Our final night at the theatre as MTC subscribers was a memorable one. For starters, we had my dad and his wife Anne joining us as our belated 2007 Christmas gift to them. Then, after reading Jon's great experience, I decided to book the four of us in for Ezard's pre-theatre tasting menu (four courses, $65) to round out the evening. So the stakes were high when Michael and I lost the four theatre tickets. Nevertheless, I cheerfully confirmed the details of the night to my Dad on the phone on Thursday with nary a mention of the house in disarray around me.
My faith in the Melbourne Theatre Company proved well-founded. On Friday morning one of their employees endured my convoluted explanation of how we purchased those four tickets in two pairs and on what days and which names might have been used and gosh, I'm so sorry and embarrassed, and within half an hour this unfazed gent had worked out our precise seat numbers and arranged for passes to be picked up on our way in to the show. Don't try this at home, folks.
We didn't go to quite the same lengths to put the staff at Ezard through their paces, but I suspect they'd likewise meet our requests with aplomb. They tolerated our staggered arrivals, some dilly-dallying over wine, and were most attentive and prompt throughout the evening. We started off with soft bread, olive oil infused with parmesan, garlic and rosemary, and three house-made seasonings. The first was prickly ash, a mix of salt and Szechuan pepper (thanks Adski!); the second combined Chinese yellow rock sugar and chilli; while the third, advised our waiter, had fish flakes so I didn't note the details. (Props to her for letting us know!) These novel flavourings were replenished throughout the evening so that we could use them on all our dishes as we pleased.
Next came an amuse bouche of green mango salsa, lime caramel and a savoury pannacotta. It was a delightful little clash of sour with cooling creaminess.
The first 'real' course included corn puree, tempura baby corn, shredded coconut, chilli, coriander and spring onion with a crown of crispy fried sweet potato. The shredded mix in the middle was incredibly potent - just the thing to lift the blander flavours (but great textures) of the corn and potato.
Next up was the only savoury dish across the menu not displaying an Asian inspiration. Interestingly, our waiter flagged it as her favourite - a pickled beetroot salad with feta, pomelo and salsa verde. Michael loved it; I enjoyed the flavour a lot but wasn't wowed by the concept.
Our final savoury course was a bit more wow-some, so much so that I forgot to photograph it - sorry! Picture a bed of wilted bok choy with some dabs of green herb-infused oil, a small stack of rice-crumbed tofu, with another explosive garnish of spring onions, chilli and coriander. Then, at the table, the thickest, richest spiced coconut broth was poured into the bowl. Just superb.
Finally, we were treated to this pretty dessert: a thin ginger snap topped with honeycomb icecream, honeycomb pieces and a lacy toffee garnish. Boy, was it sweet! The ginger snap lent a nice accent, but the overall effect was too sugary for me. I wonder whether it was a ploy to counteract the intense sour, hot and herbal flavours that featured throughout the rest of the meal.
I can see why Ezard ranks amongst the hippest high-end restaurants 'round Melbourne. The space is modern and just a little flashy, and I was most impressed that the noise levels weren't too high even when all the tables were occupied. The up-to-the minute Asian-inspired dishes were sensational but I found their names cumbersome - each was just a lengthy list of their ingredients. The dessert didn't thrill me as some have at, say, Interlude or Attica. And the service, while very good, was a bit stiff and formal. Nevertheless, the four-course pre-theatre special is excellent value for money. Furthermore Ezard does a great job at catering to vegetarians and vegans - I'm more than a little curious about the eight-course extravaganza!
Address: 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD
Ph: 9639 6811
Price: four course veg menu (to be finished by 7:30pm) $65