The upstairs dining room at Saxe is a “fancy legal-chamber-meets-Smith-Street cool,” writes Lauren Whybrow at Concrete Playground. “There's a navy velvet banquette running the length of the room and dark wood tables and chairs,” and, she says, the food matches the decor -- “sophisticated and assured.” The menu “walks a tidy line between modern iconoclasm/creativity and classic protein/sauce combinations,” observes John Lethlean at The Australian -- “recognisable flavours and textures using traditional cooking techniques, not smoke and mirrors.” He mentions brined and roasted quail (“lovely skin colour and a kind of Middle Eastern-spiced lentil and squash fricassee, citric pomegranate vinaigrette and smoky fried curry leaves and golden raisins”) and “creamy, brown butter-emulsified spanner crab riddled with trout roe, crowned with fermented white asparagus spears, lemon and salty succulents to offset the buttery base.”
“Sometimes duck is just duck: bird on a plate,” explains Dani Valent at Good Food. “But when chef Joe Grbac is cooking duck it's a shrewd but tender honouring of produce, a showcase of flavour matches and a sensitive mastery of cooking techniques that ensure the bird is conversation-haltingly delicious.” At his restaurant Saxe, in the legal quarter of Melbourne’s business district, the duck is hung in the coolroom for 10 days, then the breast is roasted and its skin caramelised: “it's all dark golden and shatter-crisp giving way to dense but tender flesh,” observes Valent. “There's more on the plate: the leg cooked with fermented bean curd and hoi sin which deepens the flavours of the pull-apart meat; eggplant, its rich and slippery blackness batted back by black pudding; a glossy sauce with flavour for days … it's not a simple dish but it eats very easily … you don't notice the work, you just fall into rapture.”
“The menu is dedicated to food, not cuisine,” says Sofia Levin at Domain. “A refreshing salmon and soba noodle entree references Japan, while kangaroo tartare with semi-translucent golden beets feels closer to home,”she notes, while her dining buddy describes buttermilk chicken thigh with poached breast, concentrated broth and broccoli emulsion as “fried chicken for grown-ups.” All followed by “the battle between sweet mango foam and tangy globs of Brillat-Savarin ‘cheesecake’.” The whole thing, concludes Lethlean, “is a sophisticated, understated tour de force.”
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