Max Horkheimer, Restaurant Reviewer
July 22, 2008

    Kitschin' Table is a fore-runner in the new wave of local restaurants offering cuisine that is daring to be different

Address: 84 Lygon Street (The River End)
Hours: Dinner 6pm-late Mon-Sat
Payment: Visa, Amex
Price Guide: Entrees $20-$30, Mains $60-$80

If Carlos Beamer is tired he hides it well. It's just after eight-thirty, and the head chef at  Kitschin' Table is speaking to me with the an energy and rhythm that matches the pacey buzz of this trendy Lygon Street eatery. As a food critic I'm well accustomed to being schmoozed by hand-wringing chefs de cuisine and babbling, over-eager restaurateurs, but Carlos comes across as fresh and genuinely enthusiastic. He speaks with passion and warmth about the restaurant, and its edgy menu that has everyone in the city talking.

    "What we're doing is so new, nobody quite knows what to call it yet! I've just got back from a convention in Paris and it's all anyone's talking about. They're calling it avant-garde, but you know what? That's just a word trying to catch up with a concept. Nobody knows what the hell we should be calling this stuff yet!"

As if to illustrate the point, the drinks waiter arrives with the Sauvignon Blanc I've selected - served in a chipped coffee mug. There's a smear of lipstick on the rim, and thick globs of fat floating on the surface

    "See!?", Carlos grins, "This is how we are doing things now! It's not just about the food. It's a new philosophy that underpins everything we're doing in the restaurant. The way we deal with customers. Our approach to hygiene. It's totally changing the culture in the kitchen. Even down to the dishwater.We're only changing it maybe once or twice a day now. More than likely the cup you're drinking from was washed in a sink that looks like a pot of Vichyssoise."

For a young restaurant, the menu at the Kitschin' Table is diverse, including a respectable range of complex and difficult dishes. For entree I order the seafood vol et vents, a decision I don't regret. Before the plate is on the table, I can smell the pungent aroma of the prawns and salmon, immediately reminiscent of the sun-ripened oysters at Bochulista's. The sauce has been texturised with shell and scales, and the entire dish has been dusted with a just-right smattering of pubic hair - generous without being decadent.

Before ordering mains I look around the room to see what other patrons are eating. A nearby couple have ordered the domestic carp, which diners are permitted to select fresh from a tank situated at the end of the dining room. The dish is wonderfully understated. The fish is served still flopping about, gasping on a bed of aquarium sand and fish excrement. The tartare sauce is presented on the side in algae-encrusted plastic treasure chest. It's simple; bordering on nouveau urban-provincial, while maintaining a modest dignity. I like it.

With an tempting list of inviting choices on offer, I finally settle on the Refried Porterhouse Steak Served in a Dirty Ashtray.  The cut of meat I am served is still hot and audibly sizzling when it reaches the table. I'm impressed by the attention to detail when I turn the meat to observe a still-smouldering Winfield. It looks to have been butted out only moments earlier, and is emitting a gentle lick of smoke over the leathery surface of my steak. Biting into it, I'm surprised by other gentle flavours as well. An unidentified variety of aromatic pouch-tobacco, and even hints of some low-tar menthol. Once again I'm reminded that a good kitchen is not a one-man show. It takes a team of good people under the tutelage of a great chef to produce food like this.

Tempted back to the seafood theme, for dessert I select the chocolate starfish. It presents in a shallow dish, drizzled with hotdog-flavoured water - an unusual yet exciting and strangely complementary combination of flavours. Undertones of cinnamon and ammonia. Good stuff!

I spend time reflecting upon my dining experience over a cup of dishwater coffee, and contemplate what it is about restaurants such as this that make them stand-out from the competition. Sure the service is good, but it's no better than up the road at Do Do Dada, or over at Surreal For Real. I think what impresses most about a place like Kitschin' Table is how bold the menu is. Many difficult-to-source ingredients are utilised in dishes that allow no room for error. Yet despite this, the prices are comparable to other restaurants in the district and the food is expertly prepared and deeply satisfying. The whole experience is a nine-thumbs-up from me. Well done Carlos. I'll definitely be back!

Bon Appétit!

Max Horkheimer

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