Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Taxi Dining Room

As part of early Xmas festivities, a work colleague chose Taxi Dining Room for our dinner function after recently having a positive dining experience there.

Despite being awarded Two Chefs Hat back in 2010, Taxi's fusion menu never quite appeal to me. I hesitate when I see cuisines dubbed as Japanese fusion with Modern Australian after having a so-so experiences at Jacques Reymond and Verge. There were some French influences on the menu as well.  Personally I think when you have more than two types of cuisines, the identity of the restaurant begins to become confusing and somewhat disconnected. 

At first glance, the prices of their sushi and sashimi items seem grossly inflated compared to other authentic Japanese restaurants. Sushi and sashimi platter for $62? We did not ask how many pieces there were and stuck to the mains which were averaging at least $42. We were warned in advance to bring a fatter wallet. Once a restaurant appears in The Age Good Food Guide, I guess the higher prices come with increased levels of expectations. Diners are also paying for the premium piece of real estate on Federation Square and a possible view overlooking Swanston Street. The 2013 guide shows that Taxi is 0.5 point short of gaining that one chef hat but it does not list the reasons why.

Anyway, you can tell I had initial reservations about the place and walked in with low expectations. The dining area was bright due to the high ceilings and design of the building. Large windows allowed lots of natural light. They had automatic blinds which would come down when the sun rays became extreme. Décor was simple yet elegant. The only possible thing to note is the noise levels when the restaurant is at full capacity. Tables were too close together and the sounds would bounce off the walls quite easily. 

The butter quenelle came out looking so much like ice-cream that I almost ate it on its own. It was topped with an orange-y coloured salt (smoked).

For starters, we shared 3 entrées. 1. Specials - salmon with mango pieces and mango reduced sauce (didn't see the bill) 2. Tempura seasonal vegetables ($19.50). 3. Crystal Bay prawn sashimi, frozen coconut and plum wine ($24)

I am a huge fan of both salmon and mango so thought this dish should pass. Due to their unique flavours, once it entered the mouth I thought they didn't complement, rather they were competing to dominate one another. The salmon was fresh though. I think better mango is better paired with prawns or something other than salmon. 

That's all the tempura we got. Let's just say there wasn't much to share around...

I've never had prawn sashimi before so it was a weird texture to get used to at first. It was somewhat chewy like a bubble tea jelly, so the coconut worked in this instance. I couldn't taste the plum wine.

For mains, I ordered the pork: Greenvale pork loin, milk braised belly, caramelized apple & ramen. I couldn't find anything special about the pork loin. It had no flavour but was supported by the carmelized apple jus. The crackling was difficult to cut for some reason. I only ate half of the pork belly as it was too gelatinous in nature. The fat wasn't set like the Chinese roast pork variety. I felt like I was eating lard and lost my appetite.

I sampled a friend's rabbit dish which was a special of the day. It was delicious and had different textures, similar to another restaurant which used pig's head as the crispy component. The rabbit wasn't gamey at all which a few people avoided the dish because of that reason. I could happily devour the entire rabbit than the pork dish.

Other dishes were (a) roasted atlantic salmon, otway shitake, asparagus and smoked miso ($38) (b) pan fried John dory with spanner crab dumplings, peas, cos and lardons (a chunk or cube of bacon used to smear or cover meat)($45). Friends commented that they were cooked well and the flavours were light, perfect for a summer evening.

Our waitress handled our large group well and was friendly. Service was attentive when it was needed. Overall you can't really fault the atmosphere of the place or the presentation of the food. Some thought had gone into the plating up to highlight the gourmet ingredients they used. Other places do it just as well without the hefty price tag. The portion sizes were a bit disappointing.

So this dining experience has not changed my view on fusion modern Australian and Japanese cuisine. Maybe another day?

Taxi Dining Room on Urbanspoon

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