Ok ... we were fortunate enough to experience a meal at a restaurant in the final throes of its own demise ... and what a way to go!! I'm talking about Greg Malouf's MoMo ... that temple to modern Middle Eastern in the depths of the Grand Hyatt straight out of the pages of a Bret Easton Ellis novel.
Already slightly trepidatious at having crashed our friends' anniversary dinner, the long trek down the glamorous hotel lobby, all muted glamour and undeniable wealth, did nothing to calm the nerves.
Signage is almost deliberately obfuscating (if you need to ask darling, then ...), but veer left and press the button on the elevator and you'll be right. One floor down, the elevator doors swish open on the opposite side and you're in a world of plush fabric and spangly bling! Welcome to Momo ... indeed.
This is old skool fine dining, with decorative place settings, starched linen and individually served portions ... a far cry from the cheeky banter of the white stone and blonde wood settings of the current crop of blog endorsed eateries.
Your first decision to make when approaching the menu is whether you want to pay this month's rent/mortgage repayment or actually eat and drink something ... or forgo meals for the rest of the month and splurge it all in one go. What the hell, the joint closes at the end of the month, lets join in and go out with a bang!! We split the diff and opted for the Arabesque Sharing Menu ($130 pp minus drinks). Unlike most other tasting/sharing menus, you get to pick a choice of 2 entrees, 2 mains, 2 sides and then a dessert mezza which is set.
As for drink, let me warn you that there is a lot of choice in terms of wine, but not so much in terms of pricing. Perhaps one or 2 in the nether regions of round about $60+ ... and then a big jump into 3 figures. So its either all about the food or all about the drink ... unless you're name ends in Bailieu, you will need to decide one way or the other.
To begin with, they serve a complimentary starter of Raw vegetables drizzled with celery salt and served with the fluffiest jou jou bread. A definite highlight. There's something about the crunch of raw vegetables that feels at once exotic and rustic at the same time. I would not have thought of eating some of these raw, but they've shoved it in a glass and brought it to the table ... so what the hell!
For our entrees we had the Seared Whole Young calamari, in Persian spices served with a Nicoise Salad and Walnut Tarrator Sauce:
In one word ... amazing!! This was the highlight for me. Slightly smoky, and tender with just the slightest give.
The second entree was the Poached fried Quail with Turkish black chili salt and melting onion salad with goat's cheese. Quail is delicious and so underused in the home kitchen. MoMo's take was beautiful. And I want me some of that Turkish Black chili salt!!
For mains we had Malouf's duck bistayeea with almonds, cinnamon and Lebanese white cabbage salad. Basically pulled duck pie! Nice but not especially memorable. And K's version of Malouf's lebanese white cabbage salad was infinitely superior. I think I mainly found this a little too heavy for my asian palate. I hate to admit it but I wanted to douse the whole thing in chilli sauce (god I'm turning into my father!!).
Our second main was the Slow Roasted lamb with Middle Eastern sweet spices served with stuffed white zucchini cooked in tomato and feta. The stuffed white zucchini was a revelation and something I'm eager to try in my own kitchen. Fresh to the palate and a perfect foil for the richness of the lamb ... which btw, we all agreed, could have been a little more tender.
For sides, we ordered the Salad-e Shirazi with edible flowers. I am a sucker for edible flowers. I don't personally feel like they have much flavour, but they look oh so pretty.
And we also had the Goat's milk haloumy fritters with almonds and leatherwood honey ... a no brainer ... and TDF!! I could have just had a whole bowl to myself.
Now for dessert ... the mezza basically includes everything listed on the desserts menu ... which trust me you will be struggling to enjoy at this stage of the meal. But we soldiered on!!
So this is what you get on your dessert mezza:
Seasonal fruits, watermelon and rose petal sorbet, pistachio halva and dried strawberries
Chocolate Mahallabia - Lebanese style milk chocolate pudding, Arabic coffee cream, barazak biscuits
Pavlova stuffed with Turkish apple tea jelly, vanilla bean labneh and crushed raspberries
Frozen orange Turkish delight parfait, peaches and puree, leatherwood honey wafer
And it arrives a-table looking like a set design for 1001 Arabian Nights!! All Moonlit turrets and basilicas.
The Pav was hands down my favourite but do not discount the watermelon and rose petal sorbet ... yum!! Even M was digging into the pistachio halva ... and he is not a fan of halva. I'm not sure if Karen Martini's sister Odette still mans the helms of the dessert menu here, but they were amazing ... I know I should synonomize (sic) this word ... but there's no better than amazing! It says it all!!
All in all, we lived like arabian kings and queens for a night ... and our household expenses have paid the price for this reckless abandon ... but no regrets. Speaking of household expenses ... we just had dinner at Cutler and Co. Oh.