Let’s break it down
For many, the term degustation suggests auctioning off an organ or two to afford such an extravagant affair. Previously enjoyed only by those privy to the finer things in life, degustations were seen to be, well, quite stiff really. But before we get into that, here’s a little explanation of what they are, for those of you who are pretending to know. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all been there…
Define that degustation
Merriam-Webster defines degustation as: the action or an instance of tasting, especially in a series of small portions.
We’re essentially talking about tasting menus. Usually consisting of around eight of the executive chef’s signature dishes. Often they are paired with a wine degustation, designed by a sommelier (wine specialist), to perfectly complement the food.
What’s the point?
The aim has always been to invigorate the senses and showcase culinary artistry. However, Melbourne’s food scene is currently moving away from the stiff white table cloths and snooty waiters of the past. Nowadays you get a fun and relaxed Melbourne degustation dining experience that’s accessible to all budgets – from Attica-sized pockets to food truck-sized purse strings.
The Melbourne spin on degustations
There is also a shift from traditional degustation cuisine. While originally it was French haute cuisine that took pride of place at most degustations, now the most sought after Melbourne degustation menus include Japanese, modern Australian, Chinese, Cambodian, Spanish, and well, you name it really. So, for those of us who love food – tasting it, looking at it, matching wine with it and speaking about it with our loved ones – the following is our selection of must-try degustations in Melbourne.
Chef: Woody Chet
What to expect: A modern interpretation of Cambodian cuisine with a distinctive Khmer influence. The menu is designed to invigorate your taste buds. The flavour combinations and deconstructed techniques used by Chef Woody work together to create unique dishes that you won’t have tried anywhere before. Chef Woody’s passion is infectious and channeled into each dish. The interior is cosy and relaxed and the presentation is a work of art. One of Melbourne’s best degustations, this is one experience you don’t want to miss.
Recommendations: Grilled wagyu beef salad with morning glory, banana blossom, spiced cashews and chilli jam dressing. Crispy king prawns in a brioche roll with chocolate bacon, gherkins and smoked paprika mayo.
119 Chapel Street, Windsor, Melbourne 3181
Mon: Closed, Tues – Fri: 5:30 – 11pm, Sat – Sun: 5 – 11pmCheck Availability
Chef: Anthony Lui
What to expect: A Melbourne institution and Australia’s best Cantonese restaurant. Consistently ranked among Australia’s best restaurants, in Melbourne’s top three and in the 50 best restaurants in the world for over 40 years, Flower Drum is an icon. Much-loved and respected in the foodie community, the service is outstanding, the interior elegant and, the food? Well, the food is timeless and creative with flavours that blend perfectly. Oh, and be sure to opt for the matched wine degustation – it’s more than worth it.
Recommendations: Quail sang choi bau cooked with Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Grain-fed eye fillet dressed in black pepper sauce. Signature Peking duck wrapped in a pancake with cucumber, spring onions and plum sauce.
17 Market Lane, Melbourne CBD 3000
Sun – Mon: 10 – 11pmCheck Availability
Chef: Mike Baker
What to expect: Originally a natural wine and dessert bar, Henry Sugar evolved into a modern European and Australian-inspired space that we are deeply thankful for. Inspired by its namesake (a Roald Dahl character), there is something magical about this Carlton restaurant. Co-owners Mike and Dan come with a wealth of expertise and the cocktails, wine list and food fit like peas in a pod. The service is impeccable, the menu is playful and the clever interior design just oozes chic.
Recommendations: Charred miso octopus, avocado and pickled cucumber. Braised lamb neck, broad bean tips and harissa. Smoked cobia, green beans, burnt lemon and yuzu. Pierogi of wild boar and Gruyere.
298 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, Melbourne 3054
Mon: Closed, Tues – Thurs: 9 – 10pm, Sat – Sun: 8:30 – 11pmCheck Availability
What to expect: Uniquely, there are several options you can choose when opting for the Kobe Jones degustation. Each menu is designed according to a specific theme, season and style of dining – giving diners an element of choice that’s quite new to degustations. And one that we love. The vibe is eclectic and there is an air of artistry in this South Yarra space. The design is elegant yet relaxed and each dish comes plated like a work of art. Though, we wouldn’t expect anything less from this talented team.
Recommendations: Hokkaido scallop plated on a crab salad avocado roll and served on eggplant relish with a bitter sweet soy glaze. Wagyu tenderloin tataki seared, chilled and served rare with garlic, ginger and ponzu sauce. Miso citrus lobster cooked in a wafu thermidor sauce, drizzled with miso citrus and served on a bed of steamed vegetables.
G16/38 Siddeley Street, Docklands, Melbourne 3008
Lunch: Mon – Fri: 12 – 3pm,Sun: 12 – 3pm
Dinner: Mon – Thurs: 6pm til late, Fri – Sun: 5:30pm til lateCheck Availability
And the verdict?
The degustation has had a much-needed makeover since its inception and we anticipate restaurants changing things up even more in years to come. One thing we’re certain of though, is that the degustation is no longer for those in the top 1%, nor is it about outdated menus. The degustation has always been about showcasing food, skill and artistic flair, but now it’s transcending all of its former rigid barriers. And that is something we can definitely get on board with.