The Panama Dining Room – Fitzroy VIC
Posted on November 28, 2013 by DL
Marinated Mount Zero Olives – $7.40 (Complimentary)
A few weeks ago the Team FMC Sydney flew down to Melbourne to give Team FMC Melbourne a little surprise on a random Saturday morning. Little did DL know that a double surprise had been planned, and that we were taking him to the Panama Dining Room in Fitzroy. Elegant, stylish and wonderfully welcoming, the Panama was the perfect place to celebrate a memorable evening with a bunch of close friends. There is a pool table nearby, with an eclectic mix of table arrangements to meet the varied needs of their guests, and its loft-like structure with large arched windows allowing plenty of light through.
Our food was a little slow to arrive in the beginning – our little sensors flicked and we suspected that there may have been a malfunction in the kitchen. The staff were quick to react and presented with a complimentary Marinated Mt Zero Olives before we even thought much of the situation.
Freshly Shucked Oysters – Natural – $1
On the special that evening were freshly shucked oysters served natural. These were impeccably fresh and we could not believe they were only $1 each. We could have easily ordered another dozen, but for the sake of rationing stomach space, we had to control our appetites.
Country Style Pork Terrine with Pistachios, Pickled Mushrooms, Cornichons & Grain Mustard – $14.50
The Country Style Pork Terrine was perhaps one of the best terrines I have had in a long time. It was moist, perfectly seasoned, and had just enough aromatics to elevate the terrine to another level.
The terrine was also served with the usual cornichons – much to my delight – and a serve of pickled mushroom. Sadly there were a little sparing with the mushrooms and it would have been nice to try a few more bites of the terrine with the pickled mushrooms.
Asparagus, Leek and Gruyere Tart with Shallot Dressing and Frisee – $15.00
The unassuming Asparagus Tart turned out to be the standout for the evening. Indescribably flaky pastry provided the perfect accompaniment to make most of the sweet asparagus. The gruyere was light and stringy, and added just enough richness without overtaking the dish. A perfect execution of balance and simplicity – this one is something we would definitely recommend to anyone visiting the Panama.
Chestnut Gnocchi with Pumpkin & Parmesan Puree, Morel Mushrooms, Spinach & Salted Buffalo Ricotta
I found solace in a plate of Chestnut Gnocchi with Pumpkin & Parmesan Puree, Morel Mushrooms, Spinach & Salted Buffalo Ricotta. The pillows of gnocchi were light and fluffy despite holding its structural integrity as I sliced into them. The portion was deceptively generous (as plates of gnocchi often are), and the trimmings light, well-seasoned and nicely balanced.
Chargrilled Steak with Chanterelle, Truffle & Confit Garlic Butter, Duck Fat Chips & Watercress Salad – $33.00
DL jumped onto the other end of the spectrum and found himself working his way through a hunk of Chargrilled Steak with Chanterelle, Truffle and Confit Garlic Butter, Duck Fat Chips & Watercress Salad. The beef definitely had nice flavour to it, although unfortunately it seemed the cut was rather uneven and thus ended up cooking unevenly. Some parts were deliciously melt-in-your-mouth, while other parts were a little chewy.
Chargrilled Baby Chicken with Paris Mash, Braised Onions, Roast Garlic and Fennel & Lemon Glaze – $29.00
KT found himself face to face with a whole Chargrilled Baby Chicken served on a bed of very buttery Parisian mash. The chicken was well cooked – some nice char marks were present – but unfortunately lacked in a little salt. There was a good hit of smokiness on the skin which worked nicely with the fennel and lemon glaze.
Confit New Zealand King Salmon with Asparagus, Spring Peas, Speck & Crème Fraîche - $32.00
For those wanting something light for the evening – the Confit New Zealand King Salmon is definitely the pick of the evening. Delicate, silky and vibrantly coloured, it was definitely one of those dishes where you felt like you were treating yourself to something very special without the fear of guilt the next morning. One touch of the fork and the pieces flaked apart.
Crumbed Western Plains Pork Cutlet Stuffed with L’artisan Fermier Cheese with Orange and Fennel Salad – $27.00
AX opted for the Pork Cutlet. Needless to say we were all in a little awe watching the plate arrive given the enormous size of the cutlet. The crumbing had a good hit of fennel seed which really gave it a nice flavour. Sadly the pork was a little on the dry side, even with the cheese stuffing inside.
Flourless Chocolate Cake, Cherry Compote & Milk Chocolate Ganache – $14.50
One can never celebrate a birthday without cake. For DL, we asked the staff to stick a single candle in our Flourless Chocolate Cake so we can all have a moment to hip-hip-hooray the much loved DL. Sadly the cake was incredibly rich and quite heavy despite its flourless-ness, and the cherry compote missed the mark a little with the rest of the table. It was still a tasty dessert nonetheless.
Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Stem Ginger Ice Cream – $14.50
On the other hand, the Pineapple Tarte Tatin was a real hit. It seemed that whoever was in charge of the pastries in the kitchen was really hitting the ball out of the park that evening. The tart was mildly sweet and slightly tangy from the pineapple, while the ice-cream gave it a nice flavour boost with the ginger.
Vanilla Crème Brûlée with Almond Tuile – $14.50
AX was keen to try the Vanilla Crème Brûlée with Almond Tuile. A stock standard basic, this one had a nicely torched caramel top.
Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt Pannacotta with Poached Rhubarb, Strawberry Consommé & Popcorn Praline – $14.50
Lastly, came the Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt Pannacotta with Poached Rhubarb, Strawberry Consommé & Popcorn Praline. DL is a huge lover of anything rhubarb and so this became an obvious choice for him. The panna cotta was nicely set and still a little wobbly, while the strawberry consommé was beautifully sweet and tangy to cut through any richness.
Overall our experience at the Panama, despite its few hiccups, was a good one. Definitely worth a visit with a few friends, do a second round of oysters and asparagus tart, and voila, an evening well spent.
The Panama Dining Room
3/231 Smith Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Tel: (03) 9417 7663
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