I’ll be honest, a meal without meat leaves me feeling slightly shortchanged. I can’t remember the last time I had a vegetarian spread and scraped my plate thinking, wow, that was blow your mind good. I don’t count any meal which contains eggs in that statement, because lets face it, eggs are God’s gift. But a bonanza of vegetarian curries? Nope, I’ll always just wish there was a lamb korma on the side. Ratatouille? The dish holds zero appeal. Vegetables on their lonesome just don’t rock my boat. But maybe I haven’t been trying hard enough. Maybe I just needed to immerse myself in a vege experience, eat where vegetarians eat, that sort of a thing. So, I booked us a table for dinner at Transformer.
Owned by the team from Vegie Bar, Transformer caters to the diner looking for a more luxe vegetarian dining experience. I was desperate to like it before we’d even stepped foot in the joint. I pictured us paying the $100 plus bill with a huge grin on our faces saying “that was amazing, all vege too, who would have thought!?”
The night we visit, the restaurant is pumping. Housed in a former electrical transformer warehouse the space is moody and theatrical. High ceilings, spot-lit tables and plants galore make up the bar and eatery. The menu is designed for sharing and reads well with Asian and Mediterranean influences. Glass of chenin blanc in hand we scan the menu and pick five plates to share.
The sweetcorn fritter fries are laced heavily with kaffir lime. The corn kernels are soft whilst the edges of the fries are golden crisp. They’re a tasty bite.
There’s no doubting the aesthetically pleasing plate which is the ricotta and rye gnocchi, organic sprouted lentils, pumpkin mousse and blueberry compote but unfortunately the dish is bland. The flavour combination is slightly odd and at $16, those nine gnocchi don’t come cheap.
The next dish to land sounded great on paper and looks promising- grilled pear, Holy Goat La Luna cheese, hazelnut croutons and aged balsamic. The Holy Goat is incredible, as expected- intense and creamy. The pear isn’t sweet enough to make an impression and the hazelnut croutons are forgettable. There’s a lot of potential in the dish but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
From the ‘Garden Sides’ section of the menu we sample a salad of organic soba, kelp noodles, nori, arame, shredded silverbeet, wasabi cashews and goji berries. It’s fresh and has great texture but in terms of taste it’s good rather than outstanding.
The piece de resistance comes in the form of our final savoury dish- the brussel sprouts. They’re earthy, robust and lightened by the batons of Granny Smith, whilst parmesan and walnut aioli lend a creaminess to the dish. It’s the dish of the night.
We finish on a light note with a concoction of lemongrass creme, mandarin, basil soil, kalamansi and caramelised white chocolate. It’s the tropics in a beaker- spoonfuls of smooth and fragrant lemongrass creme are paired with the sweet crush of dehydrated mandarin and crisp toasted coconut.
The bill arrives. Freeze frame. The state of play? Well, it wasn’t a cheap exercise- we’ve drunk two glasses of wine and shared six dishes and the bill comes to $120. Whether it was the fault of our ordering, I don’t know, but each dish was so distinct from the other that the meal felt disjointed. It didn’t flow and lacked cohesion. And whilst some dishes were good, others were disappointing and overall, the serves were on the small side. TBS wonders whether we should pop by a fried chicken joint for a second dinner. It’s just not our cup of tea I suppose, because as we leave I hear two fans at the next table raving about their meal. This carnivore’s still not convinced.
Good to know:
Sweetcorn fries $12
Grilled pear $15
Brussel sprouts $15
Soba noodles $14
Lemongrass creme $15
99 Rose Street
Telephone +61 3 9419 2022
Images: Thomas Southam