Just One Arabian Night.
When idly flicking through reviews and restaurant guides it was decided that
Sarah and I should go somewhere for my birthday, but where? There are so many
places on our to-do list that it becomes overwhelming sometimes, but this time
around we were helped out by a handy little list that I'm sure everyone knows
about: The Age Good Food Guide. Somewhat of a bible in our house, it's not perfect
but it's often as good a starting point as any, and this time it led us to 123
Collins Street, to Greg Malouf's famous: Momo.
I'd heard a fair bit about the old Momo, closed down a few years ago and now
recently reopened (in May 2009) in a new location at the above address, the
basement of the Grand Hyatt. While the term basement implies a certain dank
and drearieness, there's none of that here. Something of a cross between
1001 Arabian Nights and Austin Powers, small lamps on every table, colonial
looking furniture, downlights softened with hanging glass crystals and
chain mesh curtains separating dining areas; it's all a little sureal.
But I think enjoyably so. Although it did get a little odd later in the
evening when the window into the bar next door started to show people
milling around, dancing badly, and occasionally peering in.
How did the GFG get us here? With the promise of the "Dish of the Year",
the veiled quail. After the excitement of the smoked trout broth at Attica
(2008's Dish of the Year), I felt that if something was to stand next to that
and be considered an equal it had to be pretty special.
The impetus here is on shared dishes, or 'Family Style Sharing' as the Momo website
will have it. The choises are either the $100pp Arabesque Sharing Menu of two entrees,
mains, and sides, or $140pp Moorish Sharing Menu, or all four entrees, two
mains, and all four sides. Both menus include desserts. Eaters that we are, we selected
the Moorish Menu, with a bottle of Spanish Tempranillo from the extensive wine list (forgive
me, but the exact wine has escaped both my memory and notes). It was obviously not an
inexpensive evening, especially when the sharing menu at somewhere like Maha is half the
price, but for special occasion dining it could be worse.
Veiled Quail - The Good Food Guide's Dish of the Year
So, to the dish of the year. The Veiled quail covered in leaves with chorizo-pine nut stuffing and mustard whipped feta came in round two of the entree course, and I can see why it got the praise
that it did. I'm partial to quail at the best of times, but served like this with the aromatic
middle eastern spices, it was simply delicious (although perhaps not as mind blowing as the
above mentioned Attica dish). Also of note was one of the mains, a special on
the night, of essentially a duck pie. Apparently the same recipe as the more famous pigeon version,
it once again proved to me that if a pie is on offer you really can't go wrong. Especially in this
case with the combination of flaky filo pastry (of which there is no shortage on the menu), cinnamon
and a light dusting of icing sugar.
Towards the end of the meal, with the food still coming, I started to wish that there would have
been a little more emphasis on the mains themselves. While the entrees and sides were all
perfectly good, I just felt like a little more meat wouldn't have gone astray what with all
the salads flashing before us. That being said, once dessert arrived the fact that a minute ago
I thought I was full meant nothing to me. My sweet tooth once again stood me in good stead amongst
a steady barrage of mouth watering delicacies, with enough rosewater, honey and nuts amongst them
to tempt anyone who stood in their way.
The service on the night was adequate, wait staff attentive and knowledgable, although I often
thought the gap between courses was a fair bit longer than it needed to be. I think the concept
of a banquet requires that there is a constant flow of food to the table, long gaps tend to
break the mood a little. But overall it was a minor complaint. For the premium paid, I can't afford
to come back for a second try for quite a while, but we had an enjoyable evening, even if it
was in a basement.