Day/Night 6 – Melbourne – Revisiting the Classics

The foul weather that had been threatening for a couple of days finally came to fruition. The good news was that I didn’t really plan to do much in the afternoon anyway. This also gave me a chance to go check out the Malaysian street food court that was literally next door to where I was staying. There were 3 different stands in the complex but the skewer one seems the most intriguing. I had to choose the raw meat and veggie skewers, which they would then cook for me.

It was nothing fancy but that was kind of the point. I wanted something fast and cheap so mission accomplished. As I waited for the rain to at least subside a bit, I busied myself doing some laundry. Finally, it was only drizzling so I walked down the few blocks back to the Melbourne Central Mall and the Shot Tower.

About 21 years ago, my dad had visited my brother when he was based in Melbourne for a few months as part of his MBA program. He had given me as a gift a wallet from a famous Australian Outback outfitter, RM Williams. I still had the wallet all of these years later but it was on its last legs. My dad also had a belt that was also needing to be replaced so I do so for both (happy bday, Dad.)

The store also had a small museum about the history of the Shot Tower, which provided bullets for the Australian military until it was shut down in the early 1960s. The metal was melted at the top of the tower and poured through a cylinder, which make them form into droplets – like molten rain, which would eventually cool into bullets.

After the usual rest/relaxation, I headed out for my final dinner in Melbourne at Gerald’s Place. Multiple people after I told them I was going there told me I had to do the We Cook U Eat tasting menu. The catch was I had to actually phone them to do the booking – no emails or online. I initially didn’t get through and after another couple of failed attempts, I left a message. A few minutes later, Gerald himself called me back. He asked about anything I didn’t want to eat and said no garlic but anything else would be great.

Part of their raison d’etre was Gerald’s extensive wine collection, which thanks to the magic of Coravin, was almost entirely available by the glass. There was also a list of about 50 by the glass that had been picked to go with tonight’s menu, which was written on a sheet of butcher paper attached at the bar. With that in mind, I decided to stick with their picks, first up a local Pet Nat (here’s a good explainer) Appropriately name “A Hot Mess” – it was very fruit forward and quite different than most sparkling wines.

Soon, I was presented with an assorted of cold dishes – house made anchovies, a local variation of salami with banana peppers, some house made pickled veggies and some local oysters with a mignonette. Oysters and anchovies never really favorites of mine but I trusted they would be good here and indeed they were, especially the excellent anchovies. A great way to start the meal.

Next up was a bowl of local peppers, similar to shishitos, both in look and the fact that there are a few really hot ones “like a roulette”. Apparently, it wasn’t my night as I had 4 of them. My server winced and offered me a glass of milk, which I readily accepted. The hot ones aside, the charred peppers were delicious with a great take on salsa verde that added some acid to the mix.

I had spotted on the menu the smoked trout, hoping that would be one of the courses, and indeed it was. The smoked trout was perfectly prepared alongside oddly enough, the exact confit of local potatoes I had at Bar Liberty (although without that sauce). A definitely highlight of the meal.

After selecting a recommended local Cabernet, my final savory course arrived, the classic porterhouse steak with green peppercorn sauce. I’m usually not a fan of that sauce because a lot of times they use way too many peppercorns, which blows out the other ingredients. This version was perfect, and the steak had a fantastic crust. I ate every last bite.

While on this course, a man at the bar motioned me over, insisting I get out of the “Valentine’s set up” of the table I had under the stairwell and join him at the bar. It turned out he was a Freudian psychiatrist with an office across the street. One of their oldest regulars (he had known Gerald for over 20 years), we had a free ranging conversation from Freudian and Jungian principles, to the difference of Australian and American psychosis (not as much as you’d think)

By this point, we were the only 2 customers left and some of the staff joined the bar for a night cap. One was an English major so the discussion turned to the difference between the word construction of Joyce vs. Hemingway and how patois is so important to understanding writers like Joyce and Faulkner – you know, typical Tuesday bar talk.

During this time, I received my final course – Earl Grey ice cream in a chocolate dipped cone with a ginger toffee biscuit. I hadn’t eaten a ice cream cone (almost always get a cup) but again, knew to just trust the way they intended it. I was concerned the tea flavor would be too pronounced but turned out not to be the case at, and the cone was crunchy and full of rich chocolate flavor. The cookie was also excellent – the spicy ginger mixed with the sweet toffee made for a great combination.

The doctor soon said his goodbyes, and not wanting to keep anyone from getting home, I did the same. It was a truly memorable dining experience and one I’ll think fondly of for years to come. My only regret was how much I know my dad would have loved it as well. It would have made it even more special but I looked forward to telling him all about it soon.


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