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September heralds the start of Spring and with it, the Spring Graze as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival‘s year-round program.

The Spring Graze (1-30 September) is all out celebrating Victorian producers (the campaign is called Put Victoria on Your Table) and all around the state this month Victorian restaurants, cafes and producers are celebrating the season with over 70 lunches, dinners, tastings and workshops.

On Tuesday 24 September Windsor restaurant Ayatana are hosting Ayatana Loves Prahran Market – a delicious 5 course Thai-inspired dinner prepared using fresh, local Victorian produce sourced from nearby Prahran Market, with each course matched by Bellarine Peninsula’s Oakdene Wines.

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To give you a taste of what the dinner will be about I was invited to preview the menu.

Ayatana serves modern Thai food, meaning that the Thai chef (the owner’s wife Juthamas Vichayaporn) includes creative, fusion elements to the food as well as preparing more traditional dishes. The restaurant’s contemporary approach to Thai cuisine is matched by its decor – there are subtle elements indicating that you’re in a Thai restaurant, such as the lovely canvas prints, but you won’t be overwhelmed by loads of purple silk and bronze Buddhas.

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The first course was a twist on the traditional Tom Yum soup with with portobello and flat mushrooms sourced from wild mushroom specialist Damian Pike (matched with Oakdene ‘Yvette’ Methode Traditionelle Sparkling 2010). The soup had a fantastic hit of lemongrass and chilli to kickstart the digestive system and I really enjoyed the plumpness of the various mushrooms.

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Second course was my favourite dish in terms of flavour and balance. It consisted of sweet crunchy roasted tamarind bio-dynamic brown rice, bean sprouts, cashews, crispy noodles, green apple, red onion and garnished with mint and coriander and a fluttering of flying fish roe, all sourced from Ripe The Organic Grocer (matched with Oakdene ‘Jessica’ Sauvignon Blanc). A dazzlingly fresh dish enhanced by the tumble of interesting textures in every mouthful.

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Surprisingly there were two meat main course sized dishes in the menu – not that I’m complaining but it did lend a bottom-heaviness to the balance of the menu. The first meat course was a caramelised crispy free range Greta Valley free range Berkshire pork belly from Gary’s Quality Meats (matched with Oakdene ‘Peta’s’ Pinot Noir 2012). Four generous cubes of melting meat sported an even, crispy shell and my only quibble was that too much rock salt had remained on the crackling so some mouthfuls were extremely salty. Otherwise the balance of sweetness, saltiness and chilli jam heat was delicious.

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The second meat course was a slow cooked sher wagyu rump Massaman curry with meat sourced from Neil’s Meats (matched with Oakdene ‘William’ Shiraz 2010). It was beautifully presented with the key spices used as decorative elements (cinnamon stick and star anise) but the flavour was surprisingly mellow. Massaman curries are generally quite mild but I would have liked a bit more aromatic punch to this dish.SONY DSC

Dessert was a Fritz Gelato salted caramel ice cream sundae created with palm sugar caramel, roasted honey macadamias and a side of caramelised steamed banana for the Thai influence (matched with Oakdene Pinot Grigio 2012). You can’t go too wrong with a huge ball of good quality ice cream for dessert and I licked my plate clean.

Ayatana Love Prahran Market, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Spring Graze, 97 Chapel St, Windsor

The Ayatana Loves Prahran Market dinner is on for one night only on Tuesday 24 September. For $95 you get 5 courses and 5 wine matches and I guarantee that you will be rolling happily out the door. You can find out more info here.

Ayatana Loves Prahran Market, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Spring Graze, 97 Chapel St, Windsor +61 3 9533 8813

THURS-SAT 12-4:30PM, 7 DAYS 5PM-LATE


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