I was highly amused when I read about the opening of a new restaurant on Smith St named Huxtable. Naturally, this was the first thing to come to mind:
I have such strong memories of the Cosby Show, many of which relate to those ridiculous jumpers that Bill wore (and if you want a trip down memory lane, check out the theme).
But I digress. Huxtable is the new venture of self-proclaimed Cosby kids Dante Ruaine (Pelican, MoVida), Daniel Wilson (the Graham) and Jeff Wong (Nineteen Squares). The dark and sexy space, designed by architect Byron George (St Jude’s Cellars) has been open just one week.
It is hard to describe the cuisine of Huxtable, other than to say that it is designed for sharing. The menu traverses a number of different continents, with dishes having an Asian bent (Korean ribs, Japanese tataki, Thai coconut mussels), a side trip to the Middle East (Lebanese cauliflower) and European influences, particularly French (quail terrine, fish à la meuniere) and Spanish (white beans with piquillo peppers and pumpkin with piment d’espelette).
The menu is divided into ‘bites’ (which are usually priced for a single portion) ‘to share’ (larger dishes) and ‘sweets’. We were told that a couple of bites each plus three ‘to share’ dishes should be enough for our group of four.
We started with some cheesey bites – olive crumbed anchovy mozzarella, smoked tomato ($4.5 each) and jalapeño & cheddar croquettes ($3.5 each):
The jalapeño croquettes had a fiery kick to them and were much more flavoursome than the mozzarella and olive balls (where the anchovy flavour didn’t come through).
Our other order from the ‘bites’ menu were the Tom Yam school prawns ($12):
Our next dish arrived, the Lebanese cauliflower, harissa yoghurt and pistachio dukkah ($14), that our waitress had highly recommended:
These were simply delicious. Dark, soft, spiced cauliflower with a mild harissa yoghurt and crunchy pistachio.
Next we tried another ‘to share’ dish, a special of chorizo, white bean and mussels:
I liked the inclusion of the grapefruit segments in the dish, which added a tangy burst of freshness. I was less sold on the mussels and think the dish would perhaps work better without them.
Our last savoury dish was the korean bbq pork ribs, spicy slaw, chilli gherkin ($19):
As you can see, this was not a large serve and it was slightly difficult to share the three ribs between the four of us. The ribs were sticky and moist, with a crunchy layer of fat. The thing that bought the dish together was the gherkin, its acidity and heat from the chilli worked incredibly well to cut through the richness of the ribs.
We finished our savoury component and were still quite hungry, so ‘sweets’ beckoned.
Our waitress recommended the ice-cream sandwich and the chocolate mousse. We decided to try those as well as the banana fritters. Behold our sweet treats, ice cream and fudge sandwich ($10):
Banana fritters, coconut sorbet, cuban rum ($12):
Silken chocolate mousse, marcona almonds, raspberry ($14):
The ice-cream sandwich had a creamy orange ice-cream with a frozen chocolate fudge centre. It was a little too frozen but had great flavour. The chocolate mousse was light in texture but had a real intensity of flavour and while I’m not ordinarily a huge fan of raspberry coulis, it was not too sweet and worked well with the mousse. The favourite though was the banana fritters, which were served with a crunchy sesame caramel tuile and a light coconut sorbet. Yum.
You would think that was enough sweetness, but I couldn’t pass up an individual caramel ($3) and neither should you!
I found the sweets to be the highlight of the meal. Everything else was well executed, though I found the meal a bit disparate, probably due to the fact that we ordered quite different dishes that didn’t complement each other all that well. I would also add that portions are quite small so I would recommend ordering more than we did – at least two ‘bites’ per person (if not more) and at least one ‘to share’ dish per person, as well as some desserts.
That said, I had an enjoyable night at Huxtable. The food is good, service is friendly and it is a very comfortable space. I’ll definitely be visiting again for dinner and I’m also keen to try their weekend breakfast (they had me at Istra bacon and gluten free bread!).
UPDATE: I have returned to Huxtable and had several good meals there. They also now have a gluten-free menu available on request, which indicates which items are gluten free or can be prepared gluten free. Excellent.
131 Smith St, Fitzroy
Ph: 9419 5101