Last night my partner and I met a fellow food blogger, Rita’s Bite, for dinner at the Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet. The last time we caught up with her was at our first food bloggers lunch at our place. That was in November 2009. We like “Rita’s Bite” – not because she blogs, but because she is passionate about the local food industry in Tasmania. And, most recently she will be starting a new job teaching hospitality at Elizabeth College. We wish her well in her next challenge and chapter of her life.
We arrived at RVL at 7pm sharp for our table. We eat at RVL quite frequently and know almost all the staff working there. I saw Cat and said “hello” to her. She greeted me. Then, told me “you and Jana were in my dream!” Jana works for Steve Cumper – head chef, restauranteur, manager and owner of RVL, and a blogger of “Hobart Food For Thoughts”. Jana has recently graduated from her apprenticeship as a chef.
As we walked to our table, number 10, our friend arrived. We sat down. Cat brought the menu and a bottle of water. I asked her about her dream. Nothing too nightmarish I said. She laughed. She said in her dream – both Jana and I were living in separate houses but in the same street that she was planning to buy. Very strange indeed. Poor Cat. She probably has been living and breathing at RVL for too long that her customer and colleague now appear in her sleep! Steve, if you are reading this. I think Cat needs a break. 🙂
I looked around. Not that I have never been to RVL. I was interested to see how many tables were occupied. There were 3 other tables – 2 tables of 4 and a table of 3. But within 15 minutes the entire restaurant was full. I was very happy to see the place completely full. The girls, Cat and Imka, were the only front of staff working. The service was good. They were both friendly and interacted very well with the customers. We felt relaxed at our table.
Fifteen minutes had passed. We still haven’t read our menu. We were too busy chatting away – catching up with the latest news on either side of our fences. My partner, Reb of the “Gutter Trash” and “Rita’s Bite” seem to get along very well. They are both quite out spoken and opinionated. I sat and listened intensely. Imka came to our table again – to check if we were ready to order. Naturally we were not because we were playing catch-up on latest news – anything from local politics to restaurants, food and TV programs, chefs, reviewers etc.
Another 10 minutes had passed. We read the menu. The saganaki of tongola capris stood out, so did slow roasted leg of lamb and masterstock chicken. We looked at each other. Asked what each had chosen. I went with crisp duck egg for starter and masterstock chicken as main. My partner chose saganaki of tongola capris as starter and slow roasted lamb for main. “Rita’s Bite” went for preserved albacore tuna for starter and slow roasted lamb for main. We were all satisfied with our selection.
White we waited for our entree, we continue to talk. Seems like we have not stopped talking since we sat at the table. Have you ever felt that, maybe a moment of silence at the table will be good? Probably not. Otherwise, what is the point of coming out to eat? And, catch up with friends? May as well stay home. A restaurant with no noise is a boring place with no soul.
Our starter soon arrived. First was my crisp duck egg, then it was my partner’s saganaki and “Rita’s Bite” tuna. Steve Cumper gave us a complimentary cured huon salmon to share. When each of the dish was placed on our table, we were so pleased with our choices and gave an approving smile. Took our camera out and started snapping the beautifully presented plate.
Unfortunately, I have not taken a picture of “Rita’s Bite” tuna and my partner’s saganaki. I thought I did. But I must have used “Rita’s Bite” camera to snap their two entrees. I am not sure why I have not use my own camera. I think I may have said to “Rita’s Bite” that I was not planning to write a review of Steve’s food. Steve is a friend and a very nice friend. I love his food and just want to enjoy them. Not to critic them. I am not a food critic or reviewer like those in flashy magazines or newspapers. But, “Rita’s Bite” encourages me on. That I should write this post. That I have written previous posts on RVL, but only making a referral to the place, not dissecting Steve’s dishes. So this is a personal account of my night at RVL. If you are going to read on – please do so. You may or may not agree with me. You are entitle to your own opinion.
The crisp duck egg was served on top of a thinly sliced smoked wagyu beef and asparagus, sprinkled with parmesan and pangrattato crumbs. The duck egg was crisp on the outside with thick runny yolk on the inside. Visually it was an interesting plated dish. The runny yolk blended nicely with the smoked beef and asparagus with a bit of strong parmesan cheesy after taste in my palate.
The photo was not very clear. I hope “Rita’s Bite” will put a post on our dinner at RVL. Hopefully she has better photos to share of this and the other two entrees that we had. I am a big lover of Tasmanian salmon. This was a complimentary dish from the kitchen. Local cured salmon with fresh locally farmed wasabi served on top of a wasabi leaf. A delicate and refreshing entree with a tint of sweetness and saltiness. There was a good balance of plentiful finely diced salmon, red capsicum, red onions and chopped coriander in a wasabi dressing. The wasabi was finely shaved from a fresh wasabi root. I love wasabi, especially those that delivers a good punch to my sinus. My partner refers eating wasabi similar to eating a hot English mustard. But, unfortunately my partner and I both agree that there was not much wasabi in this dish, which was the essence of the dish. The dish itself was a beautiful salad-y summery dish. Maybe I should have asked for more shaved wasabi. Like in Asian food – a bit more chili and spicy please.
Both my partner and “Rita’s Bite” had the lamb dish for main. The leg of lamb was slowly cooked and served on top of harissa chickpeas, Ashgrove fetta, diced watermelon, mint salad and garnished with thinly sliced red onions and fresh coriander leafs. The slightly spicy and smokiness of harissa sauce chickpea combined well with the little crumbs of fetta and minty flavour of fresh mints. Chunky diced fresh watermelon gave the dish a nice sweet and summer feeling. This dish would have been perfect if the lamb was not a bit too dry. It has a full body all round flavour.
I had to order this dish. Almost every chefs (and mostly Chinese) have their own “secret” masterstock version. It is almost like a sacred and well guarded secret recipe. Maybe there should be a battle of “Masterstock” recipe to determine who reign the supreme. It is the mother of all stock that is very versatile and use as a base stock to make many great dishes in Chinese restaurants. So for me to find this dish on Steve’s menu at RVL was like finding a hidden treasure chest in a sacred ground. The chicken was slowly cooked in Steve’s masterstock for a very long time to soak in all the beautiful, complex flavour and smell that went into making the stock. The chicken was served with shiitake mushrooms and sweet rice. Garnished with pickled cucumber and peeled orange skin soaked in masterstock. The chicken was very tender and succulent. It fell apart easily from the bone. It was soft. There was no firmness in the meat. It basically melt in my mouth complemented with the complex masterstock flavour. I love it. It reminds me of eating a slow cooked claypot chicken in Chinese medicinal herbs broth, cooked for many many hours. It is not easy to create a good Masterstock, but Steve has nailed it in this dish. He is certainly the Master of Masterstock in the Huon Valley.
By this time, we were full to the brim. The main was always a generous serving size at RVL. But we had to order a couple of desserts to share. We had to. They sounded so delicious in the menu.
This was an absolutely stunning dessert! It was very delicious. It was a frozen chocolate parfait – firm, very smooth and rich with lots of chocolate flavour. It was served with orange curd, chocolate cake crumbs and orange treacle. The orange curd and treacle were sweet and refreshing, and mixed very well with the chocolate crumbs. I ate most of it. Love it.
We ordered this dessert because we were not sure what to expect of it. It sounded different. Strawberry soup, poached meringue, strawberry fool. There were lots of sliced strawberries swimming in the sweet sugary strawberry soup. The poached meringue was delicious. It was not a bad dessert with an interesting twist.
It was a very good night and enjoyable dinner at RVL. Needless to say, we will be back again and again. RVL provides a nice, casual and comfortable place to dine in with great food and great service.
Oh, and thanks for the beautiful sourdough bread with black sesame seeds. I had a few slices this morning. Nice and toasty flavour on the crust and soft on the inside. Thanks, Steve.