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Embrasse - Mon, 26th Oct 2009
312 Drummond St Carlton
Ph: 03 9347 3312
Prices: Mains $30-$40
Style: Modern French
18th Mar 2018

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Review by Dave
I have one really big gripe that I need to get out of the way, which is almost totally irrelevant: the website. When will restaurateurs learn that flash-only, resolution restricting websites which are unusable on anything other than Mac or Windows running at 1280x1024 are incredibly annoying when you're just trying to find the darn phone number from your tiny mobile phone screen!

OK. Now that's out of the way, I can take a deep breath, move on, and tell you how wonderfully surprised and relieved I was to find Embrasse. After being a little disappointed by Andrew McConnell's Three-One-Two which previously occupied the same premises, I was a little put-off by the all-but-inaccessible (on a netbook) website, and pretentious-sounding wine list ordered by colour code. "Seriously", I thought, "How could that wine list organisation possibly be anything more than a gimmick designed to appeal to food wankers like me?" Somewhat embarrassingly, it worked.

The menu has a definite French influence: traditional flavours presented with an original texture, subtle nuances accentuating a spice here, a tang there. Accordingly, somewhat suddenly, unwillingly, I found myself using the unorthodox "gimmicky" wine list organisation style I'd snickered at earlier. Whoops!

When the burgundy I'd chosen was sold out (due to 8 bottles being ordered by a single table the previous night - understandable shortage!) I asked for a suggestion. This brings me to my first gushing praise: a sommelier who actually got to be a sommelier. I realise that many restaurants have financial restraints which prevent having a staff member dedicated to making sure my wine glass is suitably filled, but I can't stress strongly enough how much I enjoyed never having to search around for a waiter to find that bottle of burgundy. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" such relief. And it was a great suggestion, too. A new-world style wine from the old-world, it suited the tone of the evening, and the menu.

As for the food, there has obviously been a great deal of thought in the combination of certain ingredients. Each dish includes items sourced from the chef's garden, and the influence is on good quality, seasonal produce. Thankfully, not to the detriment of originality or flavour, despite a noticeable emphasis on vegetables. I'm not a particularly "ethical" diner, caring less about where my food came from than how it tastes, but Nic Poelaert managed to impress me with the flavour of his dishes rather than their pedigree.

Highlights were a confit pork belly (just for a change!) and a black sesame Wagyu. The real surprise was the "Passionfruit, passionfruit, passionfruit and banana cake" - you really just have to try it to understand. The service, which has seen a few harsh reviews elsewhere, was some of the best I've ever experienced. A great team, all round.

Don't let a few unorthodox ideas scare you - Embrasse is well worth a visit, or two. I'll certainly be going back.


We ate:

We drank:


Your Comments...
  Posted by Dave , 09:32am Sun, 7th Feb, 2010
    Argh! So frustrating! Just when I thought I'd found somewhere with great food AND great service, they go and let me down.

We went back to Embrasse last night (the GH quartet) but came away disappointed, mostly due to quite lacklustre service. A muddled entree order which was muddled again, a 40-minute wait for mains, and not enough time for dessert, despite explaining that we had to be out by 10:45.

Normally I'd just walk away and not go back, but having seen how well they *can* do it, it's particularly distressing to have your expectations thrashed. Just in case, here's some feedback:

- Still or sparkling water: other tables had sparkling, so why weren't we asked? And please fill water glasses regularly, or leave a bottle. Empty glasses all night long.
- If you can't remember an order, write it down: no-one will judge you, I certainly couldn't remember 4 entrees, mains and a wine.
- If you get it wrong, fix it. Don't say "I'll look into that" and do nothing. (To explain, we ordered 3 zucchini flowers as an entree, only one arrived, we queried, were told they'd look into it, the other two were removed from the bill, but we weren't asked if we still wanted them or not. Hungry!)
- 40 mins between entree and main is a bit much, but I'd forgive it if the rest of the service had been up to scratch.
- empty plates should not sit on the table for 20 mins before being cleared.
- Climate control needs work. It wasn't a hot day, so I shudder to think what it's like on a forty degree day.
- If a bottle of wine is finished, ask if another, or something else, is desired.
- 2 1/4 hrs should be sufficient for 3 courses. We'd done 4 a la carte courses at Esposito a couple of nights before in 1 3/4 hours, so didn't think this was unreasonable. I left hungry, which makes me grumpy.

The menu felt like it had slipped a little since our last visit (back in Spring). Entrees were good, particularly the confit Chicken. Mains were a mixed bag: The beef with it's brght red tomato bursting with flavour and sweetness was a hit; the pork "rack" (no bone, though?) was a little over-done and quite dry. Perhaps it sat on the plate a bit long? Was also a little bit cool. I didn't try the lamb personally, but those who did told me it was well cooked, but not particularly inspired.

When I go out, it's because I want to experience good food. When I stay in, it's because I'm sick of bad service and want to be able to just "get up and get it myself". I'll give Embrasse one more shot for a best-of-three win, but I suspect Lachie and Sarah won't be back. Shame, since it can be so good.
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