What better way to start the new year than with a vegan degustation with 11 friends at Ezard - the winner of The Age Good Food Guide 2013 Diners' Choice Award.
The degustation consisted of eight courses for $125 each, and with a group of 12 people we had enough numbers to make use of Ezard's private dining room. The dining room and table was roomy enough to accommodate our expectations, yet still modestly sized enough to allow for easy conversation.
We started with some lovely bread (this was not one of the eight courses - technically there were actually 10 dishes served up!) which prompted an olive oil frenzy, into either salted black pepper or chilli sugar. Unfortunately/fortunately the bread was replenished as soon as it was devoured, so we were mindful to 'save room' for the eight courses that were to follow (as the evening progressed it was clear that some of us had more willpower than others!). The first course to arrive was a Japanese inspired tofu shooter and nori cigar, followed by a white miso soup chaser. The shot was perfectly balanced, with tofu that just melted in the mouth and the spicy aftertaste ensured this first dish as quite a standout. The next course was a light salad of chioggia beetroot and asparagus on an olive sand (tastiest sand I've eaten all Summer!) with micro herbs and a white truffle vinaigrette.
Next up on our gluttonous food journey was steamed spice tofu with chilli, fragrant oils and crispy sweet potato followed by a warm salad of baby carrots, mandarin gel, coconut mousse and puffed rice with a delicious surprise of red quinoa and edamame hidden underneath.
The ante was upped with the 5th course of roasted jerusalem artichoke, pea-puree, asparagus, soft herbs and chive oil. The jerusalem artichoke was quite meaty - a bit like eating vegan scollops (the non-vegan in our party concurred with this). Next up was one of my favourites of the night - sesame rice noodle roll with asian mushrooms, soy mirin broth with black bean crumbs and candied chilli. Unfortunately a couple of us missed out on the rice noodle component of the dish which was a real shame considering how delicious the complete dish was.
We were all filling up by this stage, but Ezard had another savoury dish up its sleeve - caramelised eggplant (which was delightfully smokey) on jasmine rice, coupled with coriander lime salad and yellow curry.
A palette cleanser of mango sorbet with dehydrated strawberry crumbs was next and got us well in the mood for dessert...and oh what a dessert it was - summer berries on a sherbert crumb, blood orange sorbet, strawberry water, raspberry coulis and a sesame twill (see pic at the top of the page). A great way to end the meal.
Eight course vegan degustation: $125