Claremont Tonic

Claremont Tonic
Cnr Claremont St And Yarra Lane, South Yarra
03 9827 0399

Sometimes, dining experiences are very personal.  Especially when you have dietary requirements, which means that I don’t get to eat the same food as everyone else, so there are always differences in opinion.  When this happens, I always try to listen to my dining companions’ opinions as well as incorporate my own.

When Dr Ben suggested Claremont Tonic for dinner on a Friday night, I instantly jumped online to check out what it is.  “Asian Food, Island Drinks and Rock Music”- whoa, that sounds really cool!  I booked the table, communicated my dietary requirements to a super friendly person on the phone (no wheat- but don’t care about soy sauce, no onions etc and navigate the other lot myself).

Friday night came, and Melbourne must not like us very much as it was a teeth chattering cold night.  And we got lost.  Thankfully once again another friendly voice on the phone directed us to the right place.  When we got there it looked like some really edgy joint, with the waitstaff rockin’ in demin jackets… they should almost wear sunnies and it might just work.  Feeling a bit like dorky kids at school, I decided the best way to blend in is to order one of their cool drink.

ONE.  HUGEARSE.  COOL DRINK.  Aptly named the C-Bomb $65.  Possibly what everyone would say “Which effing C- ordered such a huge arse drink?” when they saw it.  Or perhaps my stomach yelling at me when my frutose disabled belly cramps up that night.  But let’s just live for the moment and enjoy this fabulous drink made with vodka, rhubarb juice and mint leaves sitting inside a watermelon (really?  No way!).

Reconfirming my dietary requirement, we started ordering dishes.  What makes it difficult is that we have 5 people, but a LOT of dishes can’t be ordered in half serves so we are forced to share.  I understand some things can’t be halved, but stuff like scallops (2 pcs) or soft shell crab (2 pcs)… why can’t they just give us 2.5 servings of that?  Whyyyy?

Anyway, first dish came King of the Chimichangas $19 with salmon sashimi, nori tacos and condiments.  Yay! They remembered to give me wheat free nori!  The nori tacos has bits of tempura thingies on it.  I shared that with hubby.  What they forgot is to warn me that there is onion in the condiments.  Maybe it’s cos, duh, it’s clearly on there.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see it and just lump everything in my taco.  No matter, I am sure my watermelon juice is already contributing to my tummy issues.  So basically this is like a DIY hand roll…it’s hard to share but since there was only 4 nori tacos I shared mine with hubby.

Kami Sashimi was next $16, I think it’s salmon and kingfish sashimi.  As with the DIY handroll above, the sashimi wasn’t super fresh and it was nothing special.

Crumbed scallops (2 for $16) came next, thankfully it’s not crumbed, just seared, with this eel deep fried in a glutinous (?) rice batter.  Hubby thought that the batter was totally weird but I actually really like the chewiness of the batter and also love the scallops.  I wasn’t too sure about the pumpkin bits though, I thought it was too sweet and skewed the flavours.

I have serious bun envy when this came out. “Pork Bun Animal Style”$12… I wasn’t too sure whether they are referring to the eaters XD.  But apparently I shouldn’t be jealous, it aint that great.  I am not too sure how this can be categorised as a “small dish” to be honest.  They might as well make them smaller and have 2 per serve… you know, like those Hungry Jacks ones?

Soft shell crab $19 was next, sitting prettily on a cup of lettuce and atopped with pomelo, mint, avocado and jalapeno.  OMG it looks so good and I shared one with Hubby, which is secretly not enough.  Dr. Ben and co kindly offered me the other one because I didn’t get to eat the animal bun, but as I was just biting into it the waiter rushed over and go “There is wheat in it!!” Arrgggghhh.  I am not diagnosed yet but if I am a celiac I would be probably be using the C-Bomb :P  So I sadly handed this over to hubby… sadness.

We are trying to be healthy, so we ordered crab meat som tom $20.  I quite like this dish, it was very refreshing with all the other meals that are coming up.

Apparently another dish I didn’t miss out on was the CT’s Pork Chipolatas (4 for $14).  I dunno, it does look pretty good!  Especially the huge dollop of Japanese Kewpie Mayo!  Thankfully, chips, I can eat.  Infinite spiral fries w/ curry salt, kewpie mayo (again!) and sticky soy $9.  Not sure whether it’s worth $9… it’s certainly not infinite but it was very yummy, although not a lot of people on my table shared the sentiment.

“WAIT, is this the same dish?” someone asked.  No, it’s not.  This is our Souther Yarra Fried Chicken… although it does look suspcisiouly the same as the CT’s pork chipolatas.  Same lettuce cups, same kewpie mayo, what’s different is the sichuan mojo (which doesn’t taste very Sichuaney) and there’s a side serving of gluten free chicken so I can participate in the lettuce wrapping too!  YAY!

Disclaimer, this is 1/3 of what they gave me

First of all, disclaimer: this is 1/3 of the gluten free chicken they gave me.  I was munching away happily and offering it to the others cos it’s so huge, and didn’t think it’s worth taking a pic.  But hubby exclaimed “OMG the gluten free ones are so much better!  And I am not saying this to make you feel better!” Duh, you never say anything to make me feel better darling.  So the others started picking at it and I only managed to take a pic when there is not much left :P  My dining companions started confessing that they gluten loaded ones tasted like stale KFC.  Dude I take your word for it, now just let me eat mine in peace ;)

Ox tongue in cheek $32 was super tender with smoked potato.  The flavour was okay if not very memorable.

Dessert time came and Ahmanda mused whether the dessert will also come with lettuce so we could wrap our own.  Thankfully, there were no lettuce in sight.  Being a seriously obsessed with yuzu, I ordered the Yakuza Yuzu Sorbet with cold sake and lemon jelly cubes $12.  Sadly, the yuzu flavour is not very prominent and tasted like lemon more than anything.  While I like the texture of the lemon jelly cubes, the flavour is too sour that no amount of sugar on top can save it.

Hubby ordered this pretty dessert named Elianza Truffle $16.  As I couldn’t eat it, I can’t really comment, but hubby said he didn’t like it.

We also ordered a serve of custard tart each (OK, I was being totally naughty here, but egg tarts are IRRESISTABLE!), especially when it said “freshly made” $4.5.  But.  Perhaps we have misread.  When we go to “Asian restaurant”, custard tart = egg tarts, which means it’s supposed to have this eggy, smooth, just set goodness.  Unfortunately, this “Asian” restaurant’s custard tart was really a failure.  The custard tart was a bit overcooked so it’s not as smooth as it could be.  The flavours were a bit off also.  For $4.5, we could have gone to Maxims in the city and bought egg tarts for $2 that tasted wayyyyy better than this.

I really wanted to like Claremont Tonic.  It has a cool, cheeky and fun vibe to it.  It’s like a cool dude that I would admire from afar, too scared to talk to.  Unfortunately once I get to talk to him, he wasn’t as cool as I thought.  He might have cool ideas, but lacked great execution.

Post dinner, I asked Hubby what score he would give Claremont Tonic, and he said “Claremont Tonic sucks, it’s not worth $85 per person.  I would give it a 3/10″  Ouch.  Our other dining companions wasn’t very impressed with the sheer amount of lettuce + kewpie mayo DIY creations either, with Dr. Ben giving it a “4 or 5 out of 10″.  On the other hand, I didn’t mind most of my dishes and liked my gluten free chicken :P   How the hell am I gonna score this?  The result?  5.5/10 and stick to the gluten free, onion free menu peoples!

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