Cosy up to winter in the best possible way by enjoying Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s June celebration of cold weather cuisine and Victorian produce, the Roast Collection and Put Victoria on Your Table.
I was invited to a preview of one of the special events which is being held in June at the Asian inspired fine dining restaurant Taxi Dining Room – Ducks in a Row. It’s a 5 course degustation lunch every Sunday in June featuring free-range ducks from Great Ocean Ducks near Port Campbell.
This is not duck, duck, duck, goose but duck, duck, duck, duck, duck and dessert! And it’s simply delicious.
The lunch commenced with coffee smoked duck sushi – thin slivers of smokey meat presented atop rice like nigiri – with a dash of teriyaki glaze and a wad of fresh wasabi with so hot that it will hit your cold on the head.
The next course was Asian style dumplings with chilli, fried shallots and hoisin sauce and a neat salad of shredded cabbage, carrot and water chestnuts. While I liked the duck meat filling the dumpling wrapper was too thick and doughy for my liking. I think it could have been silkier and smoother with a little less handling.
I enjoyed the theatricality of the third course – a bamboo-handled Japanese teapot poured out a clear duck broth made using the bones remaining from the other courses. The steaming broth melded with the Thai basil, water spinach, coriander and chilli, making a warming and richly fragrant soup which packed a punch with its chilli quotient.
The main course was a classic Taxi dish – roasted Sichuan pepper duck with fresh lime and house made sriracha salt. The duck was double-cooked – firstly steamed to gently cook the flesh and then flash-fried to lend the outer skin a caramel crispiness. Tt was the standout course for me as I loved the contrast of textures in the meat, the light and fresh lime and orange segments cutting through the richness and the hit of unami from the glaze. With good reason the dish has been on the menu for almost 10 years with only slight variations in that decade.
While I didn’t feel too ‘ducked out’ after four consecutive courses of duck, I was relieved that dessert didn’t also involve duck (though there had been some discussion about duck fat ice cream). Instead, the dessert course was a riff on the duck theme. In summer the Great Ocean Ducks feed on the strawberries of the neighbouring farm and in winter they eat green apples from the farm’s orchard. Hence the dessert was a green apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of sticky calvados caramel.
Ducks in a Row is being offered for the five Sundays in June for lunch only for $85. There is no matched wine option but there will be wine recommendations with each course (yes there is even a duck champagne!).
It’s a lovely way to spend a wintery weekend, eating good food and with excellent service and views to boot. Get in while you can!