Fattening up


Had two notable meals lately. A couple of weeks ago I went out for dinner with Becky to Ocha, just around the corner from where I live.

Ocha is a Japanese restaurant pitched towards the high-end, unlike most Japanese restaurants in Melbourne (Nobu being an obvious exception). Putting aside the plentiful Teppanyaki restaurants most Japanese venues are the casual, but stylish drink with food type dens, like Izakaya Den (great place); or else the the cheap sushi and California roll vendors. There are exceptions, the odd Japanese steakhouse and spiffy restaurant, but Ocha stands out I think because of the style and quality of its food. It’s well reviewed, and with pretty good reason.

We sat at the bar, I had a smiling Buddha beer from China and Becky a glass of wine while we pored over the menu. We shared Beef Tataki and Tatsuta for starters, and both were great. I love Tatsuta, and often order some variation of it (like Karaage chicken) when I see it. These were beautifully crunchy chicken pieces in my favourite panko breadcrumbs infused with ginger and other spices. Better than KFC, and guaranteed to get you licking your fingers. The beef, rare porterhouse sliced ever so finely, came with a ponzu dipping sauce. Becky got a sushi dish for main, while I got a steak smeared with a wasabi mash baked on top. Very good – but the best, or as good, was yet to come.

Dessert. For a start there was a magical selection. I really fancied the passionfruit mousse (and convinced Becky to order it), and also liked the idea of the winter pav, and the same, same but different banana fritter, but ended up ordering the doughnuts. The doughnuts arrived dusted green and deep fried, with a sauce of chocolate and green tea. Man, ultra decadent, and ultra delicious. As for the mousse – deliciously flavoursome. And somehow sensually indulgent, the sort of thing you’ll lick off a lovers nipples with extreme delight (for both parties I expect). But I digress.

It was a fabulous meal. Early days, but surely a contender for one of the top meals of the year. And the company was great too.

Last Sunday I caught up for lunch with mum at Chester White, another restaurant not far from where I live – in fact I walked there.

I’m trying to catch up with mum when she’s well enough, just so we can make the most of the time remaining. On this occasion there were also things I wanted to talk to her about. So we sat down, had a drink and a chat all very pleasantly while we waited for our meal to arrive.

Mum had barramundi, which she said was great. I ummed and aahhed a bit, contemplated the roast veal with porcini butter and polenta for a moment before quizzing the waitress as I do pretty well every meal out. So, I asked, is the Spatchcock boned? After some hesitation I said, yep, ok, bring it on. Great decision.

I’m wary of ordering spatchcock and other small birds for dinner. Delicious as they may be too often they’re fiddly – shreds of meat on small bones you nibble at in search of a good mouthful. For some reason I always think of Tom Hanks in Big when he’s at the party and he spies what to him are strange novelties: baby corn.After a moment of contemplation he shrugs his shoulders and commences to nibble at it as if it’s a full sized corn on the cob. That’s how I feel about spatchcock and the like.

If you’re going to have spatchcock then it must be boned in my book to make it worthwhile. This was, bar the drumsticks, and so the flesh was rounded, juicy hunks on delicate bones. It was served atop of some kipfler potatoes perfectly cooked and infused with the flavour of the bird and its juices. The spatchcock itself was served with an earthy sauce of thyme and garlic, with caramelised onions, and char grilled. It was a supremely rich flavour that suited me to a tee. Another great meal.

Just for the record perused the dessert menu but found nothing inspiring, so had an affogato instead. Lovely, lovely meal.