• Vegetarian Degustation at Cutler & Co

Love.  Hate.  When I asked for impressions of Cutler & Co, reactions fell to these extremes with me concluding popularity must depend on the changing menu.  It was my birthday.  After much research, my dad booked Cutler & Co for the celebration given its ‘special occasion’ tag and vegetarian degustation.
First impressions were of a modern but chilled restaurant with cool light fittings, chilled music and staff who impressively picked me from the description “it’s my daughter’s birthday... and she is vegetarian.”  Happy birthday and vegetarian degustation menu to me.

The meal started with crackers with seaweed and black sesame.  The chip part was salty with a smoky dollop textured like mayonnaise.  It was the saltiness and crispness of the chip, versus the smooth, refreshing spots of creaminess.

Wine was a disappointment.  We spent a long time perusing the expensive wine list, me just wanting a balanced, French style red with all my memories and dreams of France.  We chose the “Petit Ours Gris” which the sommelier confirmed as balanced when I asked and added that it had flavours of spice.  On the nose it was pleasant with rosemary.  The tannins were so overpowering that I could not take more than a mouthful without having to let it sit for forty minutes (at which point it tasted peppery and strong) and in the end asked for the rest to be decanted.  It helped but not enough.  The tannins had subsided but it was still strong and unripe, where were the soft red fruits?  It was like a punch in the face.  My head began hurting before I had even finished a full glass.  All I wanted was a nicely balanced French style wine!

“Just skins and stalk.”

Perhaps it would have been bearable with a rich tomato pasta.

Fortunately, the food was less painful.

Olives and a goats’ cheese cigar.  The olives were firm without being dry.

The cigar had a pastry like wonton skins wrapped several times.  Inside was soft and gooey, tasting like artichoke, rather than goat’s cheese.  It was cold and the texture of a smooth apple sauce.

Pretty rocket flowers and nettle soup arrived next.  The flowers were presented before the soup was poured, reminding me of the theatrics and themes at Geranium in Denmark.  It was green and shiny with the reflecting overhead lights.  The flowers were bitter with leaves like spinach.  The soup was hot, slightly salty like seaweed, and with a taste like peas but in a smooth, fine texture.

Bread was a choice between sourdough, soy and linseed and rye.  The rye and sourdough are made in house.  The soy and linseed happened to be sour too.  The sourdough had a delicious crust and light centre and was surprisingly less sour than the soy and linseed.  It had salt and sesame on top.  The rye was denser and had a thin but hard crust from high temperature cooking.  Some say you can tell the quality of a restaurant by its bread.

Hay baked carrots were next with puffed grains, goats’ curd and walnuts.  This dish was part of the entree menu.  The walnuts were pulverised into a halva texture.  The goats’ cheese was like whipped cream but with a strong flavour.  The puffed grains gave an intense crunch.  The carrots were soft but still holding shape.  It was an interesting dish with the textures of crunch, powder and cream.  The flavours, on the other hand, were subtle with walnuts, soft cheese and carrots.

Next were rye noodles, Jerusalem artichoke crisps and beetroot in a prettily presented in a neat line.  Red and yellow beetroots had been cooked through just enough so that they were cooked but still firm.  Dots of garlic cream gave an interesting taste.  There was a spot of a vegetable that seemed to have been pickled.  There was another hint of something smoked, eggplant maybe.  The dish seemed to be hiding many odds and ends.  There was a mixture of leaves.  The artichoke crisps seemed to have been dehydrated instead of fried.  It was interesting as if each mouthful was a surprise.

Next was a Japanese style dish with pureed eggplant, leeks, tofu and radish which was described as watermelon.  I guess if the menu changes constantly, one cannot be blamed for not knowing the chef’s creations.  The leeks were braised, stringy, hard to cut and served warm.  The tofu was a beautifully soft silken with a tempura batter and a sauce like agedashi tofu.  The batter was soggy rather than crisp but enjoyable.  Crushed sesames garnished.  Again, this dish was interesting for its varying components.

The mushrooms were part of the main menu but not on the degustation list.  I had really wanted to try them with the description, and when they arrived as a surprise extra, I was glad that I had opted for the degustation because it was my least favourite and the only vegetarian main.  The mushrooms were done in white wine and apparently tomato.  They were soaked so that they almost pickled, but not quite, and were heated so they were almost cooked, but not quite.  They became semi-raw, semi-pickled, satisfying neither.  On top were shavings of 15-month-old Comte cheese.  Apparently there was also parsnip.  There was raw cauliflower in thin slices.

On the side to this dish was a macaroni cheese with truffle shavings.  It was made in its little ramekin with a crunch on its edges and served hot.  It was a simple dish made gourmet and tasty.  It also had garlic and grated cheese, rather than a usual sauce.

For all the savoury dishes, each mouthful was different.

Dessert began with a fitting dish which was a half-way-point: apple and sorrel sorbet with fennel meringue and dill syrup.  The sorbet was icy and refreshing.  The dill syrup was sweet and tasted beautiful with the chilled squares of fresh, green, sour apple.  The fruit with the meringue was like a toffee apple.  It was balanced with herbs and sweet.  The dish was innovative and I appreciated the thought behind it as a segue “between savoury and dessert.”

The chocolate dessert was with a chocolate mousse that they called “ganache”.  You could pick the richness of the Valrhona chocolate.  Prunes were marinated in Pedro Ximenez.  A creamy earl grey ice-cream was the centre of the dish.  A mouthful with all three started with the richness of the chocolate and ended with the bite of the moist, pitted prune.  The earl grey ice-cream was lost amongst the flavour of chocolate, but complimented the prunes when paired.

To finish were cold chocolate cups filled with whipped peanut butter.

The dishes were interesting, modern and creative.  But the individual flavours of each part did not always enhance the other.  So, love it or hate it?  I enjoyed the meal, but it was a shame about the wine.

Cutler & Co
57 Gertrude St 
Fitzroy 3065
03 9419 4888

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