Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Brutale Can Cook

Only vommed once on the day after my birthday this year and that's great because it meant that I was totally in the clear and ready to consume more than just Annie's mac and cheese by the time dinner time came around. I feel like I'm really growing up. I even felt well enough to drink some wine with my cheese before we went to dinner, but don't do that, because Brutale is a Croatian/Eastern European restaurant that lets you order a ton of food and then doesn't let you bring leftovers home.

That really annoyed me, you know? Charlie and I each ordered the $55 tasting menu with four shared starters, a shared main and a shared dessert. I initially was like, "hmmm, this might not be enough" but even after the starters I was like SO full, probably because two of the starters on the tasting menu are bread. Intentional? Maybe. Then when we asked to wrap it, they said no! COME ON.
It was, like, such a conflicting meal though. While the weird attitude/vibe and service kind of sucked, the food was all just on-point. (That Brutale never answers the phone for bookings accurately foreshadows disorganization.) The first two starters were Croatian chargrilled garlic bread with garlic kajmak (cream) and rosemary and chargrilled prawns cooked Dalmatian-style with garlic, oil, vinegar and sugar. CRACK. No joke, there were only four prawns, but I could have eaten these all day. Heads and all. I do that now, guys–eat shrimp heads. Because I'm a cool food blogger, and, obviously. Did I mention I eat shrimp heads? Just not the eyes. Or the tail. The sauce that collected on the bottom of this tray got mopped up stat by the soft, golden garlic bread nubs. 
The other two starters were sweet bread from the island of Vis with oregano, onions, rosemary, garlic, tomato and white anchovies, and chevapi and ajvar. I've done a lot of work in recent months to help myself start liking anchovies–namely: not asking for anchovies to be removed from caesar salad and capricciosa pizza, and eating pissaladiere pintxos at Naked for Satan.
Really enjoyed this bread (more bread). It was sweet, oily and soft, served warm, and you could see where tomato had risen to the top of the dough just under the crust. The anchovies were pickly and not hairy! I like anchovies! There were just enough of the little fish to put one fillet on each piece of bread. Thoughtful. Killing it.
Here's the cevapi! They're little sausages that forgot their clothes (intestine wrappers). Like little meatballs that didn't get the ball memo. These ones were charcoal grilled and made from really finely ground meat, were pretty pink inside but lacked the normal salty-ness that comes with sausage. They went great with the ajvar, though. I have become obsessed with ajvar here in Australia–especially the chunky types. Brutale's ajvar was finely pureed, but peppery and sweet. There were onions on this dish too–I stay away from raw onions.

The tasting menu then permits you to choose one main–we thought that meant one main each. We chose the suckling pig and the stuffed peppers. Brutale's waitstaff advised us that we're meant to choose just one main to share and that we'd be presented two portions. If you're gonna serve one main the size of two portions, why can't we each just pick our own? Anyway we decided to go with the pig. Father's chips come standard with the menu, and you're allowed to choose one more side; we got the Croatian slaw.
The pig: 300 grams of free range, slow cooked suckling pig served with apple rakjia sauce and gravy. You can see pretty well here that there was some really nice, thin crackling topping off the tender, moist meat. Some fatty moments, but I guess that's baby fat! Little baby pig. The gravy boat had like two drops of gravy in it and the gravy was kind of overwhelming in flavor, but the pig didn't need it anyway. Just give it a little dip in the apple sauce–finely pureed and thick and apparently containing some Eastern European liquor. We just couldn't physically eat enough of the pig, though. And weren't allowed to take it home. WAH.
The slaw was a beaut. Thin slices of raw cabbage were simply dressed in onion, herbs, red wine vinegar and oil. It's super bright and just dill-y enough. Charlie and I agree it had dill in it, but that's unconfirmed by any literature in store or online.

AND father's chips were well done, too. They were gold and salty, made of good potatoes. Nothing soggy, grainy or dry. Dobra spiced mayonnaise is apparently crack #2. Don't know what dobra is and neither does wikipedia. 
It took Brutale 45 minutes to bring us dessert. I'mma break that time down for you. When we finished eating, it was about 10 minutes before our table got cleared. Then, it was another 20 minutes before anyone approached us. When approached, we were asked if we already had dessert. We said no. Were we ready? Yes. FIRE DESSERT. 

Fifteen minutes later these doughnuts were plopped down. We asked for the check simultaneously. Then we were brought two little glasses of "we apologize" liqueur. Nice gesture, but doesn't really change the fact that the doughnuts presented were lukewarm and dense. The doughnuts had cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and vanilla, and a thick walnut rakjia cream for dipping. Liked the raisins, but these needed to be hotter and lighter. Maybe Croatian doughnuts are particularly dense and room temperature and inferior to other doughnuts? If these weren't made fresh, they shouldn't have taken 45 minutes to materialize. Can't justify the wait and the doughnuts from any angle.

In conclusion, (besides the doughnuts,) Brutale's great kitchen is hindered by its front of house. Get organized, guyz. Fix the service and the doughnuts. Your unique menu has potential to become a Melbourne monster.

Brutale: 18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne 3000, Australia. 03 9654 4411 Brutale on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

DOBRA? = Daniel George Dobra, Head Chef

Elspeth said...

Ah, of course! He should get a Wikipedia ;)

Anonymous said...

dobra = good

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