DISCLAIMER: This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. Kitchen Wench dined at Pescare with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.
Mushroom Mania is an event hosted by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association to promote the fabulous funghi, and over 2000 restaurants across the country participate by making sure to create and include mushrooms on their menus. As part of the event, last year I stopped by a local little eatery called Pescare where I was utterly utterly horrified by almost everything that I encountered.
But I heard whispers that something had changed, perhaps a change in management? Chef? Operations? But a local reader contacted me some time ago to say that they had been here and that their experience was very different to the one I had, so I decided that it certainly couldn’t hurt to give them another try.
In which case, I felt that it was best to try and re-live last year’s experience as much as possible by sticking with the dishes that had been so very underwhelming last time around.
In terms of decor – absolutely nothing has changed. The furniture, fittings, bar and everything else appeared exactly the same to the discerning eye. HOWEVER – one thing that was remarkably different was that it was MUCH lighter.
That’s right – they’d ditched the “mood lighting” and cranked it up
While Winter isn’t exactly the season for iced chocolates, it was what we had ordered last year and what we ordered again. And believe it or not, they were actually remarkably better. Last year, they came with an icy dollop of ice cream and whipped cream which made the entire thing seem like dessert-but-not-quite (not to mention the fact that the ice cream was pretty MEH), but it seems their approach has changed and now everything is blended together as a milkshake – a change that both my sister and I heartily approved of.
Now, as last year’s stuffed mushroom(s) were unavailable, I felt quite justified in going with something a bit lighter as there were no mushroom-featuring entrees to choose from. We decided on something that would leave the palette unburdened – so bruschetta was a perfect choice. And I have to say that to my surprise, I was actually quite pleased – the sturdy bread did a good job of standing up to the rather moist topping, and the light and clean flavours did a good job of whetting our appetites for the mains to come!
As far as mains go – the lamb shanks were also off the menu (which had quite a few changes in total) so my sister went with the special of the day – beef ribs with chips and garden salad.
Look, – though the chips were quite obviously frozen McCains potato products, at least they were cooked very well, right? Crisp and crunchy on the outside without being smothered in salt, and fluffy on the inside. If this seems insignificant to you, you obviously don’t realize how many suburban eateries F*CK things up completely when it comes to the hot chips.
The garden salad? Well look – if you want to grab a few leaves from your garden bed, chuck a SINGLE slice of cucumber and tomato and two thick-as-hell onion rings on top and call that a garden salad, then more power to you. No, that isn’t sarcasm. No really, it’s not. Okay, well maybe just a tiny bit.
As far as the beef ribs were concerned, they weren’t actually too bad. Obviously braised beforehand and heated before being brought to the table, the sauce was certainly tasty but a bit odd with this particular cut of meat as it seemed the sort of sauce that would better suit some shanks or osso bucco. And my sister certainly polished them off with gusto – but only after scraping as much of the excess sauce off as humanly possible.
The ONE thing on the menu that was unchanged was the Home-made gnocchi with chicken, mushroom, basil pine nut pesto & cream – so this is indeed what I went with. And despite the fact that I took this photo with my brand new Samsung Galaxy S3 (I wanted to test it to see whether it would take decent photos to be used surreptitiously!) rather than my dSLR from last year the dish doesn’t actually look that different.
However, looks can be incredibly deceiving.
The sauce was lighter and not so heavy on the tastebuds (I’m assuming from a reduced quantity of cream), and a much more generous addition of pesto meant that the pesto could actually be TASTED! Dear gods – what a relief! And while the gnocchi itself was cooked to absolute perfection with a soft, cloud-like texture which melted away in the mouth, it was the thick cut button mushrooms which had me hunting them down in the sauce! Last year I had to avoid them due to how incredibly salty they were, but in this year’s dish they were fat and meaty, and so beautifully cooked that they did more for the dish than the chicken did!
In fact, I would have been perfectly happy had they left the chicken out and just put more mushrooms in instead!
I feel that at this point I need to put this restaurant into context. It probably opened up back in the 1990′s when Australian-Italian cuisine was incredibly popular and the Asian population in this area was far smaller than it is now. However, it has failed to keep up with the times – Kingsway in Glen Waverley is now a bustling place busy almost every single night of the week, with a large population of cashed-up young’uns who know good food and good value – so I would be very surprised if Pescare ever saw another sell-out night in their current state.
Having said that – this is a perfect eatery for those older members of the Glen Waverley population who want a peaceful atmosphere, attentive staff and familiar comfort food that won’t challenge their tastebuds. While I would argue that the food is still somewhat overpriced, there’s a reason that this restaurant has managed to stay open all this time, while others have fallen by the wayside.
Are you a mushroom-lovin’ fiend? Or have you had a great mushroom meal? As part of this year’s Mushroom Mania Month, the Australian Mushroom Growers Association are giving YOU the chance to win a $150 gift card! All you have to do is go to the Mushroom Mania website and write a short review of your own fabulous mushroom meal experience! Visit this link for more information – http://www.powerofmushrooms.com.au/mushroom-mania-review-form-s295/