Restaurant Review: Verge

Location: 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9639 9500
Cuisine: French and Japanese fusion
Overall Impression: 5.5/10
J spoiled me with a surprise dinner at Verge over the weekend for no reason at all (Thank you, my generous J!).
I had suggested going to Verge for lunch weeks ago because Verge is having a winter lunch special – 30% off your total lunch bill but J refused. J believes that you haven’t truly ‘experienced’ a restaurant if you have only been there for lunch. In some respects, I agree with him. The ambience and the mood is usually lacking during lunch.

We had heard quite a lot about Verge prior to our dining experience. Unfortunately, everything we had heard had been scathing. In spite of many warnings, to my utmost delight, J decided to take me there. After all, Verge has consistently been granted 2 hat status over the past couple of years and has earned a firm reputation among food critics in general. We both thought, “How bad can it be?"
The beautiful view from where we sat

Our culinary journey thus far has been exciting. It has been filled with ups and downs. Melbourne’s culinary scene is amazing but there are always institutions that have gained acclaim that still puzzle us until today. That said, with every Vue de Monde that disappoints, there is a Jacques Reymond that excites and inspires. The things we had heard about Verge were hardly encouraging. The recurring complaint point received from friends and family was that Verge plated up ludicrous, crazy flavour combinations that were simply incompatible.
But that was what excited us about Verge. We desired a change from the classical flavours with which we had grown accustomed, and were hoping to taste something crazy on the plate – whether it worked or not. And experience has shown us that when a strange flavour combination does work, it can be a magical experience.
To out disappointment, nothing was ‘crazy’.
The night started with a high and ended with a high. The dishes intertwined between these two ends, however, were simply disappointing.

Two out of our 6 courses were amazing. The other 2 were very good. 1 of the dishes made me want to throw up a tiny little bit and another dish was drastically under seasoned and devoid of any flavour whatsoever.

The following is the six course menu we chose.
Amuse bouche: Veal Tartare

The veal tartare was a good amuse bouche. Perfectly seasoned, it certainly induced appetite.  
First Course: Mushroom, fresh ricotta, dark beer, truffle

As a whole, this was a very pleasant dish. We were both pleased that we had each been given a generous piece of truffle. The house made ricotta was creamy and delicious. The dark beer sauce was sweet and well-balanced. It really brought the whole dish together. It was a pity that there simply was just not enough of the sauce to go around. Everything had incredibly subtle flavours but as the first course of the night, we both thought it was quite appropriate.
Second Course: Sand Flathead, clams, elderflower, green melon

This dish was amazing. It was a promising start to our meal. The fish was cooked to perfection and the elderflower scent that permeated the dish was beautiful. The clams were luscious. Every element worked like an orchestra playing in absolute harmony.
Third Course: Rolled Rabbit, heirloom carrots, black pudding

Looking at the dish, it was beautiful and I could not wait to devour it. My first mouthful was anything but disappointing. The heavenly succulent piece of rabbit and the luxurious puree that accompanied it was to die for. And then I had my second mouthful, this time, making sure I had ample amounts of “black pudding” covering my piece of rabbit. This was a big mistake. The “black pudding” differed from tradition in the most unpleasant way.  It was actually a “black pudding” (blood) mousse. I could not help but expel what remained in my mouth. It was unpleasant in both taste and texture (think blood whipped with cream). I took great care to avoid the “black pudding” for the rest of this course.
Fourth Course: Kangaroo, marinated pear, turnip and radish

What we had thought would have been a “safe” dish to order, (in the sense that it did not sound particularly edgy in terms of flavour combinations), turned out to be baffling. The kangaroo, turnip and radish did not have a single ounce of flavour. The turnip was waterlogged and tasted like it had been boiled in unseasoned tap water. Perhaps Verge is taking the concept of “respecting the ingredient” to an egregious level.  That said, the marinated pear was beautiful. It had earthy flavours that chimed commendably with the gamey kangaroo meat.
Fifth Course: Melon, caramel, malt, meringue, orange blossom

This was a fascinating dessert. There were so many elements to this dish but it was absolutely perfect. It was like exploring a delicious edible jungle full of many different and wonderful delicacies that when eaten together, created a flavour combination made in heaven. Different textures percolated the dish. There was something that tasted like sweetened Assam that brought a delicious salty, sweet and tangy aspect to the dish. It was mouth-wateringly good. As full as I was by the end of the meal, I would have had no trouble eating a tub of this dessert.
Sixth Course: Elderflower, yoghurt sorbet, bubble-gum, hibiscus

This was delicious and incredibly enjoyable. It was a delightful end to the degustation. The flavour of bubblegum permeated the dish, bringing me back to my childhood. The sorbet was striking, balancing a creamy sweetness with the tartness that is so prized in high quality yoghurt. Unfortunately, however, the elderflower flavour was so dominated by these other flavours that it was hardly perceptible. This is a shame because I am a massive fan of the subtle floral taste of elderflower.

The entire experience as a whole was disappointing, especially for a two-hat restaurant. Unfortunately, it appears that not every item on the menu is worth tasting. That said, there were glimmers of brilliance that shone through with some of the courses. With the benefit of hindsight, we could have orchestrated a brilliant dining experience by selecting certain dishes and steering well clear of others. But without prior knowledge of what each course will be like, I am afraid the Verge menu is a bit of a gamble. So play if you dare.

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