Steve's birthday celebrations started well on the Friday night at the Stanley Pub and the next day we continued the revelry by moving to Provenance in Beechworth. We faced the elements and enjoyed a mooch around the town with lunch at a local brewery before checking in and taking advantage of the amazingly comfortable bed and napped before dinner. This weekend was very much about good food and then sleeptime around the meals! But given I was still trying to fight off the lurgy, it didn't seem a bad way to spend the time.
Having heard great things about Provenance and having already recommended people try it before we even went ourselves we'd been looking forward to this for ages so to say we had expectations is probably true.
Steve has never been a fan of tofu so when the optional starter was house made silken tofu, soused seafood, wasabi, ginger he wasn't that fussed about opting in but I convinced him and he loved it! The little Asian teacup arrived pretty quickly - a lot sooner than our accompanying sake did but luckily I had opted for the champagne and still had plenty of that. Completely reminiscent of chawan mushi but tofu and not egg I loved the saltiness of the roe and the seafood and the fragrant ginger kiss and then the odd hit of wasabi. We soon learnt with the Provenance dishes to try and get as much of everything in one mouthful as it's about the sum of all the parts as opposed to individual features.
Next came vegetables, pickles, okayu sauce, puffed rice, umeboshi. I feared it would be like the veggie dish at Brooks where I was overwhelmed by the strong veggie flavours and at first mouthful when I had some beetroot and I think another piece of veg I began to think I was down that garden path so to speak. But then I ate more and loved the pickled turnip combined with the savoury almost chickeny okayu sauce and I got it. It tasted good!
Continuing the veggie theme we had roasted broccoli, broccoli puree, candied lemon, anchovy, capers. Completely different to the previous veggie dish I loved mixing the purees and the crumbs and the delicious iron flavours of the florets came through.
The smoked bonito, braised turnip, jamon consommé, sautéed lettuce, bottarga took us back to Japan and away from the veggie allotment. Thickly cut sashimi style seasoned with a meaty almost gluey consomme heavy on the jamon flavours and then lightened up by the cleansing turnip and lettuce.
We then took a turn towards meat and enjoyed pork cheek cooked in hay, grain and pea salad, coriander and blood pudding. I was a little apprehensive about the blood pudding because it was a bit flabby looking and I usually like the coarser, drier black pudding but when eaten with a but if meat some crunchy hay and pea puree it was delicious.
After pork came grass fed Yalandra wagyu, beets cooked in clay, beetroot jam, garlic and horseradish. Steve declared this one of the finest beef dishes he has ever had which is a pretty high accolade. I loved its silky texture and intense flavour off set with sweet beetroot and then a hint of horseradish warmth. An absolute memorable dish and a highlight.
Steve enjoyed the optional cheese course but I opted out given it was a blue cheese - Bleu de Laqueuille and it was served with quince jelly, saba and walnut bread. I had hoped they would be able to offer me an alternative but it didn't happen so I watched Steve eat and drink the quince liqueur and he did it with such enthusiasm and delight it was wonderful to watch!
Dessert was banana mousse, peanut frangipane, orange and miso caramel. The banana mousse was fruitier than I expected. Loved the cakey goodness of the peanut frangipane and the zestiness of the orange. Have to concede though that it wasn't the most amazing dessert I've ever had.
Thinking back to dinner at Provenance and it was such a great evening because there was a sense of anticipation as we waited for the next course. I love that sense of uncertainty, of pushing boundaries and when the flavours come together for that party in the mouth, it's amazing.
In the last three weeks, Steve and I have been lucky enough to try out three great two hatted restaurants - Stokehouse, Aria and Provenance and it's really interesting to compare them. Absolutely the food is delicious at all. Aria wins for classic flavours elevated to stellar status but undeniably it wasn't that exciting and if we weren't with 4 friends it could have been a dull night. Stokehouse, great date place and a pleasant evening...more neighbourhood restaurant than destination dining though. And then Provenance - exciting, worth a trip and I think the fact that the whole package was dinner and a gorgeous room and a spa bath just made it a wonderful experience.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.