It's been a while since I've been to Gingerboy, the little sister to Ezard, which is one of the restaurants to which I attribute my appreciation of fine dining.
This time, I am in Melbourne for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and availing myself of the special Express Lunch set menu. At $35 for two courses plus a glass of wine, it's great value. Over 80 restaurants in Melbourne are participating in this fantastic initiative.
I had the express lunch at Grossi last year and was very disappointed by the brusque service and tables squeezed too tightly together. So this year, I decided to go with a place which I knew wouldn't cut any corners just because they're doing a special fixed price menu.
The amazing thing about the Gingerboy express lunch menu is the fact that you have three choices for each of the entree and main courses, and two choices of dessert. They certainly don't do things by halves!
I sit next to this bogan family - the parents and their two 20-something daughters - who seem quite normal until one of the daughters declares that she's not going to eat anything with coriander in it. WTF?! Do these guys know what style of cuisine this restaurant serves when they booked a table?! They have a big carry on with the waiter about coriander, and eir subsequent conversation is interspersed with "no coriander!" whenever a new dish is brought to them.
For starters, I pick the wagyu and bamboo dumplings with black vinegar, liberally laced with fine shreds of ginger. Tasty. The wagyu mince is perfectly cooked, showing just a hint of pink inside, and the bamboo bits provide some textural difference. The pair of dumplings are good sized, if a tiny bit on the dry side. The dipping sauce is quite salty, so I needed to go light on it. All in, a simple, elegant and tasty entree. Other entree choices also looked quite appetising, including a vegetarian option (Prawn and ginger dumplings with chilli sesame dressing; or chilli salted silken tofu with lemon).
My main is a Green curry of kingfish with sugar snaps, garlic shoots and baby corn. Strong on the sourness, as good Thai curry should be, but it's got a nice counterbalance of sweetness and rich curry flavour; and a sneaky, underlying chilli heat that creeps up on you. I didn't even notice it until I realized I was perspiring! The other main choices were the spiced chicken and potato rending curry with cherry tomato Thai basil and red onion salad, or the
vegetarian green curry. I order a bowl of rice to soak up the curry, and decide to go the unconventional route by dumping the entire bowl into the platter of curry. Now I don't care what anyone says about etiquette, but that is a much more effective way of eating your curry with rice!
Right about now, the bogan family is having a slightly heated discussion about the other daughter's love life. They don't approve of her on again, off again boyfriend, because he's not committing and it's causing her no end of angst. Mum goes "you've only tried one fruit - how are you going to know whether he's really the right one for you?" Wise words. Presumably "fruit" means serious relationship, rather than conjugal relations, at which the daughter claims (at the meal table?!) to have been well experienced. Nonetheless, dad is looking slightly unsettled by all this talk, and starts tapping on the table with his chopsticks. Oh well, back to my meal.
As I'm not a big sweets person, I decided to skip the desserts of steamed lemongrass pudding with toasted coconut sorbet or a raspberry and lime splice with pandan jelly.
The tasty beverage that I washed down my tasty meal with was a Dalwhinnie 2010 The Hut Chardonnay: Pleasant subtle lemony nose, zesty, citrusy palate - no sign of oak present. A nice accompaniment to the meal, especially the curry. David Jones (the winemaker, not the department store), you've done it again! I like the fact that it was served slightly chilled, but not cold, hence allowing the flavours to express themselves naturally. The other wine choice was a 2008 Artazuri Garnacha. I'll have to check that out another day.
At this point, the bog an family leaves, and mum and the second daughter have made peace for the time being, both declaring that the meal was "forgettable" and that they were after something with more of a wow factor like a progressive meal. Seriously? Pearls in a swine's nose, I say.
I finish it all off with an espresso. That's what I love about Melbourne - even in the restaurants, you get decent coffee - it's not just an afterthought.