Corner Claremont Street & Yarra Lane
I must have been really really good last year. I’ve barely gotten over the fact that Two Birds, One Stone has settled in seven tram stops away from me. And now we’ve been blessed with the arrival of Claremont Tonic.
Brought to you by the brains behind Touche Hombre, I was invited by the Davis Group & AMPR to Claremont Tonic, a place that needs no spruiking. If you like the heady potent flavours of Coda and Chin Chin, here’s a new Asian fusion to add to the mix. I brought along a plus one (I paid for my date), and mid way through we were already discussing when we’d be back next and who we’d be bringing.
Raw and edgy, from the fitout to the drinks, led by a head chef with credentials like Ezard, plating up contemporary fresh exciting food.
I was eyeing the C-Bomb - straight out of a carved watermelon, one I’ll most definitely be back for and a brilliant one to share.
You, Me, Oui - Four Pina Coladas with Pineapple Juice, Coconut Milk, Fresh Lime Juice, Almonds & Rum ($55)
Passionfruit, Fresh Honey Comb, Vietnamese Mint & Candy Swirl
I was seduced by the accompaniments which intensified the flavours of the thick milky pina colada but was probably too heavy in contrast with the lightness and the freshness of the plates we ordered.
Flied Plawn - Fried Toast with Whipped Shrimp & Lemon ($12)
A play on prawn toast, something I’ve only had for the first and last time probably two years back. You bite through the closely huddled black & white sesame seeds on toast for a light crunch, the whipped shrimp encased within is soft juicy and fresh. Topped with a dollop of cream, hints of lemon, a heap of fresh green coriander leaves.
King of the Chimichangas - Raw King Salmon, Nori Tacos & Box of Condiments ($19)
DIY style, you have two lightly battered crisp nori shells mimicking empty taco shells, and a wooden box all four corners brimming with raw silky king salmon, avocado, wasabi mayo, creme fraiche, gleaming cod roe and sushi rice. Done two ways, you can break & dip, or take a clean even scoop from one side to the next and fill your taco up for a messier bite. Soft silky, light popping of oily roe, creaminess from the avocado mayo, a slower creamy resistance from the rice and crunchy textures from the nori shell.
Pork Bun Animal Style - Pork Belly, Crackling, Double Pineapple (Achar & Grilled) & Quail Egg ($12)
Absolutely giving Golden Fields’ lobster roll a run for its money, you have these soft pillowy golden brioche buns, crisp yet oily fatty textures of pork belly, sweet juicy pineapple bites, contrasting light quail egg with the richness of its yolk, garnished with onions, coriander and a distinct almost plum sauce. All I can remember is the softness of those buns, slowly caving down and melding into the silky pork belly slivers.
Soft Shell Crab Cups - Lettuce, Pomelo, Jalapeno, Avocado, Fiery Mint & Pine Nut ($19)
Lightly battered generous soft shell crabs with sweet pomelo, coriander mint, creamy avocado, a jalapeno kick and a vibrant green lettuce cup to bring it altogether. There are plenty of flavours battling with each other to get your attention.
Slow Cooked Pork Jowl, Pear, Maltose, Almond & Coriander ($26)
We only ordered one off the larger dishes, purely because we saw plenty from the smaller plates we had to have. It was this dish, that had me bbm-ing my dad, telling him there was a pork jowl dish with his name on it when they swing by in September.
Layers of luscious soft melt in your mouth fat and juicy meat, concealed by a glistening golden maltose sheet that gives you the sweet crackly crunch you crave. With a fresh sweet pear shards, fish sauce, coriander & onion accompaniment to cut through the richness.
Chicken Wing Dumpling - Spiced Vinegar, Egg Yolk & Crispy Skin ($18)
Dumplings don’t do it for me, this didn’t convert me. You have a bouncy filling seated on chicken within the taut smooth dumpling wrappers and an airey crisp chicken skin for crunch.
The golden yolk in a pool of vinegar, broken and beaten to form a dipping sauce.
Double Duck Blinis - Peking Duck, Pate, Cucumber, Hoisin & Caviar Aioli ($22)
I come across blinis as hor d’oeuvres, often with smoked salmon & salmon roe but they are completely let down by the crusty stale blini.
As a whole mouthful, you have these soft spongey blinis, pink tender duck, freshness from the cucumber slice, the creamy earthy richness from the pate and the caviar aioli.
We had to forego the sweets but I will be back for that spiced carrot cake.
A running theme throughout the night - the dishes are familiar, often comforting and they tweak it so it’s exciting visually and on your palate. Beautifully fresh, and the things you love most are elevated up a notch and brought to the forefront, whether it’s that juicy whipped prawn, the softness of the brioche becoming one with the pork belly slivers, or that crackly crisp coat shielding those translucent layers of fat in the pork jowl. It’s smart and thoughtful. We need more places like this - delivering fresh quality produce and food that gets you excited.
NOTE: I was extended an invitation by Claremont Tonic & AMPR, and this review is based solely on my personal thoughts of the atmosphere, the quality and aesthetics of the food we were presented with on the night.