Valentine’s Day at Pod Food

16 Feb

No matter what we chose for our Valentine’s Day dinner this year, it was going to be better than our experience last year. But, to really insure ourselves, we choose a restaurant with a great reputation: Pod Food at Pialligo.

Along with other Canberra restaurants tonight, Pod Food is holding two sittings. Even though our experience at Siren Bar should warn us away, we opt for the later 8pm sitting.

Table setting at Pod Food

Table setting at Pod Food

 

The space inside and out is well utilised, and the many tables fill up. There are a lot of staff around but it feels very personalised with attention from just the one waiter.

The menu from the night is placed on our table. While we’ve already paid the $120 each for the degustation, we agree on the matching wines at another $60 each. Pleasingly, the degustation contains a lot of Canberra wines, and the first wine is the 2011 Collector Marsanne (I’m already a fan of this wine!).

007

We’re told that the matching wines are small glasses, a bit under half a glass full, but that if we like the wine or run out a little early, we are welcome to ask for more. This all seems fair enough until a different waiter tells our neighbouring table that the matching wines are just under full glasses. It’s the first sign that there’s a communication mismatch tonight – and not the last.

Our bread roll arrives from a different waiter with no introduction and no butter; it’s only after we finish that we realise our table setting is missing salt and oil and balsamic… ah. To her credit, our waiter offers us another bread roll when we ask if we could have salt, but we don’t want to fill up before the next eight courses. Because there’s a delay in getting the first course out, we’re approached with a top-up of the wine.

65 degree egg with Collector Marsanne

65 degree egg with Collector Marsanne

Refusing the bread is our mistake: the 65 degree egg with mushrooms, hazelnuts and pepita combines with a lovely flavour, but the textures of the ingredients leaves a sauce which bread would have lovingly mopped up.

024

Next is the salmon gravlax with passionfruit, goats curd and rye, matched with a German riesling. Our wine is poured first, but the problem with leaving the menu on the table means we pick up that the wrong wine’s just been poured… the glasses are whisked away, and the riesling is poured instead.

The salmon gravlax with passionfruit, goats curd and rye is nice, but perhaps too much rye (our second dose of ‘soil’ for the evening), and the passionfruit dominates the goats curd; a slightly larger dollop of the curd would correct this.

Salmon gravlax with rye, goats curd and passionfruit

Salmon gravlax with rye, goats curd and passionfruit

The spatchcock galantine (pork, fennel, dill and leek) is matched with kohlrabi, Vietnamese mint and peas and an Oceans Eight chardonnay (and no, our previous glasses do not reappear! New glasses are poured). The mint and pea mix is vibrant and tasty, and while the galantine is necessarily compact, it’s a filling dish.

Spatchcock galantine, kohlrabi, Vietnamese mint and pea

Spatchcock galantine, kohlrabi, Vietnamese mint and pea

Our waiters swap at this point which is a little strange, and the intimate experience suffers for it. And, maybe the waiter at our neighbouring table wasn’t lying: from here on, the glasses are really well filled. The dish of duck with carrot, peach and lentil comes with another Canberra wine: Eden Road’s Pinot Noir from 2012.

Duck two ways with carrot, peach and lentil

Duck with carrot, peach and lentil

One of the duck dishes is a little overcooked, but it’s a big dish, and – again – very filling. It’s my least favourite dish of the evening.

Closer inspection

Closer inspection

The Messena Barbera from the Barossa is a buttery wine served with a pulled pork shoulder and loin, with a big serving of beetroot, apple and olive.

Pork with beetroot

Pork with beetroot

As bright and beautiful as it is, there’s a little too much still going on with this dish. I understand the need to contrast and complement the flavours of the pork with the beetroot and apple, but the dish seems a little complicated. The pulled pork has a great flavour, but I’m less enthused with the shoulder.

Before our next dish, our original waiter comes back and, with no context asks if we’d like a coffee or tea… I’m confused – aren’t there still two dishes to go? Oh yes, but it’s to be served just after the last dish. It seems to be explained easy enough – there’s only one wine for the final two dishes – but it’s still unusual.

The penultimate dish – and the last dish – is served with a Dolce Nero from Canowindra (sadly mispronounced!) – a sweet sangiovese – half an hour after the last of the mains. It’s been a long night and it’s not over yet. This is the transition dessert – a range of cherry textures with sheep milk yoghurt and coconut in a small bowl. It’s a lovely little palate cleanser.

Cherry textures

Cherry textures

The fact that there’s no photo of the final dessert testifies to how long it’s taken… it’s only at my final mouthful that I realise there’s no photo! This is a dish with plump blackberries and raspberries picked from the Pialligo garden, a slightly overcooked meringue, and soil makes an appearance again in the form of cocoa nibs. It’s served with a smooth chocolate ice cream.

As we finish, another waiter comes around and he’s asking whether we want tea or coffee. This is curious, because we’ve already answered, and we’d expected it would come with the last dish. Instead, we ask if we could cancel our order taken a while back, and instead be presented with the bill. This third waiter comes back and tells us the bill’s sorted but, no, we have to say, it isn’t – we’re owing $120 for the wines.

It’s not a bad dinner by any means, and miles ahead of the horrible experience the year before. There’s a lot of effort, but the dishes are complicated to the point of distracting from the ingredients. The service is eager and polite throughout the evening, but seems uncoordinated. I get the distinct feeling that the restaurant feels a huge amount of pressure with the introduction of new, untested ingredients – maybe staff who haven’t worked together before, or some new dishes, or a huge amount of guests – so I’m not surprised if our experience is a little unusual.

Date: Friday, 14 February 2014

Where: Pod Food, Beltana Road, Pialligo

Cost: $360 for two ($180 for a six course degustation with wines each)

Food creativity: 5 out of 10

Waitstaff pretentiousness: Low

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile

Want more? Try Pod Food’s website.
Podfood on Urbanspoon

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5 Responses to “Valentine’s Day at Pod Food”

  1. kh February 17, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks for the blog post and coming out to Pod! Glad you had a much better Valentine’s then last year! We would hope so.

    Nice to hear you like the selection of wines, so many great Canberra Wines to select from. Funnily one of our chefs was living out near Canowindra so I am sure he will have words to the wait staff! Haha.

    It is pretty unusual to have two sittings, we chose to do the two sittings as there is just such demand and maybe the service did suffer, thanks for the feedback. We appreciate your honesty with the bill, too!

    The food is pretty adventurous, that’s what we like, so always great to get constructive feedback, glad you enjoyed all but a few misses.

    Hope to see you again soon (on a normal evening!).

    Kate and John. Owners. Pod Food.

  2. whisperinggums March 20, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

    Just slowly catching up. We were out of town over Valentine’s Day and I didn’t catch up with all my blogs from then. We like Pod Food, and try to go there at least once in Autumn and Spring, usually for lunch. Good on you for being honest about the bill. That’s our practice too. I reckon if you pull people up for overcharging you should also do the same for undercharging.

    We’re getting to the point where we don’t want to go to places on special days/nights with their special menus and sittings. They are usually not as good. So, for example, we try to celebrate Mothers Day (or whatever) the day before or the week later. Works a treat! It all started when we tried to book a Mothers Day meal at a winery restaurant out of town a couple of years ago and they were booked out. But, they said, “we are free the day before” and will be doing pretty much the same menu but with a little more flexibility because it wouldn’t be the set version they were doing for the packed day. We took up her suggestion and decided this was the way to go in future.

    • inthetaratory March 24, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

      I think that’s a great idea to NOT go to restaurants on their special nights – I think I can easily convince Boyfriend of the same! There’s something contrived and fake about the nights. I found the same at a Christmas dinner we had while we were o/s in Bali last year – just very odd. Hopefully I’ll remember our exchange next time a similar ‘event’ comes up!

      • biallystock March 1, 2015 at 5:54 am #

        We didn’t go there for a special night and it was not overly full, so our experiences don’t quite match, but I found the service very good and neither pretentious nor unprofessional.

        The food was certainly the star of the evening. We had eaten there before when it did seem a little complicated and perhaps trying too hard, but last night it all was spot on and all the flavours really worked together.

        Nothing over cooked, all just right. The sides and desert should get a special mention. I like a restaurant that carries through on everything and doesn’t take a rest on what are normally secondary dishes.

        In fact the deserts were truly standout terrific. I’d be happy to go there just to try them all on their own.

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