I know, I know… its far too obvious but in this heat it is quite possible that I am lacking imagination!
Argentina is the next line of that song from the musical, Evita. Attending an event at True South in Black Rock as part of the 2013 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival reminded me of Argentina… mostly because the chef at True South, Mauro Cagliari is Argentinean and the dinner he prepared with fellow Argentine Martin Molteni of Pura Tierra was a feast of magnificence.
Pura Tierra is translated, from my crappy Spanish, to Pure Earth, and given Eva Peron is buried in the cemetery across the road from Molteni’s restaurant in Buenos Aires, I am sure I can be forgiven for the musical references that will be peppered throughout this missive.
It was a beautiful night – as the sun set over the ocean across the road from the restaurant, diners were treated to a rare experience. Five courses of simple ingredients, melded together to create something that my fellow diners and I could not fault.
True South is a brewery as well as a restaurant, and we were greeted with a house made cider, which on this night of 1000 stars and high temps, was a welcome start. Crisp, tart and just delicious. We snacked on some roasted beetroot and the most delicious cheese pastries. I had to have three of those and it was a challenge to stop at just three.
A great lump of house made bread, studded with rosemary and apparently baked with pig fat was delivered to the table, crusty and warm, and we hoofed it down with gusto!
What followed were five incredibly well executed courses, matched with either beer or wine – beers made in house and the wines imported from Argentina. It is rare that I am willing to offer such extraordinary praise but this was all but faultless. The few things I could comment on were a delay in the first course coming and a dessert that was not to my taste, but it had been an already arduous day and I may be just being ridiculous.
A ceviche of kingfish was Paco 1 – and it was great – raw fish marinated in citrus, sliced raw baby beets and radish, fines herbes… just lip smackingly good.
The next course challenged me… corn, pumpkin, beef all melded together in a sweet sauce, and topped with meringue. Not usually to my taste but the house made chili beer served with it was clever – hoppy and malty and pulled the sweetness apart on the palate. I loved it.
Next up.. the offal course. Sweetbreads cooked in another sweet tinged sauce, on a superbly soft mash, with a collection of mushrooms. Again, deftly handled and for non offal lovers, they taste just like chicken! Another house made beer, this one bigger and bolder than the last and again, supremely matched – they know their stuff these Argentines.
Resident chef Mauro showed off his skills on the dance floor with a display of the tango, before he let the professionals take over, and folks, dinner and a show! How could I complain. He is quite the soft shoe shuffler and it was a ice break to prepare us for the next course… Rib Eye of beef.
This was incredible – slow roasted and served with chimmichurri, roasted kipfler potatoes, i sliced it with the butter knife. There were at least 80 people in the room and I know that every piece of beef that was eaten was amazing. A glass of Malbec on the side, one of the most popular and widely grown grape varieties in Argentina, made for the right mate for this dish.
Dessert was not to my taste as mentioned but I wont let this dampen my enthusiasm… Pumpkin, corn, chocolate and passionfruit- an interesting mix and none of it too sweet – was devoured by those around me so I know it was also very good.
I tend to be somewhat critical as a rule but I was so pleasantly surprised at how well everything was done. The staff were super attentive – we did not have to ask for anything. Water kept coming, glasses were taken care of, and napkins rolled the moment any one as much as moved from their chairs. The food was plated in front of us allowing no room for error and none could be found!
Mauro and Martin are a brilliant combination of talent, personality and bravado and I was thrilled to be a guest at this event. It proved yet another triumph for the restaurant and they deserve a hearty congratulations from myself, the guests around me and the gathered. I am going to have to head back – I hear the suckling pig is a ripper.
I dined as a guest of True South and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, however, that does not form my opinion nor have they received favourable comment in exchange for my attendance.