Restaurants come, restaurants go. Some are funky, some are modern, and some are hipster. In their midst stands Koots Salle à Manger, a French restaurant tucked away on Glenferrie road, just up from the Kooyong Tennis Center and also Kooying train station.
Koots has been quietly going about its business for over 14 years now. And I say quietly, because from what I can see, it does not get the wide-spread attention or acclaim that other long standing establishments receive (though it always does well when written up in good food guides and the like). However, to be in business for so long, someone must be doing something very right, and I think Koots falls into the neighbourhood gem category, a not so secret destination for locals to catch up over a plate of well executed food and a glass of French wine or three.
Jonella was joining us, to make up a party of three on a Thursday night.
I admit to being a little bit apprehensive about the decor at Koots. I hadn’t seen any interior photos online and had notions that a restaurant that had been around for so long might be dark and stuffy and very formal looking.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
The restaurant is a long narrowish space with a bar down one side, and there is more seating in the courtyard.
We all found the space to be welcoming, modern, elegant and cosy, despite being very quiet on the night we dined.
One other table of three arrived at the same time that I did. Though, they dined off the a la carte menu and were therefore done in around two hours, and after that we had the place to ourselves. This might have felt weird but it didn’t. The maitre d did say they had been packed at lunch time and the dinner services had been variable throughout winter.
We kicked things off with a glass of non-vintage Paul Bara Brut Grand Cru Reserve from Bousy, France.
We ordered the seven course degustation menu, with dietary requirements happily catered for.
Complimentary bread was provided in a wire basket. And it was topped up after we had eaten it all.
The first course was an amuse bouche, and for Panda and Jonella it was a freshly shucked Coffin Bay Oysters with vodka, ginger and lime granité.
They were most impressed by the granité, especially the ginger flavour.
I had a cold soup, pumpkin I think, with a dollop of herbed creme fraiche.
The tanginess of the creme fraiche worked so well with the soup, and added a touch of creaminess.
The girls had another seafood dish for second course, the scallop mousse with roasted king prawns, leek compote and shellfish foam.
I had the duck liver parfait with green tomato chutney, pickled celery and apple.
It was a lovely parfait with well balanced accompaniments. I did need to use a piece of bread from the bread basket to finish it off though.
Next up was the witlof, pear and walnut salad with Woodside goat’s curd, sourdough toast and shallot dressing.
A lovely refreshing salad with a great combination of flavours and textures.
In need of another glass of vino, we gave the maitre d our likes and dislikes and Panda and I were poured an excellent glass of 2011 Vallon Blanc Jacquére Vin De Savoie.
And Jonella had a glass of red.
Our next course was my favourite savoury course of the evening, the roasted pig’s trotters and ham hock in brik pastry, sauce ravigote and frisée salad.
Crispy pastry, with a tasty meaty filling and a garlicky mustardy sauce, what is there to not like?
We went our separate ways again for the next course, with Jonella and Panda enjoying the wild barramundi fillet with caramelized fennel, herb spaetzle and dill cream.
Jonella was excited about this dish more for the accompaniments than the piece of fish and would have liked more of them on the plate.
I had a gnocchi dish with walnuts and goats’ cheese. The maitre d explained that the French make their gnocchi a little bit differently, with half potato and half choux pastry.
The gnocchi was a lot lighter than regular gnocchi, and very good. Though, I will admit to being a bit over walnuts and goats’ cheese by that stage.
Our final savoury course was the seared veal loin with local wild mushroom and penne pasta gratiné with comté.
A beautiful piece of meat and who doesn’t love posh mac ‘n’ cheese?
We were all pretty stuffed by this stage (too much bread!) but I am very happy that we have a separate dessert stomach as dessert was an absolute cracker!
It was pear and chestnut mousse trifle with salted caramel foam and spiced pear doughnut
I am one of those people who are disappointed when the dessert for a degustation is not chocolate based. However, this dessert has to be one of the best non-chocolate desserts I have had.
I started with the doughnut. In the middle were pieces of spiced pear! I then took a bite of the salted caramel foam. Panda and I just looked at each other and grinned. It was amazing.
I think Panda giggled the whole way through eating this dessert. And I am pretty sure Jonella asked if she could have another one to take home.
Everything about it was just so good. We ate as slowly as we could, savouring each bite, trying each layer separately, but also combining them. There was talk of licking the glass clean.
While all the previous courses had been well executed and we couldn’t fault them, the dessert had the wow factor.
We declined tea or coffee, but still got to enjoy vanilla macarons with a pear and chestnut filling.
The degustation at Koots might be a tad more expensive than others around town, but we thoroughly enjoyed our evening and had to be rolled out the door by the lovely maitre d we were that full and satisfied.