179A High Street
Franco Choo’s will henceforth be known as my kitchen away from home. It’s barely a five minute drive from home. Small intimate and quaint. Priding themselves on using seasonal produce, their menu changes every two weeks - with the confidence to offer only two entrees, two mains & two desserts and a smattering of sides. That and for practical reasons, given owner and chef Steven Choo was single-handedly plating up course after course through the night. The limited menu doesn’t detract from a gorgeous and relatively extensive wine list. The food is rustic Italian with a considerable Asian influence. They offer a two course set on Tuesdays ($35).
My particular fondness for Franco Choo’s stems from the fact that I was on the fuller side given I had a rather long almost 5-course lunch at Merricote, combined with the fact that after an initial glance at the menu, I wasn’t particularly enticed by anything. In my experience, when I’m full and blase about the menu, it’s never a good start to the night. But Franco Choo’s blew this theory out the water.
Berkshire Pork & Chicken Boudin, Black and White Sesame, Mustard & Watercress, Ginger Oil ($14)
I’m not a huge fan of sausages, but this had a lovely hearty texture, warm pork and chicken (not minced thank you very much), coated with white and black sesame seeds which gave it a delightful nutty aroma, with a fragrant ginger oil.
Braised Beef Cheeks in Soy, Star Anise and Cinnamon, Brown Rice Porridge, Spring Onions & Shiitake ($23)
I still recall the precise moment - mid way through this course, where I realised that this dish was making me hungry. The smell and taste was so comfortingly good that I wanted more. Admittedly a flavour profile I’m familiar with - the soy, star anise and cinnamon reminded me of Bak Kut Teh. The beef cheeks were absolutely gorgeous, incredibly soft tender yet so juicy and full of flavour. Beef cheeks could not get any better. Juicy shiitake mushrooms, with scallions, all seated atop a generous heap of creamy white rice, close to a thick porridge consistency.
Pan Fried Barramundi, Sauteed Silverbeet, Sultanas in Vincotto & Celeriac Puree ($27)
Crispy skin, with soft and fresh barramundi, with a very mild almost muddy taste you often find with this fish. The silverbeet was soft and sweet, with sweet and sour sultanas providing relief to the creamy smooth celeriac puree.
Almond Meringue, Dried Figs in Marsala & Whipped Cream ($11)
The desserts couldn’t top the mains. If I had to pick, this was probably my favourite of the two sweets. A divine concoction of textures, the sweet smooth whipped cream, the honeycomb-like shards of meringue, crunchy nutty almond bits, and soft chewy sweet figs, with a heady marsala drizzle.
Sticky Rice Dumplings, Crushed Peanuts, Salted Palm Sugar Syrup & Banana ($12)
Like mochi without the filling, with sticky palm sugar, a peanut crumble and banana slices. The flavours work, but I’m not fond of palm sugar or mochi. The mochi was silken sticky and consistent.
What’s there not to love - a culmination of factors including the fact that it’s close by, you can dress up on weekend nights and dress down on weekdays. The menu changes regularly, it’s gorgeous hearty rustic food with a twist, and a great wine list to boot. A new found neighbourhood favourite - you can never have too many of those.