Euro: judging the master chef

EuroIt’s been a few years since I darkened the door of Euro on Princes Wharf and The Bloke had never been so we decided to go there for my birthday dinner. Master Chef judge Simon Gault has always had me at ‘signature chicken’ and this night would be no exception, but it was the tastes before that had me swooning.

Happily for us we were shown to the private champagne booth down in the Pasha end of the expanded and busy restaurant. Two large groups were booked for 7.30 so we’d been advised to slide our order in before they sat they well heeled selves down. And you do need to be reasonably well-heeled to sit down here. Sadly Mr Gault’s restaurants (he also own Jervois Steak House) are not featured in my Entertainment Guide, not that The Bloke was going to let me clip a coupon on this auspicious night anyway…

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The Peking duck

The paper menus have been replaced by bright yellow laminated posters which belie the quality of what is written on it. Our waiter introduced himself as Raz and gave us typically great Euro service – attentive, an ability to banter with my attempts at engaging him, and a thorough knowledge of every tiny nuance on the yellow sheet.

Being the birthday girl, I wanted to share entrees (do guys do that?) so we started with Peking Duck on a platter with 5 little Chinese pancakes that arrived in a dumpling basket, a heap of shredded duck and pieces of crispy skin, a little dish of crunchy coleslaw, another of cashew dukka, and a bowl of hoisin. Make yourself a little burrito and eat in two bites. Outstanding.

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S.G's crab and prawn delight

We also went for S.G’s crab and prawn which is a thick and rich chowder with jalapeno creme fraiche sauce and tuna wafers which are sliced so thinly they wave about on the plate looking like they’re alive. Two spoons thank you and I was happy as a clam.

You already know what I ordered for my main, and in fact could have placed my order from the car on the way there, but here is why I do love Euro’s signature chicken.

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The 'signature chicken'

It is rubbed with herbs, slow cooked on the rotisserie and served with a ridiculously creamy and flavoursome mash with a crunchy slaw sprinkled with roasted peanuts. (I try this at home.) The portion was generous – a breast and little drumstick.

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The eye fillet with extra morsels

Wagyu was on the menu for $65, but The Bloke went for a medium rare eye fillet which was also a generous serve accompanied by some melt-in-your-mouth braised rib and a slice of mushroom and bone marrow terrine. We added a side dish of green beans with sliced almonds and goats cheese.

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Just enough room to share....

And yes we did manage to keep our pudding stomachs free. Well relatively so – we shared a hot and melty chocolate pudding (which took 15 minutes to bake, just enough time to finish our bottle of Church Road), served with bannoffee icecream and a sweep of raspberry couli.

No coffee thanks, not even a wafer thin mint.

Total bill, including breads and dips to start and that bottle of red – $235

 

Tantalised at TriBeCa

Holding steadfast to their New Year’s resolution to eat their way through Auckland’s degustation menus, Victoria Davy and “The Man” headed down to the acclaimed TriBeCa in Parnell.

It was another freezing Auckland evening (sorry South Islanders, but it felt like Dunedin!) and due to my highly efficient cab driver who knew all the short cuts I arrived well before The Man and was warmly welcomed by Executive Chef Hayden McMillan, and then by owner Mark Walynetz. My coat was immediately taken and, as I sat and chatted with Chef McMillan, a glass of Bollinger was popped in my hand.  5 star service right there.

Course 2: fresh smoked King Salmon

TriBeCa’s ambiance is an absolute winner.  Mark and his wife Pauline have managed to combine elegant dining in a sumptuous space with a homely feel.  We felt so relaxed and comfortable – just like we were eating at a friend’s house.

The 26 year old Hayden McMillan (formally of Meredith’s, French Cafe and Vinnie’s) has been Executive Chef for a mere 9 months. Being so new into his first Executive appointment his focus is on “flavours; matching flavours and using ingredients in the right way to extract the best from them”.   He is a proud kiwi and all the ingredients used except one – cheese made by nuns in France (if you please) are from New Zealand.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu is 8 courses, but we were lucky and received and couple of extra courses, all in a day’s work for a food reviewer! (Yes I have taken up running.)

Course 3: braised Oxtail

The menu begins with Oyster, Diamond Clams and Saffron Broth before it journeys through the likes of Fresh Smoked King Salmon, Masterstock Glazed Free Range Pork Belly, Warm Winter Salad with echouragnac (walnut infused cheese made by those nuns – yummo!) and Crispy Skin Duck Breast to name a few, and concludes with a chocolate crescendo, which The Man ate. I concluded my gobbling with a beautiful dessert that included blue cheese ice-cream.  Oh my goodness, I love blue-cheese and this was de-ee-vine!  All the zingyness of blue cheese with a sweet after taste.  A perfect ending and I want a tub of that in my freezer.

All of the dishes were unfailingly sublime and amongst this gastro gorgeousness it was hard to pick a favourite, but there were two standout courses for me.

Firstly, the second course of Fresh Manuka Smoked King Salmon with squid ink infused brioche, charcoal smoked eggplant, freeze dried mandarins, prawn and lemon yoghurt.  The presentation of this dish was truly ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ material.  The brioche and eggplant were blacker than black and a perfect backdrop for the beautiful pink salmon, the orange mandarins and purple edible flowers. This was an artistic masterpiece on the plate and a masterpiece of perfectly rounded flavours on the palate, with the toasted brioche taking the combo of flavours to a new level.  The pairing of Milton Voignier Gisbourne ‘09 worked wonderfully, refreshing the palate so it could experience the dish anew with each mouthful.

Blue cheese icecreammmmm

My other favourite dish was the Braised Oxtail with honeycomb mushrooms, caramelised swede puree, karengo (NZ native seaweed), soya beans, radish, baby paua and miso consume served table side.  Initially, this was like the essence of winter on a plate with the rich melt-in-your-mouth oxtail, deep miso flavoured consume and pure swede flavour.  But then the taste of summer from the radish and freshness of the soya beans popped in the mouth, and the kick from the shaved horse radish lifted everything.  It was like eating four seasons in one dish.  The wine match of Seresin Gewurztraminer ’08  was excellent – I always find that summer and winter dishes pair well with this gutsy and yet subtle wine.

This was a sublime evening from beginning to end.  For a young Chef, Hayden’s food is mature, excellently balanced and accomplished.  This, along with the genuinely warm hospitality, means we will definitely be returning to TriBeCa.

 

Chef’s Tasting Menu $90.00 per person not including wine.

TriBeCa: The Foundation Building, 8 George Street Parnell, phone 09 379 6359. www.tribeca.co.nz

– Victoria Davy