Thursday, 7 March 2013

Number 8 Restaurant and Bar - Boys and Toys

When I recently needed to find a venue around Crown Casino to host a lunch meeting, I was drawn to Number 8 Restaurant and Bar as it always appeared to be a calm, respectable and a professional place - at least from first impressions after walking past it many times. I was keen to see if "8" had a special meaning - whether it simply denoted the address of Crown Casino (8 Whiteman Street) or perhaps was being associated with the lucky auspicious number in Chinese culture.

This is one of the few restaurants that I have visited since I started writing this blog that I thought was simply sterile. All of the white linen, white walls and unremarkable decor reminded me of the days when I volunteered in the hospital. Although I was primarily at the restaurant to talk about business, the place was packed with others that only had that on their mind, serious faces, scowls and jowls flapping whilst the clink-clink of water-spotted silverware was used to slice the various cuts of meat on the boring tables.

The service was a bit erratic and confused from the time that we entered. It was automatically assumed that we would want to sit outside and were led there by default. Given it was a warm day and the beautiful Yarra River (sic) is nothing really to languish around and look at, we insisted on sitting inside and far away from the hustle and bustle to take advantage of the air conditioning like the other self-important people were doing.

We were asked if we wanted to see a wine list. This normally doesn't happen at restaurants. It simply appears. Normally when I am dining, the list is nearly always consulted and never refused so the question was vexing. The list itself appeared in electronic form as an iPad was produced housed inside a large cover effectively making it appear to be a book. I have nothing against using a tablet to present the empirical data associated with the wine list provided that there is data. Simply having a page that scrolls with selections and prices, and no further information - sommelier's notes, ratings from the usual periodicals or even the propaganda that the various winemakers release with their vintages made this wine list useless. This medium has so much potential to be useful but in this instance, was just a cumbersome and irritating toy that supposedly has 888 wines detailed.

We opted for a 2009 Bannockburn Chardonnay from the Geelong/Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria ($115) thinking that it would match well with the first of two courses, the first being the kingfish ceviche. Although the kingfish was cured properly, it was presented nearly frozen and rigid. Perhaps the refrigerator is just too cold in the restaurant but the fish was far too cold for my liking and was bland.

After the kingfish was consumed, we agreed that we should limit our wine intake to just one bottle since we needed to actually do some work in the afternoon. We polished off the chardonnay before the entree - wallaby arrived. I inquired if the wallaby was indeed from Flinders Island, which was claimed after the server spoke with the chef -- (Note: Flinders Islands Meats got in touch with me after the publication of this post and advised that they do not supply wallaby to this restaurant, so who knows where it is sourced from. I have since e-mailed the restaurant with a query.) Although there was a good hearty quantity of wallaby on the plate, probably double of what I received at Attica, it just seemed to be ordinary. The familiar "gamey" beef taste was there but the meat was not lean as I become accustomed to and it was rather fatty. The taste of the meat was overpowered by some sort of sweet sauce that I did my best to extricate from the dish as it was just unnecessary and almost offensive to the wallaby.

Although business was concluded and the venue made for a calm alternative to a coffee shop or cafe, I left Number 8 feeling like I escaped from a vacuum of mediocrity and jilted as I expected something more. With so many other options in and around the Crown, I can't say that I will be trying my luck at Number 8 again anytime soon. (Note: Service rating was downgraded because I learned the restaurant lied to me about the origin of the wallaby on offer.)

Number 8 Restaurant and Bar
Crown Casino
8 Whiteman Street, Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 7899
My Rating: 11/20
Service: 2/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 3/5
Value For Money: 3/5

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time of this post, 70% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Number 8 Restaurant and Bar.

Number 8 Restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon