It was Saturday afternoon, 3pm or thereabouts, I’d managed to convince my food loving sister to go out for dinner with me (she has a family, a mortgage and I’m a bad influence) and neither of us were keen for the usual quick and cheap Vietnamese fare in her area.
I called around a couple of places and was pleasantly surprised when I was able to secure a booking (at such late notice) for 4 + a baby at Belle Epoque, a French Bistro in the Emporium, Valley – a trendy eating ‘emporium’.
The Emporium is, I guess, a medium density residential luxury apartment block, with retail on the ground floor surrounded by car parks. It attracts a mix of clientele, including uni students, lunching mothers, girlfriends, couples, a place people stop to eat at before heading out for the night…everyone really.
Belle Epoque is located next to the very trendy The Emporium Hotel which is a mix of daring textural wall pieces and bright red colours. The restaurant itself has a patisserie attached (not opened at 8pm at night but usually has some tempting pastries in the display cases) and red awnings at the front.
I’ve been there a couple of times, and each time, I’m always taken slightly aback by the high ceilings and the muted warm lighting. They have brass ceiling fans, foggy mirrors on the walls, lush looking round, red booths (which usually goes first as patrons usually specially request them), tiled flooring and all the wait staff had long aprons, collared shirt sleeves and vests.
We were seated at a round table, which is great for conversation. The menu was extensive, with lots of different choices that doesn’t appear on the usual, every day menu. Our waiter was also especially enthusiastic and friendly. Water came without being requested (tick) and our orders were taken and it wasn’t too long before our food arrived.
The scallop ravioli with crawfish broth was absolutely delicious. It wasn’t what I ordered, but I had serious food envy and was very tempted to steal it from my sister. The ravioli was soft, pasta wasn’t too thick…but it was the broth that really won me over. Full of crawfish flavour and the flavours just kept developing in your mouth. It was a portion that just kept you wanting more. The way it should be.
Our other entrée was escargot with garlic butter which came in plate with individual ‘holes’ for each snail. The texture was tender – I’d describe it as almost prawn like and the garlic butter was mild without being too oily or pungent.
My entrée was sweetbreads with a cheese foam (sorry forgot what kind). I’ve never had sweetbreads before, all I know about it is that it is the throat glands of younger animals, like lambs or calves. It doesn’t sound very appetising, but this one was cooked really well, it actually has the texture of a Chicken McNugget – for those purists out there, I am a fan of a freshly cooked McNugget, so to me, was a good thing. I thought the creamy ‘foam’ was way too excessive and it was more a thick yoghurt texture rather than a foam.
After spying some diners at the next table with breads, we also ordered some breads, bit pricey, at $3 a roll, we got four varieties. They were all soft on the outside, crusty on the outside, but in terms of excitement, it didn’t rate highly, but all of us enjoyed the olive bread with the olive oil and butter.
Our mains came shortly after. The lamb was cooked as requested and was tender, juicy and delicious, it didn’t have a gamey taste either (which I usually describe as ‘stinky’). The creamed polenta has a lovely creamy, slight grainy texture and it was gorgeously buttery and I couldn’t get enough of it.
The duck d’orange came in a gimmicky blue crock pot. You open the blue lid and spoon everything onto your plate and consisted of sliced duck breast, a generous serving of confit duck leg and potato rosti with a sweet orange jus. The duck breast were ok, but the duck leg was tender and fall off the bone delicious, the rostis were more like potato gnocchi and the rich fatty meat were cut nicely with the slightly tangy and rich orange jus. Perhaps a bit too orangey for me but I enjoyed it.
A venison – served two ways was also ordered, served in a big, square plate. I could only managed a small bite and the only thing I remember was that it was not gamey and the chestnut puree that accompanied it was rich and stuck to the roof of my mouth.
I thoroughly enjoyed the varied menu with the choices that aren’t regularly featured on the menus of other restaurants. I must say, my first encounter with a ‘throat gland’ was an enjoyable one.
So, what is the most unusual food that you’ve tried and enjoyed?