Degustation menus are all the rage nowadays.
Many of the trendiest or most up-market restaurants in Melbourne offer a tasting menu, more fancily known as a degustation.
The word degustation means “the action or an instance of tasting especially in a series of small portions,” so diners get to sample many different dishes in the one sitting.
Recently, Trading Plates checked out one of Melbourne’s more popular (and economical) degustation menus at Gazi, George Columbaris’ modern Greek destination.
To start, there were a selection of daily dips and delicious Greek pitas. Taramosalata with prawn crackers and sweet potato with pinenuts were the flavours of the day, very different but equally well received.
The dips had hardly been touched before a gooey, golden mess of Saganaki with balsamic honey and figs appeared. The molten, traditional Greek cheese was melted to perfection and the sweetness of the honey and figs balanced out the salty cheese faultlessly.
Some perfectly cooked skewers of white barramundi were next with a rich and nutty walnut dressing and lemon wedges. The fish was fresh and light and fell off the skewers.
For the meatlovers out there, next up was some Greek spiced chicken with white beans and tyrokafteri from a wood fire spit, which was an impeccable mix of tender, juicy white meat and golden, crunchy skin, with rendered fat that melted in your mouth.
To accompany the bigger plates was a salad of grains with barley, lentils, quinoa, pomegranate, cumin yoghurt, cauliflower and puffed grains. The sweet tang of the pomegranate complimented the nutty grains and made for a fresh, yet filling side dish.
The Tiganites patates, or what us Aussies would know as hot chips, were some of the best I have ever seen. Like crunchy strips of gold, topped with oregano, garlic oil and feta, they may not have been the best dish for calorie counting, but they tasted absolutely amazing.
Speaking of decadence, if you can imagine fitting anything else in after all this, the crowing glory of the day was a classic Greek dessert of Loukomathes (donuts)
As you can see, a degustation can be a very impressive and fun way to dine. So how would you go about creating your own degustation menu for dinner party guests?
Trading Plates top tips and ideas for hosting a degustation:
- Decide on a ‘theme’ for the evening. You don’t want a whole bunch of snack-sized dishes with flavours that clash and work against each other. For beginners, sticking with a cuisine like Greek, Italian, Thai etc, is an easy way to ensure that the ingredients will work in harmony.
- Keep the numbers down! You don’t want to be cooking for all your extended family and friends when you are trying to prepare a large variety of dainty dishes.
- Plan ahead. It isn’t much fun hosting a dinner party if you are stuck in the kitchen all night, so make sure you prepare as much of the food as possible before people arrive. That way, you should just be able to pop in and out to finish things off and serve them up.
- Think about the drink. There is nothing worse than spending hours creating amazing, high-quality food and then realising you don’t have any nice beverages to serve with it. Think about what wines or other quality drinks will go with the flavours you are serving. Ask around at boutique bottleshops for a more knowledgeable opinion.
- Quality, not quantity. While the idea of a degustation is to serve multiple, small dishes, you are much better off serving four to six beautiful and delicious plates than 12 sloppy ones. The idea is to appreciate the food and if you, or your guests, are overwhelmed with too much, you have missed the point.
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