24 Sep Tu Restaurant, South Yarra
Discreetly opening up earlier this year, Tu has been a quiet achiever. Owner TJ has lived and worked in France for a long time, setting up food and hospitality businesses before coming back to Melbourne for good. His vision for Tu is to do French like the French do. French food is not all about expensive menus, heavy dishes and stuffy atmospheres like some of us might imagine, and he saw that Melbourne is missing the more typical, casual style of French dining that is more commonplace there.
Aside from the main dining room, Tu has a more intimate upstairs area, and also a courtyard, which will be perfect for the sunny weather that’s to soon come.
Hailing from Normandy, at only 25 years old, Arnaud Laidebeur has got serious talent. The menu changes regularly (weekly at the moment), produce is ordered daily, and food made fresh every day. This is due in part to limited kitchen storage, but also because it helps them to achieve the high standard of cuisine they’re aiming for.
A la carte is available, but we take part in a tasting menu tonight. We begin with two amuse bouche, the first, lamb tartare with avocado and dark chocolate. It has elements of onion, as one might expect from a tartare, but comes on a crunchy and slightly sweet biscuity base. Using lamb in tartare is unusual, but we find that it’s fresh, and not gamey at all.
The second amuse bouche is a veloute. The glass is topped by a Dutch cream potato that’s been fried in butter, and long and crispy carrot chips. The potato and veloute are to be eaten at together. The veloute is salty, and full of a beautifully rich, seafood flavour, and the potato is creamy. Our tastebuds are certainly awakened by this point.
Our next few courses continue with the seafood theme. The octopus carpaccio comes with a red cabbage salad, beets, fresh coconut and coriander. It looks simple, but is so well executed. A touch of mayo combines everything together nicely.
The chipirons concludes the small plates. A tumble of tender, flash-fried pieces of baby calamari goes well with onion puree. Butter in the form of a beurre noisette foam adds richness whilst keeping things light, and pickled vegetables ward off any sense of heaviness from both the butter and onion.
This week’s fish special is the seared Mirror Dory. The fine-fleshed fish is lightly seared and well handled, coming on a multi-coloured pedestal of quinoa and green peas. Cumquats add a nice touch of acidity, and the cold cucumber foam needs to be eaten quickly before its aeration is lost and forms a puddle on the plate.
Taking inspiration from the traditional Aussie BBQ, the beef ribs are done with an interesting slant. The glazed slow-cooked beef short ribs come with charred baby corn, smooth corn puree, and a capsicum and mango salsa. It’s sweet, but not overly so, and the beef melts in the mouth.
Before the sweet dessert we indulge in a cheese board including 18-month Charles Arnaud Réserve Comté and Gorgonzola Dolce D.O.C, a type of blue cheese. There’s a variety of nutty and buttery, soft and firm cheeses, and rather than using the more common fig, the cumquat preserve is used to balance the cheeses’ acidity.
We conclude our night with a deconstructed lemon tart. Large shards of buttery biscuit emit the most enticing fragrance when they arrive at the table. To tie it in with the other elements, citrus zest is hidden within. Dollops of both bergamot and lemon curd are smooth and luscious, not acrid, and a nice variety of chopped fresh citrus fruits go a long way in refreshing the palate and keeping things light.
The ambience at Tu is warm, relaxed and unassuming, and the food is also top-notch. It might be new on the block, but Tu should not be discounted; it’s been popular amongst the local French for good reason. For beautifully presented plates, intricate flavours and extraordinary new-school French in an unpretentious setting, it’s the place to be.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Tu as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
41 Toorak Rd
South Yarra, VIC, 3141
(03) 9867 3725