We had a lovely table in the front dining area and it's quite clever of Matteo's to have several distinct separate areas. Keeping everyone in one place creates a busy feel with a pleasant hum of activity although the restaurant still had many empty tables towards the back.
Steve and I opted to go with the degustation menu of 8 courses along with a bottle of gewurtztraminer. I recognised the sommelier as the fun chap who served as at The Point in Albert Park and he graciously recognised us too.
- Semi-cured Hiramasa kingfish sashimi, prawn remoulade with kaffir lime, shiso sauce
- Tasmanian ‘salmon pastrami’, wasabi-sour cream, latticed potato chips, Yarra Valley salmon roe
- Teriyaki-glazed smoked Skipton eel,black rice & coddled egg croquette, bonito mayonnaise
Three fishy components on one big dishy. I started off with the kingfish sashimi and enjoyed the kaffir lime fragrance and the hidden prawn remoulade which was basically like prawn mayo. It was a clean and fresh start and perhaps needed just a touch of soy or seasoning to lift the flavours a touch but I did enjoy the freshness of the dish.
The salmon pastrami was effectively like smoked salmon but with a drier texture. I love the crispy lattice chips and the roe added a saltiness. The balance of the wasabi and sour cream was perfect for a non wasabi lover and just had the right amount of kick to tell me it was present! I think I'd have a liked a little citrus just to spike it, maybe a hit of lime or lemon.
Finally I got to the eel and it reminded me of the traditional Japanese dish of unagi don. Sweet BBQ eel on rice - delicious. I didn't get much out of the coddled egg but Steve assures me there were bits of egg in the croquette.
Each little mini dish was significantly bigger than a canape but probably not quite an entree. Collectively though it was a generous course.
- Tempura zucchini flower with fetta, spring vegetable and shiso salad, miso corn sauce
- Balmain bug tail, yakitori sauce and toasted sesame seeds, shredded Asian coleslaw with jellyfish
So I tried the bug tail first and interestingly reminded me of a Chinese deep fried fish dish that is served in a clay pot. Coated in a batter that is softened by a savoury sauce, the bug tail was fleshy and sweet and very enjoyable.
The zucchini flower was tasty with the fresh zingy cheese and I was surprised by the cold spring vegetable salad but enjoyed the crunch of the veggies. Steve loved the corn sauce.
- Char siu pork, chicken and shitake mushroom pie, crushed garden peas with wasabi, yuzu kosho sauce
- Seared Wagyu beef skirt steak, spinach fondue, kimchi piperade, black bean sauce
The beef was so delicious. Not as tender as some cuts but incredibly flavoursome of beef and seasoned with an earth saltiness from the black beans and spiced with the kim chi capsicum relish and then sweetened and mellowed by the spinach. This was probably my favourite flavour combination of the whole menu.
- Poached crab apple with Calvados custard, rhubarb sauce
- Orange curd and chocolate ganache crepe
- Strawberry and vanilla bean cream trifle, macerated strawberries, macarons, strawberry jelly and sorbet
I started with the apple and enjoyed the cinammon coating and creamy custard inside. The only thing that could have made it better was perhaps a touch longer poaching time to make it softer. I managed to cut into it using the edge of a spoon and a bit of force. I'd have loved it to have just given way a bit more without the force.
My favourite was definitely the strawberry trifle - layers of strawberry and sweetened cream and crunch meringue bits and jelly bits and then topped with a spankingly fresh strawberry sorbet that was sharp and fruity. Loved it.
And after that, only the bite size chocolate covered multi layered crepe dessert was left and I dug deep and went for a mouthful. It was so rich and chocolatey though that I had to give up, The thick chocolate had coated multiple layers of pancake and I think it hadn't been coated in thick and dark chocolate I'd have had more of a chance. Nevertheless I can imagine it would appeal to those that pursue chocolate as a dessert; just not me!
Matteo's is an interesting place. I get the impression it's consistently good, consistently inventive. A great neighbourhood restaurant if we lived in the area. Reminiscent of Provenance in Beechworth but not quite as refined, I think it's a good choice for Japanese food fans and for an intimate dinner maybe of up to 4 people.