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Gastronomical ramblings

2013 Crawl ‘n’ Bite - Bar Lourinha, Longrain & San Telmo

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And just like that, the half way mark of March has passed, bringing with it the end of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Among the abundance of events held during the 17 day-long festival was the super popular Crawl ‘n’ Bite event. In the time span of just 2 hours, this event provides you with a taste from three of Melbourne’s top restaurants, and is always one of the first events to sell out. This year, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on three tickets to the Bar Lourinhã-Longrain-San Telmo 8.30-10.30pm Crawl ‘n’ Bite session. We only called a few hours after ticket sales had commenced and already, the entire earlier 6.00-8.00pm session had sold out! 

First stop: Bar Lourinhã. 

Joined by Dr. V and Mr. Mechatronics, we had promptly arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes before the start of the session. A few others had already arrived so we didn’t look too much like eager beavers. The remaining participants slowly started to trickle in and a group of over 20 or 30 people soon formed. Only then did the extent of the event’s popularity dawn on us. 

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We were soon lead to the upstairs dining area of Bar Lourinhã, which looked quite spacious given the openness of the room. I originally thought that we would be seated, but this way made more sense, allowing the otherwise cosy restaurant to accommodate for such a large group of people. 

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We were immediately served a fruity and minty Rosette cocktail. The sour tanginess of the cocktail hit quite close to preserved citrus fruits but the overall flavour tasted somewhat dilute. The drink’s red colouring came from the presence of watermelon and  we found some chilled scoops of watermelon at the bottom of the glasses. The alcohol taste was much more pronounced in the watermelon pieces and together with the chilled texture, the balls reminded me of a watermelon+vodka slurpee. It was a refreshing start to the night and if the drink was any indication to go by, the food served at Bar Lourinhã was going to be one heck of a tasty treat. 

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Coffin Bay oysters with a chardonnay vinaigrette. 

The oysters were perhaps on the teeny side but its creamy texture was spot on. I wasn’t able to detect the chardonnay component of the vinaigrette but thought the sweet pickled onions provided a pleasant contrast that complemented the freshness and creaminess of the oyster. 

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Grilled octopus. 

Yellow tail kingfish pancetta & lemon oil. 

I must confess that octopus scares my palate more so than fish does but I decided to give the skewer a try anyway. The octopus was quite chewy and the strong but out-of-place sour and spicy flavours from the pickled gherkins and chilli did nothing to improve the dish. 

The perfectly-salted kingfish pancetta (cured and sliced like pancetta but with kingfish instead of pork) was served on top of a crunchy and thin piece of crouton toast. To my surprise and delight, there was absolutely no fishy taste. The drizzle of lemon sauce and aioli added a sweet tang that paired well with the kingfish. 

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Smoked cod croquetta, with garlic aioli. 

The texture of the exterior was not as crumbed or crisp like the typical croquette and was instead similar to say, the exterior of potato wedges. The salted cod filling was very airy and fluffy. One fish bone was encountered. The sparing use of aioli did not overwhelm the croquetta. 

We thoroughly enjoyed many of Bar Lourinhã’s tastings and were surprised but pleased by the generous number of ‘dishes’ we had tasted. It was an excellent start to the evening and had definitely set the bar quite high for the remaining restaurants. 

Bar Lourinhã on Urbanspoon

Bar Lourinhã

37 Little Collins St,

Melbourne, Victoria, 3000. 

(03) 9663 7890

http://www.barlourinha.com.au/

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Next stop: Longrain

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We encountered one of the other C’n’B groups whilst en route to Longrain and this again highlighted the popularity of the event. Never had I seen so many people in an alleyway before… 

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Having experienced the Thai delights on offer at Longrain during a previous restaurant visit, I was looking forward to a dose of chilli to spice up the night! 

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We were each provided with a tasting plate that was comprised of three bite-sized samples. 

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Betel leaf, Chiang Mai sausage, roasted pepper relish & banana blossom.

The pork sausage was very tender and possessed a sweetness that balanced out with a fiery dose of spice. The crispy fried eschalots provided a crunch while the distinct betel leaf flavour helped to further break up the spiciness of the dish. You could say that the ingredients were working in perfect harmony with one another (yep, I’ve been watching way too much MKR). 

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Chargrilled beef, roasted eschalots & Thai basil. 

If I thought the composition of the pork sausage was tender, then the word ‘tender’ was redefined when I tasted the perfectly-cooked and succulent piece of beef. The glaze and the relish gave the dish much sweetness and came across equally as potent as the lemongrass but underneath all of that was subtle, yet detectable, chargrilled flavour.  

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Crisp pork belly, seared scallop & XO sauce. 

Pork belly, good. Scallop, good. Together, you know you have on your hands one ripper of a dish. The salted pork belly base was topped with a firm and tender (three for three!) piece of scallop. The XO sauce tasted fishier than usual but blended in seamlessly with the saltiness from the pork and milder flavours of the scallop when eaten together in one bite. 

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Unexpectedly, we also received an additional morsel - coconut sorbet ice cream. I don’t usually love coconut but the super creamy texture of the coconut sorbet was very enjoyable and something that I would happily order again. The flavours from the sorbet were further enhanced by the salty savouriness of the crispy and thin sesame wafer cone. 

No different to (and perhaps beyond) what I had expected, Longrain certainly delivered when it came down to taste (and spice!), meeting that bar set by Bar Lourinhã. Given the delicious and authentic Thai flavours we had sampled, one bite was simply not enough. The samples teased our palates and left us with cravings that can only be cured by a proper visit to Longrain!  

Longrain Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Longrain

44 Little Bourke St,

Melbourne, Victoria, 3000. 

(03) 9671 3151

http://longrain.com/melbourne_intro.htm

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Final stop: San Telmo. 

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In the presence of good food and company, time seemed to pass by quicker than usual and before we knew it, the time to visit San Telmo, the final restaurant for the night, had come.

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The wine was certainly plentiful… 

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We had noticed a meaty, BBQ aroma wafting through the restaurant as soon as we stepped foot into the restaurant. While it smelt sensational, I was personally hoping for some dessert. However, the meaty aroma continued to get stronger and stronger until finally… we noticed that there was a waitress standing right behind our table carrying a tray of our meaty sample dishes. Drats! 

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Their Argentinian-inspired menu prides itself on the charcoal-grilled meat selections and we were therefore served an assortment of meats that probably represented some of the best on offer at San Telmo:

Chorizo - pork and paprika sausage.

While the textures and flavours of each meat was quite distinct, the drizzle of oil and parsley that covered the selections added a common flavour that worked well with each meat. There was, however, perhaps a little too much oil on my tasting plate. Covered in oil and with the strong salty flavour permeating throughout the chorizo sausage, my arteries felt a little distressed after even the tiniest bite.

Morcilla - spiced black sausage. 

Possibly thanks to the oil and herb that paired well with the slight spiciness from the black sausage, the iron taste was virtually non-existent. Aside from knowing what it was based on its dark colour, the slight springy texture of the black sausage would have given it away. 

Mellejas - Lamb sweetbreads. 

Unknowingly biting into the sweetbreads, Dr. V. and I thought they were pieces of super soft and fatty chicken. I found this texture to be quite odd, so I decided to check in with a waitress and asked her what it was. Only then did we find out… I’m glad I found out afterwards because had I known what it was, I would have had a tough time convincing myself to eat it. After trying it though, I’m not sure if sweetbreads would be something that I would order again at any restaurant in future.

While Mr. Mechatronics didn’t mind the meat tasting plate, it wasn’t Dr. V’s or my cup of tea. The three of us did however agree that the smaller serving size of the tasting plate, especially compared to what we had been served at the other restaurants, was disappointing and ended our night on a slightly lower note. Having said that, a brief look through San Telmo’s menu has revealed that there is actually quite a selection of dishes that I would like to try, and a return visit has been penned into my to-do list. 

San Telmo on Urbanspoon

San Telmo

14 Meyers Place,

Melbourne, Victoria, 3000. 

(03) 9650 5525

http://santelmo.com.au/main/index

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Similar to the Taste of Melbourne festival, the Crawl ‘n’ Bite event provides participants with a great opportunity to sample dishes from more than one restaurant in a short time span. Additional to the Taste of Melbourne festival, Crawl ‘n’ Bite also allows you to experience the actual dining environment of the restaurants. We were quite pleased with the night overall and I have already made a mental note to get tickets for next year’s Crawl ‘n’ Bite events.