“Lucky duck!” That was the retort I got on Twitter when I posted a picture of my five course duck dinner at Taxi Dining Room. Indeed I was a lucky duck, invited by Taxi to the dinner as a sneak peek of the program for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Roast Collection. The Roast Collection is taking place all around Victoria during June and is the perfect mini festival for these wintery days.
It was great to start the festival at Taxi as it has been a few years since I last ate there. The restaurant is looking more glamorous than ever with wall to ceiling windows which showcase that million dollar view over the Yarra river and Fed square. The look is sexy and decadent with flowing sheer curtains, aqua velvet banquette seating and moody lighting.
Chef Tony Twitchett at Taxi is using ducks for the Roast Collection dinners from Great Ocean Ducklings in Port Campbell. These are free range ducks with beautiful yellow fat which comes from their gourmet diet of strawberries in Summer (there’s a strawberry farm next door) and apples in winter.
The duck feast started with duck sushi made with duck lightly cured and smoked over Jasmine tea to give it a sweet but smoky flavour and then brushed with a sticky terikayki glaze. Not your typical sushi but seriously good. Then spicy duck dumplings which had been steamed then pan fried to give them a slight crispiness on the base. These were fat and filling dumplings teamed with a wombok salad and doused in a spicy course.
My favourite course was the simplest, a broth made from the duck bones which was poured at the table from teapots into bowls filled with Thai basil, water spinach and chillis. Crisp and sinus clearing in its intensity, it was a brilliant brew. I loved how all the parts of the duck were used throughout the meal culminating in the hero dish of roasted Sichuan duck which had been salted for 24 hours, steamed for two hours and then fried to render the meat tender and the skin crispy. This is a constant dish on Taxi’s menu and you can see why.
To finish the meal, thankfully no duck dessert. Instead, a brilliant buttery tarte tartin with the apples a rich honey coloured hue thanks to lashings of caramel. It was a delicious end to the meal and there was a duck connection as the apples were a clever nod to the Great Ocean Duckling’s chosen fodder.
There are suggested matched wines for each course starting with a creamy Carnard champagne. The highlight (besides of course the champagne) was The Story 2012 a robust pinot noir from Port Campbell with enough body and texture to balance out the spices and flavours of the duck dishes. If you are a duck fan, Taxi’s Ducks in a Row dinner is well worth it and it’s a great chance to reacquaint yourself with a stellar restaurant. Taxi’s still got it and I certainly felt lucky to eat there.
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Gourmet Chick was invited to review Taxi by the restaurant and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
Details: Ducks in a Row is being offered for the five Sundays of June for lunch. Taxi Dining Room, Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne (Ph +61 3 9654 8808).
Damage: $85 for the five duck courses