Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 9, 2011: Embrasse Restaurant

18/12/2012: Embrasse has recently closed, but head chef Nicolas Poelaert can now be found at Brooks in the city.

Michael's brother Matt, who shared this meal with us, is a resident of Japan.  We feel extremely lucky that he was safe with us in Australia while last week Japan experienced one of its worst earthquakes.

So many people have died, been injured, lost their homes and livelihoods. If you have the means, please make a donation to the Red Cross Japan and Pacific Disaster Appeal.


We've not got all that excited about the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in recent years.  I developed an impression that it was celebrity-focused, expensive and not particularly veg-friendly.  But Claire pointed out some important exceptions this year, including plenty of free events and a definitely-expensive-but-totally-vegetarian six course meal at Embrasse.  Embrasse's co-founder Nic Poelaert teamed up with Pope Joan's Matt Wilkinson to present For The Love Of Vegetables, and we were mighty pleased to share the occasion with Michael's brother Matt.

Course number one was called 'spikes and spoons'.  The spoons featured goat cheese, fresh hazelnut, and plum jam.  These were rather sweet, and dominated by the hazelnut.

The spikes carried carrot, beetroot, and radish, roasted to a very sweet and tender state and simply seasoned.

Our second course went salad style. The tabouli with Meredith goat curd was terrific, with lots of variation in flavours and textures.  I couldn't help thinking smugly, though, that our months with Ottolenghi have had us producing some very-nearly-as-good salads at home.

The follow-up salad was definitely out of my scope though, a gorgeous mix of figs, radishes, lettuce and toasted coriander seeds. 

Michael and Matt's favourite dish was the slow cooked Green poulet egg, served with garlic and corn champ.  They didn't eat much corn as kids but this was bringing them around.  I was more taken by the seasoning sprinkled over the top.

The fourth course brought together swede, spiced cauliflower, banana capsicum, organic carrots, and Jerusalem artichokes.  The pale sheets that looks like pasta were mostly likely shaved swede and the Jerusalem artichoke appeared as dots of puree; the capsicum roll was stuffed with spiced cauliflower. Cauliflower stuffing excepted, this dish was a little bland and our least favourite of the night.

The final savoury course is where I really have to give Nic Poelaert some credit.  We've been served beetroot during almost every high-end dinner we've had, and it's almost always been teamed with sweet apples or a piquant white cheese. Here instead was burnt jersey milk and orange sugar, offering the same complementary sweetness and piquancy in a completely new way.  Wonderful stuff!

The beetroot plate was served with a dish of aligot, mashed potato so saturated with cheese that it stretched like mozzarella when we attempted to serve it.  Goop never tasted so good.

For dessert we were treated to Embrasse's famous Forest Floor.  Mushrooms with meringue stalks and chocolate parfait caps are planted in chocolate cake soil, scattered with tuile twigs and sorrel mint ice.  It is stunning to behold!  In the flavour stakes, though, it didn't match Attica's Terroir for me - I think I'm biased towards desserts that offer sour alongside the sweet. 

We finished with some citrusy 'macaroons' from Vanessa.

While our meal was presented meticulously by the kitchen staff, I can't report the same for the front of house.  One waiter was gentle and friendly while the two others were extremely stand-offish, often not bothering to speak to or even look at us as they brought food and drinks.  None of them could tell us anything more about the food than was listed on the menu.  This really disappointed me, as learning about the ingredients and techniques that go into each dish always enriches my appreciation for them.  I don't know whether these were Embrasse's usual staff, and presumably they didn't know this menu as well as they might Embrasse's standard menu.  Possibly this event was more stressful to pull together than a typical night in the restaurant.  Blog reviews I've read for Embrasse have few comments about the service and those are mostly positive, so hopefully our experience was not typical of this restaurant.

Still, we were treated to an interesting selection of what Embrasse can offer vegos as well as some festival specials.  The regular menu is very promising, with the same love of vegetables evident in many of the dish descriptions.

Embrasse Restaurant
312 Drummond St, Carlton
9347 3312
fully licensed
special event veg degustation $130 with matched wines

Accessibility: Entry, seating and service on the ground level seem very accessible.  Toilets are situated upstairs.


  1. You have made the vegetarian version very very tempting. Especially that beetroot!

  2. Glad matt is safe - he must have felt lucky to be at embrasse rather than in Japan

    I feel the same about the food and wine fest - though I had a great bakery tour of sydney rd a few years back - don't know if they do these every year but if they do you would enjoy it

    Interesting meal - glad they are catering to veg diets in the festival - dessert looks very pretty

  3. I went here for a ten course vegi degustation with my wife, back in '09. A very memorable night and lovingly prepared vegetables.

  4. I love what chefs are doing now with vego food and love the look of those vegies on sticks.