The recommendation to give Amaru a visit came from the outstanding chef at Meta. As she dazzled me with some exquisite dishes, I made the booking using that handy interweb thing. I pass on thanks once more both for the excellent meal at Meta and for the recommendation.
Amaru is located in the bridal and rug shop neighbourhood of Armadale. After the thrill of acquiring a Myki and hopping on and off a couple of trains, I had just a short walk from the station to its door.
The interior is spacious with a contemporary feel. Brushed concrete has rarely looked so elegant. It was set up for around thirty diners with a mix of table sizes and some bar seating where you could dine in chef’s table style. This was the option I’d chosen.
I was warmly welcomed by the front of house manager and shown to my seat where I was joyfully entertained for the next three hours. I got a warm hello from everyone in the kitchen, most of whom made an appearance with a dish at some stage. This included chef patron Clinton McIver.
Once menus had been explained and I’d relayed my desire for paired wines in whatever style they saw fit, the calvacade of dishes began with a quartet of snacks.
Firstly we had cured garfish with a sheep’s milk yoghurt, then a little tart of smoked eel, kohlrabi and apple, then house smoked duck ham on crisply dehydrated fermented carrot, and finally a chicken and pork dim sim on a fantastic walnut ketchup. These were simply splendid and put me pleasingly and fittingly in mind of the outstanding snacks at Meta.
The first dish proper featured local Portarlington mussels with charred broccoli and mustard leaves. This was sublime with exceptional mussels matched with verdant veg of spectacular vibrancy and intensity.
Chef McIver introduced one of his favourite seafood ingredients, mudcrab, which was served with rock oyster and topped with an apple granita. This took a classic flavour combination and elevated it with the zingy shaved ice element ensuring the palate was alive, awake and fully prepared for further dazzling. The dry Riesling it was paired with worked beautifully.
We then moved on to a bread and butter course which featured outstanding house-made sourdough served with whipped butter and a honey oil and vinegar combo. I enjoyed it so much I had a second slice when it was offered.
The next course was a brined quail served with fermented honey and yeast. It was suggested that this was best eaten by diving in with hands, Henry VIIIth style, which I was more than happy to do. Again, this was cooking of the highest order with the flesh memorably supple. The Dalwhinnie Chardonnay was another excellently matched wine.
We moved onto a Jerusalem artichoke which was topped at the table with a smokily elegant eel broth. I could have eaten it all day long.
The main course was a piece of barbecued kanagaroo, lean but surprisingly flavourful, with accompaniments of hazelnut, burnt radicchio and liquorice. I was beginning to run out of superlatives. I needed all the fine words at my disposal for the wine, a 2005 Giaconda Shiraz which was quite simply the best wine I’ve been served on my trip so far.
We then moved on to a joyful array of desserts, starting with pear, buckwheat ice cream and elderflower served with a classic Moscato. This was quickly followed by a whip of shiitake ice cream atop sandalwood nuts and cacao nibs. Both were excellent.
The dessert highlight, probably the best dish of the day, and quite possibly the star dish of my odyssey was a Meredith goat’s curd cheesecake – complete with little goat emblazoned on the top in metallic rose gold. Mandarin and plum balanced with savoury tang of the cheese and with a light crumb for texture this was an absolute riot of a dish. It’s worth going to the restaurant solely to sample it.
There was a final flourish from a begamot ganache filled digestive biscuit and a crumbed caramel which came with very good Ethiopian filter coffee.
It took a while to compose myself after this incredible array of tastes, flavours and textures which truly lived up to its name as the Sensory Menu. And it is with no shred of doubt in my mind that I award Amaru the third ever 20/20 score that we’ve given across the 2,500+ reviews we’ve written on Lunchquest.
This is a restaurant that has each and every aspect of its operation just exactly as you would wish it. From the layout and design of the restaurant space, to the approach and execution of the incredibly engaging service, to the verve and accuracy of every aspect of the food, to the well throught-out and explained wine pairings, to the after-care in sending on menu details, this is a model for anyone aspiring to formulate new restaurants or improve on existing models.
I was blown away entirely and will struggle to resist a return visit before I leave Melbourne. I can’t tell you that this is the best restaurant in the city because I am a total noob and have barely begun to explore this fine metropolis. But if there are better places, Melburnians are very, very lucky people.
Blythe scores Amaru
5/5 for food
5/5 for presentation
5/5 for setting
5/5 for service
giving an overall 20/20
I ate: cured garfish, duck ham on fermented carrot, smoked eel, kohlrabi and apple, chicken and pork fried dim sim, walnut ketchup; mussels with mustard leaves, broccoli; mudcrab and oyster with shaved apple ice; brined quail; Jerusalem artichoke, smoked eel broth; bbq kangaroo, hazelnut praline, burnt radicchio, raw liquorice; pear with buckwheat ice cream; shiitake mushroom ice cream, sandalwood nuts; Meredith cheesecake; digestive biscuit and caramel
I drank: paired wines, water, filter coffee
I wore: orange trousers
Total bill: $300
Address: 1121 High Street, Armadale, Melbourne, Victoria 3143