Fine & Friendly Dining
It’s not very often you dine out with no expectation
Our exposure to so many foods and restaurant concepts demands us to be well read and open to all culinary adventures.
This brings me to my first visit to Mr Mason in Melbourne’s corporate CBD.
It’s a name that crosses your path via social media as its one of those venues which believes in consistent marketing and always having something interesting to offer its customers.
The night we dined was all about the new degustation menu, a French Culinary term meaning a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods, high culinary art and good company. A little old hat but if done well it is a great night out!
6 courses are typically available for $95 or $150 with matching wines. Mr Mason did seem, on appearance, an odd venue for degustation with its relaxed vibe and bar focused menu, but being a French restaurant we felt compelled to give it a try and très magnifique everything was too!!
1st Course - A canapé of modernised steak tartar- fillet steak diced precisely and tossed with a perfectly judged spicy emulsion of capers, tarragon, shallots and cornichons, quenelled onto a square of crisp potato and just set egg yolk was outstanding and evident why this great dish never goes out of fashion.
2nd Course - A well made chilled sweet corn and saffron custard with fried zucchini flowers filled with a herbaceous ricotta, alongside a fondue of tomatoes, corn salsa and red vein sorrel a great vegetarian dish celebrating vibrant summery flavours.
3rd Course - A confit salmon, horseradish, pickled vegetables, salmon roe, samphire salt, watercress and crustacean oil. It could go horribly wrong from an unskilled kitchen, classic flavours which required perfectly judged technique.
The salmon had been impeccably cooked at a low temperature resulting in translucent unctuous texture, whilst the accompaniments were artfully arranged to highlight the subtle flavours - it would have been home at home in any Michelin starred kitchen.
At this point, after being completely bowled over by the quality of the food, I asked our waiter where the chef had trained as this was cooking of the highest order! Thiago Miranda, a Brazilian native, was a protégé of gifted chef Raymond Capaldi’s sous chef. Of course now I understand and the detail in the food begins to make sense, as I haven’t eaten food presented in such a manner for many years. Raymond in his halcyon days at the Sofitel and Fenix is renowned for being one of our most visually talented chefs in Australia.
As we paused before our next course we noticed how busy the bar had become with the venue having a great energy and mix of corporate clients unwinding after work, tourists and young professionals dining, I was tempted to join the throng at the bar but it was back to gastronomic business.
4th Course - Duck breast, beetroots, blackcurrant, silver beets and blueberries. Again precisely cooked duck! Crisp skin, pink interior artfully arranged vegetables with the blackcurrants made into a fluid gel like lasagne, surrounded by other sweet'n'sour elements.
The sauce was my only tiny critique of the night if felt a little clumsy compared to the preciseness of the rest of the cooking which was a really great match with the French reserve Syrah.
5th Course - Pork belly, smoked pork fillet, cauliflower and raisins was the other artistic show stopper. Visually and flavour wise. Hot smoked pork fillet and roasted belly crunchy and caramelised with Monet like brush strokes of cauliflower puree, caramelised raisins, sage vierge sauce stamped its savouriness to a delicious combination of Smokey pork fillet, salty and meltingly tender pork belly.
6th Course - Was looking daunting we were slipping into a wonderful food coma. Tom, our superb host, started negotiating on the kitchens behalf. It reminded me of the Monty python meaning of life sketch - you know, when the French waiter says he's too fatigued but content, gastronome Sir, just one more wafer thin mint!
After much charming debate we were tempted into sampling a couple tiny clever desserts - this chef has a great understanding of flavour as well as the importance of presentation to fine dining gastronomy.
Goats cheese mousse, strawberry gel, crème Chantilly, honeycomb and meringue, sounded like a metro train wreck not befitting of its innocent presentation. But, one spoonful of this savoury lactic acid heavenly flavoured goats cheese mousse with the crunchy honeycomb and ripples of not too sweet strawberry gel and we were refreshed form our food coma with reassured excitement about the final course of White chocolate, passionfruit, and coffee. This was devilishly matched to a white chocolate and honeycomb martini, if the cocktail had been the desert we would have been delighted it was a wonderful bittersweet elixir of happiness and no doubt the antidote to many stressful hours in the office.
Our dessert was of course amazing the whole evening was a complete revelation that some might say a typical corporate CBD business would deliver so much culinary talent, charming and energetic thoughtful service!
Mr Mason is a great example of hospitality professionals being allowed to do what they do best.
We had the pleasure of meeting the talented, humble and enthusiastic Thiago we discussed his menus whilst encouraging him to embrace further all aspects of this venues diverse repertoire wether it’s a degustation, bar menu or a cheeky prix fixe lunch his talents should always be on show, As great food should have no boundaries!
Our service was friendly & fantastic, no snobby fine dining here, our wine service was well judged, and every culinary question answered with confidence and charm.
What the Chef's says - I like to push myself by constantly changing menus and trying new techniques, it’s a good way of keeping your staff and yourself motivated. I also work closely with my local suppliers to source the freshest, Victorian produce with a focus on creating menus in tune with the seasons.
What Wilson says - Brazilian brilliance with huge crowd pleasing potential.
When can we go - Mon - Fri: 7.30am until late; Sat: 12pm until late; Sun: closed;