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Like many others, I find the worst part about coming back from a holiday is the return to reality. Our recent return from south east Asia meant saying goodbye to sunny weather, hello to awful cold Melbourne weather, getting back into a 9am to 5pm schedule and going to work as opposed to going on tours and sitting by a pool. Thankfully, some eating adventures have made the transition a little more bearable.
One such adventure took place at Claremont Tonic - a recent addition to South Yarra’s eating scene. I was invited to a dinner with a few other bloggers and the owner of the restaurant, Davis Yu. I would like to extend my sincere thank you to the Davis Group and AMPR for the opportunity to dine at Claremont Tonic.
Views of the interior.
The overall dimmed atmosphere provided a very relaxed and easy going vibe, perfect for some laid back times after work. Contrasting to the chill exuded by the interior is the loud and heavy rock and roll tunes that played throughout the night. Although not a fan of this music genre, the music sorta faded into the background once my attention became occupied by the good food and conversation.
Nakatomi Towers - Kigo Shochu, house lemonade, Japanese apricots & Yuzu juice foam.
This cocktail is highly recommended by Davis Yu. I steered away from the cocktail selections on the night but this has been put down on my to-try list for next time.
Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon - orange, kiwi, passionfruit, thyme.
Hmmm, not the name of a whimsical poetry piece but rather the name of this fresh and pulpy juice. The sweet and sourness with a dash of thyme provided a refreshing hit to jolt me out of my tired state.
Various drinks including at the front, the Fuck You Eddie - five secret rums, raspberry ice cubes, thai lime sour & a ginger beer eruption.
Excuse the[ir] French! The cocktail is described as ‘brash and badass’ on the menu and after one sip, I couldn’t agree more! A face may have been pulled…
Most Asian-style banquets kick off with a plate of complimentary prawn crackers. These nori crackers were like a thinned out version of prawn crackers: light, crispy and perfect to whet the palate.
Jedd’s jewels - two oysters, rice nectar jelly, tobiko, wakame, lime & oyster cracker.
I’ve seen many oysters in recent years but none with a topping anywhere close to this ingredient list. The textures were bountiful and the taste was a potent sake-like one, soon masked by the fresh Coffin Bay oyster. My palate has struggled with sake on past occasions and this occasion proved no different. The black squid ink cracker served as a ‘chaser’ and provided much relief to my taste buds.
King of the Chimichangas - raw king salmon, nori tacos & box of condiments.
Firstly, hats off to CT’s clever play on the taco and conventional salmon sushi roll. A spoon was used to split the box of condiments right down the middle and one half was then used to fill a taco shell. The ingredients were downright fresh and the nori shell provided bursts of that familiar nori (seaweed) flavour and a crunchy oomph. Who would’ve thought that a salmon-containing dish would come out on top as one of my favourite dishes on the night?
Double duck blinis - peking duck, pâté, cucumber, hoisin & caviar aioli.
If you have any duck cravings, the double duck blinis give you double the bang for your buck with a slither of CT-prepared peking duck and duck liver pâté. The tasty blinis bring to the table head chef Dylan Roberts’ Welsh heritage and tasted much like peking duck pancake with a foreign element that comes in the form of the creamy pâté and caviar aioli.
Chicken wing dumpling - spiced vinegar, egg yolk & crispy skin.
The egg yolk was pierced and mixed in thoroughly with the vinegar to form a thickened sauce. The dumpling itself was very tender and well minced. The spiced vinegar sauce added some flair to the spicy subtle kick exuded by the dumpling when eaten on its own. The bone that stuck out of each dumpling served as a cute lollipop stick-like stick to pick up the dumplings.
Soft shell crab cups - lettuce, pomelo, jalapeno, avocado, fiery mint & pine nut.
The immediate impression that dawned on my taste buds from first bite was a Thai take on soft shell crab: lemony, minty and spicy. An excellent piece of soft shell crab, the batter was delightfully light and crisp.
CT’s pork chipolatas - soused cabbage, XO, roasted onions & wraps.
The assemblage of the chipolata was particularly tricky and I failed with my one shot. The flavours of all the elements were quite strong and hence it was important to get the ratio of ingredients correct.
Slow-cooked pork jowl - pear, maltose, almond & coriander.
A beautifully-cooked piece of meat, the pork jowl was extremely tender and the flesh pulled away in tendrils. The crackling was very crisp and caramelised. The more-sweet-than-savoury glaze of the pork worked extremely well with the citrusy pear salad.
Cone bay barramundi - coconut dashi, squid ink & truffled edamame hash.
The flavours in the barramundi dish were less potent than the pork jowl, but provided a welcome break for the palate. Similar to the pork, the fish was well-cooked and also tender. During the cooking process, the skin is removed and recreated to provide a finely crisp texture. Gone is the overly-fishiness that usually comes in the form of the skin and if all fish dishes were similar to CT’s version, I would happily eat it with no complaints!
Samurai vegetables - beetroot, radish, smoked yoghurt, puffed grains & thai basil.
Loved the colours and the presentation. The creamy cheese-like yoghurt sauce was almost enough to mask out the taste of the beetroot.
Crab meat som tam - pounded papaya, chilli, garlic, green beans & shrimp.
Having returned from Thailand only recently, this dish brought me right back to the beachside dinners along Nai Yang beach. True to typical Thai salads, the papaya taste and lingering spiciness were spot on.
Red rooster - red roasted 1/2 Milawa chicken, slaw, lemon & chicken gravy.
This dish is the chef’s take on Red rooster chicken. The skin was quite dry and crisp and the chicken was quite soft and tender underneath. Possibly because I was feeling quite full at this point, the fried chicken+gravy+mayo combination was a little too heavy for my liking. I enjoyed the flavours of the accompanying slaw: the taste was just like coleslaw at first but then faded to a bean shoot + pickled veggies one.
Infinite spiral fries - curry salted, kewpie & sticky soy.
We may have waited too long before eating it but the potato, particular at the centre, was quite soggy and clumped together. The curry flavouring worked well with the sticky soy but as with the red rooster chicken, I found the kewpie mayo too overpowering.
Plum wine sorbet - CT jelly, tonka bean custard, rhubarb & candied lime.
If the name and the ingredients list was anything to go by, this would probably be one dessert that I would not order. “Never judge a book by it’s cover” may be an overused saying but I’m gonna whip it out for this instance. The plum wine sorbet tasted very refreshing and worked very well as a palate cleanser. The extent of how creamy the tonka bean custard was puts all the other ice creams I’ve ever tried to shame.
Custard tarts - freshly made.
The menu does say to allow at least 15 minutes for the tarts and if you’re eating these for dessert at the end of the meal, your stomach may be relieved for the extra time to digest (yeps, I was feeling really full at this point). Contrasting to the typical egg tarts at yum cha, the pastry is closer to shortbread than flaky. The texture of the filling was quite eggy and clumped. A more custard-like texture would have been lighter and preferable. I was happy to scoop out the filling and finish off the pastry solo.
Gingerbread - warm spiced carrot cake, salted caramel, sesame ice cream & pistachio.
I was puzzled at first to see a cake placed in front of us rather than something that resembled gingerbread BUT the gingerbread component was well and truly alive and kicking. The crunchy ginger bread crumbs appear on the side and when sprinkled in with everything else, the ginger flavour was always detectable. The spiciness of the cake first registered as a bitter and burnt taste. However the dish grew on me with each bite, especially as the ice cream and caramel soaked into the cake to balance out with the spiciness.
Elianza truffle - milk chocolate, pineapple, perilla & malt.
Both texture-wise and taste-wise, there was A LOT happening in this dish. The thin ring of dried pineapple exuded a surprising amount of pineapple flavour. The chocolate truffle possessed a lovely velvety texture and its taste was rich in chocolate flavour. I would describe the taste like scooping out the centre of a Lindt chocolate ball and converting it to a truffle mousse form. The chocolati-ness of ice cream paled in comparison to the truffle and despite the chocolate on chocolate combination, the ice cream actually balanced out with the richness from the truffle. The candied fruit pieces also helped to break up the chocolate flavouring. Oh and there’s also a piece of candied perilla mint thrown into the assortment of textures and flavours.
Claremont Tonic is the delicious result stemming from restauranteur Davis Yu’s and head chef Dylan Roberts’ eating adventures in Asia. Their menu brings ingenuity and an innovative twist to the many traditional Asian dishes that we know and love most. Bring some eating-buddies to ensure a good spread of their expansive menu.
Disclosure: the opinions expressed in this post are based entirely on my experience and observations made during the time of my visit.
15A Corner Claremont St & Yarra lane,
South Yarra, Victoria, 3181.
(03) 9827 0399