be replaced with another dessert or meal.  He'd agreed that this could be done...... but it wasn't.  Not all bad though because SC loves brie and was able to devour the whole cheese course herself.  I did get to eat the thin apple slices.  

It was time for dessert but before our final plate came out for the night, we were given a little palate cleanser of lemon sorbet with a candied stick.  The sorbet was bitter sweet and was a perfect way to settle the palate before the final dessert onslaught.

At last dessert was delivered and it looked amazing.  The chocolate forrest was seven different textures of chocolate along with orange marshmallow, strawberry and meringue.  It reminded me of a forest floor with chocolate soil with cool little mushrooms growing.  It looked spectacular and tasted even better. 

The food at the Foraging Quail is the type of cuisine that I absolutely adore.  It's creative and confronting at the same time as being utterly delicious.  I'd always been happy with the food at Deer Duck Bistro (see post here) but Minh Le has completely outdone anything from the Deer Duck, which is unsurprising given the passion in which he has shown establishing an amazing restaurant.  The service was impeccable, even accounting for the mistake with the cheese course with all of the wait staff being very attentive but not intrusive.

I loved the look and feel of the restaurant, which was the epitome of casual cool, while at the same time giving off the air of a fine dining establishment.  The decor was lovely but I did find that the arms on the chairs and the size of the table meant that I was sitting a long way from SC, which didn't feel as intimate as it could.

I think Minh Le is onto a winner with the Foraging Quail.  It's an interesting concept in one of the cooler suburbs in town and just about everything came together perfectly, especially given the establishment had only been open a few days.  While I did love the Foraging Quail, I did find that the serving sizes were a little on the small side, even for a degustation, and concept of one plate between two was a bit rough.  The food was simply stunning but unfortunately it wasn't substantial enough I did leave hungry - which is a damn shame.

The interior was beautifully presented
I loved the layout of the dining area, which focussed around the bar and kitchen
The cutlery was also really unique and pretty
Minh Le in action at the pass

The Foraging Quail on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...