Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Restaurant Review: Mr Carsisi - Kyneton, Victoria.

At the close of the Easter long weekend, I opted to stop being a Very Bad Daughter and, instead of changing my flight and spending an extra day in sunny Queensland, I decided to fly home and spend some time with my dad. Where it was less than one degree overnight on the first night, and less than three degrees on the second night, which was about 25 degrees colder than where I had just come from. Brr.

Dad moved up to Kyneton in central Victoria... quite a few months ago, now that I think of it! Six, maybe? And to prove what a terrible daughter I am, this was only the second time I visited him *hangs head in shame* It was actually Katie's post that made me a little more motivated to visit. Anything involving food tends to spur me on and get me motivated. And no, I'm not at all curious as to why my pants are getting tight... why do you ask? ;)

I wish I had taken some photos of the place, but basically it's one of those little kit homes which dad is in the process of "improving". Dad is incapable of living anywhere without improving it. Which is probably a good thing, given some of the crapholes that he has lived in! In this instance, the bulk of the improvement has involved ripping out the kitty pee-soaked carpets and replacing them with floorboards in the living areas and carpets in the bedrooms. There is also potential for a future extension.

Anyway, it's good that he had a full day of manual labour planned for me the following day - putting up shelves in the shed, grubbing thistles out in his paddocks and the like - because my meal was surprisingly filling for a restaurant that is nice enough to show you the wine bottle before they pour it!

Before I commence my review, I have to tell you that this is my first ever restaurant review. It's going to suck, not the least because I left my phone at home so couldn't even take some C-grade, low-light shots of the food. I also don't yet know what form the writing will take or how I will structure it - I guess I will wing it as I go. I have a little blogger crush on Tori, and I can only hope that one day I will have as much talent for weaving a tapesty with words and bringing food to life before you, as she does in her little finger. You know, the one that you use to press the apostrophe key because you use it less than the A key and that would imply that it's the less talented of the two little fingers. By my awesome logic.

It's probably for the best that Virgin had thoughtfully given me free food on the plane (still haven't figured out why), otherwise I would have been so ravenous that I would have gone completely over the top with dinner at Mr Carsisi. Mind you, I kind of wish I had, because the dessert menu was to die for (huh. Seems that I'll take a bullet for food... yeah, nobody's surprised!). As you can see from the menu (should you have opted to click the link), it has a fairly heavy Middle Eastern influence, a type of food that generally appeals to me what with its spices and meats and the exotic sweetness of honey, almond, rosewater, orange blossom... Oh well, now I have an excuse for another visit. Huzzah!

The restaurant is apparently in the old iceworks and has solid wooden floors, exposed beams, big windows... and curiously low door handles! I was seated on an old church pew with cushions, whilst dad sat opposite on a chair. To our right was a weatherboard wall with a row of mis-matched hooks with mis-matched numbers (such as one finds on a letterbox) beside them; this was where coats were hung for each table, which I thought was a lovely touch for a town as cold as Kyneton. The whole place had a very rustic feel, which I'm a big fan of.
We began dinner with a glass of wine - I chose a 2010 Galli Estate Tempranillo/ Grenache/ Mourvedre. It seemed that I picked well because it was exceptionally easy to drink. I don't have a particularly sophisticated palate (I have no idea how to spell that. My first instinct was "pallet" but that probably has more to do with working in construction than anything else...), but I know what I like and I liked this. Lots. It would be a good cold weather wine, without being too demanding on the tongue as a shiraz can be. I like to be able to drink wine WITH a meal, rather than having the two compete for dominance.

After we had ordered, a couple of fat slices of sourdough and some crisped, spiced mountain bread were brought to our table with a bowl of oilve oil for dipping. The olive oil was light and flavoursome without being overwhelming or greasy, as olive oil should be (not overwhelming, that is). The sourdough was soft and fresh in the middle and chewy on the outside, and its tang married well with the olive oil. I also put a little rock salt on my plate and dipped the oiled bread in at one point, just for something different. I can't put my finger on the spice(s) used on the mountain bread but it was certainly enjoyable.

I probably could have eaten sourdough all evening (heck, I could any day of the week!), but the serving was adequate but small, one presumes so as to not fill one up before the main attraction. So many restaurants and pubs lose sight of that in favour of large, heavy servings, although I think things are tending back towards quality over quantity these days. Or perhaps I've just started eating at fancier restaurants... or restaurants have cut down on serving sizes because they're tight...?

Upon dad's recommendation (he went for the beef this time) I ordered the slow roasted Persian spiced lamb, served with Mount Zero pearl barley & pomegranate tabouleh; chickpea puree; and zhoug... or so the menu says. I don't know what the heck zhoug is. Okay, Google tells me that it is a Middle Eastern/Yemeni hot sauce that was brought to Israel by Yemeni Jews. You know, in case you were wondering. So know I know what that taste was!

The lamb was drier than I expected based solely on what it looked like, and also my prior (extremely limited) experience with Middle Eastern (sort of - Turkish, actually) food. That's not to say that it was dry. I think my mouth was confused because the meat fell to pieces as if it had been stewed, but it had the texture/moisture of a roasted meat. Never having eaten anything slow-roasted before I presume this makes perfect sense.

The thick slices of fillet were held together by a - not too thick, not too fatty, not too chewy - spiced crust, and bissected by that fatty layer you get... only the fat had dissolved (into the meat, I presume, thus preventing it from being too dry), so I was pleasantly surprised by not having to face any stringy lamb fat. I think I expected the spice to be spicier (due to my preconceptions of Turkish meat, no doubt); the flavour was similar to the spices you get in a souvlaki, but the flavour was confined to the outside of the lamb instead of the whole meat, and it wasn't wallowing in oil as a souvlaki does. The inside of the lamb just tasted like lamb, which is not something I'm accustomed to due to my habit of stabbing my lamb and stuffing it with garlic and rosemary, but made for a nice change.

I have to say, I LOVED the barley tabouleh. Normally tabouleh is quite dry, probably because the burghul hasn't be soaked for long enough, but here the barley was moist and yet firm enough to pop between the teeth. The (I presume) lemon juice and parsely were well-balanced with the other flavours, and made a refreshing accompanyment to the lamb and chickpea.

I found the chickpea puree to be what spaghetti is to bolognese - substance and carriage and texture, but not really the star flavour. It was filling and its coarseness made it interesting, but beyond that I think I was just too distracted by the lamb and tabouleh to pay much heed to it! Except, of course, to do that OCD thing where I have to put a little bit of each component of the meal on my fork for each bite (after the initial taste of everything on the plate, alone). I found out just last weekend that my mum does it, too, so I'm glad to know I didn't just develop that particular brand of nutsiness on my own...

The more restaurants I eat at the more I learn to figure out when I will need to order extra vegetables as a side or not. This was one where your main meal was certainly filling enough without it, but where, if you're a fan of greens as I am, I would recommend ordering a side. We ordered and shared a serve of green beans with artichoke, crispy sucuk sausage and walnut oil. The beans were still firm but not undercooked, the walnut oil added a pleasant bitterness and the salt of the sausage cut through the bitter. It was just what I wanted to accompany the chickpea puree.

The serving size was large enough to fill me entirely. As I said before, I regret not being starving hungry as I would very much liked to have tried their dessert menu, but it was not to be. Perhaps next time! Oh, and there WILL be a next time.

I hear that they're quite popular so if you're keen to go, particularly on a Saturday, I would suggest you book. Mr Carsisi is on Piper Street in Kyneton, and there was plenty of on-street parking... at least, there was at 6pm on a Monday night of a public holiday in a country town!

(So.... did I do okay with this review or was it a total dog's breakfast?)


  1. What a fabulous daughter you are to put yourself through those freezing conditions to stay with your dad and have a wonderful meal with him. He would have treasured the time you spent with him xx

    1. Well, it's a tough gig but someone has to eat all the good food in the world ;) I really treasured the time with my dad, too - I didn't realise how much I missed spending time with him until he moved away!

  2. Alright, I am definitely adding that one to my list of restaurants to visit when I go back to Kyneton. It sounds as though it will serve up some interesting flavours in lovely surroundings.

    Huzzah for your first restaurant review! I enjoyed it very much.

    1. Oh good, I'm ever so glad :) Now, to hone my skills... by eating at more yummy restaurants!


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