To be honest, I think this was the only I wanted to do the least, except for Maha (which I have already tried and loved), neither of the other two restaurants interested me. And with other restaurants such as Coda, Longrain, Movida & Little Press in different groups, these really did excite me a lot more. However, by the time we got around to booking (only four days after the groups were released) there were only spots left in the Cafe Vue - Merchant - Maha group, so the decision had already been made for us.
I am actually going to start with the last restaurant first, Maha, because by far they served the best dish. I was happy we were able to finish off our bite and crawl on a high note, because the two previous restaurants had been a bit of a disappointment. More on that later.
Soft Shell Crab Kebab (I dare you to say that really fast) - Maha served with a glass of white Italian wine.
This dish was the highlight of the night. It used simple flavours, relying on the perfectly cooked crab. The crab had a super crunchy coating and the kebab had pickled vegetables & Japanese mayo. It was such a delight to eat and packed a punch of flavours. My sister in law had not dined at Maha before and she made the comment that this kebab represents the type of flavours that you would expect from this restaurant and it would entice you to try a full meal there. Her comments were correct. These were the flavours I expect from Maha and they had a perfect balance. A really enjoyable dish which I hope Shane Delia will consider putting on the menu in the future.
Chicken Drumlet Tagine with a soft mash - Maha
The second dish we received at Maha was a chicken drumlet cooked in some wonderful Middle Eastern inspired spices. Traditional tagine would use a rice but this actually had a soft mash underneath. It wasn't potato, but I could not actually put my finger on what it was. However it was very nice mixed with the spicy sauce. This little bowl did pack a punch. I love spicy food and this really hit the spot. I would have been able to handle it being spicier but it was still satisfying. This is another dish (perhaps with thigh fillets rather than chicken with bones) that could fit comfortably on the menu at Maha.
I really wanted to write about Maha first because the other two restaurants did disappoint me and I wanted to at least give Maha the recognition that it deserved. However, we did start out night at Cafe Vue and they manged to lower our expectations quite significantly.
The only thing I thought about participating in a Bite and Crawl would be that each restaurant would give us samples of what represents their restaurant. They would give us a great taster dish and this would convince us to dine there in the future. However, I strongly believe that both Cafe Vue & Merchant wasted an opportunity to get new clientele on this night because of the poor food they served up (in terms of quantity).
Slow Cooked Beef Cheek Slider with Fruity Gin Bubble Tea - credit to Cafe Vue for the photo as my photo turned out to be rubbish.
These sliders were handed around to the group without a plate. Considering it was a saucy dish (being slow cooked) this did make it difficult to eat. The slow cooked beef cheek had obviously been cooked for a number of hours as it was so soft and tender to bite into. The bread was not too doughy and a small amount of onions complemented the beef. However, it was a slider. It was quite small and finished in about 2-3 bites. At a restaurant I would only expect to pay maybe $6 for something like this. However, this was the only food item we received from Cafe Vue.
Cafe Vue is well-known for their lunchboxes for about $14. I have never actually tried these but basically it contains a small piece of hot food, a salad & a dessert. I felt that if we had been served something like this, it would give a much better representation of what Cafe Vue is all about. Like I said the slider was good, but given the amount of money we had paid, it was not enough from one restaurant alone.
The drink we were given was a fruity gin bubble tea. I do not usually drink gin, however on such a hot night, I found it to be refreshing. I am glad to have a photo of the bottle of gin used as I would like to try and replicate this drink myself. However the fruitiness of the gin (a very summery drink) did not go with the heavy taste of the slow cooked beef which felt more like a winter dish.
Campari served at Merchant
Upon arrival at Merchant, we each received a little drink in a glass bottle. I was attracted to the glass bottle straight away, thinking about how I could possibly swipe it as I would love to have it at home. The waitress at Merchant was very busy so she never got around to telling us what the drink was, but I am assuming it was campari as there was a massive campari bucket at the entrance when they served the drinks. I had once sip of this drink and you know what? I would not wish this drink on my worse enemy. It tasted like medicine. I do not understand why anyone would drink this willingly. A number of people on other tables did not finish their drinks so I guess I was not the only one with this opinion.
Pumpkin Arancini from Merchant
This was the most disappointing dish of the night. Given that is it a Guy Grossi restaurant, I knew the focus would be Italian. I was expecting to be given a beautiful piece of pasta or some cold meats such as prosciutto but an arancini, something that is quite simple to make? The arancini tasted nice but there was nothing original about it. I wanted the dush to scream Italian and to be original and convince me that the next lunch I have with work friends should be at Merchant The arancini did not do this. Like Cafe Vue we were only given one dish rather than two so this didn't give us much of a taste of the restaurant.
What could be improved about the Restaurant Bite & Crawl?
I think there are a number of ways that this event could be improved so it can be enjoyed more so in the future. Here are some of my suggestions below.
- Only restaurants that are willing to serve more than one dish (or make a small sample plate) should be allowed to participate. The purpose of the crawl and bite is to give the customer a representation of what your restaurant is about. Neither Cafe Vur or Merchant did this.
- The host of the group should really make an effort to introduced herself to the group as a whole and possibly walk around during the night to see how things were going. She lead us to each place but we wouldn't see her whilst we were dining at the restaurant. However, she did make up for this at the end of the night when she asked our opinions. I was quite upfront about this with her about this and what I said to her is a short version of what I have outlined in this post.
- Less of a focus on alcoholic drinks and a bit more food. I felt that after the second place, I was actually a bit tipsy and had very little food in my stomach to actually counter this.
-When we were served food and drinks at Merchant we were not actually told what we were given. We had to ask about the arancini and we never actually found out what the drink was.
Would I do a Bite and Crawl again?
I think I would consider doing a bite and crawl again in the future but I would be much more careful about the restaurants that I choose. A restaurant like Maha has a strong reputation and they want to continue to project this by serving a number of different samples of dishes.I had not really ever been intrigued to try Cafe Vue or Merchant and now I think I know why, because I had not read a lot about them on other blogs and they are usually a wonderful source of information for dining in the city. I think the concept is excellent but to really succeed all the restaurants need to put effort in to serve something that is truly representative of them.