It was completely on a whim that husband and I decided to get tickets to the second annual Time Out Melbourne Food Awards, which was held last night. I noticed it on their app while I was looking for something to do a few weekends ago, and figured, why not? It was held at the brand spanking new Pastuso, the fresh Peruvian venture brought to us by the guys from San Telmo. $50.00 per person got you a spot in the crowd to celebrate the best of Melbourne’s food scene, as well as a pretty amazing food service, great wine from Pepperjack, beer from Vale Ale, and gin cocktails made with Appletiser sparkling apple juice.
So yeah, we were those plebs, food nerds, “regular people,” that turned up for the great food and a fun night out on a Monday. We were probably two of the only non-industry people in there, and we really didn’t care! We turned up at exactly the right time to be seated along the bar on the higher level of the restaurant, with a great view over one of the food prep stations, and the mingling crowd at the bar in front of us.
The real reason for the night was the awards that were doled out, so here’s what went down in each category:
Lucy David, Rosa’s Kitchen
Matt Falon, Du Nord
Victor Liong, Lee Ho Fook
Nick Stanton, Nieuw Amsterdam
Dave Verheul, Town Mouse
Winner: DAVE VERHEUL, TOWN MOUSE
BEST NEW RESTAURANT:
Lee Ho Fook
Winner: SAINT CRISPIN
BEST CASUAL RESTAURANT:
Rockwell and Sons
Winner: NIEUW AMSTERDAM
BEST BANG FOR BUCK:
Winner: JIMMY GRANTS
Barry Coffee and Food
Hammer and Tong 412
Winner: HAMMER AND TONG 412
Le Bon Ton
Lee Ho Fook
Smith and Daughters
The Town Mouse
Winner: SMITH AND DAUGHTERS
LEGEND AWARD: Flower Drum
CHEF OF THE YEAR:
Mick Bolam, ex-Epocha
Dan Hunter, Brae
Ben Shrewry, Attica
Philippa Sibley, Prix Fixe
Chris Watson, Luxembourg
Winner: PHILLIPA SIBLEY, PRIX FIXE
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR:
Moon Under Water
Café Di Stasio
Congrats to the winners – was nice to see two of my favourites, Jimmy Grants and Nieuw Amsterdam get up there for a win! Also gave me some great new places to try – I’m particularly keen to get to Smith and Daughters, and Le Bon Ton.
But now the serious business of the night: the food. It was a great menu, offering plenty of variety and food I probably wouldn’t have otherwise ordered given the choice. Pastuso are doing some really great stuff right now, and I’d be very keen to head back in with a group of friends for a big dinner session now!
Our menu last night entailed (and apologies for the not-so-amazing quality photos, it was dark and I did my best!)…
Las leches cevicheras – a selection of traditional ceviche marinades “Tiger’s milk” served with NZ snapper. Options were:
– Leche de tigre con aji Amarillo – Yellow Peruvian chilli
– Leche de tigre verde – Coriander
– Sangre de tigre – Peruvian hot pepper
I went with the coriander version because I’m a wimp, husband went with the hot pepper version. They were really good, I loved the tangy lime flavour, and the plantain chips were delicious!
Conchitas – seared scallop with sweet corn puree and cancha (roasted Andean corn). These were a lovely surprise – they smelt really fishy coming out, but tasted like sweet corn. The crunchy corn pieces were particularly delicious.
Causa – Yellow Peruvian potato terrine topped with Alaskan crabmeat (the colourful one you can see in the background was the vegetarian version). Simple, but delicious – the crab meat was great.
Ceviche vegetariano – marinated daikon and salso criolla. Nothing too exciting with the daikon, but the salsa was fantastic.
Aroz con pato – confit duck with traditional Peruvian coriander and a beer based rice. The duck was incredible, it was just a pity that we seemed to get the last dregs servings, and it wasn’t really warm by the time it got to us.
Pan con chicharron – slow cooked pork belly with a crispy outer, server on a brioche bun with coriander mayonnaise. My pick for savoury of the night, because I am a slave to the pork belly. This was phenomenal. The coriander mayo was just wow, and the pork was beautiful and soft. The brioche bun was really good too, my only qualm was that every time a fresh tray come out, the waitress seemed to skip our seats. I was a little shitty that I only got one, because they were that good. Sad for me.
Suspiro a la limena – creamy Peruvian caramel with PX meringue pieces. So as I mentioned earlier, we were sitting directly above one of the food prep stations, and I guess the guys working there heard my lamenting over missed slider opportunities and cold rice, because come dessert time, one of them turned around and hooked us up with the first serves of dessert. Not one, but 2 cups each. Of each dessert. Made my night, thanks boys!! The caramel was smooth and the meringue pieces were amazing! Loved this one.
Mousse de chocolate – chocolate mousse with Peruvian hot pepper jam and flourless chocolate sponge. Being the incessant chocoholic that I am, this was my hands down favourite. The mousse was perfectly smooth and creamy, unbelievably so, and the sponge cake was chocolatey perfection. But the surprise for me was the jam – it wasn’t hot or spicy at all, it was rich and sweet and absolutely incredible! I demolished my 2 cups of this one like a seasoned professional, eyeing off a third before husband dragged me off.
All up, it was a really fun night, despite the fact we were just another two non-industry plebs (though the fact we had no one to “mingle” with meant we could just kick back and enjoy the people watching, which was great!), well worth the $50 each (non-stop food and drinks being served), I just wish it wasn’t a Monday night so I could have taken better advantage of the free-flowing drinks! And more pork belly!!!