Ezard

Ezard @ 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
20 January 2011


* Please excuse the poor quality of the photos, which are grainy on account of the restaurant's limited lighting

One of Melbourne's most consistently successful restaurants, Ezard is a true stalwart of the Melbourne dining scene and has been, for as long as I can recall, my favourite restaurant.  Ezard’s cuisine is bold, exhilarating and meticulously prepared.  Ezard is also blissfully devoid of media hype, an ailment besetting many renowned establishments nowadays.  In these times where frenzied chefs seemingly prioritise attaining celebrity status over achieving gastronomic perfection, it is entirely refreshing to find that Melbourne has, in Teage Ezard, a chef who promotes himself wholly through his culinary creations.

Ezard seeks to challenge its diners with eye-opening flavour combinations.  Not for Ezard is the mundane bread and butter duo; instead, crusty bread is partnered with rosemary, garlic and parmesan infused olive oil - wonderful in its own right - and a trio of extremely addictive condiments - a taste bud enlivening "prickly ash" consisting of salt and Szechuan pepper, a delicious combination of crushed yellow rock sugar and chilli and an umami packed bonito salt.  Ezard’s bread course is the opening salvo in an enlivening culinary journey.


The complimentary amuse bouche continued the flavour assault. A delicate slice of kingfish sashimi, taken in a single bite with galangal emulsion and fine pieces of apple and coriander, provided a multitude of tastes and textures – the softness of the kingfish diverging from the juicy crunch of the apple with the mild fruity acidity of the galangal balancing out the sweetness of the apple and the robust fragrance of the coriander.  As far as complimentary courses go, this amuse bouche was a particularly good one.


A pair of Japanese inspired swordfish shooters was next to arrive.  The swordfish shooter is the summer variant of Ezard's classic oyster shooter, an item with innumerable fans.  The diced, raw swordfish was bound around a small dollop of wasabi and served with a sake and mirin concoction.  It provided a veritable rollercoaster ride of flavours that began with the vigorous sweetness of the sake and mirin, moved onto the subtle, delicate taste of the swordfish and then closed with a powerful wasabi burst.


One of our favourite Ezard dishes, an entree of steamed crab wonton dumplings with spiced tom kha broth, young coconut, mango and crispy shallots, followed the shooters.  The dumplings consisted of deliciously sweet, shredded crab meat encased in soft pastry.  The accompanying tom kha broth was, for my tastes, a perfect example of the Thai staple – combining a perfect balance of sweet and sour elements with wonderfully fragrant herbs and spices.


Our second entree of seared Canadian scallops with spiced pumpkin puree, cumin caramel, pomegranate, chorizo and crispy Chinese broccoli was a dish of complex but well balanced flavours.  The scallops were perfectly seared and bursting with natural flavour, a flavour further enhanced by the subtle sweetness of the spiced pumpkin puree.  The fruity acidity of pomegranate and the restrained savouriness of chorizo introduced further layers of complexity.  It was a magnificent dish.



The first main course consisted of baby barramundi with caramelised eggplant, lime salad and yellow curry dressing.  The barramundi was perfectly cooked – its skin was exceedingly crisp and the underlying flesh was tender and succulent.  Harmonising a perfect balance of spices and sweetness, the accompanying yellow curry dressing was perhaps the best example of a yellow curry that I have had. 


The legendary master stock fried pork hock with chilli caramel, spicy Thai beanshoot salad and fragrant jasmine rice was our second and final main course.  I remember my first encounter with the Ezard pork hock fondly – it remains, to this day, my most positively memorable dining experience by a considerable margin.  The dish that we were served on this occasion was every bit as good as that first one.  It combined amazingly crisp pork hock skin, intensely flavoured with rich Asian style master stock, with delectably succulent pork and an intoxicating chilli caramel sauce. 


If it can be said that Ezard has a culinary weakness, it would be in its desserts.  The desserts on our platter ranged in quality from merely good to truly superb but, on the whole, were marginally overshadowed by the exceptional appetisers, entrees and main courses.  Particularly noteworthy though were the banana parfait with cinnamon tuille and passionfruit syrup and the mango and passionfruit bavarois with strawberry water and vanilla fairy floss – both were excellent desserts that showcased appetisingly fresh fruit flavours.
 
Service has never been an Ezard strong point.  Over the years, we have found that service can be exceptionally slow, with a decidedly low staff to patron ratio on busier occasions.  This time however, the level of service was fairly reasonable – we were generally well attended to as additional bread was regularly provided and our drinks were frequently topped up.  My innumerable visits to Ezard suggest that this particular experience was an aberration.


Our Ezard bill totalled approximately $210 – fairly standard for a Melbourne fine dining restaurant.  For my particular tastes, Ezard offers the most inspired, complex and enjoyable cuisine that Melbourne has to offer.  When one considers that some other top tier institutions charge significantly more exorbitant prices – Grossi Florentino and Vue de monde being prime examples – Ezard by comparison positively shines as a value proposition. 

Ezard has consistently delivered thoroughly excellent, captivating food to the dining public for the past decade.  Despite its remarkable track record and its considerable accolades, Ezard, to its credit, is a relatively discreet and understated establishment and so there is every chance that you may not be familiar with it.  If that is the case, I suggest that you pay Ezard a visit – it is as close to gastronomic perfection as you are likely to find in Melbourne.


Food: 9
Service: 6
Value: 7
Overall: 8.5

-BC-


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