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Monday, 8 April 2013

Living it up, but loosing an icon...

I heard along the grapevine (small as that may be within little old Perth) that the Loose Box is closing. It's always been a place I wanted to visit but never had that special somone or been able to co-ordinate a group of friends willing to make the 45 minutes drive up to have a degustation meal (without the matching wine set - if you were the skipper). From previous experiences with degustation we can definitely say that it lasts between 3 to 5 hours, depending on the company and wine consumption!

Alain Fabregues is deservedly retiring after over 34 years of delighting diners with his multi-award winning culinary skills since 1979. A lot of people I've spoken to know of and a great number of friends have decided to do the trip throughout the past few weeks.

The weekend is a close friend's birthday and I really wanted to spend a nice but quiet evening out with him to celebrate. It was definitely lucky to have called up and be told that there is a table available on a Thursday evening and if we'd like we can have it at 7:30 pm. Essentially meaning we wouldn't finish until 11 pm at the earliest. This was perfect, as we both worked in the CBD and getting out there would take potentially longer than the Google Map drive time.

We arrived nicely just 10 minutes before 7:30 pm and was greated and led to our table by a new waiter. I say new, he was young and possibly quite new at the restaurant role due to the hesitant way he greeted us.

He presented the menus to us, and left us to bring water. Explained the specialties of the evening and we were pleasantly surprised with the flexibility in the degustation menu. Normally you'd receive a list of items with very little choices. But I felt like we were encouraged to swap and change how we wanted. You can choose from the standard degustation or a vegetarian degustation. In addition, thatevening we had 2 entree courses where there were a special optional dish. As well as having 2 additional choices for mains.

We ordered the following:
  • 2 mini-bottles of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial N.V. Epernay, France.
  • the Degustation menu (with variations) - keep reading for descriptions and photographs.
  • Darjeeling and Earl Grey Teas with our petits fours

First Course:
Coconut and Prawn Broth (His)
Coconut broth served with freshly shelled Prawns, kaffir lime leaf and Balmain and Rozelle spice. 
It was, sadly lack luster for a first course. It felt like a lighter spiced green Thai curry soup - missing the glass noodles and the bite! The prawns were sitting at the bottom of the lovely bowl. This may have been intentionally done to provide a surprising discovery, but sadly created a disappointing first taste and then made you feel as if it was only improved to the level of ordinary.

Cappuccino de "mange tout" (Mine - from the vegetarian menu)
Snow Pea cappuccino soup, garnished with lightly braised lettuce and a whisper of peppermint.
I have sadly developed a prawn allergy and also am not a great fan of cooked coconut milk. This soup offering was intriguing but I had no expectation of it ... I like snow peas but could not envision it being a creme soup with lettusce and mint.
Matching Wine: Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Grand Réserve N.V.
60% Pinot, 35% Chardonnay, 5% Gamay and Aligote
A lively effervescent sparkling rose wine with a fresh, citrus palate.

Second Course:
Tian de Fruits de Mer (His)
Salmon Gravlax, prawn and smoked trout tian folded in a dill mayonaise, served with a lemon fennel salad and saffron aspic.
This was brilliant, the fennel was not over powering and the saffron aspic added a piquant taste to theGravlax. Delightfully presented and I could have had more and more of this.

Pork Trotter (Mine)
Matching Wine: Domaine du Rimauresq  Provence  2010
Tibouron Cinsault Granache Shiraz
Close your eyes and imagine the warm Provencale sun on your skin and transport yourself to the south of France with this superb dry Rose.  Made from indigenous red grapes grown on this Cru Classe vineyard in the shadow of the Massif du Maure mountain range of Provence.  Typicall dry and savoury Rose, but with a refreshingly fruity mid-palate.

This was delightfully presented, soft and melty but in a tube that had a gelatinous texture and a little hint of mushrooms and cheese. Seems like no time and the mouthful was finished.

Third Course: 

Le Saumon & Jacques Aux Aromates "Jean Delaveyne" 
Fresh Atlantic salmon and local scallops poached in champagne served with a light butter sauce infused with fresh herbs.
We both went for this one, the vegetarian option was just not as enticing as this on the menu.
 Matching Wine: J.J. Vincent Bourgogne Blanc  2009  Burgundy
100% southern Burgundy Chardonnay with fresh mineral characteristics, stone fruit and a touch of oak. 

Fourth Course:
Escargots à La Bordelaise en Pâte de Brick sur Ratatouille Provençale
Snail fritter served golden on a warm ratatouille stack with a tomato and chilli sauce.

This dish felt a little underwhelming. The ratatouille was lovely and balanced in taste. However, the escargot was missing something quintessential and was overwhelmed by the wealth of other flavours.
Matching Wine: Plan de Pegau Rouge  2007  Southern Rhone
50% Granache, 50% Mourvedre and a splash of Cabernet
The Plan de Pegau comes from one of the great Chateauneuf houses, Comaine de Pegau.  Their southern Rhone vineyards are planted to Grenache and Mourvedre, both staples of the region.
The wine felt a little bit over powering on this match as well.
Main Course:  
Duck Confit (His)
Special option of the evening, was either a Duck Confit - which is a twice cooked duck leg or the option of beef cheeks with baby roast vegetables.
I always feel that (over)cooking duck is a crime. However, Alain is a Mastermind! This was extremely well done. The duck leg presented well, it didn't look stewed (as some I have seen posing as Duck Confit). Melt in your mouth texture and retaining the full flavour of duck. Delightful with the Plan de Pegau Rouge  2007  Southern Rhone.

Daube de Boeuf Aux Chataignes (Mine)
Scotch fillet slow cooked in red wine with carrot, onion, herbs and mushrooms. Served with a lid of puff pastry and garnished with chestnuts and red wine shallots.  
I sadly chose the scotch fillet as I have a complete devotion to chestnuts and rarely get to eat it in meat meals. Doubly sad, because, yes I rarely get it and unfortunately this dish fell far short of expectations. The scotch fillet was so dry and tough to chew that I was hard pressed upon recollection to believe it was slow cooked in red wine with all the actual vegetables. The puff pastry presentation was fanastique, however the chestnuts was sadly missing (well I did find 1 sliver...). I should have ordered the off the menu - beef cheek pie with root vegetables. *sigh* It sounds not as impressive but beef cheeks will rarely let you down.
The addition of red wine shallots make it very much an tanin filled dish and I felt it did not match the wine as well as it could've.

 Matching Wine: Château Val de Roc  2008 Bordeaux Supérier
70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc
Made by Michel Rolland from the great Château Ausone.  This wine is opaque dark crimson in colour.  The nose has toasted cedar and subtle blackcurrant.  Medium weight with flavours of cherry and spice and fine grained tannins.

Plate Cleanser: Fruit Sorbet Melon & Midori Sorbet 
This was seasonal choice of fruit. I was hoping for something a bit zesty but the clean taste of this sorbet cut through well and removed the tanin taste of the main/wine.

Le Cygne Majestueux en Voyage sur son Lac de Framboises (Mine)
How can you go past this? The majestic swan, made from home made vanilla bean ice cream and fine tuille biscuit.  Served on a "love heart lake" of raspberry sauce. Very lovely looking dessert, the double cream forming part of the body gave it a light texture mixed with the fresh vanilla bean ice cream and raspbrry sauce. I can imagine this as a 'romantic dinner/event' point to be talked about for a while

Matching Wine:  Grand Maison Monbazillac Curvee des Anges  2007  Dordogne
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc  Muscadelle
This fresh, light botrytis dessert wine comes from the hills of Monbazillac in Bergerac, east of Bordeaux.  This wine has just the right amount of sweetness and zingy acid to balance with the dessert.

The wine match was much sweeter and the counter point with the raspberry sauce was zingy but not an unwelcome one after the richness of the meal.

Cheesecake with berry coulis ? (His)
I forgot to take down the Frenchy name of this off the menu dessert option. Funnily, my dining partner doesn't eat fruit! Interestingly enough he still chose this for the Cheese cakey-ness, however this was not what he was expecting. When you think Cheese cake these days, you think of the dense heavy cheese taste and texture we've come to know. This cheese cake was "moussey". Almost a fluffy version. Great texture counter point to expectations but sadly for him it didn't hit the spot.

He also recieved a little 'birthday' ice-cream with the fine tuille biscuit and chocolate happy birthday written on it! I did get to eat 'Happy' so guess that's fair.

Petit Fours & Tea
I always love this part. Feel as if you're being given a special little treat at the end of the meal. However, I've begun to slowly realize through Main that my stomach capacity has shrunk with age. And my sugar capacity was filled by eating 'Odile'.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
They were wonderfully attentive and courteous. As I said one seemed to be new/in-training and we all through the puppy-phase and someone has to be nice enough to accept and train us :) but this coumade me feel that this wasn't the whole overall French cuisine experience I was after. The freshness of the produce and the delicacy of the dish/sauces was lovely and the overall ambience was geared toward la romantique.
Neko paws: 2.5 out of 5. The 0.5 was given out of respect, however, even if it wasn't for Alain's retirement... I would sadly say the overall experience didn't leave enough of a positive impression to entice me back.
The fine dining echelons have lovely places like Jackson's, Chez Pierre, Bistro Bouchon and the new Crown Casino chain offerings of Nobu, Bistro Guillaume and Rockpool.
Oh reminds me next post will be on Bistro Guillaume and I shall plan in time to go visit P'tite Ardoise.

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