Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chez Olivier

Chez Olivier was one of those places I visited fairly regularly some years back now, even before I realised how much I did enjoy food. It was a short, brisk walk from my uni and back when I was still studying and still waitressing, I would visit for dinner fairly frequently with my girlfriends and my mum would visit with hers.

I always loved how one step in and you would be instantly teleported, the sounds, the sights, the smells. The heartbeat in here, is all European. French, specifically. The interior is very reminiscent of a random bistro/restaurant my mother and I wandered into while we were in Paris for my 20th birthday (which was a good few years ago now…). With brick peeking through some of the white wall, French memorabilia on the walls and bar, there is a wonderful, cosy character to the place.

Although with food blogging, came the never ending hunt for new eats and new places, and Chez Olivier was unvisited for many years.

I had always said to Brad though, that I would take him there, as I've always had good memories about the food, and just wanted to spend some time being surrounded by waiters with French accents. Not that I'm sure how that benefits Brad…

So this year when planning our little anniversary celebrations, I decided to pick a restaurant first and then figure out if there were any nice hotels in the area. The Cullen was a 5 minute walk from Chez Olivier. Pretty handy hey?

'Bonsoir!' was our friendly greeting, the waiters were quick to seat us and help us choose a wine. I can't remember exactly what we got, but it was a white from France that made me quite tipsy. This mixed with a dark interior means it's a struggle to take pictures. I apologize in advance!

The bread was warm, the butter insane. Insane. It was so soft and delicious, there was some other flavour that I couldn't quite put my finger on in it, that really just bursts open in your mouth. May have nibbled on more slices of bread than I should have….

We got pretty ambitious with ordering, and why not? We had nowhere to go, anywhere to be, we could sit there and digest all night! …Or at least until they kicked us out I guess.

This was Ventreche de Porc en Salade Froide de Betterave et de Pomme Fruit.

In the rather brusque English language, that means, salad of beetroot, pork belly and apple. I was quite surprised at how big the portion was! It felt quite simple and rustic, it also surprised me that the pork belly had been diced and mixed in with the leaves, rather than leaving them in big fat slices like most places do. It made for a nice balance though, with a mouthful of greens being interjected with a wee bit of pork.

I knew I had to try at least one dish from the Easter special menu….as all of the dishes on it had chocolate. Even the entrees and mains! So my choice was the scallop with pancetta and white chocolate.

Although it sounds a little bizarre, the dish was so beautifully balanced and perfectly executed. A bit of saltiness from the pancetta to go with the buttery scallops and just a subtle hint of sweetness from the white chocolate sauce, that just gave it that tiny boost of richness. I feel like it was a dish that could have gone so wrong, but fortunately for me, it hadn't! I absolutely loved the creativity!

Mains. I started to wonder if I had underestimated Chez Olivier's portions, as I was getting a bit full.

And then Brad's Beouf Bourguignon en Croute arrived (there's some emphasis on the u in Croute, but I'm too lazy to figure it out on my keyboard). Slow cooked fine beef in red wine with bacon and veg, steamed in a puff pastry.

Oh dear. The thing was as big as his head! It smelt amazing too.

I went for the Gratine de la Mer (which I like in French, cause it sounds like something Mermaid-y and pretty), but is essentially a mix of prawns, scallops, mussels and fish in a tomato, bechamel-esque sauce. It was a very comforting dish, something I would love to have at home on any cold night out. All the seafood had been cooked very well, and tasted quite sweet. I liked that it wasn't drowned in the sauce either, the sauce really just being the complimenting factor to the seafood. God I love scallops.

I think I surprised my waiter when I ordered the side that I did, commenting that not many people liked bone marrow, which resulted in me swooning for a bit about how much I did like bone marrow and an exchange of how to eat it the French way ensued! This is apparently just to put a bit of salt in it. Who doesn't like eating it that way?

I was pretty impressed. The bones came out hot to the touch and well…looking a bit bloody. Very manly. So on and so forth. The bone marrow itself, was, as one would suspect, rich. So intensely rich, jellyish and fatty. If anyone ever wants me to shut up for a bit, just stuff my face with some good bone marrow. It'll do the trick pretty well.

There was, surprisingly, quite a lot of bone marrow tucked away in these bones. We sadly only got through about 2, as we were struggling to get through our mains as well. It broke my heart to leave one bone untouched!

Through our mains all I did was moan and groan about how full I was, with Brad having to continuously remind me that there was no rush. Was kind of strange to me, although I don't eat quite like a vacuum cleaner, I do like to clean up my plate in a nice momentum. Stopping to digest upsets that a bit, but I really had to, as it was almost, ALMOST, painful to be this full!

But! I could not give up yet. Chez Olivier had one thing that I had to have, that which I previously loved, their tarte tartin. Dessert was going to happen whether my tummy liked it or not!

So after taking a break to polish off the bottle of wine, and a pot of peppermint tea, we were served caramelised upside down apple tart.

I'm a little bit sad to say, it's not exactly the same as what it was several years ago, but still very, very, likeable. It used to be served as a single slice, with thin layers of very soft cooked apples layered on top of a tart base, which would all just melt in your mouth. I feel this presentation is a bit more rustic, and I did enjoy the texture of the roughly cut apples which were a little bit denser, and the rich caramel sauce absolutely made the tart for me. Even if I did miss the old melt-in-your-mouth tarte tartin, the caramel made it allllll better.

Truly, Chez Olivier delivered one of the most filling meals I had had in a long time. I was quite amazed at the portion sizes and the generosity, in particular, of the proteins. What I also loved was the fact that as a French 'bistro' the plating and the flavours truly reflected that. It's not too dressed up (except maybe for the scallop dish), the flavours not overly complex (except again for the scallop dish) and is more focussed on being hearty and wholesome. It is also undeniably French, without trying too hard to be. And cute waiters with French accents. Mmmm.

Chez Olivier

121 Greville St
Prahran, VIC 3181

Chez Olivier - Le Bistro on Urbanspoon

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