Guidebook Amaru: warmth, humility, creativity and food that’s made to be eaten, not just looked at

Best eating in town

Amaru: warmth, humility, creativity and food that’s made to be eaten, not just looked at

“Complex contemporary food can distance the diner from their dinner,” says Dani Valent in Good Food, but at Amaru you feel like “someone is cooking you a tasty meal, not engaging in esoteric scientific wrangling.” From “complex snacks” through to “more substantial stuff with the odd bit of native shrubbery thrown in, the format isn’t unique,” writes John Lethlean at The Australian, but it’s “the harmony of flavours and textures that is refreshingly its own.” For evidence, Lethlean cites mussels: “plump Bellarine Peninsula ones steamed and glazed with mussel dashi and parsley sitting in a puddle of mussel cream dressed with rocket oil, with charred broccoli heart purée, sprinkles of dried mussel, grilled cos lettuce and young lettuce leaves acidulated with elderflower vinegar.” Like many dishes at Amaru, he notes, “there’s a deftly balanced play of sweetness and astringency.” As for the ’roo, it’s “a piece of just-set, ruby-red loin served with jus gras and a sprinkling of sandalwood nut praline, salted licorice and Kampot pepper,” and shares the plate with “quince purée and roasted onion wrapped in radicchio and grilled with a finishing sprinkle of grated raw cacao” -- a dish Lethlean describes as part of a “tour de force presentation.”

“Amaru's dishes are rich in ideas,” explains Valent, “but it's food for eating not a showcase of the chef's cleverness and the menu is as produce-driven as a country kitchen.” The “appetite-awakening snacks” start the meal with “acidity, crunch and freshness … a seed cracker is served with whipped roe … leek, silky duck ham is rolled into squat cylinders for picking up with the fingers … pureed onion is turned into a wafer and topped with a lightly smoky mix of yoghurt, cured garfish and a scattering of petals.” This is followed by shiitake mushrooms (“served with chawanmushi, a wobbly Japanese custard, and sparkling broth poured at the table”), a prawn (“brined, lightly grilled to a just-cooked gleam and seasoned with indigenous Davidson plum powder and finger lime; the fried legs are boosted by a dusting of prawn head salt”) and venison (“aged for two months on the bone until it's dry, dense and almost jellified, the meat is briefly grilled over charcoal to achieve a caramelised crust and absolutely rare interior”).

“Rather than feeling as if you should be on your best behaviour,” says Clare Acheson at The Urban List, Amaru has “a warmth and humility to it that a handful of Melbourne’s top eateries just aren’t nailing right now.” The food is “centered around flavour rather than fancy-schmancy techniques” -- the duck breast “looks like duck breast,” freshly baked bread is “served heartily,” and flourishes like a disc of frozen macadamia nut milk are “served with mud crab because they taste fantastic.” Amaru, she concludes, is a “must-eat that’s certainly worth devoting three or four hours of indulgence to.”

Best eating in town
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