Today we ventured down the Geelong highway to visit Loam, a two-hatted restaurant in Drysdale. We had heard (and read) many glowing reviews of the restaurant, so our expectations were understandably high.
So how was the Loam experience? Well, I’m no foodie but … to my mind the fundamental aim of cooking is to produce delicious food. Taste, flavour and aroma must not be made to suffer at the hands of technique, minimalism and experimentation. On that front, Loam failed.
Ambience: Modern, rural setting. Good-sized tables and acceptable cutlery/glasses. Wooden chairs (see above) became slightly uncomfortable after an hour. There was an unnerving absence of aromas both from the plated food and the restaurant in general. The kitchen and chefs are not visible from the dining room, leaving a slightly detached experience between the observable countryside (produce) and the end result (plate). It was not impossible to imagine that our dishes were simply tipped from tupperware containers, arranged and reheated. No dishes arrived at the table with a ‘just cooked’ feel.
Waitstaff: Polished and helpful. Effusive about the dishes, though perhaps overly so … relax already, it’s just a piece of (average) sourdough bread, not my new kidney!
Food: Unremarkable, microscopic portions lending to an atmosphere of ‘grazing’ from plate to plate, rather than eating a substantial, satisfying meal. A distinct lack of taste to several dishes. Within minutes of leaving Loam we could hardly remember any of the dishes or flavours we had experienced. Noticeably absent from all dishes were vegetables, at least in their natural (unprocessed) state . The ‘don’t want’ ingredient list approach is novel and not without merit, but the lack of control over one’s dining experience (and absence of side dish options, such as perhaps a bowl of vegetables) makes for some awkward transitions between dishes and an unrefined post-lunch palate. In our case, the dishes changed from squid to mullet to pork to apple to lemon. Perhaps a palate cleanser between courses (a la Vue De monde and others) would assuage this concern. The bread – which is necessary to fill both gaps in the service and one’s stomach – was adequate but not lovely (cf. Montalto).
Rating: An unsatisfying and ultimately forgettable experience. One’s dining time and money would be better spent at the likes of Ezard. 6/10.
The list of ingredients for July.
This appetiser consisted of salmon jerkey, chinese radish and goats cheese (despite us excluding goat’s cheese from the ingredients list five minutes earlier!) and, umm, cheesy bread fingers. The salmon jerkey was sadly a highlight of the meal.
Squid, ink and unripe tomato. Chewy and undercooked, the squid tasted (somewhat uniquely) like the fish section at the Footscray market.
We both ummed and ahhed about excluding mullet from the ingredient list, given the improbability of it being selected by the kitchen from the wealth of ingredients. Of course, the next dish was mullet. Microscopic in proportion (thankfully, as we had trouble eating it), it was accompanied by a reduction of sourdough bread (?!) that was not only uncomfortably gluey-glass-like in texture, but also tasteless and lacked purpose. A common theme at Loam seemed to be the over-treatment of produce (dehydration etc) at the expense of flavour, which was surprising given the ‘organic’ approach of the restaurant. This dish was simply unpleasant to eat.
Our final ‘mains’ dish was pork jowl, watercress, pear and lettuce heart. The pear (see the solitary ring below?) was the only highlight of the dish, the pork overly fatty and severely lacking in any flavour whatsoever, especially considering the 17 hour slow-cooking process that the meat had purportedly undergone. Again, no vegetables were sighted, leaving us to wonder whether the Loam chefs have studied the food pyramid. We were asked at this stage whether we wished to add any further dishes, to which we replied no thank you and secretly celebrated our decision to have the minimum four course menu (rather than seven or nine courses). Never have we left a restaurant so happy to have eaten so little!
An unremarkable finale (mouthful) of apple, sichuan pepper, mint and chestnut … really Loam, three cubes of apple maketh a dessert?
Complimentary lemon tart and dehydrated green tea something something (which effectively tasted like a mouthful of rock sugar) was a confusing full-stop to an awkward culinary sentence.