Spring and Summer is a bright, airy new restaurant in St Kilda. Head chef, Golf, cut his teeth cheffing with the Lucas Group. The stable of Asian-fusion heavy-hitters in the form of Chin Chin, Hawkers, and Kong is not a bad place to hone your talent. Taking the Asian-fusion ball and running with it, here Golf promises to bring flavours of Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Korea and Malaysia.
Invited to try it out with a number of bloggers, the welcome cocktails in the form of the white rum-based Jungle Bird; and Gin and cucumber-based Grandmas Vacation, were both light and tasty. Both riffing off classic flavours they were texturally lovely and far too easy to drink.
While it was a set menu for the night, each table was given different selections.
For us, things kicked off with lotus root chips and sichimi salt, alongside wok tossed edamame. Sichimi salt is a blend of chili, dried orange, seaweed and sesame; and is a staple of our kitchen at home. Sprinkled liberally over crispy lotus root, it was a great start. Edamame was charred, salty and moorish.
Followed by chicken wings, the highlight here was the light crispy coating. Perfectly cooked they were juicy, crunchy and the accompanying “Bull Killer” mayo added a nice heat.
So far things were going well. Texture, salt, spice, and umami were all present and doing what they needed to do.
Next up was claypot with king prawn, glass noodles and mushroom. This really bought a great prickly ginger heat. Thick slices of ginger lent the soft noodles a sharpness that kept fork and chopsticks twirling for more. Unfortunately the prawns themselves were a touch overcooked, leaning towards floury rather than bouncy. Not unforgivable but detracted from what could have been the highlight dish.
The deep fried barramundi was unfortunately a little lost. Served with lettuce, fresh ginger, peanuts and two nam jim sauces (green, and sweet and sour) it was let down by the oak (or “fancy”) lettuce. The texture of the barra was smothered in soft curly leaves. The nam jim sauces were balanced and zingy and there was a lot to like about this dish, but it just slightly missed the mark for me. A crispy lettuce, or even nori, may have let the crunchy fried barra breath a bit more.
The final savoury dish was curious and could be a little polarising. Poached spinach with black sesame sauce; it came out in a mound, reminiscent of Close Encounters, and was served cold. It took us a little by surprise, but the spinach was soft and delicate, while the black sesame provided loads of smooth flavour. Unusual at first, but refreshing and interesting. Black sesame is an ingredient being seen in lot more Melbourne restaurants and here was another clever use.
Unfortunately as we watched other tables receive their final course, one of two desserts, we were wondering what had happened to our pandan ice cream with sweet potato chips. It took a while to realise there had been issues in the kitchen. After 30 minutes or so we were told there was another 20 minutes was ahead of us. Comfortably full, we decided to not stick it out. Other diners appeared to be making the same decision.
While not a total disaster, it was a sign of a restaurant not quite nailing the finer points. A quick menu change, or an early warning of the delay would’ve given a better impression. The kitchen was no doubt feeling the pressure of a restaurant full of camera-toting invitees; and on any other night the prawns would have bounced, the barra would’ve seen us happily licking nam jim sauce off our fingers, and the ice cream would’ve seen us recommending it to friends.
It’s a very pleasant restaurant to dine in. The feel is fresh, the drink list is solid and the food has a lot to enjoy. A plate of the wings, the lotus root chips, and a beer from their local-craft list would keep me happy no matter my mood. And it’s very likely those eating off the other menu walked away raving after a series of standout dishes. We walked away instead wondering “what if?”.
Find Luke from AleOfATime at http://aleofatime.com where he spouts his knowledge as the guru of Australian (but mostly Victorian) craft beer. I have learnt everything I know from listening to his podcast – which you need to iTunes right now. Also Twitter and Facebook.