Melbourne Adventures: Ezard – The Original, The Best

I walked away from my birthday degustation at Black by Ezard with mixed feelings. The food was good when it was good, overpowering when it was overpowering. Add to that the rather odd service (some dishes were explained, others were plated without a word) and it made for an…interesting experience indeed.

Still, the name Ezard is one with weight behind it. As such, I was naturally curious to see how the original Ezard restaurant in Melbourne fared. Originally, we intended to visit Attica, supposedly the best restaurant in Australia at the moment, but unsurprisingly we were unable to secure a booking. As it turns out, Ezard was good for us, so away we went – I never expected I’d be dining at the original so soon.

Boy, could I be more glad we chose two-hatted Ezard as our token fine dining experience in Melbourne. Read on, there’s a whole scoop here 🙂

Date Last Visited: 4/7/2013
Address: 187 Flinders Ln Melbourne, VIC 3000
Recommended Dish(es): the degustation and an empty stomach

Melbourne doesn’t have the advantage of a beautiful harbour and thus alfresco elements are rare. While it’s possible that Ezard could’ve been situated along the bank of the Yarra River, they instead opted for the low-key underground alley approach. This is a good testament to the Melbourne alleyway culture – I’m glad fine dining establishments here don’t think that they’re “above” it, for such the decor is wonderful.

Indeed, we actually missed the restaurant while walking up Flinders St – it’s not clearly marked on the street; you have to look down into the alleys to find it.

The inside is as refined as a fine dining restaurant should be – clean lines, mahogany furnishings, well-dressed but not over-the-top waitstaff. The Lady immediately picked up that the service was extraordinarily attentive – water was refilled within seconds of glasses getting empty, and I ran into a camera issue which the waiter tried to help out with with a multi-tool. Jovial banter between the two parties kept things casual, it was fantastic really.

Ezard Melbourne Interior

Even the fine dining is narrow, almost alleyway-like

So you can see that the restaurant is definitely a more rectangular one – a byproduct of its alleyway setting. It makes for a bit of a stretched look, but that’s really just an observation – I neither like nor dislike it.

For $160pp, you can opt to get Ezard’s degustation. While you can go a la carte, regular readers of mine know that this just isn’t how I roll. So yeah, we got the deg. As an interesting aside – Black by Ezard in Sydney have since removed their degustation menu and are now a la carte only – apparently I had their deg on the last possible day! Wowsa!

Ezard Melbourne

Bread condiments

These bread condiments are certainly unlike the usual butter you get. On the left, you have a dried nori & sea salt mishmash which is full of umami goodness. In the middle is a fine salty tangy powder (I’m not sure what it is honestly), while on the right is a distinctively Chinese mixture that tastes not unlike five spice & cumin.

I ended up scooping out the nori mix the most – I just can’t get past that umami. That said, each of the condiments have their own distinct tasty flavour profile.

Ezard Melbourne cocktail

Short ‘n’ Sweet – brandy, tia maria, frangelico, orange juice: $23

I really, really am not that good with drinks since neither The Lady nor I drink. This was a special occasion however, and the two other friends we were dining with (Hi Li + Tristy!) felt that a cocktail was in good order. Succumbing to peer pressure, we got the above-pictured.

You could definitely taste the frangelico – the aroma of it never actually goes away, even while my taste buds are being subsumed by the brutal power of the brandy. It’s quite the kick, despite being listed under the “sweet” section.

Needless to say, it took the entire night for me and The Lady to finish it.

Oyster shooter Ezard

Japanese inspired oyster shooter

Well, diggity – the first dish that comes up is one that I’ve never had before. Oysters? Sure, but in a depleted sake broth and served as a shot to go? Though you may be tempted, you’re not supposed to chew the oyster as it goes down – it’s that smooth. So how does it taste?

FIERY AND IN A GOOD WAY. This is possibly the best way to have oysters – I always hesitate to use superlatives, but at least I can confidently say I can’t decide on when I’ve had a better oyster. The overall taste is quite strong, with a definitive Japanese influence. Fantastic – but how to clear the palate that’s already been obliterated?

Goats curd, dehydrated beetroot, sweet & sour & crunchy beetroot Ezard

Goats curd, dehydrated beetroot, sweet & sour & crunchy beetroot

Enter the second part of this dish. Indeed, the mixture of goats curd & sour beetroot will do a great job of cleaning up that shot. The taste of the curd itself isn’t too strong (though The Lady begged to differ), and any extraneous cheesiness is quickly tempered by the earthy, crispy beetroot. Cleansed and ready for round 2!

Citrus and vodka cured salmon, black quinoa, olive oil jam, smoked yoghurt, tangerine vinaigrette Ezard

Citrus and vodka cured salmon, black quinoa, olive oil jam, smoked yoghurt, tangerine vinaigrette

This dish was The Lady’s favourite of the night. The salmon was buttery smooth with only the faintest alcoholic hints of vodka. Texture is brought to the creamy salmon (yes, I’m using creamy to describe it) with some hardened quinoa and then topped off with a tempered vinaigrette.

The overall taste of the dish is exceptional – it’s pretty much a full bodied balance of seafood, acidity and texture. Enough said, really.

Ezard vodka cured salmon

Dollops of awesomeness

Steamed spanner crab dumpling with yarra valley salmon roe, chervil cress, coconut tom kha Ezard

Steamed spanner crab dumpling with yarra valley salmon roe, chervil cress, coconut tom kha

Ah, what’s a fine dining meal without at least some theatre, mmm? Here the waitstaff is pouring in some tom kha – basically a Thai-originated chicken soup. The soup itself is light yet not watery to the palate, and is chock full of poultry flavour. That said, the dumpling didn’t even need it – it was amazing even by itself. The wonton-like skin was a little too hard for what I’d expect to taste out of such a dumpling, while the filling within is just sublime. I wonder if this is the kind of dumpling they serve at 3-Michelin Starred Lung King Heen in HK…

Yep, making that comparison already. It’s a damn fine dumpling.

Spanner crab dumpling Ezard

It’s ONE dumpling. ONE!

Salad of heirloom beetroot and carrot, asparagus, parmesan custard, serrano jamon, hazelnuts, black truffle vinaigrette Ezard

Salad of heirloom beetroot and carrot, asparagus, parmesan custard, serrano jamon, hazelnuts, black truffle vinaigrette

If there was going to be a weak link in Ezard’s deg offering, it would be this one. It’s not bad by any means, but it lacked the taste factor that the others had.

Points to the crunchiness and freshness of the vegetables, and the rather awesome black truffle vinaigrette – my nose informed me before even the waiter did. I could enjoy salads much more if they all came like this. That said, it was an “OK” dish amongst many greats. Ezard’s set itself a standard already!

Crispy skin baby barramundi with caramelised eggplant, tomato and lime sambal, yellow curry dressing Ezard

Crispy skin baby barramundi with caramelised eggplant, tomato and lime sambal, yellow curry dressing

A dish with distinct Chinese & Thai influences, the yellow curry dressing already infiltrates our nostrils as it’s being poured out to moat the cylinder of rice.

I’m a sucker for a good curry, and as if Ezard is going to make a bad one. My satisfaction with the curry sauce is pretty much nigh perfect – my only qualm is that I’d have wanted a little more texture than “pure cream”. That said, I figure that’s what they’re going for, anyway.

Besides, gotta have it with rice! And so I did. The barramundi as I recall tasted nice, though it didn’t “pop” in any such way that made me remember it. I’ll chalk that down to simply an OK barramundi. The curry is the real star here.

Barramundi Ezard

A tiny morsel that as usual, leaves you wanting more

Slow cooked pork belly, fennel pollen, celeriac, apple pudding and calvados jus Ezard

Slow cooked pork belly, fennel pollen, celeriac, apple pudding and calvados jus

Any pork belly that I have always gets compared back to the Kurobuta Pork Belly I had at Aria. Ezard does a great job its rendition, however does not surpass Aria. Not Ezard’s fault – it’s purely a matter of preference. The two bellies are cooked quite differently, with Ezard’s taking a more pronounced flavour range with the calvados jus that surrounds it. I think alcohol-jus has its place, though I prefer it less with pork belly.

As for that belly itself – it splits apart as surely as it should when it’s been slow-cooked, with tender, yet firm flesh that just screams to be eaten.

Chinese style roast duck, green chilli and oyster sauce dressing with coconut rice and mustard greens Ezard

Chinese style roast duck, green chilli and oyster sauce dressing with coconut rice and mustard greens

For mains, we had a choice between this duck dish, and the dish below.

It looks like the duck has been cooked quite rare (for duck, that is). This has the great advantage in that it’s not dry at all – it’s basically like cooking a steak more rare than well. Such a principle can apply to poultry as well and Ezard has nailed that one spot on. While the duck itself doesn’t transmit flavour very well, the oyster sauce makes up for a good deal of it. Overall, quite a nice duck, but I can’t help but feel duck is missing something when it misses its skin.

Guess I can only really appreciate duck when it’s in a curry or served as peking duck :3

The sticky coconut rice was a nice touch, but ultimately felt unnecessary apart from acting as a sponge to the oyster sauce.

Roast pork Ezard

Classy char-siu 😛

Eight score sher wagyu beef, white polenta, morels, red wine jam, foie gras, sticky shallot jus and mache salad Ezard

Eight score sher wagyu beef, white polenta, morels, red wine jam, foie gras, sticky shallot jus and mache salad

Our second main option comes in classic red meat form. I can’t actually think of many degustations that don’t involve beef somehow – this was going to come up sooner or later.

I found the beef to be slightly more enjoyable than the duck, though only just. The cooking of the beef was simply very technically well done. As you can see, it’s on the verge of being bloody – bloody perfect!

I’m also going to give this one presentation points – making beef look like an exotic meat dish? Haha, bravo.

Ezard wagyu beef

Pink and tender (Y)

Pre-dessert: watermelon, lavender jelly & vodka foam Ezard

Pre-dessert: watermelon, lavender jelly & vodka foam

Before desserts come, we have a pre-dessert palate cleanser which is immensely powerful to taste. Not particularly nice, but in terms of serving its purpose – success…perhaps a little too well!

For desserts, Ezard has two options – a chocolate torte, or something else…(wait for it)

Bittersweet couverture chocolate torte, citrus marmalade, burnt orange caramel, raspberry sorbet Ezard

Bittersweet couverture chocolate torte, citrus marmalade, burnt orange caramel, raspberry sorbet

I need to get this off my chest – the torte is really, really powerful and rich. The chocolate may be the darkest I’ve ever tried! It would be a struggle to finish it by myself, and I’m thankful I had it to share.

What’s particularly special about this one is the white chocolate jelly – I have NO idea how they did this. It literally has the taste of white chocolate, yet is see through like jelly! I’ve got to recreate that one day. The citrus marmalade was indeed quite sour, which is great for cutting through the bitterness of that chocolate. To top it off, the chocolate dust/soil has quite the crunch and the zing – almost like popping candy. Yum

Now…about that other dessert option Ezard has…

Ezard dessert tasting plate to share

Ezard dessert tasting plate to share (+$10 pp)

HOW ABOUT NOT JUST ONE, BUT ALL SIX OF EZARD’S DESSERTS ON ONE PLATTER?

Hands down, the most impressive dessert offering I’ve ever had at any restaurant, period. Had we known that the chocolate torte was going to be on here as well, we wouldn’t have bothered ordering the full one (though the full one did have the raspberry sorbet – not that was a drawcard). For Ezard to offer this at an extra price of $10pp (for 2 people so extra $20) is pretty amazing. I don’t use the word when reviewing fine dining often – but dare I say…”value”?

All of Ezard’s desserts on one plate. How can one not love that? We were already very full by this time, but my goodness, could not resist.

I’m sure there is actually an order in which to eat these desserts, otherwise some will surely kill the flavour of others, but I wasn’t keen on planning this – let’s just eat it!

Warm poached rhubarb & pear crumble w/coconut ice cream Ezard

Warm poached rhubarb & pear crumble w/coconut ice cream

The coconut ice cream – fantastic, creamy and smooth, with the aftertaste of coconut constantly there. Rhubarb & crumble ALWAYS work together and even better with ice cream. This dessert is a comfort favourite.

Passionfruit & yuzu parfait, tapioca pearls, caramelised puffed rice, aero chocolate Ezard

Passionfruit & yuzu parfait, tapioca pearls, caramelised puffed rice, aero chocolate

The yuzu ice cream is extremely sour – it makes raspberry seem sweet. I didn’t like it that much as a result, and instead enjoyed the puffed rice and tapioca pearls. I can see certain friends of mine loving this though – they’ve got a sour tooth!

Lemon olive oil cake, sesame & cashew brittle, quince sorbet & currants Ezard

Lemon olive oil cake, sesame & cashew brittle, quince sorbet & currants

A very nice dessert, this one – the currants are crispy like a pickled sweet, and the brittles…well I couldn’t taste as much of them. No matter, the lemon cake and quince (pome fruits) sorbet more than make up for that in sheer deliciousness.

Honeycrunch ice cream, toasted gingerbread & sugar swirl

Honeycrunch ice cream, toasted gingerbread & sugar swirl

Getting dessert overloaded here – the sugar swirl is very easily chewable, unlike many other such swirls which just stick to your teeth forever. The ice cream is the best out of all the ones Ezard had on offer tonight – there’s just this wholesomeness and homeliness to the honey flavour that is just so appealing. I even forgot about the gingerbread just eating that! I think I had most of it 😛

Caramelised apple & vanilla cream sable pedro ximenez syrup, apple sorbet Ezard

Caramelised apple & vanilla cream sable pedro ximenez syrup, apple sorbet

This is a more “refreshing” kind of dessert – juicy and crunchy fruits are the textures of choice here, and the tradition of using alcohol-based sauces continues. I thought the apple sorbet tasted more like pear, but perhaps my mind was just playing tricks on me.

It’s almost like a cold apple pie, now that I think about it!

Bittersweet chocolate tort Ezard

And here comes that torte again

Hello, torte! Same dessert 🙂

Yeah, okay, I don’t have much more to say than give a simple recommendation:

If you’re in Melbourne and are up for fine dining, do not skip Ezard. You will not regret it.

Teage Ezard has done something wonderful with his Melbourne flagship, something the Sydney restaurant just couldn’t emulate. It’s a little bit of everything – Ezard’s got it all.

As usual, feel free to leave a commend or three 😀

Awesome: service is excellent, food is very good, decor is excellent

Not so Awesome: some dishes not palate-satisfying, portion sizes meant we got full before even the mains

8.5/10 Caesars

Ezard on Urbanspoon

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