The Chameleon. Lurking in the urban jungle, undetected, unknown, blending into the ever changing landscape, sampling everything from fine dining to reviewing take away joints, this lizard loves food possibly a little bit too much.

Amalfi Bistro and Wine Bar

Overall score: 75/100
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Restaurants attached to hotels/motels/any sort of accomodation really, often has The Chameleon scrambling for his urbanspoon app dreading the bland offerings from the limited menus and the overdone steaks (example here). But also recently, Bazaar was a very acceptable option; and not far from Bazaar was Amalfi Bistro and Wine Bar, attached to the Watermark Hotel and Spa.       

THE EXPERIENCE
Amalfi is a rather nicely fitted out restaurant at the back of the hotel. The Chameleon had in fact walked past it a couple of times prior to his visit wondering if they were open or not; you see the doors were closed, only a faint glimmer of light emanating indicating life and no doubt a few diners would bypass this for the buffet next door which is open and airy and somewhat more inviting (review to come soon). 

All this hidden-ness does have it's benefits though, as when The Chameleon entered, the place instantly made him feel at ease, relaxed and smooth. The dim lighting and the ambience music worked well, the large window opened the diners to the intermittent traffic outside, the car lights of the metropolitan bustle that is now the Gold Coast seemingly adding to the cosiness of Amalfi.

The Chameleon's group's waitress was young and showed glimpses of professional practice, but alas her inexperience did show through on a number of occasions, for example as she bumbled through some of the menu items. 


THE FOOD

The entrees of choice was carpaccio and The Chameleon opted for one of his favourite pasta dishes for the main, Linguine alla Carbonara, from a menu which somehow felt limited.

After a somewhat reasonable wait, the entrees arrived and were well received. The quail egg in particular was masterfully cooked and overall, it got the evening off to a reasonable start. The flavours were very subtle, perhaps a little bit too subtle and The Chameleon was expecting a little bit more for his money, but a great start nonetheless.

The group ordered wine and the evening continued swimmingly as they patiently began the wait for their mains. And wait. And wait. And wait. And then....wait. The mains took an unnervingly long time to come to the table, and although the group was cheerfully engaged in conversation, the topic did turn to the aforementioned waiting time; this should never happen. The Chameleon got to such a point that he began to wonder whether this was a deliberate ploy for diners to buy more wine and alcohol. It wasn't a particularly busy night, perhaps 4-5 tables with a few couples and his group. He wonders still.

The main was indeed very tasty. The carbonara ideal was there and that sauce, although somewhat oily, had beautiful undertones of rich creamy complex flavours. But, what was this meal's triumph was also it's diminishing demise. There was simply too much topping and, dare The Chameleon say it, too much meat! Typically The Chameleon is able to proportion out a meal to finish with one full mouthful, a bit like a special fulfilling ending to a movie, but on this occasion, all the pasta had disappeared with only topping left. The Chameleon was indeed glad when another diner made a similar comment which confirmed his thoughts. Balance.

The wine at this place was amazing. Great examples of somewhat expensive wine, but of course The Chameleon isn't a wine tasting critic, so apart from seemiongly fluking a nice dry match for the somewhat oily pasta, the deep cherry flavours which slipped out of every drop was well appreciated.


OVERALL
The Amalfi Bistro was a relaxing venue which The Chameleon appreciated after a hectic busy day. The food was of a high standard but alas the small entree, the long wait, the lack of balance in the main and the inexperienced waitress all impacted on the overall experience. Would The Chameleon recommend Amalfi? Only if you have time to kill and love a drop or two of fermented grape juice. 75/100

Firefly Cafe (Lunch)

Overall score: 83/100
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Urbanised, industrial, arty, hipster-y; everything a pretentious cafe should be and, in our capital cities at least, this is exactly what you get. But not in Toowoomba. No, in Toowoomba you get basic, utilitarian, uninspiring, dated; until you visit Firefly.    

THE EXPERIENCE
Located smack bang in the middle of the CBD, Firefly hides under an unnasumming, simple facade, and really the front of the shop is small and one could quite easily miss it. As The Chameleon entered this ostensible, albeit almost miss-placed for Toowoomba, cafe, his memories took him back to a place not so long ago down in old Melbourne town, a cafe just like this; warm, with a kitch twist like a cafe should. The decor here was well composed with French inspired chairs and wicked rustic tables. The walls adorned with what appeared like a nice batch of modern art and the colour scheme worked a treat. 

As The Chameleon approached the counter, a puzzling experience enveloped; there was no menu on the wall! Not even for the coffee! Intriguing start. Was this a part of the pretentiousness? Perhaps. Anyway, he asked the lovely waitress whether they were doing lunch and she promptly handed him a very uninspiring menu. Now, keeping in mind that this was lunch, and that Toowoomba has many many offerings of sub $10 lunches (i.e. the outstanding Phat Burgers just up the road) the menu read very high brow, some interesting offerings. The Chameleon however wanted some meat; it's what he had been consuming for lunch for quite some time, however Firefly is not the place to go if you are after a large, filling, protein based meal. And rightly it shouldn't be, after all, it is a cafe, not Hogs Breath Cafe. So summing up his options, of which there weren't many by the way, he ended up pointing to the "Roast sweet potato w pork belly & sugarloaf slaw" and hoped for the best. He also of course ordered a cap. 

The staff were very friendly. urbanspoon reviewers, some of them anyway, have complained of the lacluster service, the lack of smiles, making it sound all a bit Twilight. But this was not The Chameleon's experience; chirpy, friendly, warm staff, even asking how my meal was, and to top it all off, going to the extra effort of saying goodbye as he left, even though they were busy. 


THE FOOD
First the coffee. It was nice, quite tasty and very acceptable for a lunchtime pick-me-up. There was an added little touch that really impressed The Chameleon. Next to his cappucinno was a beautiful little heirloom teaspoon, all the way from France. Oh how this delighted him, to see just a little glimpse of style and international thought in this regional city. 

The main was outstanding. Well, it was rather sweet and the jus was very sweet indeed, but geez that pork belly was cooked to perfection. And the sweet potato was great too, the whole meal worked together like an orchestra performing at it's peak. Great work  Firefly. 

OVERALL

Firefly Cafe is perhaps the only 'real' cafe in Toowoomba. The air of elegance, of art and style, Firefly delivers an ultra-urban high-brow ambience which would see it fit into any of Australia's major cities, if not internationally. As The Chameleon gazed into busy Ruthven Street, shoppers inpatiently running past from shop to shop, he could have been sitting anywhere from Rome, to London, to Copenhagen. A few Hiluxes and Navaras quickly bought him back to reality, but alas, Firefly created the desired mood. The food was great, but a lack of options hindered. Should there be more options is perhaps a more pertinent question to ask, as this was a cafe after all. The menu presentation too needed some more thought, but perhaps the pretentiousness that one desires from a cafe has to surface somewhere. The Chameleon thinks they might be going for the "have your coffee and leave" type of attitude, but "if you are going to eat, then we will get that right". Not a bad effort Firefly. 83/100    

Sofra

Overall score: 83/100
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On a beautiful balmy night The Chameleon had the delightful task of attending a work social function at Sofra, one of Toowoomba's highly rated restaurants and the city's only Turkish offering. To say that The Chameleon was looking forward to this visit is a bit of an understatement; urbanspoon consistently rates this establishment in the Top 5 for the Darling Downs Region. 

THE EXPERIENCE
Sofra is located on Toowoomba's well known Margaret Street and on this particular night, it was lucky that parking was not a problem, something that has detracted from the initial CBD experience in the past. Upon entering, perhaps with the preconceived notion that this place was going to be top class, The Chameleon instantly felt at ease. There was a certain warmth, an almost homely feel to the place, with colourful tablecloths, plenty to look at on the walls, and the exquisite use of timber throughout all added to a very well consummated experience. 

The Chameleon's group was seated upstairs on this particular occasion, which gave a a great view of the place, and allowed The Chameleon to perform his critique from a great perch. 

The waitresses were fine yet somehow uninspiring. It was a somewhat busy night and no doubt a few of the girls were just going through the motions. They weren't rude, they didn't make mistakes, but at the same time, there was no extra attention, asking how our meals were, etc. etc.; a stock standard experience. So, the wonderful decor of the place was offset somewhat by lackluster, albeit acceptable, hospitality. 

Also of note was the lack of ambience music. While the chatter of the customers did create some level of privacy, a little Turkish melody wouldn't have hurt. A slight mistake  none-the-less The Chamelon thinks. 

THE FOOD
Sofra excelled here overall. The Chameleon ordered lamb cutlets and man, they were outstanding! Although the presentation was somewhat lacking, that 'flame grilled to perfection' flavour came through in buckets, and the textures were just right. They were accompanied by two pieces of rather large flat breads, which were far too much and the meal presented somewhat thrown together on the plate, but none of this really mattered; the cutlets were THAT good. There was also a very tasty side dish of yoghurt, but the olives that came out were a bit hit and miss.     
    
Of particular note was the use of clay pots for some of the Chameleon's colleagues' meals and it's this sort of unique dining that ads just that hint of interest. 

The desert, strangely, worked very well by accident perhaps. The krem karamel had been burnt and this created a bitter edge. Typically this is a big no no; a bitter desert? But on this occasion, in the way this dish presented overall, the bitterness actually nicely offset the overly sweet, a balance if you will. Was this a mistake or is this the way this desert was supposed to be? The Chameleon needs to research further.

OVERALL

The highly successful execution of the decor and the quality food combined effectively at Sofra. The lack of ambience music and the so so service were a slight distraction, but not enough to really offset the overall feel. A must visit in Toowoomba. 83/100

Thai Royal (Delivery/Take Away)

Overall score: 73/100 (take away adjusted)
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On this particular night not too long ago The Chameleon was feeling very lazy after a busy day's sleeking so the family opted for home delivery. Thai Royal in Centenary Heights poped up on the Chameleon's radar and they promptly ordered some yummy sounding fare and began to wait. And wait. And then....wait. The delivery took a very very long time to arrive, well past what one would deem reasonable. In fact, it was over 30 minutes past the time given to The Chameleon, making it a grand total of approximately 90 minutes. A long time indeed. Apology was received.    

THE FOOD

Having consumed a fair amount of Asian influenced take away in his lifetime, The Chameleon was ready to dig in and sample what this highly rated restaurant had to offer. Things started on a high; the Tom Yum seafood soup was outstanding! Great flavours, spicy (as it should be) and just the right amount of texture. A great example of this soup. A perculiarity did surface though; mushrooms. Floating. Kind of like puffy little boats swimming in an orange ocean. The Chameleon did not know whether this was to his liking, or, whether these 'floaters' could have been left off. I'll let the imagery speak for itself. Floating, grey mushrooms. Hmm.....

Things continued very well with chicken skewers. They were cooked just right and, for the first time in quite some time, a restaurant finally got the peanut paste right. It was crunchy, but not overly, just the way it should be. Well done on these Thai Royal.

From here, a downward spiral unfortunately ensued. It started with the Chicken Penang. While some positive flavours emerged, the texture of the sauce was all wrong. It was very watery and it showed through in the mouthfulls. Unfortunate. 

Following from here was a total disaster. The beef dish was very dry. A little dryness is tolerable, but this particular meal was just all wrong. The sauce had virtually seperated into two layers, a thick pasty top and very watery underneath. It was almost as if the pieces of beef were swimming around inside the container, with a slurry on top. The taste was OK but it was difficult to look past the present dryness. Again, unfortunate. 

The Chameleon must also note the rice, which was quite well done. It was on the sweet side, very sweet infact, but it worked very well with the curries. 
    
OVERALL

Thai Royal did some things very well and the Tom Yum was spot on, as were the skewers and the rice. The mains however were a disappintment. Perhaps a bit of quality control at delivery might have rectified this situation, as a simple shake of the containers could possibly have prevented some of the meal's shortcomings. 73/100 

Bazaar

Overall score: 83/100 
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Buffet dining, in a way, is admitting defeat. Let The Chameleon explain. Dining experiences are far and wide, and at different times of the day or different occasions, a suitable dining option is required. A buffet thus fits into...which one? The correct answer is of course all of them; it can offer options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dining for two, or 50. With a varied menu on offer from a basic breakfast bar, through to a full smorgasbord (which is very much what you get at Bazaar), The Chameleon has to wonder how right the food can be with such variety. And more often than not, his hesitation has proven correct with bland offerings that were not far off from Sizzler levels. He approaches with caution.  

The Bazaar however has changed his perception...somewhat. As you see, another dimension has entered the fold.     


THE EXPERIENCE

Bazaar is located inside the QT hotel, a glitzy venue but let's be honest, The Chameleon couldn't help but think back to any number of motels with a 'restaurant' attached and images of the Carousel began haunting his thoughts. These were quickly dismissed however, as when he slithered up the staircase he was greeted with a friendly staff member and instantly, he knew this was going to be a different dining experience. 

As he was shown to his seat, The Chameleon couldn't help but notice a glaringly obvious  fact; it was very very busy. So much so in fact, that you almost needed to pack a lunch just to get to the buffet section, traversing, if not climbing over and bumping into other guests along the way. This got to a point where The Chameleon at one stage got out of his seat, raised his little head high above the crowd and scouted out a route prior to his quest to get another delicious plate. So a piece of advice Bazaar: Bulldoze/redesign an entire level of your hotel to fit in more customers. Perhaps a trip to Sizzler for inspiration (not for the food). And while The Chameleon is having a go at your layout, it's noteworthy to add that you have tucked the actual business end of this dining experience into a nook! A nook for all those people! The Chameleon also suggests a police officer strategically placed to direct the flow of traffic. 

In all honesty, Bazaar is a wonderful place, very well decorated and a great dining experience albeit very busy and a little bit squashy, some design lacking. Perhaps initially the designers didn't think it would be this popular. 

A quick word about the staff; The Chameleon really appreciated the chirpy friendly nature of the staff here. Smiling, joking, catering to your specific needs is a refreshing change at a buffet. Well done Bazaar. 

THE FOOD
This buffet scores highly on urbanspoon, as well it should. The food, for a buffet, was outstanding. In fact almost all offerings would have gone down favourably in most dedicated restaurants and the variety naturally, was great. But it was more than that; the offerings included stuff like paella, on the spot cooked steak, dumplings, pasta, etc. etc. it was the way a buffet should be.

The highlight came as a surprise. The Chameleon ordered a freshly cooked steak and when he saw what arrived on the table, his heart sank. A piece of thin, flimsy slither of a beef sat, albeit very well presented on a wooden serving board, staring at him. Inside, The Chameleon cried. However, when he tasted what was supposed to be a rare steak, the flavour and texture hit him much like a wrecking ball hits a derelict building. It was superb! AND, even though it was so thin, it was cooked rare! This was by far the highlight, although the steamed dumplings weren't too far behind and let The Chameleon reiterate, this was at a buffet. The rest of the food was of a high standard, the only thing letting the culinary experience down were flavourless prawns, but there was plenty to offset this small mishap. 

A final note; the wine, while on the expensive side, was very nice and a great one on offer to diners.  
    
OVERALL

So this brings The Chameleon to an indifferent conclusion, a dilemma if you will. An outstanding buffet from the food perspective, the best ever actually. Offsetting this is the obvious by-product, a LOT of dinners and unfortunately, to such an extent that it was a significant annoyance. At a quality buffet, come people and come busyness. The cost too was high, something that entered the equation regarding the score. Something to think about Bazaar. 83/100   

Blue Edge Bakery (breakfast)

Overall score: 59/100 
Restaurant:
Blue Edge Bakery on Urbanspoon

Breaking the gastronomical drought in the mornings is one of life's simple pleasures; whether it's a piece of toast with coffee or a full blown all day brekkie,  you want to get it as right as possible. A bakery for instance, should allow you to do this, but on this particularly wonderful morning, The Chameleon was met with a slight drizzle of rain, rather than a full tzunami which he was expecting. 


THE EXPERIENCE

Blue Edge Bakery is smack bang in the middle of Bicheno, a small sleepy 'weekend holiday' town on the east coast of that wonderful state, Tasmania. It presents very well, welcoming, clean and neat, well spaced out, although a distinct lack of seating. This is a small hindrance to the experience, as bakeries are not typically eat-in places, but in Bicheno, it was virtually the only place open. 

The staff were friendly overall; there was a slight feeling of "let's get this order over and done with" but on this busy morning, it was understandable. And busy they were. During The Chameleon's time there, what seemed like at least a hundred people filed in and out, some staying for a meal, some picking up bread; the atmosphere on this morning was one of pleasant rush. 

THE FOOD
The Chameleon ordered one of the breakfast based menu items, the name escapes him. After a somewhat longish wait (although bearable), a well presented plate arrived. This initially pleased The Chameleon; a lot of bakeries simple throw food at the plate, but here, it presented nicely. 

The taste that followed was unfortunately unpleasant. Again, spinach, which The Chameleon loves soooo much, had absolutely no flavour! This is not the first time this has happened; spinach NEEDS something else. It needs an edge to match that wonderful wilted texture. Alas, not today.

The mushrooms too, looked great. As The Chameleon brought it up to his mouth and began to chew, an unpleasant sliminess emerged. It was rather strange; it wasn't entirely from the mushrooms; it came in the form of a lemon dressing which made the acidity over-bearing to the point that I wanted to call out the owner, but, The Chameleon does not complain (until the review of course). The whole meal in-fact was very soggy, including the cardinal sin of placing the toast in a way that it pre-soaked into a gooey mess. LEss than happy Chameleon. 

The highlight at The Chameleon's table was a sausage roll. It was a stock standard bakery style, there were the usual hints of seasoning that made it stand out from your typical take away offering. It was well executed and a total contrast to the main meal. 

Finally, the coffee was passable, but by no means outstanding. The cost was slightly on the expensive side for a bakery and, considering The Chameleon's plate, there was no congruence between the quality and the prices.
    
OVERALL

Blue Edge Bakery is exactly that; a bakery. The attempt at making a cafe style breakfast backfired on this occasion. Stick to what you know best Blue Edge: pastry. 59/100   

Cafe Greco

Overall score: 71/100 
Restaurant:
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It's been a while now since The Chameleon put on his "now I'm a food critic" hat and the number of restaurants he has cast his eyes over in this role is growing by the day. It was no surprise then that an uneasy tenseness enveloped The Chameleon as he walked through the doors of Cafe Greco on Chapel Street in South Yarra.

THE EXPERIENCE

The feeling came from the basic of basics; lighting. This particular diner was enveloped in a weird, soft but bright, dull but vibrant, interesting but uneasy, glow. The Chameleon can only describe it as "not right". It was bright, The Chameleon will concede. Bright to such a level that an absence of mood became apparent. BUT, at the same time, this absence of mood did just that....it created mood. Very difficult to explain, but perhaps more importantly, very difficult to not notice during the meal. The feeling of unease did subside throughout the evening and that is exactly why the experience of this long and narrow restaurant is difficult to summarise. 

The staff were friendly and accommodating, a little bit clumsy with describing menu items, but again, nothing out of the mundane for what seems to be atypical service across most of Australia. But yes, smiling, friendly and doing their best.  

THE FOOD
Entrees  were of a high standard; the Chameleon is noticing that most restaurants are seemingly getting this part of their meals right and so it was with Greco. A highlight here was definitely the garlic bread, one of the best he has ever eaten.  
On The Chameleon's main dish plate, the risotto presented before him was actually of quite a high standard. This one was chunky, but in a good way, great balance of flavours and presented nicely. The finite balance between oily and creamy was achieved, the serving size was spot on. The Chameleon was finally happy after a bit of a wait (close to three weeks) for a decent main dish for dinner. 

The Chameleon was also able to sample one other dish; a lasagna. The easiest way to describe this disaster of a meal is for him to think of a "Black and Gold" lasagna. Go on, go and buy yourself one of these low cost frozen meals, whack it in the microwave and see what Cafe Greco serves up. It did present well and was of course thicker than that piece of frozen mundaneness, but the cheese and the textures were replicated here. Very much a disappointment. So it was lucky that, this time, a restaurant got it right on The Chameleon's plate.   

The prices were on the steeper side but not too drastic and The Chameleon would happily pay for the delicious garlic bread and risotto again next time he is in Melbourne. Can he look past the lighting? That's a separate proposition.
    

OVERALL

Cafe Greco did well overall. OK, the mood was unique, perhaps not to some people's liking, but others may enjoy the experience. The food overall, quite acceptable. The summary question is; would The Chameleon visit again? Hmmm....yes. 71/100   

Burger Edge - St. Kilda Rd. (afternoon tea)

Overall score: 64/100 
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Burgers are a staple these days for The Chameleon, especially for lunch; whenever he has a break, almost magically, a burger joint suddenly appears from nowhere. And this is exactly what happened with Burger Edge, a 'whole in the wall' like burger shop on St Kilda Road; strategically placed for the Chameleon and his mates to stop for a quick bite. It didn't turn out to be such a bad choice.   

THE EXPERIENCE

Upon reaching the counter, The Chameleon had a very uncomfortable experience ordering his burger; the counter staff made him very confused with a myriad of options. He thought that by choosing a burger type from the well presented menu would be the end of it, but then there was additional questions (one at a time) of cheeses, sauces, buns, etc. etc....the Chameleon just wanted a burger, not 'Subway like' decision making. The shop presents as a buy and go, but it felt like minute after minute of answering one question after another to end up with a designer burger. The seating ended up under an umbrella which was not large enough to cover all of the group, but it was the only option after the minimal seating inside/attached was occupied.

THE FOOD


The burgers, having arrived in decent packaging and presenting quite well, were large. The Chameleon had "The Okker". It was definitely enough to fill The Chameleon to the brim, the flavours were OK, but not quite memorable. The Chameleon has had larger burgers, more tasty burgers, more 'complete' burgers, but while it was evident that Burger Edge creates a premium product, the flavours were not exactly unique or interesting enough to draw The Chameleon back. The prices were however reasonable.    

OVERALL

I'm not sure if the gentleman behind the counter was having a bad day or if this is the usual service model Burger Edge will consistently push; if it is, there will be a continual stream of confused and (perhaps) slightly frustrated customers who just want a burger, not a questionnaire to pass an exam or somefink. 64/100   

Signature Cafe (lunch)

Overall score: 74/100
Restaurant:
The Signature Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Chameleon was in his territory in the wild wilderness that is Tasmania, but towards the northern tip near Launceston lies George Town, a quiet little sea-change town, struggling with the stigma of low socio-economic living, it's name tarnished possibly forever. It was thus such a surprise for The Chameleon that The Signature Cafe, open for lunch on this beautiful day presented a memorable dining experience. 

THE EXPERIENCE

Signature Cafe opens from not only the main street of George Town, but also through a back entrance from the Woolworths car park, creating a long and narrow take away shop. It's hard to miss, the cafe looks rather unassuming from both entrances and a quick peek inside suggests nothing more than the typical fare you would come to expect in any Tasmanian take away...deep fried everything, with a hint of local produce. 

This however, was a great misconception; upon entering, you begin to see some refinements, a hint of design thought even, a bit of quality. And then it hits you. The walls. Yes, the walls. Covering almost every nook and cranny of this place, are messages, some scribbled haphazardly, some that look like time was taken, some longer, some very short and some very creative. It's not often the Chameleon will say this, but the highlight was the rest room. He will just say he walked out of there inspired. 

The staff were extremely helpful and made sure the Chameleon's crew was very comfortable; smiles all round. 

THE FOOD


The Chameleon ordered a souvlaki and he also had an opportunity to sample some wedges. First the souvlaki. Look, the Chameleon will say it here and now, it's a bold and brave move to put this dish on the menu; souvlakis are typically either done very well, or very dismally. Surprisingly, this one was in the middle. While the lamb was nowhere near the type of lamb you get in souvlaki mad Melbourne, it wasn't totally horrible either. The filling was OK, the wrap was OK, the garlic sauce could have been better. But you know, it wasn't bad; it just wasn't  "Melbourne standard".

The wedges. One word: WOW. The wedges were just right. Nice texture, great mixture of crunch and softness, great flavours lingering on. Well done Signature. 

OVERALL

Signature cafe is worth your visit. The wedges easily took the meal over the line and the uniqueness of the 'signatures' is definitely worth a look. A must in northern Tasmania. 74/100 

Bistro Gitan

Overall score: 85/100
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Oh Melbourne, how cultured, how divinely old and new, how wonderfully diverse is her weather. The Chameleon recently enjoyed another trip to this wonderful city that is the mecca of multiculturalism in Australia and so it was that the visit to this French inspired restaurant on Toorak Road reflected much of what this wonderfully contradictory city is all about.    

THE EXPERIENCE

Bistro Gitan was (literally) only  a stone throw from where The Chameleon was staying on this particular trip (if you throw the stone that is a little bit round and it rolls along a little, perhaps helped by some moisture on the footpath, and a good arm, but I digress) and having walked past it a couple of times on previous evenings, a peek through the windows was all that was needed to lure this little critter in for a visit.   

The Chameleon was very, very glad he did, as Gitan excelled when it came to the atmosphere and, perhaps more importantly, created the type of mood that fits it's Melbourne location down to a tee; urban cool, old and new, simply brilliant. Any new restaurant looking to create that 'just right' ambiance should look no further than a visit to Bistro Gitan; wonderful use of textures and layout, mixed dining options (bar style/formal seating/group seating/casual/romantic are all options) and the lighting....oh the lighting was exquisite. How can lighting be exquisite The Chameleon hears you ask? Well, Gitan had successfully created an intimate, yet lively and adventurous mood by setting the brightness low, but with intense highlights and focal points with the employment of interesting lighting. In the past, The Chameleon has raved about the wonderful atmosphere created at Brisbane's Verve Restaurant Bar Cider House but Gitan has easily overshadowed that wonderful offering. Add to this the clever rich display of wine, artifacts, a creative bar, open see-through kitchen and music that worked a treat and you get one of the best ambiances you will find anywhere in Australia. It was no surprise that The Chameleon's group had a wonderful evening. 

As The Chameleon's party walked through the door, the host/owner welcomed them in with a cheeky smile, and, without appearing desperate nor pretentious (but just letting  the group know that he is doing us a small favour of some sort), he found us a table. The service continued to be quite acceptable throughout the night.

THE FOOD

On this particular evening, the Chameleon was able to run his long sleek tongue across an escargot entree, two different types of steak (one a special, the other off the menu), as well as some delectable red wine that the Chameleon tried to match to the steak.

The escargot (read: snails) was good. The unique texture, which in this case resonated as a somewhat unusual mixture of thick snot, loose overcooked tripe and melted duck lard, was quite pleasant. The flavour from the accompanying sauce was overly buttery, and the escargot only just emerged on the palate; but it worked. So a decent start to the evening. 

The mains were steak; Gitan did not get this right. The Chameleon's specials menu steak came out overcooked, definitely not medium rare. The texture too was overly dry and the flavour, passable if you were sitting in a pub. That's a bit harsh to be honest, but The Chameleon expected much higher considering the prices that were paid. The side of spinach that was ordered never really got past bland. It was...spinach; and nothing else, which came as a surprise since the robust full flavours of any steak will hide untouched spinach every time. A little garlic, some chilli perhaps, just SOMETHING to give it an edge  of flavour, but nothing emerged. Unhappy Chameleon. 

In stark contrast, the menu steak was absolutely spot on. Cooked as per ordered, it left The Chameleon yearning for someone else's meal. The meat was soft, flavoursome and looked outstanding on the plate. It didn't cost much more than the special and was by far the better choice. 

So there was some inconsistency and, for the price the group ended up paying, this is reflected in the overall score. 

A word on the drinks. Bistro Gitan is very much on the expensive side. You pay top dollar for beer. You pay top dollar for wine. The Chameleon paid top dollar for both. There are no cheap alternate offerings, no 'house wine' to quench your thirst. So expect to pay $40+ upward for a basic bottle of red. The French dry chosen by The Chameleon was a very unusual spicy merlot/shiraz style, not a bad drop, but there are better sub-$20 Aussie reds that you can pick up at a bottle-o. If you are interested, there is a very good selection of premiums, reaching over $500 per bottle, which The Chameleon can not comment on for various obvious reasons.
    
OVERALL

Wow, what a glorious bistro! Highly impressive atmosphere/setup, in fact, would visit again for this singular fact alone, but there were some deficiencies in The Chameleon's meal. Getting it right on one plate is fine, but to appease this reptile, it must count on his plate. Pricey for food, a bargain for the atmosphere. 85/100