There’s a strong possibility that you’ve probably booked a restaurant way in advance in another state after reading and hearing rave reviews. I did that with Matteo’s in Melbourne, which I booked as a belated Valentine’s Day treat for A. After researching menu’s and online reviews, I decided that Matteo’s would be perfect for a romantic dinner for two.
Chef Brendan McQueen’s tasting menu starts at $110 per person for food only or $175 with 100ml taste of each matched wine. I loved the idea of the four-course tasting menu, as you are able to try different items from the menu – perfect for those that don’t live locally but want to try everything!
The first course started the evening with a bang and consisted of:
- Yellowfin tuna tataki, wasabi-daikon, black olive tapenade (pictured far left)
- WA octopus, wakame seaweed dressing, shrimp and octopus takoyaki dumpling (centre)
- Terrine of Tasmanian salmon confit and smoked trout, crème fraiche, Yarra Valley salmon roe (far right)
The yellowfin tuna tataki was lightly seared and was of the highest quality. The tuna was delicate and the wasabi-daikon (Asian radish) and olive tapenade were excellent accompaniments which added a comparison of flavour.
I love takoyaki (octopus balls) and Matteo’s did an excellent version. The takoyaki were crispy on the outside with lots of octopus within the centre and I loved the wakame seaweed dressing.
The terrine of Tasmanian salmon confit and smoked trout itself was a little bland, however the addition of the crème fraiche and salmon roe added flavour. Another delicate but lovely dish.
Seeing as though our first course was excellent, we had great expectations of the second:
- Seared ocean scallop, unagi charcoal-grilled sea eel, red miso sauce, polenta-crusted silken tofu (left)
- Soft-boiled quail egg coated with yuzu curd, organic quinoa salad with avocado, hazelnuts, Myrtleford ricotta and preserved lemon (right)
Unfortunately, we found the ocean scallop dish bland with little flavour coming out within the dish.
We both loved the quinoa salad and could’ve happily eaten a bowl of it . Unfortunately, A found numerous pieces of plastic within her salad. After the fifth piece of plastic, she stopped eating it.
When the plates were cleared, we alerted the floor manager about the plastic shards who said he’d let the chef know. No apology. No look of concern. Nothing.
A little surprising seeing as though the majority of the patrons during the evening were having the tasting menu and might also come across a piece of plastic in their quinoa salad. By this stage in the night, we were feeling deflated. Our first course was lovely but the second was tainted by the plastic. Worst still was the manager’s reaction and we were concerned that others within the restaurant would find plastic within their dish.
Our third course arrived soon after and included:
- Seared wagyu beef skirt steak, wasabi peas, caramelised onion, black bean sauce (left)
- Twice cooked master stock duck breast, creamed jasmine rice, bok choi, hoisin-plus sauce (right)
The wagyu beef skirt steak was tough and the wasabi peas tasted only as peas. We couldn’t taste the wasabi flavour, which would’ve added a lot of flavour to this dish, which overall wasn’t very flavoursome.
The twice cooked duck breast was also tough and overcooked, with the creamed rice and bok choi adding no flavour to the duck. Overall, this course was our least favourite of the night and was disappointing.
Regardless, A and I were still trying to remain positive for our final course – dessert. Looking at the menu though, I knew that the dish was going to suit A’s palate more than mine. The fourth course consisted of:
- Mango jelly, coconut rice pudding, Indonesian layered spice cake, watermelon granita (top)
- Warm, dark chocolate fondant (bottom right)
- Fresh honeyed fig tartlet, organic yoghurt, muscovado cane sugar (bottom left)
A loved the fig tartlet with organic yoghurt and the coconut rice pudding whereas I didn’t although I put that down to personal preferences as I’m more of a strong, decadent sweet lover. The warm, dark chocolate fondant however won me over – it oozed from the middle and was an excellent version of chocolate fondant.
A and I were keen to begin our journey back to our hotel so we asked for the bill soon after our fourth course. When it arrived, I was surprised that there was no discount at all on the dinner after the plastic was found. A and I afterwards said that we understand when mistakes happen, however we didn’t think we should have paid for the experience. I mentioned this to the waiter, who motioned to the manager and we were told roughly that that was the bill and that he had done his duty of alerting the chef to the plastic.
I paid the bill but we both left with a sour taste in our mouth. We would never ask for the meal to be provided for free, but a complimentary glass of wine to apologise for the mistake would’ve made the incident a lot less significant and we would’ve left feeling a little more positive about our experience.
The service throughout the night was poor and it wasn’t only the end result that was disappointing. Throughout our evening, we were not asked once how our night was going or whether we were enjoying the dishes. I’m a strong believer that service is really important in an establishment, with passionate, knowledgeable waitstaff adding an extra element to your meal at a restaurant especially during a degustation. During the night, one waitress had limited English so motioned to us to refer to the menu on our table to know what was in each dish. Looking at a menu isn’t the same as having someone explain how the chef makes an interesting element on the plate or where the element was sourced from.
For two hats, we expected more from Matteo’s.
The next day, we had put the experience out of our mind and wrote it off as a bad experience. While we were shopping, I received a call from Chef Matteo, the namesake of Matteo’s Restaurant. He apologised about the experience and mentioned that the floor manager/sommelier was a new addition and told him of our feedback last night. Chef Matteo did understand why we left disappointed and took the feedback with ease. However, an alarming aspect of this conversation was that the plastic shard incident has happened before (six months previously) and was the same issue – plastic containers snapping and ending up in the food.
Chef Matteo’s phone call was a nice gesture but by that stage, it was a little too late and the disappointment had set in. Would I recommend the dining experience at Matteo’s? No. Would I recommend it if the plastic issue hadn’t happened? Probably not. The third course was bland and the service wasn’t up the standards required for a two-hatted restaurant.