Monday, May 18, 2015

Nieuw Amsterdam - Fall Menu Tasting

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of the restaurant 

There are a couple of restaurants on my list, that are always guaranteed to be failsafe recommendations, and are always floating around somewhere in my consciousness, reminding me that I always really ought to revisit.

Nieuw Amsterdam is one of those places. But not only for the food, but for the fascinating things they’re doing with cocktails as well.

So when I was invited to taste the new fall menu (one of my favourite seasons), how am I to say no?

Nieuw Amsterdam has recently welcomed a new head chef, Jeff Trotter, ex sous chef of the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld and also with some previous experience in Michelin starred restaurants, bringing his own elegant take on ‘New American’, featuring some New York classics. 

Before we could eat anything though, bar manager Sean McGuire ensured we had our liquid appetisers first! The first of four matching cocktails was the ‘Poor Al’, standard whiskey, dry vermouth with lopsang tea syrup and lemon topped with soda. It’s Nieuw Amsterdam’s take on a winter Tom Collins…and it’s dangerously fresh, like a breath of fresh air, and easy to drink. I’m not usually a whisky cocktail kind of person, but would faithfully return to this with no problem!

Smoked mackerel croquettes came out golden and utterly perfect. I love mackerel personally as it is, but smoked? And deep fried? I might’ve been in heaven. The golden crust was perfectly crunchy, and the smoked mackerel inside was just molten and saucy. Fantastic.

Pop Scallops made me smile, I love this fascination with popcorn at the moment, as you would never have expected it in anything remotely fine dining or fancy…yet there it is, in all it’s popped glory. Popcorn, utterly perfectly cooked scallop, nice little kick of chilli, watercress and celeriac, adding a cool and refreshing note, I found the dish well balanced and a whole lot of fun as well. 

The Mac n’ Cheese souffle is exactly what you might ask for, sure, a little denser and heavier than a traditional souffle…but what did you really expect when mac n’ cheese are added into the mix? Cheesy, and creamy, the addition of a green pea puree and a hint of chorizo oil helped cut through the richness and brighten up the flavours. 

The basil daiquiri is one of the most delicious things I’ve drunk recently, with white rum, green chartreuse, basil, cracked pepper and lime. It’s refreshing, but savoury, just strong enough for you to know you’re getting your hit, but so complex and delicious that by the time you’ve realised how many ‘little’ sips you were planning to take to make it last…you might’ve finished it already. 

It was on to meatier items next, the barbecue lamb ribs with tomato and chipotle an absolutely meaty delight, just slipping off the bone. The kick in the chipotle gave me a surprise, but was completely welcome. Shrimp n’ Grits with okra, corn and gumbo sauce is a delight poured at the table and the smokey beef brisket is amazingly tender and hearty.

We share a plate of yam gnocchi as well, with goats curd, maple pecans, thyme and parmesan, but I could easily clear a plate on my own (if I didn’t have so much to eat already). The gnocchi are like light and fluffy pillows, nicely paired with the velvety and creamy goats curd and rich and only just lightly melted parmesan. The yam and sweet potato crisps add a nice bit of texture to it as well. 

For meat dishes, a meat themed cocktail seems appropriate, and we’re presented with ‘Elmer had a Little Lamb’ which is made of lamb fat washed buffalo trace bourbon, mint, sugar and crushed ice. It’s rich and savoury, delightfully aromatic, especially with the sprig of rosemary and slightly perplexing, but in a delicious way. 

To finish, we were treated to a bevy of desserts, all with familiar, classic and comforting flavours, but presented beautifully. 

Pumpkin doughnuts with Jack Daniel’s cream were a table favourite, the doughnuts lushly dusted in sugar, with a touch of crust, but overall light and fluffy. Not so much pumpkin flavour in the doughnuts, but that Jack Daniel’s cream, heaped up in a big mass was everything.

Nieuw cheesecake with black cherry, thyme, black pepper and milk, was elegant, and lighter on the flavours, whilst the fried apple pie was a piping hot pocket, with maple and raisins and a cream cheese sorbet which was a lovely balance to all the sweetness.

My favourite though, and yes, partially because I’m just a sucker for chocolate, was the chocolate mallow, served with a raspberry marshmallow and snowed under by caramelised white chocolate and toasted coconut. Wow. Creamy, and filing in the mouth, yet oddly light at the same time. I loved the toasted coconut that added some texture and crunch. 

It had been a while since my last visit at Nieuw, but as always, they put on a delicious show, and have made me feel a bit guilty that my visits are always so far apart. Next time an out of town guest is around…

106-112 Hardware Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Nieuw Amsterdam on Urbanspoon

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