04 Mar Transformer, Fitzroy
Coming from the team behind Veggie Bar, Transformer sparked much interest with its upper-end vegetarian offerings. High ceilings carried over from its warehouse shell, spot lighting, splashes of greenery and projected images and videos on walls create a sense of grungy cool. The size of our Friday dinner group meas we have to take the banquet menu for $55pp, and after ordering the procession of dishes came quite quickly.
There’s a creamy pumpkin dip with hints of cumin, scooped up with sourdough crisps. So delicious, but not quite enough dip to go with all the crisps – more would be welcome. Heirloom tomatoes are prepared simply to showcase their natural flavours. Popcorn seasoned with coconut oil and nori are ridiculously addictive – slightly sweet, slightly vinegary; a taste a bit like lime and pepper.
The meaty, dense mushrooms are flavoured with a confit garlic and pine nut puree. Smoked shallots and porcini salt add further to a dish full of umami. Broccolini is simply prepared with a topping of shaved pecan, barberries, pumpkin seeds and feta. One of my favourite vegetables, cauliflower, is roasted and accompanied by saffron yoghurt, raisins, chickpeas and roughly chopped pistachio. The cauliflower dish is good, but would be more enjoyable if cooked a little more.
An interesting sweet ricotta gnocchi dish seems something more fitting towards the end of the meal given the dobs of blueberry compote on the plate. The ricotta gnocchi by themselves are a little bland.
Protein arrives in the form of tofu. Smokey cubes of firm tofu are skewered and grilled, though perhaps a tad flavourless despite the presence of dried miso. Baton-shaped polenta and corn fritters are arranged like a half-finished game of Jenga. Kaffir lime is prominent with each crunchy bite. The cumin braised eggplant is soft and tender, seasoned with chermoula, smoked labneh and mint, and speared with shards of slightly oily quinoa crisps. The three rice pilaf with chickpeas and pomegranate is a hit. The crispy onion bits really make the salad pop, though without it the salad seems a bit lacking, even when eaten with the pomegranate arils.
Desserts are not included in the banquet, but they sound interesting so we fork out extra to have a taste of three of them. There’s an intensely rich chocolate brownie with salted coconut sorbet, hazelnut ganache and a cherry gel to cut through. Peaches are artfully arranged around ice cream and sugared fennel, a dessert fitting for warmer weather. A cylindrical beaker containing lemongrass crème with dehydrated mandarin, crispy slivers of coconut, kalamansi, caramelised white chocolate and a smattering of basil soil is a refreshing and interesting exploration of flavours.
Aside from a few dishes, most are nice but not great, and the majority of us felt the ‘feed me’ menu at Transformer was a little undeserving of its $55 price point. Perhaps for a first visit it would be wise to come on a weekday where the feed me option is not quite as dear.
99 Rose St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 9419 2022